There are currently a million podcasts in the world – and they come in all different flavours. There’s a show about Italian culinary history, a program about sipping sake and shochu, and a calorie-rich podcast for Australian junk food fans. If you need something to playlist your kitchen-prep time, these following shows are especially good cooking companions.
Modernist Bread Crumbs
If you recently welcomed a Bread Pitt, Gal Gadough, Levain James or other aptly named sourdough starter into your home, then this podcast is for you. It covers the science of bread-making, as well as the history, cultivation and political power of grains. As the podcast notes, people riot when they can’t get bread – no one riots over ice-cream.
What to cook while listening: An oven-baked loaf, preferably from a starter with a jokey name (like Rye-an Seacrust).
Dinner For One
From her Paris kitchen, aided with lots (and lots!) of red wine, Sutanya Dacres broadcasts her feelings. You’ll want to toast her glass, because she’s great company. She recaps her post-divorce life as she cooks for one, making a “wonky” omelette, “non-engagement chicken” or jerk duck inspired by her Jamaican roots. Her French frozen food episode was one of the most calming things I’ve heard during lockdown.
What to cook while listening: A “wonky” omelette.
This charming quarantine cooking show by Samin Nosrat (author of Salt Fat Acid Heat) and Hrishikesh Hirway (behind podcast Song Exploder) has attracted such supersized interest they’ve busted beyond their original four-part run. They offer culinary advice to everyone, from the listener needing to stretch a $45 food budget over 14 days, to the Sydneysider who panic-bought a gigantic cheese wheel during lockdown.
What to cook while listening: W Kamau Bell’s two-ingredient banana pancakes.
Point of Origin
“Are you suggesting that Gwyneth Paltrow did not invent turmeric?” jokes Stephen Satterfield, co-founder of Whetstone, America’s only black-owned food magazine. His program sends you all over the globe, to the birthplace of particular dishes and ingredients. For turmeric, it’s India; and for the memorable episode on Nigerian cuisine, it’s to the Brazilian quarter of Lagos, where frejon, a bean and coconut milk dish, has flourished. It arrived when West Africans returned to Nigeria after Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. The dish shares DNA with feijoada, Brazil’s national dish.
What to cook while listening: frejon, of course.
This Sydney-based podcast is carbonated with the high-energy enthusiasm of good friends Sophie McComas and Sophie Roberts. Their cheery, recommendation-led approach means you’re ready to be won over by anything they single out – from the recipes they’re eagerly cooking (banoffee pie, Spanish tortillas, red lentil and miso dahl with eggplant salad) to the pantry and fridge items they’re stocking up on (home-delivered cookie dough and Ed Loveday’s BottlED cocktails).
What to cook while listening: Sophie Roberts’ WFH marinated tofu sandwich with cabbage slaw and mayo.
It’s one of the longest-running food podcasts – and still one of the best. Since 2010, American writers Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton have riffed about one food topic each episode, generating recipe ideas and bright, buzzy banter. Everything from pizza toppings to Icelandic junk food has been covered, but the recent show on shichimi togarashi (the Japanese chilli-citrus spice blend) will leave you with an outsized love of Japan.
What to cook while listening: Yakitori chicken with a good sprinkle of shichimi togarashi.
It Burns and Nut Jobs
The world’s hottest chillies attract extreme personalities. There’s Ted Barrus, the “fire-breathing idiot”: he’s been filmed throwing up 400 times while pursuing his throat-burning hobby. There’s PuckerButt Pepper Company’s Ed Currie, who chased hot chillies like hard drugs. On It Burns, Australian journalist Marc Fennell reveals a surprisingly sensitive and heartbreaking side to both men – an approach that landed him a James Beard Foundation award. His follow-up podcast, Nut Jobs, covers a crimewave involving $10m of missing nuts, and it’s equally empathetic and fascinating.
What to cook while listening: Tacos with hot sauce.
Eat Eat Eat
This Australian podcast takes on compelling topics, like the culinary impact of international conflict, from Korean army stew to Britain’s second world war rationing regime (only one egg allowed a week) and the US military basically creating Cheetos dust. With Grab Your Fork’s Helen Yee, the show examines how “disgust” is culturally shaped: Australians defend Vegemite, but everyone else finds it gross. Would you try a taco flavoured with your friend’s foot, though? People have actually done so in America.
What to cook while listening: Maybe give the foot tacos a miss and make Anzac biscuits instead.
Simple Pleasures with Yotam Ottolenghi
Sure, it’s a promotional tool for the chef’s cookbook – but the format works so nicely, you don’t mind. Yotam Ottolenghi talks to celebrities (Jessie Ware, Michael Palin, Helen Goh) while cooking something from his Simple book. The highlight? Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and his lawyer wife Vanessa Nadal. They describe their “Latina Woodstock” wedding, and banter (that 1954 port story!) over braised eggs with leeks and za’atar.
What to cook while listening: Ottolenghi’s roasted cherry tomatoes with oregano and cold yoghurt.
Take A Bao
Blogger Loh Yi Jun dedicates his show to Asia’s flavours and food traditions, from the Malaysian kopitiam (a style of cafe that predates the country itself) to the fundamental role rice plays in Asian culture. In Malay and Mandarin, there are actually different words for cooked rice and uncooked rice. And in Borneo farmers have even more ways to describe the grains.
What to cook while listening: Any rice dish, from congee to nasi goreng.
How has the hospitality industry been affected by the pandemic? It’s something Melbourne food journalist Dani Valent examines through her podcast, which covers some left-field developments (such as Calia’s Jason Chang investing in a $20,000 robot cat to serve diners in a Covid-safe way) to the heavy personal cost faced by people who have lost work during the crisis – particularly visa holders ineligible for government assistance.
What to cook while listening: Turn off the stove and order some takeaway from your favourite restaurant while you still can.
Lee Tran Lam hosts The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry podcast and currently subscribes to 590 podcasts.