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9 essential YouTube cooking tutorials that will save you in the kitchen

No one can subsist on a diet of Dunkaroos and delivery Chinese.


Amrita Khalid


Posted on May 11, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 7:28 pm CDT

If you’re a noob in the kitchen, it’s likely you’ll draw a blank when you encounter simple cookbook instructions like “cook until brown” or “stir until smooth.” That’s why cooking tutorials on YouTube are a valuable tool for novice cooking students who need to learn with visual examples. Luckily, YouTube is filled to brim with cooking videos from both master chefs and homegrown cooks alike. 

Feeding yourself can may seem daunting at first, especially if your kitchen is a foreign country to you. But knowing how to cook, just like knowing how to drive, is one of those skills that only seems difficult if you’ve never done it before. With regular practice, even the most inept home chef can build a sustainable cooking habit. 

Before you try to tackle butter chicken or a cheese soufflé, you have to nail down the basics first. First focus on perfecting common cooking techniques that you will carry over to more advanced dishes. Once you master a simple dish such as a roast chicken or an omelette, you’ll be able to move on to more sophisticated fare. 

Here are nine essential YouTube cooking videos for beginner chefs. 

1) Stock up your kitchen

If your idea of “pantry essentials” is a bottle of Jack Daniels and some ketchup, you’ll appreciate this tutorial on how to stock up your kitchen from Brothers Green Eats. Brooklyn brothers Josh and Mike Greenfield specialize in initiating those that live on takeout and fast food to the joys of cooking through their YouTube channel. If you were ever curious about how to create a Chipotle burrito from scratch or to make your own at-home clone of McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets, Brothers Green Eats is your destination. 

The Greenfields’ pantry essentials video, which you can watch above, takes you on a field trip to the grocery store and helps you navigate all the confusing aisles that don’t have frozen pizza and ice cream. You’ll also benefit from the Brothers Green Eats tutorial on how to buy basic kitchen equipment

2) Making an omelette

Those who believe omelettes are boring American brunch fare are sadly mistaken. If you’ve ever had a omelette made in the way of French chef Jacques Pépin, then you know that a perfect omelette can be a work of beauty. In fact, Americans really had no idea what they were doing with eggs before Pépin came into the mix with his French herb omelette. The buttery, savory softness of his omelettes will change the way you look at this rather standard breakfast. 

Learning how to cook an omelette is also valuable for new chefs in that it’ll help you develop a sense of timing and attention to detail. You’ll learn how to make the eggs, your pan, and the skillet’s heat work together, rather than against each other. In fact, first-year culinary students are required to master the Pépin omelette. 

“I can’t remember the exact day I made an omelet right, but I remember doing one after another and getting frustrated. And I love doing it now. An omelet is quite magical,” chef Ignacio Mattos told Bon Appétit

In the video above, you’ll  learn how to make a perfect omelette from Pépin himself.

3) Perfecting buttermilk pancakes

Knowing how to whip up a batch of light and fluffy pancakes is a mean tool to have in your arsenal. Classic American buttermilk pancakes are a breakfast staple that only require a few ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Once you master the basic pancake, you can incorporate mix-ins like chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, and even green tea.  

In the tutorial above by Laura Vitale of the Laura in the Kitchen YouTube channel, you’ll only need flour, milk, one egg, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Many pancake recipes ask you to separate the egg whites from the yolk and beat the whites vigorously. This results in a lighter, fluffier pancake. Some (like Vitale) prefer to skip this step; it’ll result in a pancake that’s firmer and more cake-y. Feel free to experiment and stick with the option that tastes the best to you. 

4) Get your vegetables in

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Do you loathe vegetables with the fire of a thousand burning suns? Great, so did legendary chef Julia Child! Child recounted to the Ocala Star Banner that roasted vegetables were her no. 1 pet peeve, since most of the time they turned out burned or raw. 

Both the vegetable adverse and veggie lovers will benefit then from Child’s hour-long tutorial on vegetables. She’ll teach you how to make everything from cauliflower to green beans to beets absolutely delicious. Seriously. 

And when you’re through with that, be sure to check out every episode of  Julia Child‘s The French Chef for some valuable cooking advice from one of the world’s most iconic chefs. 

5) The ultimate Italian hamburger

British chef Jamie Oliver successfully leveraged his real-life chef celebrity into YouTube celebrity with FoodTube. Oliver’s must-watch tutorial on how to make an Italian burger will change your idea of what a burger should taste like. The ingredients include pancetta, good cheddar, and prime cuts of beef. 

6) Spaghetti and meatballs

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Spaghetti and meatballs is the perfect, stick-to-your ribs dinner, and it’s always a crowdpleaser. Ina Garten of The Barefoot Contessa shows you how to master this classic comfort food staple in the episode above. You can incorporate veal, or just use beef if that isn’t to your liking. 

7) Roast chicken

If you ever see a whole roast chicken on the menu at a restaurant, order it. As Washingtonian‘s food critics explain, the presence of the simple dish on a restaurant’s menu is usually a chef’s way of showcasing his abilities and his own at-home favorite dish at the same time:

“If you see (…roast chicken) on a menu, the chef is telling you, in essence, this is what he himself would order. That this is his attempt at making a perfect one. Take him at his word.”

The whole process of dressing, seasoning, and roasting a bird is not to be taken lightly. Thomas Keller, widely considered to be one of the best chefs in the world, is the mastermind behind the legendary French Laundry and Bouchon in the Michelin-starred mecca of Yountville, California. Keller walks you through how to roast your own perfect chicken in the video above. 

8) Yellow butter cake

Yellow cake is both classic and versatile; it’s the perfect foundation dessert that you can use for virtually any occasion from a child’s birthday party to a wedding to Mother’s Day. And unlike chocolate cake, yellow cake goes well with virtually any type of frosting. Rose Levy Beranbaum, the author of The Baking Bible (an essential book for anyone who’s serious about the big, bad world of baking), shows you how to bake a basic yellow cake in the video above. If you’ve yet to bake a cake entirely from scratch, Beranbaum’s downy yellow butter cake is a perfect start. Egg yolks and butter result in a yellow cake that is softer than the boxed varieties you usually run across. 

The first part of Beranbaum’s downy yellow butter cake is above; you can watch the second part here

9) Brownies

People are very divided on what makes the perfect brownie. Even if you’re a novice chef, you probably have a good idea of what makes your ideal brownie. Whether it’s fudge-y or cake-y, gooey or crispy on the outside, a perfect brownie hits the spot. 

No one is more well-schooled on the vast varieties of brownies than Martha Stewart. If you haven’t seen the episode of Stewart’s cooking show where she and Snoop Dogg make Christmas brownies together, it’s both hilarious and instructional. Then depending on your individual tastes, check out Stewart’s videos on how to make her double chocolate brownies, fudgy pecan brownies, and the science behind what makes the perfect brownie. 

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*First Published: May 11, 2016, 9:00 am CDT