TikTok is the surprise home-cooking hero we need right now

Written by Jean Teng

Turns out the cult social media platform’s 60-second format and shaky production values are just right for bringing out the top chef in all of us.

The array of studio-lit professional cooking videos that flood our social media feeds day in and day out can really start to wear a girl in quarantine down. And by a girl, I mean this girl. At home in coronavirus lockdown, my kitchen lacked the counter space. I have never owned, and probably never will own, a KitchenAid. It is physically impossible for my hands to slice ingredients that neatly.

And while aspirational, my pared-back pantry required far more practicality than what Bon Appetit lays out on their white marble countertops. I was beyond sick of striving for a level I’d never achieve.

But I found an antidote. Refreshingly, there are millions of quick, 60-second recipe videos on short-form video platform TikTok which assume you are an idiot (or a 14-year-old with little cooking experience), condensed down to cater for our 2020 attention spans.

Things get messy. The camerawork is shaky. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s reality, baby! I love them.

Better yet, most of the recipes are for simple, comfort-food meals that happily fill our anxiety-fuelled voids with carb-heavy creations: think Popeye’s fried chicken, homemade Italian pasta, perfect ham-and-cheese focaccia sandwiches.

Oftentimes these personality-driven, low-budget clips serve more as inspiration and entertainment than recipes you’d actually follow, which is fine too, because they do an important job of making you feel better about your personal cooking prowess — that is, reminding you that while eating out is great, you can most definitely survive by cooking your own damn self. It’s easy. Teenagers do it.

Here are some of my faves:

Tabitha Brown @iamtabithabrown

Tabitha Brown is the Bob Ross of cooking videos. Her sweet-as-molasses Southern accent will wash over you like goddamn ASMR, and she never shames me for making lunch in my pyjamas (“that’s your business,” Brown reassures). Every dish is vegan, full of flavour, and somewhat-healthy — if you count maple syrup-marinated carrots as healthy.

Make: Jackfruit tacos

tabitha brown

Shereen @cookingwithshereen

My second mum plays bad-cop to good-cop Tabitha, yelling instructions like a military commander. Tabitha is my therapist, but Shereen is my personal trainer. The videos are the most usable and practical of the lot, with clear measurements, explanations and on-screen demonstrations.

Make: Spicy chilli

cooking with shereen

Joshuah Nishi @nishcooks

Joshuah’s food often ends up looking like shit, and, contrary to Instagram, sometimes that’s just how food is. If you need a little boost to the ego, this should be your first stop. “Ugly delicious” was my life mantra before David Chang made it a thing, so though the execution is a little more Cooking with Paris than Nigella Bites, the base flavours of his food always work — and work wonders if your bank account looks parched.

Make: Oyako don

joshuah nishi

Eitan Bernath @eitan

While a part of me absolutely hates the fact I’m learning how to cook from a 17-year-old who only shouts at insane decibels, it’s inescapable that Eitan always predicts what I want to eat and proceeds to post his videos based on my innermost desires. Catch this kid on Food Network hosting an extremely earnest show named Eitan Eats in about two years, probably.

Make: Reese peanut butter cups

eitan bernath

Jeremy @jascheck

I stan this college-age Italian language major who pronounces parmigiano-reggiano like a nonna in Reggio Emilia and knows that food requires more seasoning than you’d first assume. Jeremy makes a lot of pasta in very measured but decisive tones. His videos cradle me in a very big wheel of fancy cheese while reassuring me I only deserve the very best homemade orecchiette.

 Make: Quarantine-adapted aglio olio

jeremy tik tok

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