What’s the USP? Here’s a book guaranteed to stir up some sort of response in anyone over, say, thirty years of age. as cooked on TikTok is a collection of ‘fan favourites and recipe exclusives’ from over 40 of the social network’s food influencers.
And look, we’re coming into this one with serious trepidation, yes? The front cover promises a foreword by ‘Gordon + Tilly Ramsay’, and the pictures on the back include ‘Cloud Bread’, part of a trend of ‘fluffy’ foods that also included whipped coffee and ‘cloud eggs’, which are both featured inside as well.
In case you were wondering, Cloud Bread looks atrocious. Dyed blue (like… clouds?), and made using only egg whites, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract, it looks less like a cumulonimbus, and more like a failed soap that’s been dumped unceremoniously on the Lush factory floor. A good start, then.
Who wrote it? Primarily referred to by their TikTok handles, the names of the 40 influencers here won’t mean much to anyone not actively following foodtok (you’ve got this, really, I’m right here with you, offering my love and support – foodtok is just the corner of TikTok focussed on cooking and eating).
There’s a real sense of variety, though. Most of the featured creators are based in North America, but many are immigrants who are bringing the dishes of their home country to a wider audience. There are students and young professionals who love to share their homemade concoctions, professionals who have found a new way to expand their brand, and retired grandmothers with a penchant for cosplay amongst the contributors. And @newt who, according to his bio, ‘really likes parsley’. Good for @newt.
Is it good bedtime reading? Gordon Ramsay and his daughter Tilly do their best to convince you otherwise with a painful foreword that is meant to read like an improvised dialogue but instead feels like the pained patter of morning television presenters pulled in to replace the usual hosts.
Beyond the foreword, though, there’s more to engage with here than you might expect. as cooked on TikTok could have easily chosen to share nothing but the easiest and most attention-grabbing dishes. Instead, it serves as a pretty decent beginner’s guide to cookery. One that doesn’t assume the worst of its readers, and seeks to teach them some useful skills beyond the basics.
Admittedly, these lessons tend to come in relatively grating formats – recurring segments with TikTok-themed titles like ‘#lifehack’ or ‘I was today years old’. But the information within is usually a cut above keeping your knives sharp, or maintaining different chopping boards for different foods. Instead we get introductions to asafoetida and Chinkiang vinegar, piping bag tips and recommendations of kitchen gear that include sesame grinders.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Editorial consistency is always the key in a compilation cookbook. It’s a big part of why I couldn’t get on with the Andre Simon-award nominated Eat, Share, Love – but it’s not an issue here. Ebury Press have reigned in the wildly different styles of their contributors; recipes are simple to follow, with measurements in both imperial and metric. For anyone still unsure, each recipe has a QR code that will take you to the creator’s corresponding TikTok video. Admittedly these vary greatly – @auntieloren’s video for Biscuit Pot Pie is almost meditative, soundtracked by a Janet Jackson slowjam. Aforementioned grandmother @cookingwithlynja, on the other hand, offers up an intense and chaotic video for Ramen Carbonara in which she is mostly yelling, and dressed as anime icon Naruto. Sure, why not?
What’s the faff factor? Dishes here are, as you might expect from a format where most videos come in under three minutes, pretty simple. The #lifehack suggestions often help cut your work down further, too.
How often will I cook from the book? Let’s be very clear here: the target audience for this title skews young. My best guess is that this will mostly be used by students and those in their early twenties – the sort of people who are just starting out on their road of culinary discovery and are looking for quick and exciting meals that they can throw together after a shitty 9-5:30 job with an hour’s commute at either end. And for those people: actually, this could see them through a decent part of the week.
Cookbooks for students in particular remain a sad and uninspired little corner of the market in which the same clichéd dishes are trotted out in drab titles that haven’t evolved that much in the past twenty years. as cooked on TikTok is an excellent alternative to these. Recipes are playful, and really varied – almost every recipe here stands out as unique amongst my entire cookbook collection. Where else would I turn for a Korean/Mexican fusion like Kkanpoong Tofu Tacos, or unexpected twists on classics like Cookies and Cream Kulfi?
As easy as it was for me to approach this book with an entitled sense of superiority over what could easily have been a zeitgeisty money-grab, as cooked on TikTok has a legitimately interesting range of meals that could happily feed mind and stomach alike.
Killer recipes: Marinated Riblets with Guajillo Salsa, Chilaquiles Rojos, Hot Crab and Spinach Dip with Garlicky Toasts, Butter Chicken Pasta, Ramen Lasagne, Sweet Chile-smashed Sprouts, Mini Burnt Basque Cheesecakes
Should I buy it? It won’t be for everyone – and it misses out on input from my favourite foodtok creator, @goodboy.noah, whose recipes are dictated by a rapping cheetah. But ultimately, as cooked on TikTok is delivering much more than it needed to. With dishes that are happy to subvert expectations, and draw on influences from around the world with irreverent joy, it’s a great introduction for those looking to step up their cooking from basic self-preservation to actually enjoying oneself.
Suitable for: Beginner home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book: as cooked on Tik Tok
£20, Ebury Press
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas