3 Fantastic (and Mostly Free) Cooking Web Sites

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It’s official: summer’s over. Time to crack the books and get back to school. If you’ve done your classroom time, why not learn to cook? It’s never been easier to learn how, with the plethora of TV shows and cookbooks on the market. But you can also get started online.

Here, my top three picks for the best food Web sites for culinary learning. They’re each equipped with well-produced videos (some of which will require registration to view) and a wealth of information which means you’ll have access to a cooking school in your home kitchen. Don’t expect to come away a master chef, but you can expect to acquire fundamental skills, find fantastic recipes, brush up on the basics and get answers to pressing food questions.

Cook’s Illustrated has uploaded their magazine content online and produced short, no-nonsense videos live from their test kitchen examining a range of subjects. Much of the site is searchable for free, including many of the videos, which span the culinary spectrum, from the basics — knife skills, buying and preparing leeks and proper fish storage — to the more advanced — how to make chicken tikka masala, barbecued beef brisket and homemade ricotta. (Lots of content is available for free here, but to access all of it, you'll have to subscribe to the magazine, which runs $25 per year. A free 14-day trial is also available.)

Fine Cooking magazine is another great choice for videos. Their no-frills productions focus on back-to-basics techniques and cooking fundamentals, like how to butterfly a chicken, cut it into parts or bread a cutlet. There are a few seasonal shorts, including how to grill eggplant and pizza and make a summer berry pie filling. (Again, lots of content is available for free on the site, but for full access you'll have to register. They also offer a free 14-day trial but full access will cost you $30 per year).

Good Bite
is a gathering spot for food bloggers (including one of my favorites, Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen) who walk viewers through their favorite recipes. This site is less about technique than about gathering simply delicious recipes to add to your canon, from skirt steak fajitas, peanut noodles and the perfect layered birthday cake, care of Deb.

(If you like this, you’ll love MainStreet’s guide to DIY pizza.)

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