Thanks to the development of some very good culinary podcasts, today’s food-obsessed are asking each other, “What are you listening to?” as much as they are “What shows are you watching?” and “What books are you cooking from?”
Now, we may currently be on a temporary hiatus from commuting to work, or working out at the gym, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up listening to podcasts. (I mean, there’s only so much TV you can watch in a day right?). There’s a diverse buffet of quality listenable food content out there, with programs covering everything from the latest industry news and the impact of food on identity and culture, to the quirky histories behind the most banal-seeming of foods. Below is a list of some of our favorites in case you’re in need of entertainment (not to mention a sense of social interaction and community) during these isolating times.
This podcast from Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway came at just the right time and is the perfect thing to listen to during quarantine—it covers cooking with simple pantry ingredients (the first episode is all about beans), but it also tackles anxiety, which we’re all feeling right now. You’re encouraged to submit your own questions, stories, and experiences, but even if you just tune in, you’ll come away feeling comforted. The original four-part run was so popular, it’s been expanded, with the latest episode (just dropped on July 22) featuring Nadiya Hussein of “The Great British Baking Show” and Netflix’s “Nadiya’s Time to Eat.”
In this age of, “If you didn’t post every dish from your meal on Instagram did you even really eat there?” this podcast for those curious about the intersection between food, art, and design rings particularly interesting and relevant. Hosted by award-winning photographer and cookbook author Michael Harlan Turkell, this program takes the standard chef/food personality interview and presents it through a fresh lens, where the conversations are likely to delve into the artistry of a culinary technique (say shaping pasta, slicing fish for sushi, or whole animal butchery), or the evolution of the materials that chefs are donning for work these days. And the best part is, with over 400 episodes, you’ve got a lot of listening material to help get you through all the deep-clean projects you promised yourself you’d complete.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I find it hard to imagine the effectiveness of a cooking class stripped of the visual element. That was, until I discovered this podcast and was forced to eat my words. The majority of the episodes follow host Roger as he talks listeners through a recipe step-by-step in real time. It might not be something you want to just listen to randomly out of context, but if you want to feel like you’re in an actual cooking class with someone guiding you along the way, it’s a great tool. He has a knack for breaking things down in a practical, easy-to-understand home cook kind of way, and they’re the kind of basic, building block recipes you’ll reference time and again. (And yes, don’t worry, he has an accompanying blog with pictures of key steps in case you want a reference point.)
In this young podcast, veteran cooking authority America’s Test Kitchen branches out from its usual tried-and-tested recipe testing format. Admittedly, the episode topics don’t have much street appeal: In the debut 30-ish minute episode you’ll hear all about celery; in another, the focus is ketchup. But instead of relaying best cooking practices or doing side-by-side brand evaluations, the show broaches the infinitely more interesting under-told backstories (celery’s “it” veggie status in the Victorian era) and big-picture questions (does ketchup belong on a burger?). Not at all straight-laced and clinical, the tone of the show is more lighthearted fun mixed with genuine nerdy curiosity (especially the LOL-inducing episode about flavor; I won’t spoil it, but dirty sock-flavored Jelly Bellys are involved).
If you’re looking for one food podcast that ticks all the boxes, “The Splendid Table” is it. Hosted by the esteemed and effortlessly relatable food writer/personality Francis Lam, this diverse program almost feels like listening to the audio version of the best newspaper food section. There are interviews with experts, short stories, history lessons, opinion pieces, recipes and cooking tips, audience Q&As, you name it. Episodes run about an hour long and range in topic from “food in the age of social media” and “the history of sauces” to “the art of the sandwich” and the “power of scent.”
There is so much more to food than simply what’s happening on the plate. It’s a powerful insight into and formative force on everything from history, science, culture, politics, and, as this podcast explores, people. Billed as a show that’s “not for foodies, it’s for eaters,” the James Beard Award-winning program hosted by Dan Pashman covers everything from eating your emotions to why we expect chefs of certain cuisines to look a certain way.
The podcast world has seen comedy successfully applied to all manner of topics (i.e. true crime, American history), so why not also food? If you need something to break up the serious, cerebral food talk stuff in your library, consider adding this long-running show from writer/comedians Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton into the rotation. Each week, the two funny friends take about half an hour to discuss whatever comes to mind on an all-over-the-map assortment of food topics (from Hot Pockets and movie candy to beets, mayonnaise, and childhood “sick foods”). It’s a simple, satisfying non-foodie palate cleanser guaranteed to make you smile.
Southern food history and culture is rich. And not just because of the cuisine’s well-documented relationship with butter and deep-fried-everything. In this smartly produced series from the Southern Foodways Alliance, the culinary landscape of the American South is explored through stories that go beyond the obvious and expected. Like about Montgomery, Alabama’s burgeoning Korean food scene; or the fact that chili powder, a Southern kitchen staple ingredient, was invented by a German immigrant; or how a Texas viticulturist helped rescue French vineyards in the late 19th century.
If you’re craving quality culinary audio content, Brooklyn-based Heritage Radio Network offers up a veritable food court of options. For the story-seekers, there’s “Evolutionaries,” a docu-style series in which industry powerhouses share the experiences that helped shape them and their careers. In another corner, you’ve got science-y (and infectiously animated) chef Dave Arnold answering your nerdiest, quirkiest culinary quandaries on “Cooking Issues.” And let’s not forget “Radio Cherry Bombe” — even more relevant in this #metoo movement era — serving up interviews with the women shaping today’s food world. But if you’re looking for more of a snack than a full meal, do yourself a favor and subscribe to “Meat + Three.” Each 20-plus minute episode uses the traditional southern “meat and three sides” model to discuss the week’s most relevant food news: One topic gets the main protein star treatment, while three short stories round out the audible plate. Where so many great food podcasts take a longer, deep-dive into the food-for-thought format, it’s nice to add something quick and easy to digest to the mix.
“Food through the lens of science and history” may sound more like heady, Food Studies classroom fodder than entertaining podcast, but hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilly do a great job of keeping the inquests on the approachable and friendly side of geeky curiosity. Covering everything from how the carrot became orange to why certain animals (chickens, cows, pigs) became the go-to meats of choice, I imagine this show appealing to people who enjoy watching shows like Food Network’s “Unwrapped” and anything with Alton Brown as a host.
If you’re thirsty for good content about that oh-so-important food-adjacent topic—wine—you’ve got to subscribe to “I’ll Drink to That,” hosted by former NYC sommelier Levi Dalton. The show’s list of interviewees is a veritable who’s who of major industry talent, from sommeliers and importers to legendary winemakers themselves, and Dalton has the kind of easy nature and peer-level comfortability to coax out some really good stories.