It’s easier to destroy a pair of headphones than you might think. How do I know? Messy, hard-earned experience.

One pair sliced cleanly into three pieces as I bisected a stubborn butternut squash. The next dangled, then tangled into the ball whisk of my Kitchen Aid as it launched lashings of chocolate buttercream across my kitchen.

Eventually, I caved and bought a Bluetooth speaker. It was either that or give up listening to food podcasts as I cook, and that felt like a bridge too far.

For me, podcasts about the culinary world breed a sense of connection to other home cooks, as well as chefs and restaurateurs, growers and producers. They reinforce the context that frames what I do with my hands as I assemble the components of a dish.

They’ve also introduced me to stories and ideas I might never have sought out on my own. Everything from how to preserve unused cookie dough (freeze it into logs), to the separated-at-birth melodrama of Zinfandel and Primitivo (They took a DNA test; turns out they’re 100% the same grape.)

Whether you’re new to food podcasts or a veteran listener, I hope you’ll find something appetizing in this list of eight of my favorites. Some began airing this year, others have archives several hundred episodes deep, but every one would be worth sacrificing a pair of headphones.

Note: There are many ways to access podcasts. Apps like Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts and Stitcher all make locating episodes simple. Many home audio devices, like Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Google Home, also allow access through simple voice requests.

 

Gastropod

Since 2014, celebrated writers Nicola Twilley and Cynthia Graber have explored the hidden stories behind how (and what) we eat. Each episode takes a single topic – caffeine, artificial flavorings, the cherry tomato – and refracts it through the overlapping lenses of culture, science and history. Meticulously researched and always entertaining, Gastropod uses the low-key charm of its hosts to sneak up on you. Before you know it, you’ll be captivated (and peckish).

Quintessential episode: “Museums and the Mafia: The Secret History of Citrus” (Season 4)

Gastropod.com

 

The Splendid Table

What began as a nationally syndicated Minnesota Public Radio program aimed at an audience of home cooks, The Splendid Table has, over 21 years, mutated into the leviathan of food podcasts. In no small part, that’s due to its early embrace of technology. Splendid Table was one of the first programs to host its own website (starting with featured recipes, then a dinner-themed newsletter and, eventually, full episodes of the show). Some of its popularity is undoubtedly also due to the expertise and charisma of its hosts, Lynne Rossetto Kasper and, since 2017, Francis Lam. With more than 700 episodes in its catalog, there’s enough compelling audio content here to keep you busy for months.

Quintessential episodes: Any of the often hilarious annual “Turkey Confidential” call-in programs. The show’s website describes the first in this series (2006) as “Thanksgiving triage at its best.”

splendidtable.org

 

The Sporkful

Host Dan Pashman’s podcast began as a cross between entertainment and therapy: a release valve for him to process his most obsessive culinary thoughts. Indeed, in 2010, he began The Sporkful with an entire episode parsing the differences between panini and grilled cheese, then moved on to programs about calculating ideal ratios of butter and salt for popcorn, and even tactical planning for dinner at a buffet. In recent years, Pashman has turned The Sporkful into a more interview-oriented podcast, but it has lost none of its original appeal.

Quintessential episode: Episode 19, in which Pashman and NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich use physics and geometry to optimize sandwich construction and consumption.

sporkful.com

 

Eater’s Digest

Originally birthed in 2015 as Eater Upsell, a podcast primarily about well-known North American chefs, writers and television personalities, this podcast hit an inflection point in 2017, right around the time the restaurant world recognized it had a Mario Batali-shaped #MeToo problem. Since then, and especially under the aegis of current hosts Amanda Kludt and Daniel Geneen, Eater’s Digest has branched out to explore the forces that shape the ways we eat out (and, often, in). If you want to find out what’s happening right now in the world of food, this should be your first stop.

Quintessential episode: “Ruth Reichl and the Rise and Fall of Gourmet Magazine” (March 20, 2019).

eater.com/eatersdigest

 

Cooking Issues

Descriptions can be deceiving. When I first came across Cooking Issues in 2010, I thought it was just another call-in show designed to help home cooks figure out how to roast a squash or debone a duck. I quickly recalibrated my expectations when I heard hosts Dave Arnold and Nastassia Lopez delivering their rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness advice and discovered the program’s orientation toward science and modernist techniques. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen to find out how to use a bread machine, but a week later, you might wind up learning about avant-garde gastronomic approaches like dispersing aromas with a vape pen or attaching electrodes to food to initiate ohmic heating.

Quintessential episode: Episode 215 (July 21, 2015) featuring legendary author and fellow food-as-science scholar Harold McGee.

heritageradionetwork.org

 

Home Cooking

When I read last month that Samin Nosrat – author of the James Beard Foundation award-winning “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” and host of the Netflix miniseries of the same name – and Song Exploder podcast creator Hrishikesh Hirway were combining forces to host a podcast about cooking during the current pandemic, I subscribed without listening to a single episode. Both bring an easygoing expertise to interviewing guests, like baker Stella Parks and actor/latke aficionado Josh Malina, and offer clear, adaptable answers to listener questions about whether to soak beans and how to make bread when flour is scarce.

Quintessential episode: Home Cooking’s debut (March 27, 2020) “Bean There, Done That” and its “quick, three-sentence how-to-cook-a-bean recipe.”

homecooking.show

 

Food Court with Richard Blais

Another newcomer, this podcast is unique among its peers because of its game show format. Hosted by Atlanta chef Richard Blais, a former Top Chef: All-Stars champ, Food Court is a rollicking hybrid: part trivia quiz, part debate-based panel show. Each episode features entertaining guest contestants who argue on either side of some of the most contentious culinary issues — pie vs. cake, cheap vs. expensive coffee, and most controversial of all: cilantro, yes or no? (For the record, the answer is yes.)

Quintessential episode: “Bagels: Toasted vs. Not Toasted” (April 7, 2020)

ihr.fm

 

The Food Coma Podcast with Joe Ricchio

Freelance food writer and former food editor for Down East Magazine, Joe Ricchio is an absolute blast to listen to as he hosts this mostly Maine-focused podcast. Long a fixture of the Portland-area food scene, Ricchio radiates an infectious enthusiasm for his culinary-world guests and their work. Episodes begin with a broad theme (food entertainment, human behavior) but quickly detour into tangents that are at once engaging, revealing and frequently side-splittingly funny.

Quintessential episodes: “Relationships with Nellie Edwards” (January 27, 2020), wherein Ricchio tells you what he really thinks of using Groupon discounts at restaurants, and “Network TV, Motorcycles, and Vulcans with Rob Caldwell” (January 6, 2020), a Freaky Friday episode that turns interviewee into interviewer.

foodcomapodcast.com

 

Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of three recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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