Which of us hasn’t lain in bed watching a cooking video at 1 in the morning? We know deep down that we’re never going to make that churro ice cream cup, but we can’t stop watching. I remember a time when my older sister would watch cookery shows on TV. She would note down the ingredients and the measurements of everything. We have it so much easier. With YouTube as our guide, anyone can be a cook. There are a ton of options for anything you want to make—ones that require less time, fewer ingredients, and alternatives for your specific dietary requirements. Food videos are a great way to spend time on the internet; here’s why we love them.
We love a good cooking sport
Internet cooking is not just about recipes. Some channels have more in common with reality TV. For those who like culinary game shows like Masterchef or Top Chef, there are many more to add to their ‘watch next’ list. The tension and challenge of Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes and Reverse Engineering, Tasty’s Making It Big and Make It Fancy, and Babish Culinary Universe’s Stump Sohla might catch their fancy. However, recreating some of these recipes without a chef’s expertise and a professional test kitchen would be pretty challenging.
The audiences for these segments are some of the most steadfast fandoms and can be pretty passionate. For instance, #IWDFCFTBATK (I Would Die For Claire From The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen) was trending on Twitter in 2019. Claire Saffitz’s flair for experimenting and reinventing high-demand snacks drew in views by the million. It soon became the buzz of discussion forums online. That is until Condé Nast and Bon Appetit faced racism and pay inequity allegations. But that’s a discussion for another day.
All the flavours of the world
The issues of race and cultural representation have been a talking point in the culinary arts for a while now. Online food videos have taken a lot of positive strides in this direction. Chefs of various ethnicities now have a platform to present their dishes in all their authenticity. Additionally, not many people currently feel the need to die at the altar of French cooking.
As Asian culture becomes more prominent globally, creators like Maangchi and Cooking with Dog have gained prominence and viewership. At the same time, chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver often face criticism for their bastardisation of classic recipes from other cultures. The Italians have much to say about the representation of their cuisine in the mainstream, and who can blame them after all the atrocities that have been committed to pasta? On the more wholesome side, viewers worldwide now find commonalities in their cuisines. For instance, I was unaware that Brazilian and Indian desserts are all about condensed milk. Beryl Shereshewsky is the perfect example of a channel connecting people across the world through food videos.
Learning to cook via food videos
Carrying on the TV cooking show format, creators like Laura Vitale, Gemma Stafford, and Cupcake Jemma focus on recipes people can make. Whether certified or not, most internet chefs have a large fan following and published cookbooks. Tasty also has its own cookbook, and its app is excellent for beginners and experimental cooks. Tasty’s quick, instructive videos focus on getting the recipe across in the fastest, most convenient manner while enticing its audience with stimulating visuals.
Those looking for a quick recipe, who also do not have time for the long-winded presentation that often accompanies a chef’s cooking video find Tasty’s impersonal nature much more accessible. To keep up with this trend, many channels are now releasing recipes in the form of YouTube Shorts and TikTok videos. Particularly during the pandemic, Tiktok has been producing viral recipes and starting major food trends. We all remember the countless re-shares of baked feta cheese pasta, baked oats, and hot chocolate bombs! The creators of these dishes are as diverse as chef Shereen Pavlides and singer Jason Derulo who add their spin to teaching the art of viral foods. In addition, many celebrities are eager to dabble in this delicious mania. Jennifer Garner, Paris Hilton, Amy Schumer, and Selena Gomez put out amateur cooking videos every once in a while, much to their fans’ delight.
A hack for every cook
However, with all the food content out there, creators sometimes compromise on quality. They focus too much on gimmicks, like 2-ingredient, 5-minute, one-bowl, or no-cook recipes. While some of these recipes are tried and tested, producing satisfying and surprising results, the impersonal format has made the genre less authentic. Moreover, there is a lack of accountability when one cannot see the content creator: a chef isn’t putting her reputation on the line with each recipe. This has given rise to a new genre of food critics. Creators like David Seymour and RachhLovesLife are testing online recipes, comparing and critiquing them. For those who cannot test what they find on their feed, the host of How to Cook That, Ann Reardon, debunks viral internet food hacks and channels that capitalise on the genre to maximise viewership.
Watching and listening to the chopping, sautéing, and stirring of delicious-looking food releases serotonin and dopamine. It is a primary reason why people love to watch cooking videos. When the end product is beautiful, the viewer is concerned not with replication but with sensory satisfaction, thus giving rise to the hashtag #oddlysatisfying.
Even if ASMR is not your cup of tea, fret not. There’s a food video for everyone! For example, period drama enthusiasts would love channels like English Heritage (where they feature chefs dressed in period-appropriate attire making Victorian dishes). In contrast, camping enthusiasts would love Men with a Pot, while thirsty viewers would love Franco Noriega.
Food videos: my channel recommendations
With all that variety, finding the right channel for yourself is important. Here are my recommendations:
Beginners: Laura in the Kitchen
The pros: Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person
Other than these guys, make sure to check out all the channels I’ve mentioned and don’t forget to tell us if I missed someone you love! Who’s your favourite food content creator? Let me know down below.