The COVID-19 pandemic turned many industries upside down. Among those affected, restaurants and the food industry experienced upheaval few could have predicted. Businesses adapted, though, and instead of customers coming to them, they came to the customers. The result: A rise in virtual cooking classes.

It’s one thing to read a recipe online and rely on photos and text to guide you through the steps. It’s an entirely different experience when you can visualize how to make a dish through a recorded video or hands-on virtual class. We’ll walk you through the different types of virtual cooking classes, what you can expect and the options to choose from online.

The online cooking classes you’ll find fall into three main categories. Each type has its benefits depending on your individual needs, goals and time constraints.

Pre-recorded cooking classes

These types of classes are for families on the go or couples and individuals with busy schedules. The beauty of pre-recorded classes? You can watch them on your own time, whether that’s after picking up the kids from school or early on a Saturday morning.

Pre-recorded videos skyrocketed in popularity long before COVID-19. You’re probably familiar with the short-snippet cooking videos you see on Facebook that give you step-by-step instructions via an overhead camera. Usually paired with music, the videos are visually appealing and encourage spontaneity to try whichever dish you view that day.

Pre-recorded virtual cooking classes are much more refined. In fact, many of the tutorials offer unmatched expertise from a celebrity personality or award-winning chef. These chefs are often too busy to participate in cooking demonstrations, so filming a batch of pre-recorded classes offers more flexibility for both parties. Plus, you’ll have access to the videos whenever you need them.

Live cooking courses

These cooking courses are more personal than a pre-recorded guide on how to make a certain dish. Live virtual cooking classes can vary from 1-on-1 sessions to large group settings. 

At the advent of COVID-19, many live cooking demos started on Zoom, but they have branched off to just about any type of video platform. Chefs and cooking bloggers host scheduled or impromptu cooking classes on Instagram, a platform that allows followers to interact with the host in an informal setting. Scheduled classes generally come with a fee. In return, you can ask questions and share stories in a more intimate environment. Live virtual cooking classes are popular choices for couples celebrating a romantic evening and have become trendy gift ideas for birthdays, anniversaries or date nights.

Virtual cooking classes with ingredients delivered

Think of this category as a combination of a live cooking class with a meal delivery service. Pre-portioned dinner kits are growing by the year. Chefs and cooks took this idea and used it to complement virtual classes by allowing customers to purchase ingredients from them to make the dish.

Dinner kits work well for people who don’t have the time to stop at four different grocery stores to find ingredients for one dish. This model often works best for signature dishes from local restaurants. For example, an Indian restaurant could ship hard-to-find spices to your doorstep.

Benefits of online cooking classes

Even with all the negatives surrounding in-person dining and the inability to enjoy food in social settings during COVID-19, the industry has used virtual cooking classes to open up a new dimension of food exploration.

For starters, virtual cooking classes became the perfect respite for people looking to break up the monotony of quarantine. More free time meant more time for discovering food trends.

Beyond that, virtual cooking classes offer a different experience than in-person events. Sure, you lose the hands-on coaching of a cooking class and, no, your teacher doesn’t have the ability to taste your food or correct a mistake. But, it allows freedom, flexibility and comfort. You know your own kitchen better than anyone.

It’s also easier on the hosts who don’t have to buy ingredients or rent a space. In the case of virtual classes, you’re paying for a chef’s intimate food knowledge. And as we mentioned, many classes are recorded and archived for future use, meaning you can continue to perfect your recipe.

The beauty of virtual learning is the limitless options available, from cooking 101 to advanced baking classes. You can learn how to filet a whole fish, cook an 18-hour smoked brisket or a simple loaf of broad. The fact that it’s online and virtual allows for exposure to even more cuisines and food styles. For example, there may not be many brick-and-mortar locations offering vegan cooking classes, but you can find those on the internet. There are even classes on wine and cocktails for those with different preferences.