If there’s one thing I never feel guilty about buying it’s cookbooks, after all they serve a pretty important purpose right? (I mean, you gotta eat.) The internet has made it easier than ever to browse hundreds of thousands of recipes without ever turning a single page, but those true foodies still hold their collections of hard copy cookbooks very near and dear to their hearts (yes my own collection is insured.) Cracking open the cover of a freshly purchased cookbook and browsing the catalog of images and recipes personally brings me the kind of joy that would probably make others slightly uneasy if not completely uncomfortable, but apologize I do not. If you’re a fellow food nerd or even just a casual admirer of the culinary arts, here are ten essential cookbooks that you need in your library:
When a cookbook has nearly 1,200 reviews and a 5-star rating on Amazon you know it’s worthwhile. And when that same book is written by celebrated American chef, author and television personality Julia Child you REALLY know it’s worthwhile. Child is responsible for bringing classic French cooking to the American public and brought mainstream notability to a seemingly-inaccessible cuisine during the 1960s and 1970s, so naturally this book is a staple for any home chef.
If you’re not familiar with the name, Marcella Hazan is somewhat of an Italian cooking legend, and by somewhat, I really mean she was the Godmother of Italian cuisine. Born in Cesenatico, Italy, her early cookbooks were credited with introducing the American and British public to traditional Italian cooking techniques, thus changing the way American’s cooked Italian food forever. Not your sweet little Nono, Hazan was no-nonsense in the kitchen and her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking will whip any home cook into an Italian expert in no time.
We should all probably be eating more vegetables and this cookbook by famed London chef Yotam Ottolenghi changed the way we think about this often under-appreciated food group all together. Plenty offers fresh, seasonal recipes that will give new life to your veggie cooking game and help you to create meals and sides that will have even the most blood-thirsty carnivores cleaning their plates and going back for more.
The term ‘Asian food’ covers a pretty broad scope ranging from Japanese to Malasian to Chinese, and while these are often cuisines that I choose to eat outside my own house (unless we’re talking about take-out), there’s no reason why we can’t try our own hand at these vibrant flavorful cuisines. This authoritative book covers some of the obvious necessities like addressing many of the unfamiliar ingredients needed to prepare such foods. It’s an essential book for cooks who want to grow their repertoire of home-cooked Asian meals.
If your love of animal flesh goes beyond the standard supermarket counter, this cookbook most definitely deserves a place in your kitchen library. Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall shows his deep appreciation for all creatures big and small and offers expert lessons on proper preparation, techniques and of course essential recipes that highlight everything you want your meat to be.
First published in 1965, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book has grown to become one of the most celebrated American cookbooks of all time. Now in its sixteenth edition this ode to Americana is full of time-tested recipes for practical family favorites as well as time saving tips that will help get you through the weeknights without resorting to dialing Domino’s (not that I’m discouraging a good pizza night.)
While you can’t really go wrong with any of the River Cafe cookbooks I’m suggesting River Cafe Two Easy as an essential because of the great time/dinner/flavor paradox faced by many as the clock ticks closer to 5pm. Every kitchen should have a few books that one can whip out when you need something fast but don’t want to sacrifice flavor or quality. The popular London, UK restaurant has spawned many cookbooks (11 of them at the moment) but none quite as easy or versatile as this one.
Cooking and baking don’t always go hand in hand and just because you’re well-versed at one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a superstar at the other. While cooking can be free-formed and fluid in nature, baking on the other hand is a scientific art where one ‘improvisation’ can spell disaster. Rose Levy Beranbaum is an authority on baking and her 1988 classic “The Cake Bible” forged new ground in the art of baking cakes. In her 2014 ‘bible’ the author takes a more broad, but none-the-less, meticulous approach on baking which will serve as the ultimate sweet reference in your kitchen library.
While the title of this award-winning culinary reference guide might sound like a pretty big promise to deliver on, How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman is one of those books you’ll go back to time and time again. The American food writer takes a simplistic but flavorful approach to food in this book which is designed to make cooking easy and accessible for all. While it covers such beginner cooking basics as mincing garlic and dicing an onion, proficient home cooks can just skip ahead to the solid collection of recipes that perfectly answers the question “what’s for dinner?”
One of the best parts of being a foodie is sharing your love of food with others, which is why every home cook needs a solid guide for planning parties. In my humble opinion, no one does parties quite like the Queen of Hospitality; Ina Garten, and her second published cookbook is still as relevant as it was when it was published back in 2001. In the book, Garten shares her expert tips and essential party recipes from her 20 years of experience running the acclaimed specialty food store Barefoot Contessa.