Epicurious phases out beef recipes

For online recipe bank Epicurious - which is no longer publishing new beef recipes on its website - the future of burgers will replace beef with turkey, beans and plant-based meat substitutes such as Impossible (left).
For online recipe bank Epicurious - which is no longer publishing new beef recipes on its website - the future of burgers will replace beef with turkey, beans and plant-based meat substitutes such as Impossible (above).PHOTO: REUTERS

Could an empire of the kitchen quietly stop cooking with beef and leave no one the wiser?

That appears to have been the feat accomplished by Epicurious, the online recipe bank where home cooks have gone to hone their skills for a quarter of a century.

The editors revealed to readers this week that not only were they done with new recipes containing beef, but they had also been phasing them out for more than a year.

"We know that some people might assume that this decision signals some sort of vendetta against cows - or the people who eat them," senior editor Maggie Hoffman and former digital director David Tamarkin wrote in a recently published article. "But this decision was not made because we hate hamburgers (we don't)."

The shift was "solely about sustainability, about not giving airtime to one of the world's worst climate offenders", they said.

"We think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet."

The shift means no new recipes for filet or stroganoff, classic carpaccio or faithful meatloaf on the homepage. Nor will there be brisket, ribeye, sirloin, flank or any of the other cuts on the site's Instagram feed.

Expect to substitute mushrooms for cheesesteaks, seitan for French dip and tofu for stews. But do not expect any new twists on chile-braised short ribs.

The future of burgers for Epicurious looks like turkey, beans, Impossible and Beyond.

Existing beef recipes will remain available, including the succulent Steak Diane on Instagram, a list of 73 ways to make a steak dinner "110 Percent Beefier" and a "steakburger" on its list of 50 most popular recipes of all time.

Still, droves of home cooks praised the shift.

"I've really been loving the diversity of your recipes over this past year, especially since I've been cooking even more at home," a Facebook user remarked.

The move was also applauded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which called it a "terrific" first step. "To truly combat deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and drought, it needs to take all meat and dairy off the table, too," it said in a statement.

Noticeably absent from the conversation was any bold, brazen outrage from top chefs and social media-savvy cooks.

Could America really be over its love affair with beef?

"This is a trend towards considering meat an obsolete food," said The Nutrition Coalition's executive director Nina Teicholz, an advocate for diets low in carbohydrates and high in fat.

"Epicurious is just one website, but it's the constant repetition."

There are more than 300,000 recipes on Epicurious, many with vegetarian substitutes or meat alternatives to beef. Recipes published in place of beef-based dishes have struck a chord with readers, according to the site.

Cooking outlet Food Network Magazine editor-in-chief Maile Carpenter also said in a statement that it had not changed its recipe development regarding beef.

"We're all about balance," she said, describing a planned summer issue that would feature a burger on the cover, with recipes inside for vegetable burgers, and dishes with shrimp, fish and chicken with vegetable sides. "Our goal is to provide a range of content so readers can make their own choices."

Epicurious said the decision to publicise its shift was connected to a recent increase in beef consumption, though overall beef consumption is lower than it was 30 years ago.

Studies have also suggested that consuming less meat may have health benefits, and that the consumption of red meat and processed meats is linked to heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.

However, that guidance may be fading. A 2019 report suggested that the advice is not backed by good scientific evidence, with researchers saying that if there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small.

Ms Teicholz added that beef, especially ground beef, was one of the cheapest proteins available, calorically efficient and held nutrients that could not be absorbed from meat replacements.

Epicurious said in its announcement that its agenda would remain the same - "to inspire home cooks to be better, smarter and happier in the kitchen" - but that it now believed in cooking with the planet in mind. "If we don't, we'll end up with no planet at all," it said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2021, with the headline 'Epicurious phases out beef recipes'. Subscribe