“Cooking professionally is hard,” Bourdain wrote in his book A Cook’s Tour, but “writing, eating, and making a television show is relatively easy. It beats brunch.” This quotation goes a long way toward revealing why so many notable chefs, many of whom are featured in this list, have recently transitioned into media. A key reason Bourdain signed a contract with his one-time nemesis, The Food Network, was to aid the writing of A Cook’s Tour, and hosting a TV show never sat easily with Bourdain, no matter how much he made it his own. It begs the question of whether he would have pivoted to podcasting given the chance. There wasn’t much money in the industry in 2002. But it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about television, books, or podcasts, the same question arises: what’s the point of looking at and talking about food if you can’t actually taste it?
Wiser people than I have failed to provide an answer. Listening to a host narrate the sensation of tasting a freshly shucked oyster will never be the same as eating one yourself. But the popularity of food and cooking podcasts proves that the format can matter just as much as the subject. Passionate hosts, engaging descriptions, and a good mixture of relatability and escapism are key to the food podcast format. Every show on this list incorporates these elements, successfully overcoming what Bourdain called the “ludicrous artifice” of food media to produce fresh, moreish entertainment. Here are our picks for the best food podcasts.
From America’s Test Kitchen comes Proof, a podcast that sounds like the lovechild of Guy Fieri and Reply All. Trust me, that’s a good thing. It’s not about recipes. There are no interviews. Instead, Proof combines food with investigative journalism, a formula that’s endlessly bingeable. It’s just as well that there are ten seasons and counting — we’re already ready for the next course.
Hosted by Kevin Pang, Proof harmonizes compelling storytelling with a lighthearted approach to heavier topics and the result is a show with wide appeal. From pho to puttanesca, there’s a story in every bowl, and each tale is a treat for the ears. Proof’s off-beat commentary, unexpected humor, and witty episode titles (my favorite is “They Know What You’ll Eat Next Summer”) contribute to a show that consistently feels fresh.
Momofuku founder David Chang is no stranger to food media. Between his streaming shows (Ugly Delicious; Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) and his podcast (The Dave Chang Show), you might be wondering if Chang has time to cook these days. But we can say for certain that he makes room in his schedule to test three recipes a week for Recipe Club, a podcast that he co-hosts with friend and producer Chris Ying. The premise involves a random ingredient or food — think Spam, chicken parm, eggplant — for which Chang, Ying, and one of a handful of regular guest chefs must suggest a recipe. They then test each other’s recipes and describe their experiences on the show (spoiler: there are many disasters) before voting for their favorite recipe of the week. Originally a segment on his other podcast, Recipe Club proved so popular that it spawned its own show, complete with an active (and very opinionated) Facebook group.
Each episode of The Sporkful begins by reminding us of the show’s purpose: obsessing about food to learn more about people. Most food podcasts embody a similar aim — after all, what else is there to discuss without an opportunity to taste? But founder and host Dan Pashman has flipped this trope on its head, getting to the heart of a person through the food they enjoy, rather than the other way around.
Like many good meals, simplicity is key. The Sporkful strips food journalism back to its essence, asking “What do people eat and why?” By moving beyond a studio setting, the show is a great example of how to do interview podcasts that resist sounding static. If you can buy into a man weeping about pasta shapes, The Sporkful is a show you’ll find easy to love, and one that illustrates the diversity of American food culture with both humor and heart.
Food is tied up with memory. Many of us remember that first taste of our favorite food, perhaps a first sip of wine. Some of the best narratives about food celebrate the way food can transport us back in time, connecting us with family, friends, and even past versions of ourselves. This podcast is no exception. Bitter/Sweet marries poetry with eating to bring listeners stories of first times and life-changing moments. From the ultimate noodles to special family recipes, each episode allows a foodie to share the dish that will always stay with them. Bitter/Sweet makes the most of the intimacy of audio, with host Natasha Miller delivering these stories with warmth and rhythm. Miller comes from a different background to others on this list. She’s not a chef or recipe developer. Instead, she’s a writer who works in taste branding, making her more aware than most that eating can be experiential. Miller has harmonized her skills into a gentle, captivating series with a lot of heart and huge potential.
Challah. Latkes. Matzah ball soup. Jewish food is more than just its most famous dishes. It’s a rich and thriving cuisine that, like so many food traditions, is an integral part of American life. Schmaltzy celebrates all things delicious in Jewish cooking, discussing not only food but the diverse cultural experiences shaped by it. Notable guests include Alison Roman and Maira Kalman, who each shape their stories around the meals they most love to cook and to eat. Needless to say, you don’t need to be of the faith to enjoy Schmaltzy. At its core, the show is about storytelling; each episode is packed with laughs, nostalgia, and delectable anecdotes.
Comedian Dan Ahdoot believes in the old phrase “you are what you eat,” but his interpretation isn’t what you’d expect. Dan has a novel technique for breaking the ice with his guests: he asks them to send him photographs of the inside of their fridges, revealing tastes for unexpectedly pedestrian ingredients — and just a little bit of caviar. Would you expect anything less from a celebrity chef? Although we still can’t taste the food, these photographs give us a visual flavor of Dan’s famous guests, including renowned chefs and food writers such as Padma Lakshmi and Jaques Pépin. Green Eggs and Dan achieves excellent pacing through rapid questions, bringing out the best of a chef’s “rock star” personality. If you can tolerate his sycophantic hosting style, there are four seasons of Green Eggs and Dan to satisfy your appetite.
If you’ve spent any time working in the food industry, you’ll know it’s filled with outsiders and obsessives. Food media is just as intense, a space often occupied by enthusiasts surprised to have a regular paying gig. After all, if there are two industries known for their unstable incomes and chaotic working hours, it’s food and journalism. This is Taste is a podcast made for food media people. It celebrates the fact that what we eat has become part of our entertainment economy by interviewing writers, chefs, producers and connoisseurs who, just like Bourdain, made their names being beguiled by delicious things.
The podcast is hosted by TASTE editors Aliza Abarbanel and Matt Rodbard, a capable duo with real consistency. There’s something for everyone on their roster of guests, from bigger names like TV host Phil Rosenthal and chef Alison Roman, to renowned sommelier and winemaker André Hueston Mack. Earlier episodes of the show, which has been going since 2018, include controversial figures like ex-editor of Lucky Peach, Peter Meehan. Delightfully niche and a little bit rock n’ roll, especially when recorded live at the Rizzoli Bookstore in New York City, This is TASTE is deserves a place in your rotation.
After her stint on MasterChef, Tanorria Askew started Black Girls Eating with co-host Candace Boyd (FoodLoveTog) to have conversations about Black culture’s contribution to the food we all enjoy. Their show makes this list of the best food podcasts because it combines social justice issues with a hosting style at once irreverent and informative. Askew and Boyd haven’t just pulled up a seat. They’ve built their own table. A bi-monthly conversation, Black Girls Eating is all about “justice, Black Girl Magic and well-seasoned food,” but it’s also about Askew and Boyd’s friendship. Their ease and humor make for easy listening, a sign that this show will go far.
As the name might suggest, this is a show for the baking enthusiasts. She’s My Cherry Pie is a weekly podcast presented by the delectable Jessie Sheehan, a baker and recipe developer who likes nothing better than getting together with an equally hungry guest to whip up a signature recipe. Despite being a new offering, the show has already its feet. Sheehan is a naturally inviting host, even if the overall tone of the show can verge on twee. Then again, it’s a show mostly about frosting.
Like any good recipe, the format here is simple. Sheehan interviews her guests about a bake, delving into their journeys to become professional bakers and pastry chefs. Needless to say, these people know their crème anglaise from their crème pâtissière, though that doesn’t mean that you need to. She’s My Cherry Pie is ideal for baking newbies, as Sheehan ensures everything is accessible. Discussing everything from bagels to flans, each episode also includes tips and techniques that will, over time, really improve your baking knowledge. This is the perfect podcast to start off a slow Sunday.
From setting spaghetti on fire to crumbling veggie burgers, culinary disasters are commonplace for the home cook. That’s where Dinner SOS can help. From Bon Appetit, this food podcast promises to be a handy toolkit for the taste troubleshooter. The show sets out to tackle the big questions, like cooking in a tiny kitchen and making gluten-free pizza dough. Chris Morocco is just as good at hosting as he is at answering dinner dilemmas and his energy carries a show that’s only become stronger as it has developed. Dinner SOS never lets cooking become dry. Food media can be rather serious; for every saucy word uttered by Nigella, there’s another documentary about wine. But Dinner SOS cuts through such staleness with humor, never taking itself too seriously. And because it’s from Bon Apetit, all the recipes featured on the show are available on their website. Talk about convenience food.
Alice Florence Orr is a staff writer and assistant editor for Podcast Review. She is based in Edinburgh. You can connect with her on Twitter or read her work on aliceflorenceorr.com