Hot Links To The Best Food, Drink, Websites, Podcasts, Forums, Mailing Lists And Other References
In this section I have attempted to create a guide to quality food and cooking info on the net. Why send my readers elsewhere?
In fall 2009, when Conde Nast announced it was pulling the plug on Gourmet magazine, Christopher Kimball, publisher of Cook's Illustrated, a competitior of Gourmet, wrote a thoughtful op-ed in the New York Times on its demise.
He blamed free content on the net and the advertising business model that keeps it alive, and argued for the subscription model his excellent site uses. "Google 'broccoli casserole' and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise..."
So I Googled "broccoli casserole" and the very first recipe was in cooks.com (not related to Cook's Illustrated). Cooks.com is a humongous recipe database and it had 395 (!) broccoli casserole recipes contributed by, well, anyone. The very first recipe, by someone identified only as "CM" called for "sliced chicken" to be placed in the bottom of the casserole and the rest of the ingredients go on top. Then it said "brown on the top third shelf in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes or until nicely golden." It doesn't say if I'm to use bake or broil, but I'm here to tell you, if you use raw chicken, 15 minutes on either setting is not likely enough time to kill salmonella, rampant in raw chicken nowadays. You could be more than "disappointed" in the first recipe you find, as Kimball predicts. You could be serving everyone a nice case of food poisoning.
I randomly clicked on some of the other recipes. A few looked like they might be pretty good. But many had confusing ingredients lists, failing to specify what kind of cheese, and other recipes had sketchy instructions. The latest thing is "crowd sourced" recipe sites like Foodista.com and the recipes section of Wikia.com. Anyone can edit any recipe they want. The theory is that the wisdom of the crowd will produce something better than any individual can. It works fairly well on Wikipedia.com, an online encyclopedia. So, if I hate cilantro, I can whip through the site removing cilantro willy nilly. If I like spicy food, I can add a splash of hot sauce to everything. It I work for Velveeta, well, you get the picture. These are new sites, so only time will tell if they produce anything useful, but I am skeptical.
Real recipe writing is hard work and it takes experience. It can take a dozen attempts to get it right. Adjust one ingredient and you probably have to adjust others. After you get it down you have to explain each step so there is no ambiguity. A serious food writer lives in fear of ruining somebody's meal with an imprecise instruction. So where are those serious food writers and tested recipes?
Google uses a computer program to determine its rankings and far too many of the goods sites are buried. Most of the time it is pretty good. But when it comes to food, Google and the other search engines are bringing us quantity, not quality. So it is left to me to bring us quality.
If you want me to add a site, please read my links policy first.
Barbecue, Grilling, and Judging Classes. Some are very basic, some advanced, some backyard oriented, some competition oriented, some are for a few hours, some last two or more days, some are hands on, some are demos and lectures. Some even include free beer and parties. A few are held at magnificent resorts and the package includes room. Some of these instructors will travel to your location if you want to pull together a group, and some will even teach private lessons. Many are taught by competition pitmasters, others by chefs, others by authors.
Barbecue Retailers. Here are some of the stores who specialize in barbecue grills, smokers, and tools.
Accredited Culinary & Restaurant Management Schools. Want a career in the culinary arts or restaurant management? There are many cooking schools, but only a few are accredited and degree granting. Here are some. This list is by no means comprehensive.
Best food and cooking websites. The internet contains a wealth of useful info as well as a lot of misinfo. Here are links to some of the best websites.
Best barbecue websites. Tasty websites on everything from hamburgers to charcoal to tailgating to the Weber Bullet.
Barbecue competitions & associations. There are hundreds of BBQ competitions across the country, and some have prizes up to $75,000! Start practicing!
How to build a grill, smoker, hog cooker. Here are links to some of the best plans and videos for everything from a big brick grill to a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker).
Best wine, beer, and spirits websites. Here are databases with recommendations for the best in drinks.
Best hot dog links. Where to find the best dogs in LA, West Virginia, and answers to your frank questions.
...more to come (to be notified when new recipes and other articles are published, be sure to subscribe to our free, spam free, email newsletter "Smoke Signals").