One might look at the Google-owned, mostly free video-sharing platform YouTube and simply think of cat videos, but in recent years, it has become a serious platform with legitimate, well-made content. It is also a cost-effective alternative to streaming services that are often too expensive — in that they cost money at all. I rarely use them because it is too much of a time commitment, and what I can find on YouTube is just so much better. There is so much diverse content on YouTube that almost anyone can find something they like, from indie films to ski documentaries, to popular late-night shows like Last Week Tonight.
These are some of my favorite quality picks from the vast stretches of YouTube, which cover everything from mixology to yacht restoration:
YouTube allows for chefs, both amateur and professional, to share a wealth of information on almost any style of cuisine. What’s most appealing about watching cooking shows on YouTube is the interesting approaches and creative freedoms the platform allows them to take. By exploring pop culture and cooking under the direction of what is current, these channels really add more flavor to their content.
Munchies: Vice’s Munchies is a series featuring guest chefs who each cook a dish and offer commentary along the way. One favorite of mine involves a particularly eccentric instruction for making a po’boy sandwich with New Orleans-based guest host Isaac Toups. Some of the videos are a bit unorthodox, and the chefs often have no verbal filter, which is very entertaining. Overall, Munchies does illuminating, contemporary takes on cooking and eating food.
How to Drink: This is a funny channel in which each video, hosted by a bartender named Greg, explores a variety of mixed drinks. I have no frame of reference to know what is being talked about, but the presentation of the content is so refreshingly different to what you might normally see, I have to watch it with gusto. I can really imagine everything that is being described. Older viewers can probably get a better idea of what is being talked about, but for me, it’s simply a good educational watch.
There is a lot of information to be learned about the history of the automobile and its relationship to our global culture on YouTube, which has really become the modern face of car culture in a country deeply connected to cars. The channels worth checking out are:
Donut Media: This is a really popular channel, and in my opinion is one of the best and most prolific. The channel’s documentary series on the history of motorsport, Up To Speed, is both educational and easy to absorb for people interested in history.
Hoonigan: Hoonigan is more of a cultural phenomenon with a YouTube channel attached, and more spectacle than education. Hoonigan is responsible for the wildly popular Gymkhana videos, which are some of the most talked-about videos on the internet, and are perhaps the most impressive demonstrations of driving skill I have seen, dare I say skill in general. On top of that there are “build breakdowns” where people’s project cars are discussed.
Other notable mentions for people interested in automotive history include Hagerty and Auto Trader, which both do reviews on the latest in automotive tech and talk about car culture, the enjoyment of driving and history. Hagerty has a series called Revelations that is incredibly educational and entertaining to watch.
There are some channels in the massive archive that is YouTube that fall into no category. They exist in their own field, and they are awesome because of it.
Internet Historian: Each video on Internet Historian is either an in-depth breakdown of some cultural phenomenon or a story from the far reaches of our society. In one, dubbed “Very Serious Business,” the intricacies of how a movement on social media sabotaged McDonald’s “build your own sandwich” competition with inappropriately named sandwiches.
If a breakdown on an event that niche isn’t your thing, Internet Historian discusses some more topical content, including highlighting the lesser-known phenomena coming from the coronavirus pandemic. While the news media simply skims the surface with a story on people being tricked into microwaving their iPhones (don’t do it), Internet Historian explains where the shenanigans started and how the joke progressed.
Tom Scott: This is an interesting, documentary-style channel hosted by British web developer and educator Tom Scott. Topics range from the most dangerous river to the operation of London’s Tower Bridge. Every single episode is a short 10-minute educational experience. This isn’t something you watch to kill boredom, nor is it easy to watch, but it is something that can give one a deeper appreciation of the world we live in and the way we make sense of it.
Biografics: Biografics feels closer to a podcast than a YouTube channel, but the visual medium of communication elevates the experience of learning about the lives of everyone from Roman emperors to modern celebrities to new levels. This biography-centric channel is one I would recommend to true-crime junkies or documentary enthusiasts. Each episode is incredibly well researched and presented in roughly 20 minutes.
Sampson Boat Co.: Of everything vying for my attention on YouTube, boat-building videos from Sampson Boat Co. are the clear winner.
This channel follows the yearslong restoration of a 19th century sailing yacht called the Tally Ho by releasing a new video every week. I’m quite invested in the project and tune in to follow its story almost religiously. I have learned so much about a topic, boat building, that I would have never expected I would enjoy. I attribute that to the inspirational and charming down-to-earth way in which this channel makes videos. I would urge anyone to go check it out.