Learn to cook using only TV cooking shows

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About this time last year I wrote a post about how you can draw inspiration from TV shows. I focused on My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef, but I also gave you a simple little activity to get you thinking about what you really want to know, so you can look out for those things when you see them on any cooking TV show.

When learning to cook, or when improving your cooking skills, it can be disheartening to look at the final meal produced by a TV show chef. It can sometimes feel like we have such a long way to go with our skills that we feel like we’ll never get to his or her stage of knowledge. I’ve heard many people say they could never do what the contestants on Masterchef do, and some of those meals just look so complicated, there doesn’t seem any point trying to replicate them at home for a family that won’t appreciate all the hard work that went into them.

While these types of shows can be disheartening, I would say you should start looking around for other TV shows that present different meals and methods of cooking – ones that are easier to replicate. Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules are about giving contestants crazier and crazier tasks to achieve, whereas someone like Jamie Oliver or the Better Homes and Gardens crew are there to give you meals you can actually make for you and your family. So my top tip would be to watch Masterchef for entertainment, but do most of your learning from regular cooking shows.

Some cooking shows you might like to watch

  • Any of Jamie Olivers’ TV shows (UK)
  • Rachel Ray’s Week in a Day (US)
  • Giada at Home (US)
  • The Barefoot Contessa (US)
  • Destination Flavour (AUS)
  • Poh and Co (AUS)
  • Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook or Little Paris Kitchen (UK)
  • Food Safari (AUS)
  • Any of Luke Nguyen’s TV shows (AUS)
  • Brunch with Bobby (US)
  • Good Chef, Bad Chef (AUS)
  • River Cottage (UK)
  • Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield (AUS)

When you’re watching these shows, don’t just sit back and wait for the meal to be presented for you at the end. Watch what the presenters do, and learn how they do things and why they do them. That’s the only way you’ll be able to improve.

Answer these questions as you watch TV

To get the most out of watching these TV shows think about the questions below. When you watch TV with these questions in mind you are sure to come away from the show having learnt more than if you were just waiting to see how the recipe turned out at the end.


  • What flavour combinations were used?
  • What ingredients did these combinations go well with?


  • What techniques were used?
  • Were any of these techniques new to you?
  • Could you try any of these techniques as home with the equipment and ingredients you already have?

New vs old recipes

  • Did the presenter make a recipe that was new for you?
  • Could you try making this recipe yourself?
  • Did the presenter make a recipe you’ve made before, but did they make it in a way you haven’t tried before?
  • Was this recipe a new version of something you already make, that you could try for a change?
  • Was this recipe served in a new way, and one that you could replicate at home?


  • Were any ingredients used that you haven’t cooked with before?
  • Were any ingredients used that you have cooked with before, but that were prepared or cooked in a new way
  • Could you replicate the way this ingredient was prepared or cooked at home?


  • Did you look at the way the food was presented?
  • Did you learn any new ways of presenting food (like putting a sauce under a steak rather than over)?
  • Did the presenter do anything with a particular ingredient to make it look more pleasing during presentation?

So the next time you watch TV, are you just going to watch for entertainment, or will you start taking note of some of the important skills the TV presenters show you?

For the comments, what’s the best piece of advice you ever picked up from watching TV?

11 thoughts on “Learn to cook using only TV cooking shows

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