My Favorite Cooking Shows for Beginners

On the whole, we tend to watch a lot of television–probably a lot more than we should. Many years ago, I decided that I would at least make my time in front of The Tube somewhat productive and learn a thing or two.

My passion for food crossed with my TV habits, and I started to dive into the world of culinary television, watching everything from Top Chef to Man vs. Food.

Among all the shows are four favorites I would recommend to anyone just starting out on their journey to better meals. The four are:

#1: Alton Brown’s Good Eats

Alton Brown is like the crazy scientist turned foodie and let loose in the kitchen. I really like his show (which is ending, sadly) because he takes the time to explain the mechanics behind what’s happening on the stove or in the mixing bowl. By understanding why your dishes turn out they way they do, you can apply the same lessons across a wide variety of other meals you might prepare.

Think of Good Eats as a lesson in food types, not recipes. You might learn how to make basic custard, basic barbecue chicken, or basic mashed potatoes. Dressing it up to your liking will be up to you, but you get the foundations of making gourmet-quality meals.

#2: Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals

Rachel Ray is the epitome of celebrity chefs, with a couple of shows currently airing, her own magazine all over the newsstands, and a line of distinctive cookware and kitchen gadgets. But look through all the hype and celebrity and you’ll find a series of shows that are actually useful and more importantly–realistic to implement at home.

30 Minute Meals, for example, puts Rachel’s skills to the test is preparing a multi-course dinner in less than 30 minutes, marketed for the “busy Mom,” or someone else with little time. Week in a Day is another interesting time-saving concept that tries to prepare overlapping meals for the week in a single batch.

#3: Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations

Bourdain’s first claim to fame was his book Kitchen Confidential, exploring everything from cooking techniques to what really goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants.

These days, he hosts the travel/food show No Reservations, where he visits a different country on every episode, trying everything from the local cuisine to local traditions. I enjoy this show because it opens your eyes to the different types of food around the world without being too over-the-top, like Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods.

Bonus: For an inside look into Bourdain’s sick, twisted, and often funny head, watch this Authors @ Google interview.

#4: America’s Test Kitchen

Hosted by Christopher Kimball, America’s Test Kitchen airs on public television in 30-minute segments. In addition to simple instruction on a wide variety of dishes, shows might have segments on kitchen gadgets or taste-testing focus groups that really add depth and interest.

The language used is similar to that in Good Eats, in the sense that the show is specifically designed to teach beginner cooks how to prepare favorite dishes correctly and avoid common kitchen disasters.

What’s Your Favorite?

Do you have a favorite TV show that really opened your eyes to the possibilities of home cooking? Please share your personal selection in the comments!

Photo by lenngrayes