A few months ago, I finally cut the cord and moved to watching everything on my Apple TV. Though I watch things on loads of streaming apps, I realized the one I come back to most often is YouTube. I easily watch 30-60min of YT videos whenever I jump on the couch and turn on the TV and I realized I might as well share my favorites. Everyone has their own private favorites on YouTube that the mighty algorithm gives you so you might not have heard of these. The best ones here are channels that friends or newsletters or blogs suggested to me, not YouTube.
Most everything mentioned here is in the sweet spot of 10-20min long videos. Often I’ll tell myself I can’t watch an hour long streaming show on Netflix because I don’t have the time, but I’ll watch a dozen ten minute YouTube clips in a row and not feel bad about where the time went.
My YouTube Favorites
I’ve got over 160 channel subscriptions that I cobbled together over the past ten years, and I follow a lot of odd personal interests. These are a few of my go-to favorites. If I see they uploaded something new, I’ll drop everything to watch them.
Cooking (these are better than the Food Network)
Alex is a “french guy cooking” that cooks obsessively good meals and he edits his videos with the sharpness of Casey Neistat with a lot more gags. He’s instantly infectious and if you’ve never watched, you’ll soon become a fan. I will follow him down any rabbit hole to make the best possible version of a dish, even those I don’t even enjoy eating myself.
Epicurious offers up a bunch of different video series but I personally love their “4 ways” series the most. They take a common thing most people can cook then show an amateur cook, a decently talented home chef, and then a real pro chef all tackling the same dish that is critiqued afterwards by a food scientist. It’s totally fantastic and I’ve found one of the best ways to learn quickly why some things work in the kitchen and why other things don’t.
Sous Vide Everything is a delightful guy named Guga who does exactly what he says on the tin, which is put anything and everything into a sous vide setup, sometimes to hilarious ends (like making cream pies). I keep coming back to this channel because he attacks basic dishes with the rigor of a Cooks Illustrated. He’ll show you what ten different steaks all cooked at 1ºF different temperatures end up looking and tasting like. Or what ten types of cheeses added to eggs does to a dish. Every recipe I’ve copied from Guga has turned out great.
Others worth mentioning: the Fung Brothers do asian food and interviews and Sam the cooking guy is pretty easy to follow and pick up a few tips from. Bon Appétit has loads of good videos but I mostly avoid their “let’s make a gourmet version of a twinkie” stuff.
Bikes and other Action Sports
Seth’s Bike Hacks started out as a bike shop mechanic doing quick reviews of bikes and parts and snowballed into him quitting his day job to do videos on mountain biking full time to then buying a house and adding a trail around it all the way to where he bought a new house with tons of acreage that he’s using to build his own personal bike park (that has its own separate youtube channel I also follow). Seth seems like a nice straight shooter kind of guy that is living my wildest dream, and I love all his stuff. I even subscribe to his Patreon to get early access to his videos.
The Global Cycling Network, or GCN, offers up loads of videos and in the past year has felt like it transitioned from a bunch of former cycling pros gabbing to a camera into a real life TV network about cycling (which in America there basically are none) that offers live event coverage and recaps and how-tos and more.
Our BMX is a fantastic channel that puts out videos taken at recent contests, profiles of famous riders, and great videos sent in by new riders ripping it up. Back in the old days when there’d be a bmx contest and I’d have to wait three months for the magazines to publish photos and results. These days? I can watch a best-of clip from the finals the night of an event here on this channel.
Sam Pilgrim is a mountain bike trick rider that films hilarious stuff on the fly, just hitting a jump or a set of stairs or jumping over a planter using a variety of bikes. He’s fun as heck to watch.
Jamie O’Brien is a pro surfer that makes short videos of him ripping up waves and his goofy exuberance is infectious.
Beefs.tv is just about skimboarding and I didn’t even know I liked skimboarding until I watched dozens of videos of these people shredding the hell out of beaches all over the world. It’s fucking amazing what people do on skimboards these days.
Magnus Midtbø is a rock climber and guy with possibly the strongest arms on earth for his size. Last year he dedicated himself to getting on the American Ninja Warrior TV show and it was fun to follow along as he learned how to tackle every obstacle one by one, in dozens of videos shot over many months.
More worth mentioning: Nitro Circus is always fun for a short quick bike/skate/motocross video, and Ryan Williams’ own channel (scooters!) is delightful. Everything Red Bull puts out is pretty great and entertaining.
Crosstalk Solutions is a narrow topic nerd channel focused mostly on wireless networking equipment. I’ve watched every single thing Chris has posted, bought and installed many of the items he reviews, and even hired him to help design my home network. Using things I’ve learned here I have deployed a bunch of servers, have a live video feed from my chicken coop, and can control almost any device in my home from my phone. I feel like I could honestly apply for a real job in IT after following him for the past year.
Linus Tech Tips is a highly produced channel about all sorts of tech, probably skewing to gaming stuff, but I find Linus in lots of searches for tech reviews and enjoy his videos about whatever it is I’m researching.
DrZzs is tech nerd that can DIY almost anything and explain it to the layperson not only why you’d want to build something, but also how anyone can copy him and do it themselves. I don’t watch his long livestreams, but I enjoy almost every video he does no matter how narrow or niche the subject matter may be. I’ve learned so much from this channel that I even back his Patreon.
The Hook Up is an amateur tech geek (and I think a school science teacher?) sharing tips and research and step-by-step tutorials on how to do all sorts of things around smart homes, electricity and wifi which are all sorts of things firmly in my wheelhouse these days. Very clear and easy to follow.
Others worth mentioning: The Verge does good, tight, professional videos. Snazzy Labs is fun too. I probably watch a dozen more channels often when doing searches around home automation or networking. YouTube is the second largest search engine on earth!
Donut Media are a bunch of car heads producing a range of videos that are equal parts informative and entertaining. Reminds me a lot of the Jalopnik blog, who also happen to put out great videos on a slower schedule.
The Straight Pipes is a channel with two canadians doing car reviews and I not only trust their opinions but I enjoy the banter. It’s a lot like Doug DeMuro car reviews but with added chemistry of two hosts instead of one.
MotorTrend used to put out tons of shows but they’ve moved most of them to their MotorTrend streaming app which I happily pay for, since it contains loads of shows I enjoy.
The Hoonigans used to put out daily videos of antics around their compound with a variety of characters but they’ve tailed off to I guess to do larger production videos like the Gymkhana series. Still, tons of fun stuff in the archives.
Fully Charged is entirely about electric car reviews and early looks at what’s to come and worth following as the tech seems to change daily around electric cars.
The Fast Lane Car guys have good content but something about the delivery or the hosts or something puts me off, but I keep going back since they seem to review pretty much every new car on earth the day they are released. Hoovies Garage is similar, though much funnier and more watchable, but there’s also something off-putting about watching a guy buy and sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cars that I can’t identify with.
I’m really into the design and thought process that goes into building Disney Parks so I follow a ton of YouTube channels around that, but I’ll just mention a few favorites. Provost Park Pass is hosted by a guy that will probably strike you at first as highly annoying but somehow I got over the hump and I now enjoy his regular updates from Disneyland and beyond. TPM Vids are highly produced and informative but I roll my eyes when they pitch sponsors or spend the first two minutes of every video begging you to subscribe. Offhand Disney is good for history and Yesterworld Entertainment is pure nostalgia. The Disney Food Blog is fun to watch and Theme Park Obsession is another good one to track.
Be warned there are A LOT of people in Southern California with annual passes and YouTube channels putting out videos about Disneyland and they’re kinda hit and miss quality-wise so I’ve stuck to the most professional ones I come back to often.
DIY stuff (honestly, these are better than HGTV)
Evan and Katelyn is a husband/wife team building things in their home and sometimes messing up, but sharing everything they learned along the way with tons of details on how to replicate what you see. I have watched loads of their videos and they’re fantastic and slickly produced to the point where I can’t believe they just aren’t on TV already doing this kind of stuff. This is top-notch production, filming, and editing, the kind of thing that YouTube was invented for.
Scott Brown Carpentry is a channel from a New Zealander doing high end custom wood work in high end homes and I’m sure he charges a bundle for his time, but thankfully, he shares pretty detailed tips on how to replicate a lot of his work. Even though his stuff is 90% beyond my capabilities, I love watching him solve issues and figure out fixes, and especially the tips on how he gets those results I’ve seen in hotels and restaurants and always wondered how something was done.
Home/DIY projects might be the spot where the YouTube recommendation algorithm does the least amount of damage to the world, since everything related to the videos above is good too. There are a hundred other channels like Modern Builds that will teach you how to do high end carpentry work on a budget with simple materials, and if you’re ever curious about a certain technique, use search in YouTube and you’ll instantly find 50 videos on the exact process you’re trying to learn.
First We Feast and their Hot Ones hot wing challenge is quite possibly the best interview show ever made. Watch every single one of them, then go back and watch them again.
KEXP, the indie radio station in Seattle has great live music guests in studio they put out as videos regularly. La Blogotheque has been doing great live music video for over a decade. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert basically puts up their entire shows on YouTube as clips, and I often enjoy watching half a dozen in a row. Adam Savage’s TESTED is always entertaining and informative. WIRED always has something worth watching. Heck, the Ellen Show is practically engineered in a lab so everyone loves their videos but if she interviews a guest you like, it’ll always be good.
There are a hundred other channels I find worth watching, and I come across them often as related videos after I’m done with one. But nothing beats a friend showing me something or someone on YouTube I’ve never heard of that turns me instantly into a fan.
I wish YouTube offered up a tool to more easily share the things I like. Can a Googler make it their 20% project to offer up ways to share your subscriptions or history or likes with your social circle? Also, if anyone reading this puts together their own list of favorites, please tweet a link to me @mathowie so I can check yours out too and see if I can find new channels to enjoy.