30 cookbooks you have to read: recipes, cooking techniques and food history
Best cookbooks for beginners
1. Betty Crocker’s Cookbook
- Second Printing, 1970, a slightly oversized, gently-used hardcover with slight rubbing to the back cover, upper left corner, flat, tight and clean inside, from Golden Press. 480 pages, including index, approx. 8" X 11" X 1". No ISBN.
- Betty Crocker (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
Betty Crocker is one of the best-selling cookbooks in the world, so it’s not a surprise that this classic made it into our favorites. The 12th edition has 1500 recipes and variations, and more than 1000 pictures. Some of the chapters you will find are appetizers, beverages, breakfast and brunch, salads, soups, one-dish dinners, grilling and smoking, vegetarian, bread, desserts and fruits, and more.
One thing that people love about the book is that it contains step by step photos rather than simply telling how to get results. Among the recipes you will find options for everything, including baby food and canning, and how to cut chicken/ham/turkey the right way. It also includes pictures of undercooked/overcooked/perfect items, so you can compare and learn.
Book also contains recipes called Heirloom and New Twist. The Heirloom ones present an old favorite while the New Twist gives an updated version of it. For example, you’ll find a Pot Roast recipe (Heirloom) compared to the Italian Pork Pot Roast (New Twist) recipe.
It is not just a recipe book but it has baking and cooking tips for any age person that wants to make dishes from scratch. You will also find substitutions, pairings, guides, techniques, and many more, which is why people love it.
Called by many “The cookbook bible of the American home”. This book has made it to the list because it has more than 600 new recipes, and tested and tweaked thousands of the classic ones. They are all easily explained so it’s perfect for beginners. The book also has all sections updated to reflect the latest ingredients and nowadays techniques.
You will find retested and improved old favorites, such as the Banana Bread Cockaigne, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Southern Corn Bread. As for new favorites, there are the Chana Masala, Beef Rendang, Megan’s Seeded Olive Oil Granola, and Smoked Pork Shoulder.
The vegetable chapter has also been adjusted to these days where we often find more and more people interested in vegetarian options. You will find vegan many more vegan and vegetarian recipes, such as Caramelized Tamarind Tempeh, Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu, Spicy Chickpea Soup, and Roasted Mushroom Burgers.
The baking chapters now include gram weights for accuracy, along with a refreshed lineup of baked goods like Cannelés de Bordeaux, Rustic No-Knead Sourdough, Ciabatta, Chocolate-Walnut Babka, and Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza, as well as gluten-free recipes for pizza dough and yeast bread.
There is a new chapter about streamlined cooking on how to economize time, money, and ingredients and avoid waste. You will learn how to use a diverse array of ingredients, from amaranth to za’atar. New techniques include low-temperature and sous vide cooking, fermentation, and cooking with both traditional and electric pressure cookers. Barbecuing, smoking, and other outdoor cooking methods are covered in even greater detail.
3. The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
- features more than 1,200 kitchen-tested recipes
- 1,500 photographs and no-nonsense equipment and ingredient ratings
- new light recipes chapter
The new edition contains a helpful tutorial on cooking techniques, equipment ratings, food preparation tips, and advice on the selection of ingredients, along with more than 1200 recipes for appetizers, soups, meats, fish, vegetables, sauces, bread, and desserts. You will learn techniques for your day-to-day cooking and to make recipes from scratch, so don’t be scared if you feel “clueless” in the kitchen. Recipes that require a particular technique have notes with instructions on how to do it. There are also plenty of recommendations for kitchen equipment and hardware, useful tricks, and even discussions of which brands of commonly found ingredients taste best.
The book begins with a review of kitchenware and proceeds to the recipes which are very well divided into sections. The recipes themselves are excellently clear, with great pictures and explanations for why something is done. It includes a “light” section that uses low-fat ingredients.
4. Taste Of Home Cookbook
This book has also been considered as an indispensable tool for today’s home cooks. It has over 1000 family-favorites recipes, hints, and tips, and you will find everything you need to set a nice meal on the table for you and your loved ones. You will find as well kitchen hacks, how-to pictures, simple techniques on cooking and baking, tips for saving time while cooking, how to storage fresh products, and much more.
It contains 24 chapters that cover everything you need to know regarding breakfasts, appetizers, mains, and desserts. New sections include Air Fryers recipes, condiments, meals in 30 minutes or less, and many more. All explained easily so you can achieve great results even if you are a novice cook.
5. The Original King Arthur Flour CookBook
If you want to master the art of baking easily, you have to get this book. Not only does it provide great recipes, but it also provides explanations. If you are a beginner in the kitchen, you will understand why for example you use baking soda instead of baking powder, or the meaning of gluten relaxing. If you are not familiar with bread baking at all, you will find historical information, excellent tips, and the reason why you should not skip any step in a recipe for better results.
It will offer you a collection of delicious and nutritious bread, pastries, and desserts.
This edition has been written for today’s health-conscious cooks who have busy lives. You will find over 1200 recipes and more valuable content, such as menu planning, cooking tips on low fat and no fat meals, and a guide to cooking terms and techniques. You will learn from cooking basics to canning and freezing, bread and cakes to fish and shellfish, and meat and poultry to soups and stews. There are recipes for sauces and relishes, and sumptuous cookies and desserts. Besides there is a new chapter on Beans, Rice and Grains, and a special chapter on Grilling.
Cooking times are included for each recipe although many of them are designed for beginners who want to keep balanced nutrition but don’t have lots of time to spend in the kitchen.
7. How To Cook Everything The Basics: All You Need To Make Great Food
This cookbook is a must for any modern cook. The author explains what every beginner home cook should know, from dicing vegetables and roasting meat, to cooking building-block meals that include salads, soups, poultry, meats, fish, sides, and desserts.
You will find clear and straightforward directions, practical tips and variation ideas, and 1000 instructive photos with key preparation details for every recipe. It’s a book that says it all, even the most basic stuff. For example, sometimes you can find yourself reading a recipe elsewhere stating to use “olive oil”, but which type? Bittman’s book takes these things into account and is very good at not making assumptions on the cooking level of the reader.
Regarding the olive oil, he states “every time I refer to olive oil in this book, I mean extra virgin.” These tips are placed in the beginning and scattered throughout the book and are just the types of explanations that a cookbook on the basics should have.
You will also learn basic features in sections such as “Think of Vegetables in Groups,” “How to Cook Any Grain,” and “5 Rules for Buying and Storing Seafood”.
8. The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook
Mediterranean diet has a wide range of creative recipes, but it makes emphasis on vegetables and fruits, beans and lentils, whole grains, more seafood than meat and poultry, and heart-healthy olive oil. The fresh, high-quality ingredients and simple preparation techniques you will find in this book will let the extraordinary flavors shine.
From Italy and Greece to Morocco and Egypt, to Turkey and Lebanon, bring to your kitchen more than 500 fresh, such as Spiced Baked Rice with Potatoes and Fennel, Tagliatelle with Artichokes and Parmesan, Orzo with Shrimp, Feta, and Lemon, Za’atar-Rubbed Chicken, Greek-Style Braised Pork with Leeks, and Orange Polenta Cake.
You will find useful tips, explanations for why they chose a certain item (e.g. dried beans vs. canned, brand recommendations), and excellent comparison charts.
One thing you should know is that most recipes are not fast weeknight ones. You will have to dedicate some time but the result will be making healthy food that tastes so good that you will be craving it. The book will also introduce you to spices and herbs that make a huge difference.
This book was the winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook and it had to be on our list. It teaches how to cook by mastering the four elements: Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food. The book explains the hows and whys of good cooking and you will learn how to make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.
You will find 150 illustrations and infographics and there is lots of humor throughout. It will also teach you methods and how-to techniques, and there is a section in the back third of the book with recipes to apply all you have learned.
If you are someone who is more technically minded and needs more data, The Food Lab is better suited and we have included it in our cookbook list for experienced cooks. But if you are looking for first principles to get started cooking, this is an excellent combination of education, recipes, and reference guides.
We included this book on the list because it is the perfect book for upgrading your regular dinner. It is a collection of 130 easy, flavor-forward recipes from Chef Yotam Ottolenghi. They are all made in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients, in a single pot, using pantry staples, or prepared ahead of time for brilliantly, deliciously simple meals.
You will find how to cook by “SIMPLE” six elements: S = short on time; I = ten ingredients or less; M = make ahead; P = pantry; L = lazy cooking; and E = easy. You will learn that even some recipes that look intimidating in some way are easier than you think.
Veggie dishes are fabulous according to all readers, but all chapters offer the best quality. Whether it is the fish and seafood chapter, Meat chapter, Dessert chapter… it is one of our favorite books for easy and “weeknight” cooking.
Best cookbooks for experienced cooks
1. The Flavor Bible
For experienced cooks, following a recipe is not enough. In this book, you will find how to season ingredients to coax the greatest possible flavor from them. You will see thousands of ingredient entries, organized alphabetically and cross-referenced, with spectacular flavor combinations. Readers will learn to work more intuitively and effectively with ingredients; experiment with temperature and texture; excite the nose and palate with herbs, spices, and other seasonings. Nowadays, you can go online and pretty much find any recipe you desire. But the information in this book is unique. This is a must if you love cooking but are looking to be more creative in the kitchen.
There’s also a Vegetarian version of this book for those who want to focus on increasing healthful plant foods in their diet.
This book is on our list because Kenji López-Alt has focused on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food. He shows how conventional methods don’t work that well and home cooks can achieve far better results using new techniques. In this book you will find hundreds of easy-to-make recipes with over 1000 full-color images. You will learn how to make foolproof Hollandaise sauce in just two minutes, how to transform one simple tomato sauce into a half dozen dishes, how to make the crispiest, creamiest potato casserole ever conceived, and much more.
Readers have remarked that Kenji has described the science behind cooking in a way that makes it enjoyable and easy to read. It is a cookbook that will educate you and it will make you a smarter and more confident cook.
This is the first book by Chef Thomas Keller and we have selected it because it is every bit as satisfying as a French Laundry meal itself: a series of small, impeccable, highly refined, intensely focused courses.
You will find that Keller’s methods are not as hard as you might have thought: squeegeeing the moisture from the skin on fish so it sautées beautifully; poaching eggs in a deep pot of water for perfect shape; the initial steeping in the shell that makes cooking raw lobster out of the shell a cinch; using vinegar as a flavor enhancer.
You will find recipes, essays, profiles, and extraordinary photography. From innovative soup techniques to the proper way to cook green vegetables, to secrets of great fish cookery, to the creation of breathtaking desserts; from beurre monté to foie gras au torchon, to a wild and thoroughly unexpected take on coffee and doughnuts.
This book is perfect to learn about the techniques of French cooking and to prepare meals with a Michelin star restaurant quality since the presentation itself can take a lot of effort.
Winner of both the 1994 André Simon and 1995 Glenfiddich awards (the gastronomic world’s equivalent to an Oscar), this book will inspire anyone who enjoys sharing the ideas of a truly creative cook and delights in getting the best out of good ingredients.
Some of the recipes in this book include Eggs Florentine, Chocolate Tart, Poached Salmon with Beurre Blan, and, of course, the book’s namesake recipe, Roast Chicken.
Chapters are organized not by course but proceeding alphabetically from anchovies through veal, with observations on the best uses for each food product. You will find not just recipes but Hopkinson’s stories about each recipe, how he discovered it, and his experiences in the pleasures of enjoying a well-made meal.
We also chose this book because it offers both an accessible and comprehensive guide to techniques and ingredients and a collection of the most delicious recipes from the Italian repertoire. It’s not just spaghetti and meatballs here, Hazan’s cuisine consists of polenta, risotto, squid braised with tomatoes and white wine, sautéed swiss chard with olive oil and garlic, and many more. You will find recipes that have been revised to reduce fat content, and a whole new chapter full of fundamental information about herbs, spices, and cheeses used in Italian kitchens. You will learn the real Italian cooking with explanations based on history and Italian culture and why every little thing is the way it is. Don’t worry about the Italian words in the book because she thoroughly explains every single word you will come across. So you might as well learn some Italian.
At the desserts’ chapter you will find recipes with almonds and almond flour that are great for celiac people.
Though there are no photos, there are added illustrations to demonstrate certain techniques, such as pasta making, meat preparations, etc.
Every page of this book offers a new lesson: a trick that assures uniformity, a subtlety that makes for a professional finish, a flash of brilliance that heightens flavor and enhances texture. The deft twists, perfectly written recipes, and dazzling photographs make perfection inevitable.
You will find all the French classics, such as the baguettes, the macarons, the mille-feuilles, the tartes aux fruits, all with personal anecdotes from Keller.
If you have dreamed of making desserts that look like they came out of a pastry kitchen, this is the cookbook for you. You will learn how to create the fanciest and most extraordinary recipes with a stylish execution. Readers have stated that some desserts are so flavored that it is impossible to describe them with words. You will proudly serve you and your loved ones the best of the best.
Milk Bar is a successful foodie destination in each city where it is, and it is owned by Chef Christina Tosi. In this book, she tells her career journey, with awesome recipes sprinkled in between. You will learn why she uses complex techniques and ingredients and will be able to make the authentic desserts from Milk Bar. The crack pie is one of the people’s favorites.
You will find lots of textures in all of Christina’s recipes and great depth of flavor, not just sweet. Although the finished recipes have a lot of components, every recipe is explained clearly enough for everyone who is looking forward to upgrading their skills in the kitchen.
Remember that the quality of your product will be influenced by the quality of the ingredients used, so you should pay attention to the brands of the products Tosi recommends.
If you are looking for a vegetarian cookbook for people that already know how to cook, this is the one. Yotam Ottolenghi has established himself as one of the most exciting talents in the world of cookery and food writing and here you will find a collection of vegetarian recipes based on strong flavors and stunning, fresh combinations.
You will find sections devoted to cooking greens, aubergines, brassicas, rice and cereals, pasta and couscous, pulses, roots, squashes, onions, fruit, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and an extraordinary breadth of colors, tastes, and textures.
The commentary on each recipe is thoughtful and helpful and you will learn how to enjoy vegetables and whole grains in a way that you probably had not previously. Keep in mind that you need to invest a little extra time and effort into making these, especially since some ingredients are unusual and you might have to make an extra trip to get them out of a traditional supermarket.
Seasoned cooks who want to reproduce at home the savory delights of the classic French cuisine should have this book. You will find more than 100 instructive illustrations and you will learn techniques that can be applied to recipes in all other French cookbooks, making them infinitely usable.
Volume One is the classic one, and it has 524 recipes. Volume two is the sequel, with 257 additional recipes.
Recipes are very precise and particular. They are methodic and detailed, which is why the book states “Mastering” in the title. It is for home cooks who want to take the time and effort to replicate true French cooking.
10. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
The Zuni Café has been very popular among the foodies for over 20 years. In this book, you will find recipes for Zuni’s most well-known dishes, ranging from the Zuni Roast Chicken to the Espresso Granita. But Zuni’s appeal goes beyond recipes. It is not a typical recipe book, it is for those who are interested in learning different ways of cooking in depth. Some of the dishes include appetizers through dessert like Oxtails Braised in Red Wine and Shrimp Cooked in Romesco with Wilted Spinach.
Rodgers is always mindful of the possibilities within each ingredient and is always reminding the reader of the need to be mindful as well. In doing so, she ensures that each recipe will be a success. Every recipe is a cooking lesson itself.
Best food history and guide books
1. Larousse Gastronomique
- Larousse Gastronomique The World s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia Completely Revised and Updated
- Hardcover Book
- Librairie Larousse (Author)
Famous chef Julia Child once wrote, “If I were allowed only one reference book in my library, Larousse Gastronomique would be it, without question”. This book has to be on our list because of its encyclopedic entries on everything from cooking techniques, ingredients, and recipes to equipment, food histories, and culinary biographies. It features more than 400 candid images of upscale restaurants from around the world that give behind-the-scenes access into the kitchens where the finest food is created.
You’ll find both color and black and white photos in categories like squash, cheese, citrus fruit, and many more. You will learn detailed information about different regions of the world as well as entries about notable individuals that had an impact on the development of food preparation, such as Ferran Adrià, Daniel Boulud, Alice Waters, Gaston Lenôtre, Thomas Keller, James Beard, and Julia Child. Besides, you will also find recipes and charts that provide valuable information about different food.
In this book, a historian, gardener, and veggie connoisseur, William Woys Weaver will guide you through a range of peppers, potatoes, peas, gourds, onions, tomatoes, greens, and a whole lot more. You will find so much vegetable knowledge and stories from around the world; for example, how the Petaluma Gold Rush bean is a rugged legume that was grown for over one-hundred-fifty years and brought to California by an American whaler from Peru; or the violet carrot, which the Greeks brought back from India following the conquests of Alexander the Great. Each vegetable’s story will draw you in, even you are not planning on growing any (but you will want to after reading the book).
You will learn about the Pennsylvania Winter Luxury squash which can be eaten like an apple, or the Botswana cowpea, which is a creamy dish in Africa. It’s just excellent folklore for vegetable fans.
Did you know that the word “salary” derives from the ancient Roman practice of paying soldiers with salt? This is just one of many fascinating little facts about salt.
In this book you will find that for most of mankind’s history, salt cultivation and transport was a massive enterprise across every civilization. This is a fascinating, illuminating read, very well written, and generously illustrated. You will learn about wars that have been fought over salt and how salt taxes secured empires across Europe and Asia
After you read it, you will realize that salt has been critical to human existence for thousands of years. From prehistoric times, the easily obtainable salt supply was far more limited than now, and salt sources were often the basis of human settlements word-wide throughout history until only recently.
This cookbook has been inspired by the Outlander series. Featuring more than one hundred recipes, Outlander Kitchen retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond.
You will find recipes for everyone, from traditional Scottish fare such as bannocks and scones to new world favorites such as red beans, and pizza. The photography is beautiful, and there are quotes from the Outlander books interspersed throughout. If you’re a fan of the series, this is a must-have book, but even if you’ve never heard of Outlander, you won’t regret buying this book.
These are some of the dishes you will learn to cook: Short Crust Pastry, Crowdie Cheese, Cream of Nontoxic Mushroom Soup, Mushroom Pasties, Gypsy Stew, Shepard’s Pie, Sarah Woolam’s Scotch Pies, Fish Pie at the Lillington’s, Jenny’s Onion Tart, Brown Buns at Beauly, Spoon Bread, and many more. There are enough mouth-watering meals along the way to whet the appetite of even the most demanding palate.
We chose this book because it is a compendium of the plants that have been picked, muddled, and crafted into drinks. Each plant included represents a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history. You will find more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners, and you will learn the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol over the centuries. For example, you will see how Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn, and more interesting content.
This book shows the clear story of humanity through six beverages: Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola; and how they represent six eras that span the course of civilization. You will find the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century through each epoch’s signature refreshment.
You will learn how humans saved surplus grain when farming, which sometimes fermented into beer. How the Greeks took grapes and made wine. How Arabic scientists produced spirits, the perfect drink for long voyages of exploration. How coffee spread quickly from Arabia to Europe. How tea was used as a lubricant for factories during the British industrial revolution. And how Coca-Cola started as a medicinal drink but turned into a mass-product during the 20th century. After reading it, you may never look at your favorite drink in quite the same way again.
7. Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts And Pieces of Our Edible World
This book is so much fun. It is full of food trivia that you have probably always wondered about and that you can’t find in a typical cookbook. It includes unique illustrations and very educational topics, such as the different kinds of food from all around the world. You will find the following sections: Food for Thought, Eat Your Fruits and Veggies, A Grain of Truth, The Meat of the Matter, Dairy Queens, Street Food, Season to Taste, Drink Up, and Sweet Tooth. Things you will learn include sandwiches around the world, how to tie sausages, or even facts about fruits. For example, how, tomatoes and cucumbers are technically a fruit, but the Tariff Act in 1883 legally classified them as vegetables. It also contains more interesting information, like how the table is set in several countries, types of forks and spoons, and more.
Besides foodies, this book is also great for children and for parents who homeschool.
8. Food of Life: Ancient Persian And Modern Iranian Cooking
Besides providing 330 classical and regional Iranian recipes, this book will fill you with an immersive cultural experience that will help you to understand this ancient and timeless cuisine. For instance, you will learn how to cook rice (or just use the best rice cooker), the jewel of Persian cooking, which, when combined with a little meat, fowl, or fish, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, provides the perfect balanced diet. It also has nice vegetarian options.
Also, through this book you will see many examples of how food has inspired artists, poets, and other luminaries of Persian culture; and you will find the history, stories, famous poetry, and health benefits of some foods.
A guidebook about wellness and healthy eating had to be on our list. This is a book that you’ll come back to whenever you feel that you need to refresh your nutritional education and how to make the best choices about food.
Readers will find the best advice regarding grocery shopping and healthy eating, like how to shop and save money, what to eat for longevity, how to store fresh food properly, why calorie counting is futile, and more. Now you will finally learn for certain whether fat-free and gluten-free are healthier, what hidden meanings you’re missing in food labels, and when to go organic – you should know that you don’t always have to go organic but there are certain foods with which you must go the organic way and pay a little extra, and this book makes it very clear which ones they are.
It tells the story of man’s relationship with food from the earliest times to the present day. You should pay attention to every detail because it is full of facts that many people don’t know about; from the time of the first fires, boiling water and cooking in the stomach of animals, up to the modern utensils and devices of today. If you want to learn where this or that technique originated, who first ate this or that recipe, where this or that tradition came from, this is your volume. You will understand why we eat what we eat thanks to its detailed historical account of the main food groups.