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4 Online Culinary Schools with Free Trial Classes

Updated on June 19, 2013
Review of Online Culinary Classes
Review of Online Culinary Classes | Source

Learn from Culinary Experts in Your Own Kitchen

Online culinary classes are the perfect way for anyone to learn basic to advanced cooking techniques taught by experts throughout the culinary world.

Whether you've had previous culinary training or none whatsoever, online culinary schools cater to the beginner cook, the advanced chef and anyone in between.

Recently, while watching the hit Bravo television series, Top Chef, I checked out the Top Chef University website. Within moments of arriving, I was amazed at the breadth and volume of culinary courses offered in an attractive video format, all at a very reasonable price.

I quickly discovered that in addition to Top Chef University, other online culinary schools exist, also complete with video instruction.

Free Culinary Class Trials

Fortunately for me, a novice in the kitchen, all the culinary schools that piqued my curiosity offered a free trial.

Free culinary classes taught by expert chefs was an offer I gladly accepted. Creating a basic vinaigrette and building it up with flavors, learning the secrets to properly sauteed mushrooms, and baking the perfect apple pie armed with professionally tested tips, is just a small sample of some of the skills I learned.

While most of the online culinary classes are non-accredited, many people claim that they learn as much, if not more, by taking these courses online as compared to a traditional classroom setting. Each of the four culinary schools that I "attended" (Top Chef, Rouxbe, Epicurious, and America's Test Kitchen) are individually reviewed below; they have these benefits in common.

Benefits of Taking Culinary Classes Online

  • Go at your own pace, on your own schedule
  • Work at the appropriate level
  • Select the courses of greatest interest, or take them all
  • Watch the video lessons and tutorials as many times as needed
  • Learn basic to advanced techniques and how to use tools
  • Learn a repertoire of new recipes
  • Bring the computer or printed recipes into kitchen to follow along
  • Pay very little in comparison to traditional culinary schools

Features of Top Chef University

  • over 200 culinary lessons
  • printable recipes
  • certificate upon completion
  • free 24 hour trial
  • membership: $24.95/month or $199.95/year

5 stars for Top Chef University

Top Chef

Lesson Categories
Getting Started
Stocks, Soups, Sauces & Salad
Cooking Tech- niques One
Cooking Techniques Two
Vegetables, Eggs & Dairy
Pork & Poultry
Beef, Lamb & Beyond
From the Ocean
Pastas & Grains
Just Desserts
Global Cuisine
Entertain- ing & Advanced

Top Chef University Review

Set aside a day for cooking and enjoy Top Chef University's free 24-hour trial membership. Signing up is as simple as entering an email address and creating a password.

You'll quickly see that Top Chef University is a wonderful way to improve culinary skills. Take a quick tour and notice the twelve courses offered, each containing numerous lessons related to the topic, over two-hundred in all.

Beginner lessons and tips, such as knife skills and basic pantry stocking, are informative, but can be easily skipped if so desired. For anyone signing up for a longer term membership, taking the courses in order is recommended and upon completion a Top Chef certificate is earned.

The user interface is very intuitive, and recipes and ingredient lists can be readily printed. Progress is charted as lessons and courses are finished, making it simple to pick back up where you left off. Of course you can always repeat a lesson or watch the video tutorials as many times as you desire.

Perhaps what makes Top Chef University a standout online culinary school, is the high quality video tutorials with former Top Chef contestants as instructors. The "feel" is fun and friendly, a bit like watching a more complete t.v. show cooking segment. Additionally, the expertise of the chefs is evident as their professional tips are woven into their lessons. Their in-front-of-the-camera ease and "television personalities" make it very pleasant to watch and follow along. You'll truly feel like you have a Top Chef standing by your side as you prepare each recipe. (Be sure and watch the sample of a Top Chef lesson below.)

After experiencing the free 24-hour trial, a membership can be purchased for a month or more for only $24.95 per month. For the cook wanting to up their culinary techniques and recipes, the month-long membership may be sufficient. For students perhaps interested in completing all the courses, a year-long membership is available.

Sample of Top Chef Lesson

Top Chef: Stocks, Soups, Sauces, & Salads Online Course

Top Chef University online culinary class taught me how to make a basic vinaigrette.
Top Chef University online culinary class taught me how to make a basic vinaigrette. | Source

Top Chef University Pros & Cons

Pros: Very intuitive online course set-up; easy to watch videos packed with good tips, techniques and culinary knowledge; affordable

Cons: Maybe not advanced enough or in-depth enough for chefs looking to advance their skills

Features of Rouxbe Online Cooking School (pronounced roo-bee)

  • course paths for recreational or professional cooks
  • course units include lessons, activities, videos & quizzes
  • over 80 lessons & thousands of recipes
  • instructor feedback
  • student forum
  • free sample course available
  • purchase by course: about $49-$99 per course

What Others are Saying About Rouxbe

~ Hands-down, Rouxbe is the best online solution for cooks of every level to learn independently.

Kathleen Flinn, Graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and best-selling author of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School and The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry.

~ Rouxbe is truly the best online cooking school we've seen.

Joe Weidert, Editor-in-Chief, Delight Magazine


Rouxbe Online Cooking School Review

Rouxbe Online Cooking School is a full-package learning experience, going way beyond the expected video recipe instruction with tips and techniques. Thorough, best describes their online classes, quite similar in fact to a professional cooking school curriculum.

Courses include multiple units, and each unit contains a list of tasks, conveniently checked-off upon completion.

For example, the free Rouxbe course that I took, Wheat and Gluten, included the following units:

  • Unit 1: Course Orientation
  • Unit 2: Learn about Wheat & Gluten
  • Unit 3: Learn about Pasta

Unit 2 was comprised of the following tasks:

  • read goals and objectives
  • video lesson
  • label diagrams (i.e. label the parts of wheat)
  • store observation activity
  • health considerations
  • two video recipes
  • unit assessment quiz

Navigating Rouxbe courses and units is straightforward, and students will appreciate the feedback from their real-life instructors. (Be sure and watch the sample Rouxbe video lesson below.)

Courses are designed for all levels of culinary expertise, and what sets Rouxbe apart is that they offer Cook Courses for the recreational chef, and Professional Cook Courses for cooks who want to work in the industry.

Sample of Rouxbe Lesson

Rouxbe: Wheat and Gluten Course

Learning about gluten by making pizza dough was part of the Rouxbe free course I took.
Learning about gluten by making pizza dough was part of the Rouxbe free course I took. | Source

Rouxbe Online Cooking School Pros & Cons

Pros: Separate course paths for recreational and industry cooks; in-depth courses with a variety of learning activities and lessons; courses broken down into 15-20 minute long classes, real-life instructor feedback, online help and student forums

Cons: Overall, perhaps too time-consuming for the recreational cook

Features of Epicurious

  • CIA instructors
  • discussion forum
  • free online beginner course
  • courses with multiple lessons about $49
  • courses never expire

What Makes Epcurious Different from Other Cooking Schools

~Together with the chefs of the CIA [Culinary Institute of America], we designed a curriculum that emphasizes an immersive, holistic approach to cooking.

Tanya Steel, Editor-in-Chief,


Epicurious Cooking School Review

From an Emmy-award winning series, Around the World in 80 Dishes, to a continual helping of some of the Web's best recipes and food-related writing, has teamed up with the prestigious Culinary Institute of America to create the Epicurious Online Cooking School.

With the goal of providing deep knowledge, not your average short how-to videos, with top-notch instructors at the helm, the focus of the coursework is on mastering cuisines from around the world. In addition to learning by practicing recipes, courses include information such as:

  • advanced styles of cooking
  • culinary history
  • cultural background of each recipe

With the first class offered for free, you can experience the Epicurious Online Cooking School firsthand. For example, I selected, the class Overview & Salsas, the first in a series of eight classes offered within the Globe Trotting: Mexican Classics course taught by chef Sergio Remolina .

Complete courses cost around $49 and are well worth the money. The video instruction for the first class was over forty-eight minutes and the course contains an additional seven classes.

Clearly the instructors are top-notch, but the lengthy video lessons are a little unwieldy for students trying to locate a particular recipe-instruction within a video. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles offered, but simplicity in the form of videos and printed recipes may not be such a bad thing.

While a beginner cook can certainly learn a lot from any course, this school seems somewhat geared towards cooks who have already mastered the basics.

Epicurious Teams Up with CIA Chefs

Epicurious: Globetrotting - Mexican Classics Course

I made Salsa Mexicana, or pico de gallo, from the Epicurious Overview & Salsas class.
I made Salsa Mexicana, or pico de gallo, from the Epicurious Overview & Salsas class. | Source

Epicurious/CIA Online Cooking School Pros & Cons

Pros: Culinary Institute of America instructors; video presentation; discussion board; course never expires

Cons: Videos are too long making it tedious to re-locate recipe instructions; links take user away from cooking school website

Features of America's Test Kitchen

  • over 100 culinary lessons
  • printable recipes with step-by-step photos
  • free 14 day trial
  • membership: $19.95/month without instructor access or $39.95/month with instructor-led classes and feedback

What is America's Test Kitchen?

America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Review

The television series, America's Test Kitchen, is filmed in the real-life test kitchen for Cook's Illustrated magazine near Boston. Employing a couple dozen cooks and product testers, America's Test Kitchen develops recipes, perhaps testing them as many as seventy times, until a fool-proof recipe is achieved.

Recipes and kitchen tips, resulting from years of testing and tasting, are the mainstay of the television series and are also available via America's Test Kitchen online cooking school.

A 14-day free trial to their cooking school should not be missed. Culinary lessons, often instructed by test cook Bridgette Lancaster, are extremely informative and packed with the reasons why a certain technique should be used - the science behind a recipe.

America's Test Kitchen offers technique lessons, recipe lessons, in-depth lessons, as well as cooking basics. The school provides all the online tools necessary to help their students get the most out of each lesson. For example, each lesson includes:

  • an overview
  • what you'll need for the recipe
  • what can go wrong

I particularly found that by reading the "what can go wrong" section before attempting a recipe, potential pitfalls were easier to avoid.

Recipes include step-by-step photos which can be printed and brought into the kitchen as a reference or the video instruction can be used. Cleverly, the video lessons include numbered buttons to click so you can easily locate a certain section in the video.

There are two levels of membership: $19.95 per month or $39.95 per month. The latter membership includes instructor access, a feature that seems very well worth the money. Be sure and watch the video below to see a sample class and definitely take advantage of the more-than-generous 14-day free trial!

Sample Lesson from America's Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen: Foolproof Apple Pies Lesson

Pre-cooking apples is just one tip that I learned from America's Test Kitchen.
Pre-cooking apples is just one tip that I learned from America's Test Kitchen. | Source

America's Test Kitchen Online Cooking School Pros & Cons

Pros: Tried and true recipes delivered by actual test cooks; easy to use website format with a nice section on what to avoid with each recipe; recipes printed with step by step photos; instructor access with higher membership; affordable membership rates

Cons: Lessons more geared towards the recreational cook; not many advanced lessons

Comparison of Online Culinary Schools

Culinary School
Delivery Format
Free Trial
Top Chef University
Top Chef television show contestants
Online videos
24-hour free trial
$24.95/month or $199.95 per year
Professionals, each with ten+ years of experience
Online videos, Activities, Tasks
Free sample course
Series of classes by level: $49.95-$99.95
Culinary Institute of America chefs
Online videos
Free beginner course
Purchase by course: ~ $49
America's Test Kitchen
ATK test cooks
Step by step photos and online videos
14-day free trial
$19.95/month or $39.95/month (includes instructor access)

Thinking About Taking an Online Culinary Class?

Which online culinary schools interests you the most?

See results


All four of the reviewed online culinary schools are excellent options.

While Top Chef University meets my personal cooking goals, others may find that Rouxbe's instruction beyond the recipes better suits their needs.

While you can never go wrong being a student of a Culinary Institute of America chef, you may find that the recipe-focused lessons taught by America's Test Kitchen test cooks may provide the exact cooking tips needed.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi..I would like to know do we get a certificate on completion of the course from all of the four culinary schools.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      5 years ago from Illinois

      I must apologize for being so late thanking everyone for their thoughtful comments and words of congratulations. This HOTD certainly took me by surprise as I published it awhile back and haven't been as active as I want to be on Hubpages lately. This was a favorite Hub for me, both writing it and taste-testing the recipes, so I'm glad so many of you liked it and may even try some of the online cooking schools!

    • rtburroughs2 profile image

      Robert Burroughs 

      5 years ago

      This was a great hub, well written, and very informative. I was a student at Le Cordon Bleu Las Vegas for 2 semesters in 2007, this brought back a lot of memories. Congratulations on having this picked as a hub of the day.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Back to say congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this useful info!

    • Jan Lova profile image

      Jan Lova 

      5 years ago

      Excellent topic and very useful!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      5 years ago

      I can totally vouch for Rouxbe. My son has wanted to be a chef since age four, and when he was 13 he asked to sign up for Rouxbe, and we let him. The initial lessons were broken down so well, he really started gaining confidence and skills in the kitchen.

      Last year he took the professional cook certification course-- and let me say, it was highly involved. As you said, not for casual interest. He was making his own stocks. soufflets, working with prime cuts of beef, etc. He's learned so much, it's incredible.

      It's a great school. This is a great hub.

    • Candle Reviews profile image

      Candle Reviews 

      5 years ago

      What a great thing to know about! What a great way to try out whether or not the interest in cooking could lead to a possible education and career in it. Free online classes seem a great way to see how the classes and school would be, if one is going to further invest also. Thanks for sharing.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I learn a lot just from watching cooking shows from time to time. What fun it would be to actually get serious about taking some of these online culinary classes! Nice to have your comparisons when it's time to make a decision!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I love the idea of learning from these top chefs in your own kitchen. The internet is a wonderful resource. You can learn music and riding and cooking, just about anything from the best coaches now!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Congrats on HOTD! This was a great hub. I've watched Top Chef from the beginning with my mother before she died last year--she also watched America's Test Kitchen. What a great way to learn how to cook at home. Voted up for useful!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I enjoyed this Hub, not only because of the information given, but also because it was one of the most thorough and well written Hubs I have read. This should be a "How To" for writing. You gave all of the information needed and wrote it in a very interesting manner.

      You included relevant videos and pictures. And last but not least, you offered a review of all the schools in graph form, which made it easy to decide which is best for my situation. Thank you for writing this.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      5 years ago from USA

      I did not know that you could take culinary classes online (but why not?) and was very excited to read your hub and learn that some offer free trials. These free options are something that I will definitely explore. Thanks for sharing these opportunities. Congrats on your HOTD!

    • pocono foothills profile image

      John Fisher 

      6 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

      Interesting Hub. I like to experiment in the kitchen, so I'm used to having some flops along the way, but I've has some great successes too that my friends clamor for. I wasn't really thinking about taking online cooking courses, but thanks for providing the information. But be worth it at some point in time. Voted up.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very useful information. Thanks for doing and sharing the research. Voted Up.

    • mylindaelliott profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana

      I didn't realize you could take this type of class online. Thanks for the information.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      Great idea! Once we get settled in our new place, I will definitely check it out. I appreciate this very informative Hub.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Vespa - I would think you might really like Rouxbe a lot, especially because you already have a lot of cooking skills. You could also do the free 24 hour Top Chef trial. It's nice since you can try out as many classes as you want within that time period and you could go straight to the "stocks, soups, sauces and salads" category of lessons.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      I've marked this very useful Hub and plan to refer to it in the future. Rouxbe's course especially interests me, although I think any of them would be fun. I'm glad to know some cater to those who want more than the basics. I would love to brush up on my sauce techniques! Thanks.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Well, thank you Vicki. I hope you get a chance to try out one of these online cooking schools. Trust me, the "research" was no problem, especially since it led to the tastiest apple pie I've ever made.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That is just amazing. So glad you wrote this. It will be interesting to a lot of people. Great research and writing.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Kathy. I'm so glad to have been able to show these cooking classes to you and others. I hope to do a few more lessons this weekend from Americas Test Kitchen. I still have some time on my two week trial with them. Thanks for you comment.

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is awesome! I will definitely be checking out these online cooking classes. Thank you for this interesting and thorough review!

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Prasetio30 - I'm so glad that you liked this Hub and the video cooking lessons. I think these classes are wonderful, and the free trials are great because they give you a chance to see which one you like the best, and learn a lot while choosing. Thanks for your comment.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow.....I love cooking and this hub as well. I really enjoy all videos here. I'll check all the link you have to us. Good job, my friend. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!


    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks RTalloni. I made an apple pie for one of the classes I took through America's Test Kitchen. The "what can go wrong" tips were invaluable, especially for keeping the filling from being too runny, evenly cooking the entire crust, and getting a crisp bottom crust. For example, I learned to pre-cook the apples on the stove and drain some of the liquid, pre-heat a cookie sheet on the lowest rack to the bottom crust can get crisp from the get-go, and rotating the tray halfway through cooking for an even cooking. Honestly, it was the best apple pie I've ever made. The apple flavor was perfect. I hope you get the chance to give it a try. If the ATK was your favorite, it has a two week free trial.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      An interesting look at these online culinary classes--thanks. Enjoyed the videos, too. Considering how much I learned from this hub, it's clear that I could benefit from them. Offering the "what can go wrong" tips ahead of prep and cooking is a huge draw for me for I usually discover them one way or another. Pinning to my Ways w/ Food: Assorted Info board.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Kimberly - It really is cool. I'm glad I was able to show you something new and hopefully you enjoy these culinary courses as much as I did.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Vicki - I watch Top Chef on t.v. most weeks and always hear their commercial for Top Chef University, but never looked into it - until a few weeks ago. That's how I stumbled onto online culinary classes. The fact that you can try them all out for free is a huge bonus. I've followed along and made some of the recipes and learned some techniques. With the 24 hour free trial of Top Chef I found myself even just watching a lot of the videos and learning a ton of stuff. For example, in order to properly sautee mushrooms I learned that you shouldn't add the salt until the end. Salt draws the moisture out of the mushrooms and then they will be sort of soggy because it's almost like boiling them a bit. If the salt is added at the end, then the sauteed mushrooms turn out golden brown. And don't get me started on how to make an apple pie that's not runny. I could go on and on. (I took a lot of pictures so it may be a future Hub.) I love learning from these professionals. I hope you have time to try one out.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      7 years ago from Midwest

      This is so cool! I had no idea you could take cooking classes on-line. I am definitely going to have to set a day aside to try the free trials.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      ktrapp--online culinary courses! Who knew? I love to cook and would like to try at least one of them sometime. You've reviewed them thoroughly. Great hub! Sharing this one!

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      randomcreative - I didn't know all these classes existed either. The quality of each one is amazing and it's really nice to learn some new recipes in addition to culinary skills.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I had no idea that there were so many culinary classes online! Thanks for the comprehensive overview of these options. I would love to give one of them a try sometime.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Lena - The classes are really fun. I would highly recommend signing up for all four free trials, just do them at separate times so you can get the most out of each trial period.

    • lovebuglena profile image

      Lena Kovadlo 

      7 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      Hmmmm... interesting information you have here. Thank you for sharing. I love to cook and taking some cooking classes sounds like a fun idea...

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Bill. Let me tell you, I've really been enjoying all my free trials, as well as eating the results. I can't wait to have some more time to sign up for a short term membership, most likely Top Chef University. Thanks for stopping by and passing this along.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well that's a cool resource my friend. I'm passing this on to a couple friends who live in their kitchens. For them, I thank you! :)


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