Looking for a good how to cook and food magazine
January 17, 2017 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I don't know how to cook very well. Cookbooks, even ones that claim to be quick and minimal bore me. Motivator? Maybe a magazine with recipes, credible interesting articles on food and nutrition (even a lttle wine) I read Eating Well magazine and it seems pretty good. Any other suggestions?
posted by ebesan to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
A good place to start is Serious Eats. In particular, check out the articles and associated recipes of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. He gets into the science behind the best way to cook a dish and why. You definitely won't be bored. I also recommend his voluminous and endlessly interesting cookbook, The Food Lab.

In a similar vein, I recommend Harold McGee's On Food And Cooking. It's not a straight-up cookbook; its focus is, again, on the science behind what makes certain recipes work.

Last but not least, I recommend Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. It outlines the fundamental ratios of ingredients that make a muffin a muffin, what makes a roux a roux, how much flour to butter to water to make a pie crust (3:2:1 for a pie crust, as it turns out). It's interesting and very, very useful if you want to start with building blocks as a cook and then riff on this foundation. I highly recommend this approach to learning how to cook.

Also, just get into the kitchen and mess around. Don't be afraid to screw up dishes and make stuff you'll hate. It's the only way for you to get a sense of how, for example, mustard emulsifies oil and water in a salad dressing.
posted by cleverevans at 9:01 AM on January 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Cook's Illustrated would be my pick for magazines.

If you have Netflix, you can watch Good Eats, which is basically how I learned to cook. It's more about the science of cooking and cooking hacks, but has recipes and demos too. Netflix has some episodes, not all.

You could also try the website Serious Eats, which has recipes but also explains why they work... especially Kenji's Food Lab. He has a book as well, The Food Lab, which is a lot more interesting than a normal recipe book.

I cook every day for my family and Serious Eats is my goto for basically everything, including vegan for my stepdaughter.
posted by Huck500 at 9:04 AM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a Barefoot Contessa fan, because the recipes are simple and do not assume much cooking knowledge (or interest in finding a bunch of obscure ingredients), but still are real food. In other words, they are for people who are ignorant but not dumb. Her older cookbooks are only around $5 or so used.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:10 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing Serious Eats. I need to read that one more. I also learned to cook from reading:

- Smitten Kitchen: Food blog I read for years before ever attempting to cook anything that wasn't prepackaged. Her recipes lean pretty heavily veggie (though it's definitely not a nutrition blog) and are all from scratch. Some are elaborate, but most are approachable even for super beginners. I always double the salt.
- Jamie Oliver: I've never seen the show, and this book is not necessarily quick or minimal, but it is straightforward and written conversationally so it's easy to dive into. The chicken korma is a staple.
- Cook's Illustrated: A magazine! I've let my subscription lapse lately, but I loved the in-depth troubleshooting and how they break down intimidating techniques.
posted by circle at 9:11 AM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you like Eating Well, you also might like Cooking Light. There's a good mix of recipes and articles on nutrition and other healthy living information. And, the skill level for the recipes is also about right for someone who doesn't know a lot about cooking or have a ton of background in the kitchen.

Another approach is instead of looking at cookbooks/magazines/websites for inspiration, think about what you love to eat and would like to learn to cook. Then do a search on Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, Fine Cooking, etc. and just do your best to work through the recipe. You could also do a search for recipes from your favorite restaurant (many have at least some recipes available online). If a particular technique sounds difficult or confusing, do some more research on that. Eventually, you'll start to get better! This is essentially how I learned to cook a lot of fairly complicated things -- for example, I had a macaron in Paris, thought it was amazing, and wanted to try it myself. I still wouldn't say I've perfected it (macarons are notoriously tricky!) but it's still a lot of fun and the results are delicious.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:20 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a Donna Hay fan. You can download the e-magazine for about $3.99 an issue. Her website has a nice list of options, as well.

I 2nd the "get in there, cook and don't be afraid" method. You may have some not-so-great outcomes, but I bet you'll surprise yourself.
posted by gertrude at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2017

Seconding Blue Apron for just making it easy. I did it for the past 4 months to get back into the swing of cooking after a long break. Theoretically, you don't even have to subscribe. You could just take a look at their menus each week and use them to make your shopping list. It was nice getting it delivered, both for convenience and the fact that you get the right amount of obscure ingredient instead of buying a massive amount you don't need after it turns out you don't like it. They also send really nice recipe cards if you do purchase. I kept all the ones I liked.

Good Eats also helped when I was first learning. He can be kind of cheesy, but the science behind the food was useful.

If you have a friend that likes to cook, it can be fun to make something together. You can either learn together as noobs (what I used to do) or work with a more experienced friend who want to share the joy.

I also like browsing Pinterest, but that's more when I have a general idea (I want to make something with zucchini) than no clue at all. It can be hit or miss, but so can most blogs/magazines.
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:40 AM on January 17, 2017

I love Cook's Illustrated but I'd suggest starting with its sister magazine, Cook's Country. It (along with the accompanying TV show) are much more accessible for the casual or new cook. Photos, too. Like all CI stuff, online access seems pretty locked down without registering.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:04 AM on January 17, 2017

You haven't specified a country but in the UK I subscribe to two food magazines:

Olive magazine includes lots of recipes (categorised either "easy everyday" or "a little effort"). There are articles on food trends, restaurant reviews, equipment reviews, foodie holiday destinations, etc. Lots of the recipes are by up-and-coming chefs as well as from newly published cookbooks.

Sainsburys magazine is the inhouse magazine for a large chain of supermarkets. Its recipes are a little more down-to-earth but are very reliable (mostly everyday with the occasional "showstopper"). Although the magazine is predominantly about food and cookery, it also contains features you might find in a monthly women's magazine like health, beauty, books and travel.

We also subscribe to Hello Fresh, which is similar to Blue Apron and provides a great impetus to cook four meals from scratch every week, although the recipes do tend to get a little repetitive after a year or so.
posted by dogsbody at 10:05 AM on January 17, 2017

Cooking Light is a solid magazine. If you want to be entertained, or less bored, look up the Pioneer Woman website & see if her humor suits you. She does photos as a play-by-play as well. No always super-healthy, but she let's you know when you are indulging.
posted by childofTethys at 10:12 AM on January 17, 2017

Serious Eats, but their cooking channel on YouTube. Their spots are quite short and to the point---like this quick Mac and Cheese in less than 2 minutes. They do have companion articles as well, but perhaps a short, to the point, video might be more accessible for you.
posted by bonehead at 10:16 AM on January 17, 2017

Rachel Ray's food magazine is, in my mind, perfect for a new cook. She doesn't do fancy, or complicated. It's straight on get food on a plate. And a huge amount of recipes. Sure it's perky and EVOO is as annoying all get out, but it's a good easy read.

I like Food52 cookbooks, all of the Jamie Oliver cookbooks and TV shows. The LCBO magazine in Ontario is an excellent resource. Canadian Living cookbooks are excellent oo

I always have 2-3 cookbooks out from the library.
posted by Ftsqg at 10:24 AM on January 17, 2017

Nthing the Blue Apron suggestion. I eventually burned out on it a bit, but it taught me some really good cooking methods/tips, like a risotto that doesn't require a ton of stirring, or an amazing Korean barbecue sauce recipe. I can get some decision paralysis about what to cook, so it's nice to have someone just send you a box of food and some recipes for that food.

For magazines, a roommate used to subscribe to Bon Appetit and I really liked it. For websites, one I haven't seen mentioned yet is Simply Recipes, which has taught me how to cook a lot of things, and which has never steered me wrong.
posted by lunasol at 10:27 AM on January 17, 2017

Cooks Illustrated is the definitive answer for a magazine. Serious Eats is the definitive answer for a website. Alton Brown is the definitive answer for a TV show.

There is also something to be said for just plain-old trial and error. Especially for things like different techniques of cooking meat, or making sauces. Just to get a feel of the mechanics. Something like "this one, marinated for three hours, tastes better than this one that was marinated for 30 minutes". You can build from there.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:16 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why do cookbooks bore you? What do you like in a recipe?
posted by clew at 12:13 PM on January 17, 2017

Try the Wolfe Pit youtube channel, he does a lot of great recipes, as well as humorous reviews of horrible processed food to keep you entertained.
posted by 445supermag at 12:53 PM on January 17, 2017

I suggest Youtube videos. I'm inspired by many channels, for cooking like Food Wishes, Maanchi (for Korean food), Hillah Cooking, and for traveling and eating like Mark Wiens. The New York Times has a lot of food videos on Youtube, like Mark Bittman and Melissa Clark. I like Nigella Lawson, too.
posted by feste at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2017

Nothing inspires me like those 30-second cooking videos. Check out the Tasty YouTube channel for some examples of what I mean. Would that work? I do know how to cook so I'm not sure if those are too abbreviated or not. I know that there are also some websites that have videos like this that have companion detailed recipes too.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:55 PM on January 17, 2017

Thirding Cooking Light. I used to subscribe and have made a real lot of recipes from there and was never once disappointed. The recipes are simple, imaginative, and healthy. The magazine went through a huge nadir of dumbing-down in the last five years, but has figured out what people really want from it and is getting back on its feet as of the last year or so. I recommend it strongly. Bon Appetit has also gotten a lot better in recent years.

I also like Cook's Illustrated, but it's probably a little finicky/obsessive for a cook just learning. I also enjoy Saveur. It has recipes, but it's not really about cooking so much as it is about food culture. It's always fascinating and I've learned a lot from it.
posted by Miko at 5:39 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

My Cook's Illustrated amazingly easy thanksgiving turkey was so good I did turkey for christmas, too, just so I could eat it again. And they had mashed potatoes figured out in the same issue. Corned beef. There's something good in every issue.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:16 PM on January 17, 2017

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