As a kid, I watched a lot of Good Eats. Unlike everything else on the Food Network at the time, Good Eats was a bastion of humor and entertainment in the growing sea of stodgy TV chefs and Julia Child wannabes. What set Good Eats apart is its host, Alton Brown, and his Bill Nye-esque approach to the kitchen. He focuses on the how and why of food, rather than just acting out a recipe or building a “tablescape,” whatever that is.
Next time you are searching for something to watch on Netflix, try out my favorite episodes.
S1:E3 – The Egg-Files
This classic from all the way back in 1999 has a lot of valuable information. Eggs can be difficult, maybe even a little bit daunting. Cook them too long or too hot, and they go rubbery and tough. Too short or cold, and they’re watery all the way through. This episode details everything you need for perfect eggs, both scrambled and fried, so you never end up with a crumbly or runny mess again.
S3:E7 – Flapjack Do It Again
Pancakes. Simple, quick, easy and yet somehow we always end up reaching for the box of Bisquick instead of spending five minutes making the batter. Then they end up burnt or underdone, and your great breakfast falls apart. This one’s great if you don’t want bags of flour hanging around your dorm: there’s a recipe for dry mix that you can keep for up to a year, and it’s cheaper and better than the boxes of pancake mix you’ve been buying.
S4:E9 – The Bulb of the Night
Who doesn’t love garlic? Answer: vampires and most budding cooks, myself included. I used to stay far away from the stuff, since I was never sure how to use it or how much to use. If you still haven’t figured garlic out, this is the episode for you. You’ll learn to make garlic blend subtly instead of overpowering everything else in your dish.
S5:E3 – Crepe Expectations
I love crepes. They’re like pancakes, but you can eat them all day long without people looking at you funny. If you want to do that without spending a small fortune, though, you might want to learn how to make them yourself, and there’s no better place to start than here.
S6:E6 – Tomato Envy
Tomatoes are such a big deal in Tennessee that we have our own festival devoted to them. Missing out on them when they’re in season is a shame, and this episode makes finding good tomatoes so much easier. There are even some great recipes for some southern tomato favorites, so you’ll know what to do when you find yourself at the farmer’s market during tomato season.
S7:E7 – Raising the Steaks
If you eat meat, you’ll probably end up cooking a steak eventually. It’ll seem simple, until you realize you’ve overcooked it and end up gnawing on shoe leather. Don’t do that; watch this episode. You’ll learn how to tenderize, marinate and cook your steaks to whatever you consider “perfection.” (Which should be medium-rare, if you care about steak).
S9:E5 – Power Trip
As college students, we spend a lot of money on energy bars trying to feel a little bit better about our snack choices, but we never think about making them ourselves. This episode’s got a great breakdown on why those “healthy” snacks might not be quite so healthy and a recipe for a better energy bar that’s begging to be made on the cheap.
S11:E1 – Milk Made
What do you know about milk? This is a more educational episode, but it’s got my favorite tres leches cake recipe. It also has a great recipe for cheese curds, which I think everyone should learn how to make; you can’t have poutine without them.
S11:E4 – There Will Be Oil
Before anyone asks, you can’t substitute that canola oil in the brownie recipe with olive oil. I already made that mistake. Different oils have different flavors, textures and smoke points. Knowing which oils are used for what will be your saving grace in the kitchen. Not knowing results in weird, oily brownies.
S11:E5 – Sub Standards
Substitutions are the cornerstone of college cooking. Whether you’re trying to accommodate a friend with a dietary restriction or you’ve just run out of that one ingredient, you’re going to have to substitute something eventually. You might as well learn how to do it right.
S11:E13 – American Slicer
Knives are one of the most important tools of the kitchen, but they’re also one of the most dangerous. To avoid an unsightly injury, you’ll want to learn some knife skills. When you’re slicing and dicing, nothing is more important than knowing how to do it right.
Looking back, I learned most of what I know about cooking from Good Eats, and I still find myself using a lot of those same recipes and techniques today. Since the entire series is available across YouTube, Amazon Video and Netflix, it’s well worth taking a look at. Most college students barely know how to cook on their own, but after watching a few of these episodes you might find yourself making your own good eats.