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Best Cookbooks for Beginners

Cookbook Reference

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#31 lcdm

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 11:12 AM

Does anyone have a good recommendation for a beginner level cookbook?  Thanks!

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Two cookbooks that I found indispensable when I first started cooking were:
Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook
and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

General all around cookbooks - they go into detailed instructions very good for the beginner (Good Housekeeping even provides you with party menus and table settings). I still refer to them.

#32 SundaySous

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 11:34 AM

Another great little cookbook is Julia Child's Kitchen Wisdom. It's small, but is right next to my stove, and is a quick reference on anything, especially for vinegraitte's.

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I'm trying to outfit my kitchen so I can cook this whole book. I think there are over 300 recipes. I see it referred on the net as culinary training, the basics.
"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

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#33 Jay Francis

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 11:34 AM

I taught myself to cook in the early 80's by subscribing to Bon Appetit magazine. With each new arrival I would make every recipe I could during that month's period. These were the golden years for Bon Appetit and just to remind myself of how awesome a magazine it was, I kept all of my issues from 1983 through 1985 and still cook from them, refer to the monthly section on spirits, etc. These days, when I meet someone who is new to cooking, I recommend the same strategy but my magazine of recommendation is Fine Cooking. Just start at the beginning and make your way through the mag, and after a couple of months, you'll be amazed at the good food you'll be turning out in your kitchen.

Cookbooks:

The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh (disclaimer: I helped Robb with the research and recipe testing)
The Daily Soup Cookbook (every recipe I've tried is a winner)
Gaston Lenotre's abridged book on desserts and pastries
The Dessert Lover's Cookbook by Sorosky
The "Hot" series by Hugh Carpener (Hot Chicken, Hot Pasta, etc.)
Chinese Cuisine Made Simple by Dorothy Huang

Edited by Jay Francis, 09 September 2007 - 11:38 AM.


#34 JSD

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 04:15 PM

My son is going to be in an apartment for the first time and doesn't really know how to cook. He likes my cooking, but I can't see him making anything too involved. Can anyone recommend something basic?

#35 Anna N

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 05:30 PM

My son is going to be in an apartment for the first time and doesn't really know how to cook.  He likes my cooking, but I can't see him making anything too involved.  Can anyone recommend something basic?

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I think "Starting Out" by Julie Van Rosendaal is one of the better "basic" books. It could serve as a basic cookbook for years. It goes somewhat beyond mac and cheese but give excellent instructions for making some interesting meals.
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#36 JSD

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 05:49 PM

I think "Starting Out" by Julie Van Rosendaal is one of the better "basic" books.  It could serve as a basic cookbook for years.  It goes somewhat beyond mac  and cheese but give excellent instructions for making some interesting meals.

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Thanks - I think this is exactly what I'm looking for - very basic recipes. I looked at Starting Out on Amazon and it looks very promising.

#37 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 08:19 AM

You might look at "The Cook's Book".

Each section is by a well know chef, the recipes are good and the illustrations/ instructions are brilliant. Ideal for a beginner.

#38 ken T

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 04:02 PM

You can not go wrong with Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food!

#39 kristin_71

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 07:51 PM

I just discovered Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food He gives you instruction on what to have in the pantry, refrig and freezer and all the meals take no more than 45 minutes start to finish and they are really good!

I have Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food I got it as a gift and love it!

#40 Recoil Rob

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 09:20 PM

It's true that in this age of the internet one can Google a dish and get 100 good recipes so I'm of the opinion beginners should get books primarily focusing on technique and apply it to the recipes gleaned from the internet.

The ones that started me off 30 years ago were both Pepin books, LA TECHNIQUE & LA METHODE, Anne Willan's LA VARENNE PRACTIQUE and Bugliali's CLASSIC TECHNIQUES OF ITALIAN COOKING.

All these books are technique heavy with recipe variations and will start you off with a good foundation upon which you can adapt all those recipes on the web. They have many pictures, especially the Pepin Books.

These are still the books I turn to when attempting something new.
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#41 johung

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 04:17 PM

From a New Zealand perspective the traditional and mainstream cooking at most homes in this country is slightly different from the United States, but not as different as Germany or certainly China. I would recommend people to read:

1. Alison Holst The Best of Alison Holst (CJ Publishing and Hodder Moa Beckett, Auckland, 1991; New Holland reprinted, Auckland, 2007) and The Ultimate Collection (New Holland, Auckland, 2000). These two together contain over 2,000 of the old traditional New Zealand cooking, and ethnic cooking that already found acceptance in NZ kitchens by 1990. An equivalent to The Joy of Cooking.

2. Lesley Christensen-Yule and Hamish McRae A Cook's Bible (Penguin, Auckland, 2007). Absolutely starting from beginners level but leads you to serious gourmet level of cooking. Adapted from The New Zealand Cook written by the same authors for professional cooking students so it is a heavy in subject title. The recipes are more cutting edge than Holst's with more Pacific Rim style dishes.

3. Australian Woman's Weekly Cook (ACP Publishing, Sydney, 2006), Kitchen (ACP Publishing, Sydney, 2007), and Bake (ACP Publishing, Sydney, 2008). The trilogy covers every major cooking techniques and almost all dishes a typical Australian home kitchen needs or wants in early 21st century. Seasoning is less sweet than NZ cookbooks and more cosmopolitan in foodstuff, but very useful for NZ kitchens as well.

4. Marie Claire series, written by Michele Cranston, Kitchen (Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2004) and Seasonal Kitchen (Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2007). Largely same territory as Australian Woman's Weekly but more gourmet-ish at times. A luttle bit analogous to Bon Appetite recipes but with an Australian perspective. Don't expect to find presently unfashionable dishes like roast leg of lamb, chicken a la king, or crepes on these two titles.

Mention must be made of the Edmonds Cookbook series. It is THE authoritative cookbook for most New Zealanders. I found it at times too stodgy (for example many recipes still call for distilled white vinegar for non-pickling purposes, which will destroy the dish), and they are vendor-specific recipes as the series started out and still is released to market Edmonds and related products. For these reasons I don't recommend it to others above the above titles.

The latest publication The Edmonds Illustrated Collection (Goodman Fielder NZ, Auckland, 2007) has updated the recipe collection into the 21st century while still maintaining the best of traditional baking recipes that the Edmonds cookbooks are famous for. It is a good improvement, but I would hesitate if you already have other titles I recommended above.

My two cents. Most books may require specialist NZ online booksellers to purchase. Even Australian online bookselling services, let alone the UK ones, don't normally sell NZ's books.

Edited by johung, 12 September 2008 - 06:34 PM.


#42 Ce'nedra

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 09:29 PM

Dave Lieberman's Young & Hungry is a great choice for novice cooks!
His recipes are very approachable/fool-proof and the results are always great.
Obviously, this book isn't for deluxe recipes but they are solid and delliiciousss. Also, Dave's recipes are quite varied (influences from around the world) so that's always a plus.
The instructions are the basic, no fuss sort. I'd definately recommend it and...you get to gawke at pictures of Dave who is reallly a babe :wub:

Edited by Ce'nedra, 02 November 2008 - 09:30 PM.

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#43 RobertCollins

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 10:59 AM

My son called and ask me to help him find a set of cookbooks for his girlfriend who is moving into an apartment and has little cooking experience.

I think that I have a list but I'm seeking other opinions.

When my kids were in collage I bought them both Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and James Peterson's "Essentials of Cooking ". An aside is that my wife told me then that I wasn't thinking very well as the kids seemed to call quite often to ask how to cook something or other and that stopped after my gift.

I was considering Baird's "Theory and practice of Good cooking" that I learned so much from in the late 70s or 80s as I began to try to actually learn to cook. This may be too dated, what now though.

Also Jacques Pe'pens "Techniques{I don't remember the correct name)". Lastly s copy of Barron's "Food Lovers Companion"

I might add something that was like a 'week night food' book, kind of a 5 ingredients of less for quick meals. Have no idea which to consider.

I look forward to your suggestions.

Oh yes, this young lady starts Med School this coming fall and is a top contender for a USA slot in this summers Olympics [Rifle Target Shooting].

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#44 rotuts

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 11:34 AM

add a subscription to Fine Cooking. (Taunton press)

some of Julia Child's 'easier' books are always well worth it:

"the way to cook"

http://www.amazon.co...25097430&sr=1-1

also "from Julia Child's Kitchen"

http://www.amazon.co...25097526&sr=1-1

I guess its out of print

cant go wrong with the way to cook and Fine Cooking.

Edited by rotuts, 28 December 2011 - 11:39 AM.


#45 weinoo

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 11:45 AM

Agree on Julia's The Way to Cook.

Maybe Jacques' Fast Food My Way?

You have to admit that most of the recipe's in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking are pretty simple and use easy to find ingredients.

No kitchen is complete without Joy.
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#46 rotuts

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 12:06 PM

oh yea Fast Food My Way and More Fast Food My way and the Child and the subs and youre set.

nothing else needed.

BTW if the person really dosent know how to cook or has little experience the (M)FFMY has videos from the PBS cooking shows

they are superb and very little else needed

Edited by rotuts, 28 December 2011 - 12:12 PM.


#47 Lisa Shock

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 12:59 PM

I like Joy, but wasn't so fond of that recent overhaul. I'd look for an older, used copy.

#48 Shalmanese

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 01:19 PM

Cook's Illustrated's series of books were great for me because they devote a large chunk of each recipe to explaining why it works and what they tried that didn't. Cookwise, On Food and Cooking and later, Modernist Cuisine appealed to my food science bent of understanding what was going on so that I had a framework to improvise and adapt from.
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#49 Snadra

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 01:33 PM

Is she interested in cooking, or just in eating decently? Judging by the experiences of many friends, the problem with the bigger all-encompassing cookbooks is that they can be overwhelming for a novice who just wants to make a simple meal. Bittman is great (I've got how to cook everything and its vegetarian sister and find them very useful), but there are so many choices it can also be paralysing.

I think for some people a better choice is a book with good pictures of the final product, short ingredient lists (with minimal prepared ingredients) and straightforward instructions. Locally I would choose one of Bill Granger's cookbooks, a Marie Claire (authored by Michelle Cranston or Donna Hay) or a Donna Hay. I like Bill's Open Kitchen in particular because it gives suggestion for simple accompaniments to complete the meal. These books aren't about learning to cook properly as much as just mucking in and giving it a go and generally getting something tasty at the end. Many of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks take a similar approach, but his ingredient lists tend to be getting longer and longer lately... My feeling is that the wider range of techniques and options provided by Joy of Cooking, Bittman et al can have more of an impact if they come after one has some simple meals under the belt.

Of course, people are all different, and your son knows her best. Some people thrive on seeing the theory laid out in front of them with all the possibilities.

#50 rotuts

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 01:33 PM

I agree with what you say about Cook's Ill books. they do indeed explain a lot which is why I have so many.

but .....

they dont tell you that the "new book--- the Best" has about 60 % of old prior published Rx.

they do explain a lot

there vids (Free Over the air ) explain a lot more.

after all isnt this person although Sharp and a Shooter going to take Neuro Anatomy?

well I guess not its just " lets get a scan"

back in the day one went to Burger King (for the char) and orderd triple Tomatoes please and that satisfied the veg. requirement for a month.

Woooooooooooooo!

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

all bets are off if the MedSch is even re-motley near a Trader Joes!
:laugh:

Edited by rotuts, 28 December 2011 - 01:42 PM.


#51 Jaymes

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 03:20 PM

Until the very last few months, my daughter has been way too busy with work, school, and having babies to make a serious effort at learning to cook. But she has just decided to take a year's hiatus from work and learn. She has access to my 1000+ cookbooks but nothing seemed to catch her fancy.

Then I bought her a copy of 'The Kitchen Counter Cooking School' by Kathleen Flinn.

It has changed her life.

Edited by Jaymes, 28 December 2011 - 03:23 PM.


#52 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 03:49 PM

I'll second the recommendation for an older copy of the "Joy", and add that older "NY Times" and "Fannie Farmer" are excellent standby cookbooks for beginners.

Is she in any way interested in bread? If so, "Bread" from the Good Cook series is a must-have.
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#53 Country

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 03:57 PM

I'll second the recommendation for an older copy of the "Joy", and add that older "NY Times" and "Fannie Farmer" are excellent standby cookbooks for beginners.


I'll third that. All are good to start with, and good to have on the bookshelf later on.

#54 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:17 PM

Also, if you can find one, look for the 1920's era "Purity Cookbook" - it's very basic, the 20's editions focus on savings, and it contains all of the know-how necessary for more complex dishes later on in one's cooking life. I learned out of a 1922 Purity, which I still have and use regularly. (And if you like, I'll scan it and make the pdf available - it's a truly remarkable cookbook).
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#55 Anna N

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:27 PM

Is she interested in cooking, or just in eating decently? Judging by the experiences of many friends, the problem with the bigger all-encompassing cookbooks is that they can be overwhelming for a novice who just wants to make a simple meal. Bittman is great (I've got how to cook everything and its vegetarian sister and find them very useful), but there are so many choices it can also be paralysing.

I so agree with you! I adore Child and Pepin and have the leisure time now to read them and attempt their recipes but if I were a med student in training for a spot on an Olympic team I'd be paralyzed by them. I suggest something like Martha Stewart's Everday Food. Easy shopping, easy prep, relatively healthy, a photo of every dish as I recall and not the least bit intimidating. There will be time for the classics later one hopes. Just my opinion.
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#56 Country

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:39 PM

Now that I think of it, I've probably used The Professional Chef for reference more than any other book, since I got it a number of years ago. The link is to the 8th edition and I have the 7th and don't know what the difference might be.

It's a large, literally heavy book, and somewhat expensive, but it's a great resource and I wish I'd had one back when I started cooking halfway seriously. Not sure if it's worthwhile for a beginner though, especially as all the recipes are for fairly large quantities of food. But they're all in weights and it's easy enough to scale them down with a hand calculator.

#57 rotuts

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 05:03 PM

Sooooooooooo sorry!

I take it all back

MS is a delicous somewhat older person that did have her day

it must have been the

turpentine in tonights retsina

Ill have to leave the rest of the case in the cellar for 20 - 30 years.

then Ill apply it to my shingles.

#58 eternal

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 05:16 PM

What a subscription to Bon Appetit?

#59 nibor

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 05:34 PM

I learned to cook from Cook's Illustrated magazine. Their "The New Best Recipe" book is a compilation from the magazine.

#60 Dexter

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 05:44 PM

What kind of foods does she like? I think that's probably the best place to start. I personally got started with Child and Pepin, but I also was very interested in French foods and technique. I've given relatives CI's Best Recipes where some of them have devoured it, loving the explanations and analysis, where others have left it on the shelf and stuck with their Rachel Ray books.

Some modern books that aren't overly technical that I've enjoyed are:
Pintxos by Hirigoyen
Simple to Spectacular by Vongerichten
Japanese Cooking (A Simple Art) by Tsuji
Pretty much any of Rick Bayless' books
The Les Halles Cookbook by Bourdain

Any of these are definitely approachable to someone who is interested in cooking but not in spending the entire day in the kitchen. In fact, the vast majority of these recipes take 30 minutes or less of active prep time, and all have the kinds of foods that you can serve for parties etc. The Vongerichten and Bourdain books also are nice in that they provide basic instruction on the techniques that they use for the dishes.





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