We've been feasting on them for months - 30-second snippets of pot roast caramelising in a slow cooker, cheddar oozing out of a grilled cheese made with waffles.
And we just can't seem to look away. Never mind whether we're actually planning to make any of the recipes featured in these snack-size videos. With the advent of social food entertainment, actual cooking may be beside the point.
Social video platform Tastemade and BuzzFeed's Tasty clips have helped usher in a new era of Food Network-esque viewing, without the pristine set kitchens, celebrity chefs and 30-minute time commitment. The format has become so wildly popular that it's been adapted far beyond what you should make for dinner -- after launching Tasty in July 2015, BuzzFeed launched a sister channel called Nifty in March, for crafts projects and other DIY life hacks; Tastemade has a series where recipes are made entirely in miniature, down to the pots and pans, and another where it decorates cookies based on news headlines.
How do they keep viewers hungry? It's simple: "There's just a sense of joy when you see something really delicious," says Andrew Gauthier, executive producer at Tasty, which has found success by developing a keen understanding of the way people use social media. Facebook is inherently about sharing our lives with the rest of the world, and eating is an inherent part of daily life, peoples' memories and relationships.
"Humans have been sharing food for a very long time," Gauthier says. "It would make sense that we would be excited about sharing food videos with people."
The format -- 30- to 60-second clips where all you see is a pair of hands and a mixing bowl, whipping up extreme casseroles and gimmicky finger food from start to finish -- is appealing to the 21st century's extremely fragmented viewing public. The videos are short, requiring very little time to consume as you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed.
"The videos are junk food," says Allen Salkin, the author of From Scratch: An Uncensored History of the Food Network. "The luscious close-ups, the oohs and the ahhs, it's the same as porn."
That's why the videos garner tens of millions of views on Facebook and have spawned plenty of copycats, with everyone from Food & Wine magazine to Epicurious to the Food Network itself filling our virtual plates, often with decadent or borderline ridiculous meal mashups, or at least recipes that require muffin tins or baking something in miniature form. It helps that Facebook autoplays videos as you scroll past them, and that they can be easily viewed without turning on the sound.
"It really is about inspiration, for the most part," says Vikki Neil, general manager of digital brands for Food Network, which started producing its version of the time-lapse cooking videos in December. One of the most popular videos has been on how to make devilled eggs that are square instead of ovals -- it's garnered more than 23 million views since posting in March.
Monetising these videos is still a recipe in progress. BuzzFeed has had success so far though partnering with other brands, featuring products in the Tasty videos that are a natural fit for kitchen pursuits. Gauthier said Tasty is "looking at a handful of different revenue opportunities," but declined to elaborate.
The fact is that in between trips to the drive-thru for a breakfast sandwich and having lunch and dinner delivered to us via apps, many of us only have time to dig out our pots and pans vicariously, through the onslaught of video snippets that promise to feed our relentless appetite for junk food in a minute or less. Perhaps the best part? No guilt of actually eating whatever's on screen.
"It's like getting a craving for a chocolate chip cookie at 3 p.m.," Salkin says. "You feed yourself a food video and you can just go on working."
Making the trend all the more perplexing is that our food viewing habits seem to be a direct contrast to our collective conscience, which tells us to ignore meat on Mondays, be excited about kale and consider a piece of dark chocolate dessert. At a time when the country's obsession with eating healthy, all-natural, fresh foods has come to a fever pitch, we can't stop tuning in to what our brains tell us is forbidden.
To be fair, these platforms serve an occasional dose of vegetables, with videos on chickpea cauliflower curry or asparagus gazpacho sprinkling the Tastemade feed. The three most popular time-lapse recipe videos from Tastemade so far this year teeter between indulgence and fresh food: how to make potato pizza, apple cinnamon roses and upside-down apple cake.
It's our unprecedented understanding of the food world that makes these videos so easy to digest. For more accomplished home cooks, the videos can act as inspiration for Monday night dinner or hors d'oeuvres at a next cocktail party, no recipe-reading necessary. Two decades of Ina Garten and an endless library of online tutorials means there's not a huge learning curve between watching a video on how to make a pasta dish and putting a pot of water on to boil at home.
Still, Neil and others say they have no technical way of tracking how many people end up replicating the recipes themselves, beyond those who post comments or photos of their creations on social media. Tasty pays particular attention to this kind of feedback and has used it to inspire other content -- photos a mum posted of her daughter making no-bake chocolate peanut butter balls last year pushed Tasty to create Tasty Junior, an offshoot aimed at parents cooking with kids.
Though Gauthier admits, "It's tough for us to track what millions and millions of people are doing in their personal lives."
To some degree, it may not really matter.
"The presentation tends to be one of the main reasons people get very excited about the video itself," says Oren Katzeff, head of programming at Tastemade. "It looks like a true food piece of art."
It's the perfect diet: heavy on indulgence, light on calories. As long as we're hungry, the Internet will only keep dishing.