Help Me Learn to Cook!
October 21, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn to cook. I'm looking for a podcast or a web series or something along those lines that will teach me the essentials of cooking, along the lines of a beginner's cooking class, but available for free online.

I am a terrible cook. I can make passable food, but I want to learn how to now screw up every second dish. What I'd like is some kind of video series or podcast that will actually show me the techniques used and that I can follow along with.
And if anyone has any advice on getting over an unreasonable hatred of cooking, that would be appreciated too. Thanks!
posted by meesha to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course is on YouTube. I can't figure out how to post the link from my phone but just search for it on there and you'll find the episodes.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:48 PM on October 21, 2013

Are there specific techniques you're having trouble with or ingredients you keep screwing up? I learned mostly by following various recipes exactly as written. As I observed how different foods tasted and acted when prepared in different ways, and what I liked and didn't like, I became more comfortable improvising. It might help you to go to a recipe site that has step by step photos, like Budget Bytes.
posted by wondermouse at 7:18 PM on October 21, 2013

I hated cooking for a while as an adult because I cooked almost every meal for my siblings when I was growing up while my parents worked. I had to learn that cooking isn't just about satiating hunger but, also, an expression of what I was craving to learn about that meal. If I want to try crepes and mess them up and then make everyone eat them? I can do that! If I want to learn how to really put together a nice roasted chicken dinner with all the sides for some stressed out friends? I can try to do that! It's a process.

I cannot recommend SORTED food. on YouTube enough. Four British guys who love food, showing all the techniques and with a website that has all sorts of different levels of recipes.
posted by Merinda at 7:23 PM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Serious Eats often has step-by-step slideshows and videos.

You'll probably want to pick up some knife skills.

Other how-tos, too.

Not sure how much more tutorial stuff there is from him, but learn how to debone a chicken with Jacque Pepin! He does have a bunch of other "here-is-a-recipe" shows up, though.

Get recipes--and perfect your techniques--for the mother sauces.

And, if I can make a non-digital recommendation, Ruhlman's Twenty is really really worth it. More than anything else, it teaches you smart ways to think about cooking, so that you really understand what each step in the cooking process is doing.
posted by Maecenas at 7:39 PM on October 21, 2013

I like for a basic reference. Kathy Maister breaks cooking down into simple steps, and she also shows you the techniques that some cookbooks assume you already know, like mincing vs. crushing garlic.
posted by dean_deen at 7:40 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like Rouxbe. Many lessons are free. Others you'd have to pay for.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:50 PM on October 21, 2013

I'm a big fan of Food Wishes by Chef John. He specializes in showing how to make simple, delicious dishes, and his videos are great at teaching basic building blocks for cooking. This one is a great place to start: just chicken breasts, mushrooms, and butter, but you end up with something that is very rich and delicious - it taught me a lot about building flavor and about making tender, juicy meat dishes by searing and roasting.
posted by lunasol at 7:53 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

NPR has a show called america's test kitchen that is really good for basics and their recipe books are very easy to follow and don't rely on you having any prior knowledge or skills. It is literally step by step with good instructions.

Alton Browns Good Eats is the best cooking show ever for this also. Sadly it has been canceled but their are about 10 years of episodes out there and books also.
posted by bartonlong at 8:09 PM on October 21, 2013

I'm working my way through Mark Bittman's Basic Cooking courses on my ipad. I don't like watching a cooking show because the timeline doesn't match up so there's a lot of pausing as I slowly chop things etc, but with the app, I can watch a video for each step and take my time, jot down notes and so on. The structure is good - he starts with basic methods that get more complicated with variations, and they all make a solid lunch/dinner. I also like Bittman's recipes in general, so I look forward to what I've cooked, and even if it's something I thought I knew how to do, there are new techniques or just a better standard to be reached.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:25 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please PLEASE memail me!

I am (was?) a professional chef. My husband studied Law. We own a small business that is food-based, but I don't currently cook on the line or anything like that, so I'm not sure of my current title;)

My wonderful husband struggles to understand my exacting demands in the kitchen, and he has discovered the PERFECT series to teach the basics of cooking. It's 100% analog to my culinary school experience w/out the judgey French chefs mocking my efforts as I try to learn.

We were just watching it tonight. Delicious in the lesson's specificity, yet simplicity.

High production value with no commercials. He downloads these - maybe it was on PBS once? Except, it's too advanced for PBS... Maybe it is in-house lessons from CIA (Culinary Institute of America?). I just can't tell!

This series is perfect for you!

Memail. The husband is asleep right now. I can point you in the right direction tomorrow after he wakes up.

posted by jbenben at 11:26 PM on October 21, 2013

Albert Burneko is a really great way to start out. He's a fun writer and will do much to dispel much of the pretension of the current food media for you. has some nice stuff, but can be unbelievably pretentious (sample thread I read the other day: "Where can I find gourmet marshmallows in Calgary?"). Their home cooking threads tend to do better.

SeriousEats is somewhat informative, but I stick to their FoodLab section. The rest is mostly worthless.

Ignore America's Test Kitchen. They are so very, very wrong in most of their articles that I wonder if they've ever cooked before.

I'll second Rouxbe. If you've never cooked for yourself or others, there are some very good primers on there.
posted by converge at 2:51 AM on October 22, 2013

Martha Stewart's Cooking School.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 AM on October 22, 2013

Another vote for Mark Bittman. Read/watch anything with his name on it. He is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by jbickers at 5:22 AM on October 22, 2013

I know you asked for online resources, but I recommend the Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen cookbook to give you some easy recipes and to make you feel comfortable in the kitchen.
posted by Leontine at 6:42 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I started cooking at the age of 7, and I was the dinner maker in our house from the age of 12. My mom figured, "If you can read, you can cook." And she was right.

I had the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. My version was 1960, but you get the gist. This one has tables, substitutions and other great stuff. Lots of good pictures.

The modern replacement is American Test Kitchen cookbook, again, it's meant to explain and to teach. Or try this one, which may be up your alley.

If you really want to watch a show that teaches not only the methods for cooking, but the science behind them, you'll want to watch Good Eats with Alton Brown. His cookbook is damn good too!

Cooking is easy. Start with roasting (A chop and baked potato are easy and delicious!) Then work your way up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2013

Once you get past the initial cooking stage, Alton Brown's Good Eats is a lot about technique and very little about recipes. It teaches you how to make specific dishes, which I've found invaluable. Plus, it's funny!
posted by cnc at 5:42 PM on October 22, 2013

Hilah Johnson is adorable and funny and unpretentious, and she has a very good cookbook that demystified spices for me. She also has lots of cooking videos.
posted by ziggly at 6:52 PM on October 22, 2013

This (Jacque Pepin) is on VHS, but is one of the most complete cooking/techniques series you'll ever find. Why they never transferred it to DVD is beyond me. I was able to transfer it.

If you're really serious, check your local library, to see if they have a copy of "The Professional Chef." It's the student text for the Culinary Institute of America. If you like it, buy a used copy.

Finally, one thing that might help you hate cooking less, is to go to farmers markets, and ethnic markets. Bonus for ethnic markets, is that you can get some some great bargains on different food stuffs, so check out prices, and quality.

Sellers at farmers markets will tell how to cook, clean, and prepare the stuff you buy from them, and quite advantageous to get a relationship going with some of them.
posted by JABof72 at 11:19 AM on October 23, 2013

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