Ask A Chef: 5 Cookbooks To Own

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The top 5 cookbooks to own.

I want to learn how cook and mostly look for recipes online, but I’d love to get a few great cookbooks. I can’t believe how many are out there. What are some must-buy cookbooks? – Jen

I’m with you Jen. I mostly get inspired by looking online, but to learn the basics of cooking: what the techniques are, when and why certain process orders are important, and how it all works, I turn to a few trusty resources. Each of these cookbooks offer something different and together provide a well-rounded bank of knowledge for whatever you’re cooking or baking. Here are my five favorite cookbooks that I think every cook, novice or pro, should own.

1. Beck, Simone, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. New York: Knopf, 1961. Print.

Culinary school curriculums revolve around the classical French cooking techniques, designed for restaurant service, by François Pierre La Varenne, Marie-Antoine Carême, and ultimately Auguste Escoffier. These men were integral in developing the processes we use today but thanks to the distinguished women who wrote this book, large format and complicated undertakings are modified for the American home cook.

2. Rosso, Julee, and Sheila Lukins. The New Basics Cookbook. New York: Workman Pub., 1989. Print.

Some cookbooks take overly academic approaches to making dinner. This collection of 875 recipes offers a wealth of effortless knowledge about the basics of cooking. To help along the way are charts for cooking meats or beans properly; a glossary of greens, and when to use or grow herbs and spices.

3. López-Alt, J. Kenji. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2015. Print.

This is a superlative collection of recipes and knowledge. It’s smart, approachable, and beautifully presented for all cooks – home or professional. If you own one cookbook I think this should be the one.

4. (Edt), Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Baking Illustrated: The Ultimate Resource for the Modern Baker With More Than 350 Recipes. N.p.: Cooks Illustrated, 2004. Print.

This is my go-to source for questions related to baking. Each recipe in this book is tested repeatedly, with ingredient and process variations along the way, to yield the best product possible. Illustrations and pictures provide visual support for the home cook and so far not one recipe has failed.

5. McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

Ever wonder why starchy sauces congeal in the refrigerator? Or how the exterior of raw red steak sears into a delicious brown crust? From the author who invented the “molecular gastronomy” movement, this encyclopedic collection offers to readers a friendly presentation of food science; where ingredients come from, how they are transformed into food, and why/how certain chemical reactions occur.

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