While there’s no substitute for the tactile joy of thumbing through a cookbook complete with glossy illustrations, podcasts can offer free, limitless access to recipe ideas and tips from experts and civilians alike. Plenty of shows can reinvigorate your relationship to food, from nostalgic personal reflections on favorite dishes to deep dives into the history of staple ingredients.
Whether you’re a keen home chef or simply an enthusiastic eater, here are six podcasts about food that’ll teach you a few things in the kitchen while whetting your appetite.
Produced by the cooking site Food52, “Burnt Toast” offers witty, thought-provoking stories about food in a bite-size package. Each episode runs less than 30 minutes, giving the host, Michael Harlan Turkell, and his colleagues just enough time to dip into a subject like the origins of the “slipping on a banana peel” gag, or revive one writer’s impassioned 1981 treatise on why spaghetti carbonara should replace turkey as the official Thanksgiving meal.
Some episodes focus more on tips and tricks, with listeners weighing in on their favorite lazy recipes or kitchen hacks, while others bring in celebrity guests like actor Kyle MacLachlan and British chef Nigella Lawson to share their own cooking stories.
>> Starter episode: “What We Cook When We Don’t Feel Like Cooking”
Combining deep research and lighthearted delivery, this 5-year-old show takes a detailed look at our relationship with food through a scientific lens.
Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley tackle a compellingly unpredictable range of subjects: One week you’ll find a discussion of the ways restaurant menus are designed to manipulate diners, the next an oral history of the avocado, and the next an examination into the minutiae of cannibalism.
Ever wondered how many calories the average raw human male contains? “Gastropod” has got you covered.
>> Starter episode: “Ripe for Global Domination: The Story of the Avocado”
In a recent episode of this charming show, comedians Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster- Burton kicked off a conversation about sourdough bread by sampling a loaf made from a sourdough starter they’d affectionately named Sylvia.
This hands-on approach is central to “Spilled Milk,” in which the Seattle duo pick a single food or beverage to focus on each episode. The subjects can be as expansive as apples or as specific as peanut butter cups, and the two hosts go deep.
Though the show is less deliberately educational than many of the entries on this list, you’re likely to learn something in between the laughs and nostalgia. Eating on air is de rigueur here, so try getting through an episode without a snack at your own peril.
>> Starter episode: “Sourdough”
WNYC’s award- winning food podcast prides itself on being “not for foodies, but for eaters,” conveying a lack of pretension that underlies its appeal.
The host, Dan Pashman, tackles food culture with curiosity and passion, aiming to learn about people through what and how they eat. Some of most memorable episodes of “The Sporkful” focus on hyperlocal food phenomena — why people line up for hours to buy a slice of pizza at Brooklyn’s beloved Di Fara, for instance.
But the show is equally deft at tackling weightier questions, as in a recent episode that delved into the troubling use of the word “plantation” by white chefs and restaurateurs to describe certain dishes.
>> Starter episode: “When White People Say ‘Plantation’”
Long before the dawn of podcasting, “The Splendid Table” was a cozy public radio institution, offering cooking tips alongside intimate conversations about the role of food in everyday life.
Now more than two decades old, the show has adapted its formula ever so slightly. Food journalist Francis Lam took over from the original host, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, in 2017, bringing in more human interest and socioeconomic food stories alongside practical advice on whipping up easy weeknight meals.
Some of the show’s most rewarding episodes spotlight an individual chef, like René Redzepi of Noma, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and give them space to talk through their food philosophy in an informal setting.
>> Starter episode:“Discovering Thanksgiving with Four American Chefs”
“A TASTE OF THE PAST”
The history of food is as long and varied as the history of society itself, so there’s unsurprisingly no shortage of podcasts on the subject, but Heritage Radio Network’s long-running offering is a great place to start.
Culinary historian Linda Pelaccio chronicles food’s history in a relaxed and conversational style, kicking off each episode with an engaging monologue on the subject du jour before enlisting an expert guest to delve further. The show casts a wide thematic net as it explores epochs of food history like Roman times (what was that society’s diet really like outside of banquets?); the Edwardian era (what would a meal at Downton Abbey actually entail?); and 19th-century New York City (how did Delmonico’s, the oldest fine-dining restaurant in America, get its start?).
>> Starter episode: “Tasting Ancient Rome: Recreating Ancient Recipes and What Archaeology Tells Us”