How many different ways can you cook chicken?

Growing up, I have vivid memories of watching a show on the new Food Network channel which featured Sara Moulton, and viewers who would call in live and ask questions while she cooked. This whole thing was FASCINATING to me and really sparked my love of food, recipes, and cooking. And at the end of the show, there was always a text screen that would pop up with the address to Food Network where you could mail a self-addressed stamped envelope and $3.95 to receive the recipes from the show.


That was 1997. Fast forward 20 years and the landscape of food, recipes, and television is completely change. One of the chief disruptions was the internet.

Today we have zillions (a technical measurement term) of food blogs. Zillions. If you want a recipe for chicken, you no longer need the cookbook 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, Bookyou just need to google “chicken recipe” or “chicken marsala recipe” or “non-alcoholic chicken marsala recipe with potatoes”. The internet has created a very large open source cookbook. So what does that mean for cookbooks and food television channels and sending away for recipe cards?


The publishing industry as a whole took a hit when it comes to the disruptive nature of the internet. And in 2010, “a dark mood began to press down on the hardback cookbook industry” and the Vice President of  Ten Speed (an independent book publisher bought by Crown Publishing in 2009) Lorena Jones, called it “a prevailing sense of doom.” How would the print world compete with a world of $9.99 eBooks! Yet, they have.

The LA Times speculated that the worry of splashing “boiling hot oil on a $300 gadget” coffee tablewas part of it, but looking further, cookbooks are often only used as step-by-step guides as one of the final uses. Instead, cookbooks are now coffee table books, with gorgeous photos and stories; they are inspiration pieces, allowing home cooks to gain a thread of an idea to start with; they are conversation pieces, as celebrity and chef alike put out a new one each year; and they are treasured heirlooms, remembering everyone from grandma to Julia Child.

Food Network

The television giant hasn’t slowed down yet, and the internet has only helped the channel maintain a spot at the top. Remember when young 10 year old Colleen was sending away for recipes? Well now she watches a LOT of Food Network, and makes a lot of recipes she gets right off the internet. No subscription, no stamps, no waiting weeks for the mail. It has brought the channel even further into the home.

They have an app, all social media channels, and strong engaged following behind their television stars. They have a magazine, interactive website, and owned by the Scripps Network, multiple other channels hosting more food and lifestyle programming.

Online Recipes

Another big disruption has been food bloggers. I am pretty sure my earlier measurement of a zillion as pretty accurate because everyone from professional bloggers, attached to food product or service companies and magazines, all the way down to the everyday bloghome chef with an internet connection, can start a blog. You can access the internet for free, download the recipe, see a step-by-step guide – and even some commentary on what worked best, and where to find hard ingredients. It’s like a cookbook plus a friend to help you through it! And with the social network Pinterest, sharing content has never been easier.

The most recent explosion of tech have been the Tasty videos from Buzzfeed (which you could do an entire blog on)- and then an avalanche of step-by-step  videos to follow – which further reinvented how users were accessing recipes through the internet. And with new tech, comes the thought that soon there could be opportunities with virtual and augmented reality, interactive cooking with live feeds, and more.


I love cooking and I love recipes. I have an inappropriate amount of cookbooks in my apartment for the amount of space I have and for the bandwidth I actually have to cook lately. But I am often on Pinterest, looking at food blogs, and grabbing recipes from the internet. Yet, the food publishing industry isn’t going anywhere soon. Now, by embracing what technology is offering consumers, they have put cookbooks in two categories, use me and collect me. From there, technology is only complimenting the books and television shows where we consume food with our eyes – and then get insanely hungry, a grab one of those books or search for 365 ways to cook chicken.



For a great long read on the cookbook publishing industry and chef who tried (and succeeded) in getting around it, the team at Alinea (amazing Michelin star restaurant in Chicago) wrote for Medium on how they self-published their cookbook.


  1. mikecarillo111 · ·

    Food blogs, tastey videos, and all foodstagram accounts will be the slow paced high calorie death of it. I loved this blog and was actually discussing how the cookbook world has evolved with my mom over this past holiday weekend. I think it’s super interesting and really smart how the industry has evolved. One of my favorite Netflix shows (ex-Netflix user, go Hulu) was Chef’s Table. It actually documented Alinea in an episode and it shows how the streaming world even intensifies the food user’s experience. Furthermore, I never really thought about how cookbooks can become this sort of collectors item but now that you’ve pointed it out I realized a lot of friends of mine do that. It’s crazy how people have made a career through foodstagrams and YouTube reviews of food. Great post!

  2. kylepdonley · ·

    Thanks for making me super hungry, I guess I’m cooking chicken now tonight.

    Seriously though, I was thinking about this the other day while I was cooking using a recipe from a blogger. I remember the days of my Mom busting out the recipe box with the 100’s of hand-written recipes and magazine clippings as well as “The Joy of Cooking” with a spine that was about to fall apart. There is something nostalgic and wholesome about using an actual book or written recipe in the kitchen, I think much the same as when people prefer the smell and feel of a real book when reading for pleasure. As much as the internet has made a dent in this, this feeling adds too much value to the experience to go away altogether.

    Just the other day I was using a new cookbook my girlfriend gifted me called “Thug Kitchen” (I highly recommend it!) and I realized I prefer the book for a few reasons:

    1. I am exposed to recipes I wasn’t looking for and wouldn’t otherwise consider. Looking online doesn’t provide this as readily because, even if you type something as simple as “chicken” in, you won’t likely stumble upon a recipe for sou vide filet mignon.

    2. Screens are conducive to cooking. It’s hard to scroll with hands covered in dough and it’s super annoying to wake up your screen and type in a password when you have three things on the stove, the pressure is on, time is of the essence, and you need a quick reminder.

  3. HenryChenChen · ·

    Thanks for the nice post. Today, with instagram, Youtube and Pinterest, there are many bloggers regarding to food. Some of the bloggers i subscribed in Youtube, such as The Food Ranger and Mark Wiens, they spend almost half of their life to eat around the world and making blogs and video posts. I feel hungry every time after I saw their Videos, and I try to duplicate the food by searching the recipe online. It was so convenient, and the instructions and the comments made by the others can help me to learn the recipe and sometimes works better than the cook books. Besides, its interesting that Gorden Ramsey recipe YouTube channel and many of his recipe is free!

  4. mqzhang · ·

    Thanks for the tasty post! It made me recall the mukbang post from a few weeks ago, and really made me think about how communal the act of preparing and sharing food is. I would have thought the digitization of books would have done the same to the cookbook industry as it did to Borders and other book sellers. But your post makes sense about cookbooks becoming more of a collector’s item. I can easily see the huge, colorful, and detailed pictures of edible art serving well as leisure/coffee table literature, making them more of a luxury good than a productivity necessity.

    Regarding the Food Network, my girlfriend is an avid watcher, and I’ve definitely seen them ramp up their social network engagement over the years as the march towards online revenues continues. I’m glad that they’re finding new ways to drive bottom line performance and adopting new techniques to involve the audience more. I also wholeheartedly agree that skillful food preparation is a lifestyle, as I’ve seen the effort necessary to craft those beautiful creations. Only someone with a passion for food could muster the resolve necessary to combine ingredients without fear of failure.

    Finally, the growth of online recipes and food blogging goes back to my belief that the social aspect of the internet has only emphasized the same facets of food in society today. We can now share a meal or a prep methodology with any number of others, ensuring that we will always have another person to relay an experience to. I can see the use of AR/VR only adding the entire cooking process by allowing you to learn how to make a dish, not by reading instructions, but by literally seeing what ingredients should be added in what manner and by what time during the cooking process. As our technological capabilities advance, it’s good to know that our foods, and the experiences they create, will only improve as well.

  5. nescrivag · ·

    Great post about how the internet has revolutionized the cooking world. I relate a lot to this post because when I was younger my mom and I would use cookbooks to make recipes. I remember when I got youth cookbooks for my birthdays I used to get so excited that I wanted to try the recipes right away. While I still have a lot of cookbooks back at home in Spain, I only use them sometimes because the internet has enabled me to find more specific recipes. I like narrowing down the ingredients when I search on Pinterest or google, which obviously cannot be done in a cookbook. I like trying out new ingredients and variations of recipes, which are easier to find on food blogs because they tend to be more innovative that traditional cookbooks.
    I have noticed; however, that most food bloggers tend to release a cookbook at some point because their online content is technically ‘free’ for us to use and therefore they don’t make as much money from that. My launching cookbooks, they can release recipes that are only available on the paper/online copy and therefore encourage users to buy them in order to get this exclusive content.
    I think that the “cooking” market is so big that both online and offline recipe providers have opportunities to expand and find their niche.

  6. Lucy Wilson · ·

    Great post, Colleen! Kyle brings up another really interesting point that I hadn’t thought of—cookbooks expose you to recipes that you wouldn’t ordinarily seek out. I know more than a number of times I’ve found something I really enjoy just by leafing through one of my family’s cookbooks.

    While I completely agree with many of the points that you brought up surrounding the relevance of cookbooks, I’m not sure how bright their future looks. I love to cook, but I do not personally own any cookbooks and do not plan on buying them anytime soon. I think this mentality represents a larger trend in my generation. Similar to physical books, as people begin to grow up with fewer and fewer cookbooks, I feel like they will view it as a waste of space (aside from the coffee table cookbook) and a nuisance to carry around. Although I see the physical cookbook industry taking a hit, I don’t think that necessarily applies to the larger publishing industry or the cooking industry as a whole, as you mentioned.

  7. Should have added AI! I ate at a food truck operated by IBM’s Watson once.

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