If you have ever thought of snooping on my laptop (I do computer science, don’t even try), you wouldn’t really find much. However, little do you know, hidden away in a closed group of tabs lies a concerningly large collection of YouTube videos, loaded and ready to watch at a moment’s notice (thank you TCDwifi). Please, don’t get the wrong idea. They’re actually cooking videos.
As a university student, much to my parents’ dismay, my life would be incomplete without YouTube. I use the platform to watch anything and everything — commentaries, makeup tutorials, film reviews, Excel tricks, etc. — though more and more frequently, I find myself bringing my laptop to the kitchen. I pick a recipe from the cluster of saved cooking videos I mentioned earlier and off I stroll to the kitchen, laptop firmly in hand.
“Nothing beats the audiovisual aspect of a cooking tutorial: your instructions are said out loud on top of real-time visuals of ingredient preparation and the actual cooking.”
I believe that YouTube is the best free resource for learning how to cook; this is a hill I am willing to die on. Nothing beats the audiovisual aspect of a cooking tutorial: your instructions are said out loud on top of real-time visuals of ingredient preparation and the actual cooking. Above all, the most valuable aspect of YouTube cooking is the addition of live commentary — the tips, tricks and alternative ingredients or techniques shared by the host along the way. YouTube can teach you a whole roster of culinary feats, from how to properly cut an onion to cooking a whole Christmas dinner. It is an invaluable teaching aid for the beginner cook, but also the experienced meal-prepper (I see you Leo Varadkar), the university student, or the stay-at-home parent.
The cooking scene on YouTube spans a vast territory. At the top of the trending page, you’ll typically find the likes of Joshua Weissman, never without his mouth-watering b-roll; Andrew Rea, from the Babish Culinary Universe, recreating yet another pop culture dish; or familiar faces from larger food networks such as Bon Appétit, Tasty, or Epicurious, always with their high-budget production levels. Celebrity chefs have found their way to the platform too: Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay now produce fresh cooking content directly on their channels. Listed below is a roundup of some of my favourite YouTube cooking personas. You may or may not know some of them — most are still active, others more quiet now — but they’re still some current favourites to check out!
For the beginner student cook
It’s your first time living alone, and you have no clue how to make anything less boring than beans on toast.
– J Kenji Lopez-Alt: I’m a sucker for visually compelling videos, so naturally, I had to include Kenji in the list. His narration tells you all you need to know behind the dish and how best to avoid mistakes, with informational comments rooted in food science. His videos don’t always include talking, but he films himself cooking with a GoPro mounted to his head, making it very simple to copy his techniques. His scrambled egg video is my favourite!
– Not Another Cooking Show, hosted by Stephen Cusato: This channel is quite popular with just under 1 million subscribers and is one of my favourites for classic dishes. Cursato is very informative in his cooking instructions and never skips a detail. He won’t just tell you to get the good quality eggs, he’ll tell you why and how it affects the final dish. His videos are fast-paced and very dynamic, taking his filming inspiration from Casey Neistat. Cusato covers various cuisines, but specialises primarily in Italian foods. His Meatless Carbonara (cacio e uova) recipe is a wonder.
“Jon Townsend cooks 300-year-old dishes weekly. Some of these meals still exist and have since evolved, like his macaroni & cheese or fried chicken, while others are stuck in the past, like his pemmican (dried meat and berries).”
Cooking and Culture
Slice-of-life cooking with a bit of history.
– Townsends, hosted by Jon Townsend: If you were ever curious about 18th-century cuisine, Jon Townsend cooks 300-year-old dishes weekly. Some of these meals still exist and have since evolved, like his macaroni & cheese or fried chicken, while others are stuck in the past, like his pemmican (dried meat and berries). The production team consistently delivers. The background, costumes, and kitchen equipment are always historically accurate and each dish is accompanied by historical context: where it originated, how it evolved, and who ate it during its time. I highly recommend checking the channel out if you were a Horrible Histories kid! (Especially if you want to learn how to roast a chicken completely submerged in clarified butter.)
– Pasta Grannies: A comfort watch, Pasta Grannies find and film Italian nonne (grandmothers) across the Italian peninsula who still make pasta by hand. Vicky Bennison started the channel to capture the long-lost art of traditional pasta-making. Pasta Grannies feels more like a documentary than a cooking tutorial, with each video accompanying a different nonna into her home, as she makes pasta while answering questions about her life.
– De Mi Rancho en Tu Cocina: De Mi Rancho en Tu Cocina (“From my ranch to your kitchen”) accompanies Doña Ángela, a 71-year-old grandmother living in rural Mexico. Doña Ángela lives on a ranch with her husband. She grows her own vegetables, raises her own animals, and makes her own tortillas. Doña Ángela specialises in traditional Mexican food and her slow-paced, appetising videos are filmed by her daughter. Check out her huevos rancheros. De Mi Rancho en Tu Cocina is a Spanish channel, but English captions are always available.
“If you’re looking for inspiration to spice up your parties, impress a partner, or already have experience but want to learn more, Steve will show you how. Your vodka-dash days are officially over.”
Learning New Cuisines
If you’re sick of the vodka pasta Stephen Cusato taught you how to cook, you’re ready to try something new.
– Steve the Bartender: This is mixology more than cooking, but Steve’s Bar Basics playlist will cover everything you need to master a new skill, teaching you basic shaking techniques, and simple 3-ingredient cocktails. If you’re looking for inspiration to spice up your parties, impress a partner, or already have experience but want to learn more, Steve will show you how. Your vodka-dash days are officially over, so leave ample room for the Appletinis, Cosmopolitans and White Russians he’ll teach you in his Easy Vodka Cocktails series.
– Fine Dining Lovers: For the adventurous and experienced, Fine Dining Lovers will take your student cooking skills to professional cooking wonders. Focusing on caramelisation, the Maillard effect, umami, and flavour enhancers, their Flavour Hacking series takes simple ingredients like eggs or rice to restaurant-level deliciousness. Hosted by Massimo Bottura, another popular Fine Dining Lovers series Why Waste? focuses on reducing food waste. Bottura and his guest chef teach you how to make the most of your cut-offs, turn leftovers into haute cuisine, and share tips on how to preserve and store your ingredients for longer.
YouTube is without a doubt a haven for chefs of any level. Hopefully, this helpful guide will help you elevate your simple weeknight meals, inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, or simply give you a little more to watch than that Mukbang channel that always pops up on your recommended. Bon appétit!