Ryan Chartrand

It all started with a little E.V.O.O and before America knew it, Rachael Ray had almost single-handedly revolutionized the way we cook. The spunky and energetic host of “30-Minute Meals” got Americans back into the kitchen with easy, healthy and delicious recipes – but not necessarily because of her TV shows (she has five, by the way) – but because of the Internet.

The era of heavy, hardback cookbooks is over, replaced instead by a plethora of free recipes online. In just two years, the entire way Americans have cooked for centuries has been replaced. And it’s not just Ray who has paved the way – there are thousands of places to access recipes besides foodnetwork.com. And instead of having just one recipe for a particular food in a cookbook, users can now look up thousands of variations online to find just what they’re looking for.

Essentially, the entire way we cook and gather recipes has been turned inside out and upside down. Just a simple search for a red velvet cake recipe online produced 489,000 results. This even includes the recipe for a cake that Ray used on her self-entitled morning show just a couple weeks ago.

With the Internet, recipes have become interactive too. With those old Betty Crocker cookbooks, you never knew if the end result was remotely like what the recipe had intended. But with sites like foodnetwork.com, users can actually watch those recipes being made by stars like Paula Deen and, of course, Ray.

The site also offers cooking tips for beginners, like which knives to use when cutting different foods, which olive oils work best and how to thicken up soups. This has inspired younger users, rather than middle-aged housewives, to give cooking a shot. Suddenly, Top Ramen doesn’t have to be the staple of a college student’s diet thanks to all the other possibilities the Internet offers.

In the era of the Betty Crocker cookbook, there was no way of knowing which recipes were great and which ones tasted like roasted Play-Doh. Again, cooking Web sites have solved this problem almost completely. Now, users can make recipes, decide if they’re good, and review them online. This turns the rigid, formulaic approach to cooking around, letting users be the ultimate critics who suggest ways to improve recipes.

Television may have helped get Rachael Ray’s career off the ground, not to mention new words like “Yumm-O” and techniques like microwaving lemons. But it was ultimately the Internet that spread her creative recipes faster than it took her potato fritters to brown. Now everyone has the chance to impress friends with their cheap and easy meals, without even having a grease-splattered cookbook in sight.

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