Just the basics, none of the fancy stuff.
October 10, 2008 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Internet Cookbook Filter: What are the best consolidated online resources for basic recipes?

I’m learning to be a very good cook. Not just a blind recipe follower with a large repertoire, but to improvise my own recipes based on my existing knowledge. So far I’ve found the best way to learn this has been building on the platonic ideal of whatever dish is (say, turning bland oatmeal muffins into spicy ginger pear muffins).
It’s easy to find recipes online.

A quick Google of the dish or ingredient will give you more variants on the subject than you could prepare in a lifetime. Sites like All Recipes give peer reviewed recipes and built in up-and-down ingredient scales for increasing or decreasing the results. The difficulty I find is weeding out the recipes that aren’t fundamentals. For every ‘Roast Chicken’ there’s 300 ‘Honey BBQ Tarragon Rare Italian Ingredient Chicken’ recipes.

And there’s offline classics like the “Joy of Cooking”, “How to Cook Everything” and so on. But I can’t afford to buy cookbooks –and- food, and I need a reference I can keep at home and not have to return to the library every two weeks.

What I want are online resources that provide the basics, instead of having to adapt the fancy recipes to whatever flavouring ingredients I happen to have at the moment. You know, like basic pie dough, and whole wheat bread, and roast chicken, and the various things you can do with legumes and basic chocolate cake batter and chewy chocolate chip cookie dough... For example I want to understand the cupcake, before I embark on lavender and red velvet cupcakes.

Basic online guides to cooking various things also help. It's nice to know how to roast turnips as well as boil them, for example.

As a bonus, charts of basic ingredient combinations that work well together are always fun. I'm always interested to know the traditional spices for things.
posted by Phalene to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
I was searching for a basic recipe for ghoulash without the individual flourishes, and found that wikibooks seemed to have a very easy to use one
posted by Not Supplied at 9:47 AM on October 10, 2008

posted by Zambrano at 9:50 AM on October 10, 2008

Food Network has a great collection of recipes. To fit your example, there's a great collection of simple roast chicken recipes.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:52 AM on October 10, 2008

The egullet Culinary Institute is a wonderful place to compare others' experimentation and tutorials on a variety of subjects, some basic.

Other than that, I'd just start hunting until you find some blogs you like.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 10:04 AM on October 10, 2008

If you want a great site that caters to comfort food and classics with beautifully photographed, detailed instructions, you can't beat Pioneer Woman. She's awesome. And another standby favorite of mine is Simply Recipes. Both of these have consistenly provided favorites in my VERY PICKY household.
posted by chaosscontrol at 10:09 AM on October 10, 2008

I should have been clearer -- that second YouTube link has clips with nothing to do with food/cooking, I believe, so you have to use the search.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2008

I use recipesource.com which is a real mishmash of stuff. I like it because it loads fast, often has ten recipes for one general food and encourages me to think about stuff when I'm cooking. Some recipes are fancy and some are simple but it's all indexed by Google so pretty simple to search through and omit ingredients etc.
posted by jessamyn at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2008

I have to whole-heartedly second Cook's Illustrated as THE authoritative source for the best "basic" recipes in any given category. Foolproof, battle tested, 100% accurate. They often have variations, too, but are always careful to explain what alterations will do to a recipe.

The site isn't free but you can get a website pass from any issue of the magazine.
posted by bcwinters at 10:17 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Books: there is a two-word answer here that lets you buy the cookbooks and still afford dinner: buy used. Cookbooks (unless they are old, rare, and valuable) can be found at yardsales and used bookstores for pennies on the dollar. I'd suggest starting with just two or three — it's probably the subject of an AskMe in its own right, but my short list would be Bitten's How to Cook Everything, the aforementioned Joy of Cooking, and then one more that represents a cuisine you want to learn (eg Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking or Beranbaum's Bread Bible). In each case, buying an older edition will save you lots of money without losing much as a reference guide. Other people will suggest very different books — my point is simply that cookbooks can be had for cheap, and having a couple on your shelf is a real help when cooking.

Online, I've often had the best luck doing a google search for the name of a dish or a key ingredient, plus the word "blog." This will (usually) bring up some food blog entries about cooking that dish, which will (again, usually) provide the descriptive detail I am looking for when trying to figure out what are the essential elements of a dish. The big recipe sites have not been very useful to me, because they pile everything in willy-nilly, leaving me to sort through and make sense of it. It's much easier for me to scan a few food blogs with entries on that dish, find the three that have an approach to cooking that I like, and then read about what they did or didn't do and think about how I might approach that dish.

For an example of this, compare the top few results from a google search for "potroast" and for "potroast blog." There are good results in the basic search, but they take digging and sorting and filtering; adding the word "blog" immediately brings up some richly descriptive links that are much more useful to the way I think about cooking. It's hardly a failsafe technique (and there are some really bad food blogs out there), but at least it avoids the endless pages of meat + can of soup + convenience product recipes that lard up the big recipe aglomerator sites.
posted by Forktine at 10:47 AM on October 10, 2008

I don't like to pimp our own work, but you might be interested in Recipe-Free Cooking from CHOW. It's not a huge compendium of recipes, but it covers a few subjects, and Roast Chicken specifically.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:13 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also whole-heartedly seconding/thirding Cook's Illustrated. If you want to understand the basics of classic recipes and then build from there with variations, that's the place to go. FYI - I've starting seeing their hard-bound books showing up at Costco at incredibly knocked-off prices. Another great place to look is Half Price Books.

If you're looking for reliable, well-flavored recipes, Cook's Illustrated is it.

My second go-to source is epicurious.com for a couple of reasons. First, they have both Bon Appetit and Gourmet recipes in a single database. Second, I've found the 1-2-3-4-fork rating system to be pretty reliable, particularly if you come across a high-fork rated recipe with a large number of reviews (some of the older, classics can get up into the hundreds and they are guaranteed to be good IMHO).
posted by webhund at 9:02 PM on October 12, 2008

If you want a collection of GOOD recipes that have minimal, common ingrediant themes, check out Sam the cooking guy's site over at http://www.thecookingguy.com. Easy to follow, quick meals. Can't recommend his site enough.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 3:53 PM on October 13, 2008

posted by chuckdarwin at 4:07 PM on October 14, 2008

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