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Best Cookbooks for Beginners

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#61 patrickamory

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 06:10 PM

I think we need to know what kind of food she's into and how dedicated she will be before we make any recommendations...

#62 IndyRob

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 06:20 PM

Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here for the Food" books are really good for the basics. Very approachable, but in a way that led me to 'invent' sous vide (only to quickly find that I was 40 years too late).

#63 Boilerfood

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 06:25 PM

I might get laughed off the forum for this suggestion, but I was in a similar situation with a friend of mine a couple years ago. He was an only child, who sincerely didnt know how to use the microwave. Shows up to college, completely unprepared and starving. The first cookbook I bought him was The Betty Crocker Cookbook. The recipes are simple, she will have heard of all the ingredients, and they are affordable to a poor college student.

This of course, is assuming that she has little desire to cook beyond feeding herself what reminds her of home, anymore ambition and The Way to Cook is perfect.

#64 gfweb

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 06:58 PM

I like How to Cook Everything. Approachable and comprehensive.

#65 Kerry Beal

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 07:11 PM

I gave a couple of different Now You're Cooking cookbooks to a friend when I was teaching her to cook. They are decent adult beginner cookery books - no talking down to the student. She has since passed them on, but still credits them with a good part of her early culinary education.

This is a woman who was kicked out of one of James Beard's bread classes cause she just couldn't get it!

#66 gfweb

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 07:21 PM

Beards Theory and Practice is great if you can find it.

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#67 DMS

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 10:01 PM

How To Cook Everything is a solid recommendation. Pepin's new book Essential Pepin is excellent as well plus it has a DVD demonstrating kitchen techniques.

#68 tikidoc

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 05:11 AM

I agree that it would be helpful to know what she likes to eat and if she really wants to learn to cook or just needs a bunch of good, simple recipes.

As a doc, I can say that I enjoy books that take a scientific view of cooking, which is why I like the Alton Brown books and CI. Alton is fun to read too. As is Bourdain in Les Halles cookbook, if she likes his somewhat raunchy style (I do). I have only made a few recipes out of his book but I have really enjoyed reading it.

How To Cook Everything and Joy of Cooking (I have an older edition, can't speak to the newer ones) are nice to have, because if you think of something you want to make, the chances are that you can find a recipe for it in one or both books. I used Joy almost daily when I was in college.

#69 jane@eatyourbooks

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 10:48 AM

I would think that a lot of these suggestions would be intimidating to a 20-something with little cooking experience who presumably in under time pressures. I would try to ease her in gently with books that have helpful explanations and maybe photos to help her understand the processes and the final dish.

There is a good beginner's book from Phaidon 'What to Cook and How to Cook It' by Jane Hornby - good step-by-step photos but not too basic or simplistic.
The new 'Cook's Illustrated Cookbook' - over 2,000 recipes from 20 years of the magazine - has no photos but good explanations.
Finally, it would be worth taking a look at Ina Garten, Ellie Krieger or Alton Brown. I know these Food Network authors aren't in the league of Marcella, Jacques and Julia but they are much more approachable for someone young and new to cooking.
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#70 Jaymes

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 11:13 AM

My daughter and daughter-in-law, neither one of whom could cook much, both very much enjoyed Raising the Salad Bar.

Salads seemed approachable and do-able, and there definitely is some cooking involved - chicken breasts, fish filets and other meats, pastas and rice and assorted starches, dressings, etc. Plus, it's definitely encouraging to have some easy and non-intimidating kitchen successes right away.

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#71 OliverB

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 12:11 PM

I'm not sure some of these would get much use, things like how to cook everything etc get the least use in my house, kind of a last resort if I can't figure out what to do with something. Not to say they aren't great, but there are no or not many photos, which all by itself could be a deterrent for somebody that doesn't cook much.

I'd probably think outside the box, figure out what kind of foods she likes. Maybe Thai? Italian? Indian? And then get a very nice well illustrated book like that for her, guessing that trying to make something she really likes in a restaurant might be a fun project. At least that's how things really started for me, when I bought a copy of Thailand - the beautiful cookbook at CostCo. I always cooked something before, roast chicken, bbq, etc, but with that book I expanded on every day stuff I had learned along the way. Also some Italian cooking bible I picked up at the bargain tables was very useful to me early on. Lots of photos, great recipes. Especially the photos made me cook, as I had little experience aside of my "standards". But seeing something wonderful "I want to eat that NOW" certainly helped.

This has not changed much for me by the way. Publishing books with gorgeous photos has become a lot easier and cheaper than it used to be and I rarely pick up books that don't have photos but cost the same as some similar book w/o photos. I'm a visual person.

Cooks Illustrated books do little to nothing for me, I subscribed for years, but eventually dropped it once the homey stories and the "we're gonna try and fake this takes 47 hours to make meal and prepare it in 47 minutes" seemed to either take over or get noticed more by me. Add the goofy drawings, just not my cup of tea.

One book I recently got, The Family Meal by Adria, might also be interesting for a novice. To me it's a book that actually has too many photos (almost illustrating how to boil water) but for a novice it might be a great introduction to some more advanced things as well and the recipes seem largely doable w/o hunting through specialty stores.

on a last note, if she watches some cooking shows, it might be nice to get her a book by one of her favorite starts, even if it's some no cook like Rachel or the butter lady from the south, or yes, even Martha. If she likes any of these people, having their voice and banter in mind while cooking might help her over some obstacles and make it more fun. She can then graduate to real cooks later on :laugh:
"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"
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#72 Will

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 12:41 PM

I think that Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food might be a good choice. It's got a good section about ingredients and equipment, how to cut things, etc., and the recipes are not dumbed down but many still should be manageable for beginners.

I have the vegetarian version of How to Cook Everything; while I appreciate Bittman's approach, and all the basic information he provides, and his encouragement to experiment, I do think the sheer volume of recipes and endless variations might be intimidating to some as a first cookbook.

Also worth considering how interested / motivated the recipient is, and what types of things they like to eat.

#73 ChrisZ

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 05:26 PM

I would think that a lot of these suggestions would be intimidating to a 20-something with little cooking experience who presumably in under time pressures.


I agree too, and as the request is for books that will be a gift there's no way of knowing how interested the recipient will be in learning about cooking...

In my experience, Jamie Oliver's books stand out because people actually cook from them! This might sound bizarre if you're into food and have libraries of cooking books, but I've got a number of friends who have only a passing interest in cooking and the only recipes they make are from Jamie Oliver books. Other books just gather dust...

#74 patrickamory

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 08:44 PM

OP still hasn't returned to thread...

The following cookbook recommendations assume that she lives in the US.

If she is dedicated, and likes traditional European food, then I will add my name to the list for The Way To Cook. It was my first serious cookbook, and between the photographs and the text, is an incredibly straightforward guide.

If she's a natural experimenter, thrifty and interested in American home cooking and regional cuisines - and likes to read good prose - then I'd suggest starting with any book by John Thorne. Simple Cooking is an easy way in. Similarly straightforward and readable books are Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and Miriam Ungerer's Good Cheap Food.

If she likes Italian, then she can't go wrong with Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Apologies to OliverB that it doesn't contain any photos, but it is extremely easy to follow and very reliable. But if she's starting from a position of ignorance, it's essential that she read the introductory chapters on ingredients and techniques.

For (Delhi) Indian, Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation To Indian Cooking or Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking.

If she's into Mexican, Chinese or Thai cooking, there are a wealth of cookbooks out there but with the exception of Fucshia Dunlop they may be for the more advanced cook.

I'd agree with other posters that Bittman's How To Cook Everything might be a bit much to start with. The Joy of Cooking, at least for me, is more of a reference book than a guide - albeit one I consult frequently.

edit: A possible more modern, multicultural possibility, with lots of photos, would be David Tanis, A Platter of Figs. Or for Italian food with a touch of England, The River Cafe Cookbook.

Edited by patrickamory, 30 December 2011 - 08:49 PM.


#75 mgaretz

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 10:23 PM

Well you can shoot me if you want, but the Martha Stewart Cooking School book is an excellent reference. Say what you want about the lady, but the book is good regardless. I'd also recommend How to Cook Everything by Bittman as others have said. Spend the rest of the money on a decent knife or two and decent pan.

#76 chefhenry

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Posted 31 December 2011 - 05:57 PM

You can never go wrong with The Joy, and Pepin's La Technique & La Methode are now out as a single volume. All of them served me very well in my earlier years. One book that has gotten great reviews online seems to be Ruhlman's Twenty. I have a couple of his works and they do their job well, Ratio especially, haven't gotten Twenty yet myself but a cookbook with a first chapter titled "Think" as one of his essential techniques has to be a great resource for a young aspiring cook.

#77 Twyst

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 06:55 PM

I picked up Ruhlman's 20 today to see what all the hype was about. I avoided it earlier because as much as people raved about ratio and as much as I liked the idea behind the book I didnt think it was that great. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by 20, but I was dead wrong. The book is fantastic and teaches the foundations for learning how to cook. It teaches and explains all the basics, has clear instructions with pictures etc. Its like ruhlman took the first 2 months of culinary school and put them into an easy to follow, beautiful book. I cant recommend this one enough for new cooks or experienced home cooks. Unfortunately it is sold out almost everywhere on the internet with no copies available for a few weeks, but I found a copy at my local B&N

#78 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 07:02 PM

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


I like the early 70s version. It may be dated but the basic info on everything is really useful.

#79 Derek J

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 08:37 AM

I recommend Pamela Anderson's How to Cook Without a Book.

#80 Dakki

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 09:45 AM

For a complete novice, I think you could do worse than books such as Cooking for Dummies, Essential Cook, etc. I started cooking out of Joy as a teen (and I still use it for desserts) but there was a great deal of handholding from my great-aunt, God bless her sainted soul.

And make sure they have access to decent equipment, too. It makes all the difference in success ratios.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#81 ojisan

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 11:29 AM

I would second Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food, because it uses simplified concepts of cooking that can applied to other dishes, rather than specific recipes. Beginners should be learning concepts instead of simply following specific recipes.

Any of the Pépin w/ Claudine books would also be good - the concept being a novice learning from a master, using user-friendly recipes.

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#82 JAZ

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 12:01 PM

I picked up Ruhlman's 20 today to see what all the hype was about. I avoided it earlier because as much as people raved about ratio and as much as I liked the idea behind the book I didnt think it was that great. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by 20, but I was dead wrong. The book is fantastic and teaches the foundations for learning how to cook. It teaches and explains all the basics, has clear instructions with pictures etc. Its like ruhlman took the first 2 months of culinary school and put them into an easy to follow, beautiful book. I cant recommend this one enough for new cooks or experienced home cooks. Unfortunately it is sold out almost everywhere on the internet with no copies available for a few weeks, but I found a copy at my local B&N

My opinion of Ruhlman's Twenty is very different. I don't think it would be particularly useful for a beginning cook, and a more experienced cook could do much better reading Pepin for technique and McGee for science. While I think the idea behind Twenty is solid, the execution is poor. So many things in the book are either wrong, inconsistent, incomplete or confusing that it's not something I would buy for anyone, beginner or not.

#83 Jaymes

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 01:59 PM


I picked up Ruhlman's 20 today to see what all the hype was about. I avoided it earlier because as much as people raved about ratio and as much as I liked the idea behind the book I didnt think it was that great. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by 20, but I was dead wrong. The book is fantastic and teaches the foundations for learning how to cook. It teaches and explains all the basics, has clear instructions with pictures etc. Its like ruhlman took the first 2 months of culinary school and put them into an easy to follow, beautiful book. I cant recommend this one enough for new cooks or experienced home cooks. Unfortunately it is sold out almost everywhere on the internet with no copies available for a few weeks, but I found a copy at my local B&N

My opinion of Ruhlman's Twenty is very different. I don't think it would be particularly useful for a beginning cook, and a more experienced cook could do much better reading Pepin for technique and McGee for science. While I think the idea behind Twenty is solid, the execution is poor. So many things in the book are either wrong, inconsistent, incomplete or confusing that it's not something I would buy for anyone, beginner or not.


Wow. Pretty discouraging.

Especially since I just ordered it yesterday.

"KNOWLEDGE TENDS TO ELEVATE THE HORSES" - cdh


#84 Renn

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 06:42 PM

Just to add a different perspective on things...

Given that you've included that this young lady is both a budding physician and olympian...perhaps she won't be intimidated by much!

Regardless, Jacques Pepin's complete techniques/La Technique will always be a great start. If she's got a strong academic slant even in her "hobbies", I'd also suggest Labensky and Hause's on Cooking. It's the book I most dug through when I was just starting to dig into cooking. McGee if you think she wants a deeper level of ingredient knowledge. For something more homey, ad hoc at home would be a great addition. And if she's interested in being very organized while being limited in time, Adria's The Family Meal is a great way to go.

Who knows...maybe even if you throw her the noma cookbook, she'd be sharp enough to make great use of it at home.

#85 cbread

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 01:44 AM

Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and, Best Recipes in the World.
NYTimes
Joy
And for simple, quick and flavorful, "High Flavor Low Labor" by J M Hirsch - not a highbrow book but good for when time is short.
If there is any impetus toward creativity, "The Flavor Bible"

#86 Jaymes

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 01:26 PM

NYTimes


Speaking of the NY Times cookbook, I remember way back when, I was gifted with a copy of the NY Times International cookbook and was so inspired as I perused those recipes from around the world. Helped to get me off to a terrific start.

I was also lucky enough to receive copies of two cookbooks that focused on spices:

The Spice Cookbook

The Spice Islands Cookbook

I still refer to both of these books often. Anytime I get a recipe for something that seems as though the flavor profile might be a bit mundane or pedestrian or expected, I look it up in my "spice" reference sources (i.e., these two books) to see what they suggest be added. And it's frequently something surprising that I never would have thought of.

"KNOWLEDGE TENDS TO ELEVATE THE HORSES" - cdh


#87 Volition

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 02:42 PM

Hi Everyone,

 

My 16 year old daughter is wanting to learn how to cook. I teach her myself and so does her mum. But she is not the the best at retaining info and like a lot of teenagers wants rich tasty food that is simple to cook. She is good at following recipes but isnt sure what some of the cooking terms mean.A book that will explain and/or show the difference between a simmer, boil, rapid boil, etc.What is Baking, roasting, grilling frying, etc.

 

Does anyone know if a good book for her requirements. She has an iPad so it could be an ebook or app too.

 

Any Assistance would be greatly appreciatted,

 

Vol


Edited by Volition, 26 November 2013 - 02:46 PM.


#88 Robenco15

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 03:47 PM

Ruhlman's 20



#89 minas6907

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 04:07 PM

Cooking Basics for Dummies



#90 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 04:29 PM

For my 2 cents, an older edition of The Joy of Cooking.  It has lots of detractors these days, but the recipes are thoughtfully laid out, well explained, and there are sections covering all of the basic and moderate techniques in the kitchen.

 

http://www.amazon.co...r/dp/0026045702


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