Sunday, July 15, 2012

How The Internet Is Changing The Way We Cook

Introduction


We made this no-knead bread from scratch on our first attempt!
The Internet is changing the way that nerds cook. From engineered bagels to no-knead bread, to massive recipe databases and cooking web sites, technology is shaking up the culinary world. It was inevitable, really. Technology is great at capturing, storing and manipulating data points. And what exactly is a recipe? Yep, it's a collection of data points, usually arrived at with lots of testing and experimentation. Sounds nerdy to me!

A day in the life


We have a decently large household. Cooking is a big deal in our house. A good portion of our time and family budget are devoted to it. And besides, we enjoy cooking. So, our skill in the kitchen is something that we are always looking to improve upon. With a little effort, we can buy better, fresher ingredients for less money. We can cut down the meal prep time, and find ways to make the same great food in less time. We can make better use of leftovers. The Internet helps us with all of this, and more.

Recipe Sites


This is the first area of our cooking that had a major change with the Internet. We still have family recipes and boat loads of cookbooks, but honestly, most of the time when I need a recipe which I can't make from memory, the first place I look is a huge cooking site like Allrecipes. And not just for the recipes. A recipe is only as good as the actual food people have used it to make. And how does a nerd know what is good and what is not good? Yep, Internet reviews. Lately the dishes I have decided to make from this site all get great reviews. It's a complete no-brainer.

For example, if I want to make an Alfredo sauce from scratch, I type in "alfredo sauce" into the search engine, and up pops a few pages of recipes for Alfredo sauce. I find the one I like, carefully study the reviews, then make the sauce. If there's a tricky part of the dish not covered in the recipe itself, there's usually a comment in one of the reviews telling me how to solve the issue. And of course, variations on the recipe. I don't think I've made a single recipe without some changes found in the comment sections.

Recipe SiteDescription
Allrecipes.comThis is the one I use the most. It has good recipes, and good features (like saving recipes you like to your own list), but the reason I use it the most is because of the reviews. I also like seeing pictures from users who have made the dish.
Recipe SourceThe new nome of SOAR, the searchable, online recipe database. SOAR is one of the original online databases, and it's nice to see that it lives on.
EpicuriousAnother good one which has been around a long time. It has evolved with the times, and it's now very comparable to AllRecipes and has a good community.
Cookbooks.comI haven't used a recipe from this one, but it looks interesting.

Cooking Blogs


As a blogger just starting out, this is one area where I am working on improving my knowledge of cooking. I've stumbled into a few decent ones, but it's pretty much a case of information overload for me. So, I am going to focus mainly on blog lists/guides.

Blog ListDescription
Cookingblogs.orgThis looks like a great list. It's well laid out and has a nice flow to it. I've already visted some of the blogs on the list, and so far I'm impressed.
SimplyRecipesA great cooking blog that's as polished as the big corporate sites.
CellarerThis one lists the top 500 cooking blogs just based on page rank.
Cookbooks.comI haven't used a recipe from this one, but it looks interesting.
CookingforsevenWe make this no-knead bread from scratch almost every day. We've even stopped buying most bread from the store.

Other Sites


We use the Internet for a lot more than just recipes and community. A good deal of the specialty tools and utensils in our kitchen were purchased over the Internet. Electronic thermometers, kitchen gadgets, cookware, small appliances- you name it.

Conclusions


For the wife and I, there's no denying that the Internet has made us better cooks. The combined culinary knowledge of mankind is instantly at our disposal. Maybe for a chef who makes a living on proprietary knowledge and secret recipes, the Internet has to be pretty scary. But for those that embrace technology, well, we're eating better.

We are to the point where we almost never even use printed recipes. Most everything we like to make is bookmarked. A small, 10 inch netbook in the kitchen has almost become just another utensil!

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