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Your 10 Favorite Cookbooks

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How about Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food -- the man is some kind of God. I use it practically every week night - it's practical, quick and really delicious. The perfect post-work, rummage in your fridge and pull something out cookbook. Yum.

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Michel Bras - "Bras - Laguiole, Aubrac, France"

Ducasse - "Grand livre de cuisine"

Pierre Hermé - "ph10"

Pierre Gagnaire - any of his books

Those are some NICE books!!!


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I've been thinking about this lately, because one of my projects for this year is to cook a new recipe each week from one of the cookbooks I already own (starting at the beginning of the year). This was partially to curb my growing cookbook addiction, and partially to really dig into what I already have.

I really love the first two Naked Chef cookbooks. I think his books are underrated. As I've worked through my project, I realized how many of my standard recipes are adapted from one those books, and I probably cook something from them (or derived from them) once a week. My standard go-to book if I need a reliable recipe for something specific is How to Cook Everything. It's not a real great browsing cookbook, but it never fails to have the recipe I'm looking for, from artichokes to strawberry pie. I think I use it sort of like my parents' generation used Joy of Cooking. For breads, it's either RLB's The Bread Bible, which I used to teach myself to bake, or Beatrice Ojakangas's Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand. The latter is great because it's basically as series of bread machine style formulas, so it's a good jumping off point for different kinds of bread; I use it as a sort of template. And since I bought it, I've been cooking through Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf, which I think is my single favorite bread book.

Honorable mention for The Ball Blue Book. Not really an every day cookbook. More of a safe-recipe-for-anything-I-could-ever-want-to-can kind of book.

Edited by dividend (log)

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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I think everybody needs to have one of the old-school stalwarts close to hand. You know what I mean...Betty Crocker, Fanny Farmer, Joy of Cooking...one of the ones that tries to cover everything. Although I use J o' C quite a bit, the one I go back to over and over again is my grandmother's wartime edition of The American Woman's Cookbook.

It's not quite so old that the recipes begin with "eviscerate your chicken" (never mind "catch your chicken"), but it's pretty vintage just the same. It covers just about everything from scrambled eggs to petits fours, and all of the recipes that I've used have been pretty functional.

One thing that's kind of interesting is the complete rundown on entertaining that's offered in the opening chapters. Lots of good advice on how to work the timing, as well as a complete guide to the various pieces of cutlery and servicewares (if you've ever wondered which fork goes where...). The book's popularity lasted at least into the 1950's, as this is when my mom's copy was published. I like my grandmother's copy better, since it has the section of wartime how-to-do-without recipes.

You should be able to find used copies round and about. It doesn't have the chatty character of Joy of Cooking, but it's a solid piece of work.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three


"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning


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One I returned to whenever I needed an idea on the fly was Better Homes and Gardens.  It was a good book for just starting out on your own.

My mom's copy, a wedding present circa the mid-50's, was falling to pieces. She learned to cook with it and, eventually, it got so worn it was held together with lots of rubber bands and a few little prayers.

I ended up buying the same edition from an online auction and gave it to her as a Christmas present about two years ago. I also bought myself the same edition in another online auction. They change the recipes with each new edition and I wanted the recipes that were part of my childhood.

It has a lot of helpful info for the new cook, from cuts of meat to the cooking times of vegetables to measurements and subsitutions.


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


Tim Oliver

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lately all i do is search for ideas on the internet. i really want a solid collection of go to books that i can use, are user friendly and will stand the test of time.

besides, i have a birthday coming up ;)

any and all suggestions are appreciated

I use New Basics (second in the Silver Palate series by Rosso and Lukins) more than any of my other books for everyday cooking (the old classic Better Homes and Gardens is second). The tips and suggestions in the margins and text boxes on herbs, wines, cuts of meat, and just about everything else is invaluable.

For specific cuisines, I regularly use Gourmet's Old Vienna Cookbook, Provencal Light and Mediterranean Light (Martha Rose Shulman), Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Cooking, The Fine Art of Itialian Cooking (Giuliani Bugialli), Culinary Journey Through China (Martin Yan), and The Best Of Vietnames and Thai Cooking - Recipes From The Lemongrass Restaurant (Mai Pham). Toss in the Jeff Smith series (I Highly recommend The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors), Alton Brown, and even The Eastern European Cookbook (Nelson) out of about 100 others, and I'm pretty well covered!

I've compiled all my favorite recipes with my changes and markups from these and many other sources and restaurants into my own personal cookbook in a Word file. It's the kind of thing I wish I had gotten from my grandmothers and relatives. In addition to documenting the custom recipes, I don't have to go digging through books trying to find a specific favorite. I just click in the table of contents, or search on ingredients I have if I'm looking for ideas.

Lately I've been going out of my way to try recipes from The Les Halles Cookbook by some bum named Bourdain. :raz:




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The Best Recipe

Joy of Cooking

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Betty Crocker's "red book" (not the Picture Book) - mine's from the late 1980's - for basic, simple recipes like turkey stuffing and pancakes - best ever

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

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I've been thinking about this lately, because one of my projects for this year is to cook a new recipe each week from one of the cookbooks I already own (starting at the beginning of the year).  This was partially to curb my growing cookbook addiction, and partially to really dig into what I already have. 

That's a really smart idea for a resolution.

My go-tos:

Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook

Mario Batali's Simple Italian Food

The New Basics Cookbook

Edited by Kevin72 (log)
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It is quite possible that this weekend's Book review in the NYT will be The Food Issue.

…Everyone appearing in print wants to appear cool. So, recommendations can sometimes seem so very contrived, but the Symposium of "chefs, restaurant owners, writers, scholars, publishers and just plain foodies" about their favorite out-of-print cookbooks I found very illuminating, and mouth-watering. They are all very interesting, but, some highlights:

Mario Batali: Umbria in Bocca

Harold Mc Gee: Savoie: The Land, People and Food of the French Alps, by Madeleine Kamman.

Thomas Keller: Ma Gastronomie, by Fernand Point.

Nach Waxman: The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, by Roy Andries de Groot


I have been having a very busy week, so I haven't the chance to read the entire Book Review cover to cover (thus I cannot be more forth coming with what to look for in its contents). Though, I am fantasizing about the evening (tonight, perhaps tomorrow) that I can get to bed in time to actually read it.

So if you don't subscribe, this is one Sunday that you might want somehow arrange to get a copy electronic, borrowed, or bought.

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The Cooks Illustrated, Best New Recipes is a god-send. I refer to it all the time.

Same with Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I own about twenty cookbooks, but use those almost exclusively.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Toss in the Jeff Smith series (I Highly recommend The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors),

A long time ago I checked that book out at the library. It was the first cookbook that I actually took to bed and to the bathroom to read.

<a href='http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal' target='_blank'>ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal</a> - The longest running Korean food blog

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I really like Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe. Got that before the 1000 pages one came out. So needless to say the new one would be the thing to go for now.

Been reading this thread but still cannot make up my mind, for basic American stuff, which would be better? Fannie Farmer or JoC if you have to pick one.

Saw one other book called "John Ash Cooking One on One". Any opinions?

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Been reading this thread but still cannot make up my mind, for basic American stuff, which would be better? Fannie Farmer or JoC if you have to pick one.

Which of course you don't, though you can always get one of those too.

How about (once again) the book that was the dominant US cookbook in the 19th century and that some people consider the best classic cookbook the US has produced (Eliza Leslie's book). Though shorter than today's comprehensive US books, it shows a depth of taste and perception. It's not just useful itself, but also it reveals some things in US cooking to be older than folks now suppose. (It's on display at the Copia museum too, along with Mary Randolph's book and the early editions of FF and JoC.)

Eliza Leslie, Directions for Cookery, 1837. Easily cheaply available new or used in the Dover reprint edition by ISBN number search (ISBN 0486406148). It's in the Dover online catalog too.

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I have dozens of books but I allways find stuff to use in the new Good Housekeeping cookbook.

I call it my bible, my father got it for me for my 20th birthday (wow over 20 yrs ago) and its all covered with comments that I write when I use a recipe..

I love it

I bake there for I am....

Make food ... not war

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  • 3 months later...

Tough questions ...

I have almost 400 cookbooks, most of them autographed to me by the chef/author, many of them signed when eating in the chef's restaurant (the rest signed at Philadlephia's Book and Cook Festival, where the chefs will do demonstrations and sign afterwards).

For me, they bring back memories of special dinners, events, friends ... whether I cook from them or not. It's often fun to read the recipe of the meal we had ... and see whether we were right in our guesses of ingredients and techniques. Tetsuya, Charlie Trotter, Vongerichten are my favorite memory books.

For a travelogue (where I hope to go next) -- Fiona Dunlop's Land of Plenty (Sichuan) and Fred Plotkin's La Terra Fortunata (Friuli Venezia-Giulia) [interesting similarity in names!!].

I've never cooked all the way through a book, although I have cooked more than 5-6 recipes from many of them, as I've gone through my French, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese phases ... I'm always in Chinese and Italian modes ... and with my son now a teenager, often into BBQ mode.


Nina Simonds, especially her more recent health focused books (A Spoonful of Ginger; Spices for Life)

Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Table, Lidia's Family Table

Ming Tsai, especially Blue Ginger, Master Recipes

My latest find: Giorio Locatelli, Made in Italy ... got it two days ago, have made two recipes so far. As beautiful to cook from as it is to look at ...

Edited by JasonZ (log)


Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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i have, i think, a little over 300 cookbooks - probably use about 25-30 of them more frequently than the others (mark bittman's 'how to cook everything', 'the bread baker's apprentice', richard sax's 'classic home desserts', etc.). but i've probably cooked at least one dish from 75% of the books - i get bored easily & like to try new things. :smile:

most of my books are baking books, and get used for work - either for specific recipes or as guides/inspiration; i'd say that 30-40 of those are referred to most often, and nearly all are read through when they arrive.

lately, i've been making full use of our local library before buying new cookbooks - if there's a book i'm interested in, i'll put it on hold at the library before i run off to the bookstore. i can read through it, drool over the pictures, bake/cook a few things from it - and THEN decide if it's a worthy addition to the collection. having a great library has really done wonders for my budget :biggrin:

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  • 3 months later...

I too love to buy and read cookbooks and have many that I rarely open after first getting them. On the other hand, I had been looking at my cookbook shelves quite a bit before seeing this topic and was surprised how many of my cookbooks I actually use alot...

In no particular order...

all Hazan books

several Claudia Roden books including Middle Eastern and Jewish Cooking

Joan Nathan Jewish Cooking in America, Jewish Holiday Cookbook

Union Square Cookbook (alot)


the Periyali Cookbook

Barbara Kafka, Microware Gourmet

Mimi Sheraton From My Mother's Kitchen

Alice Waters Chez Panisse Vegetables

Deborah Madison Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

a new favorite Ana Sortun Spice

and I must confess that I return to Julia Childs now and again for old favorites like her Cauliflouer au Gratin or Celery Remoullade...

My other very favorite resource these days is epicurious.com....nothing quite like it for finding just the right recipe for the beets I couldn't resist at the farmers market or a different recipe for butternut squash soup....

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There are a bunch we use regularly with great success.

The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

In Pursuit of Flavor by Edna Lewis

The Gourmet Cookbook

Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen

The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking Marcella Hazan

Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie

Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz

As a new and novice collector (50 odd books collected in the past 12 months) let me say WOW JasonZ it sounds like you have a wonderful and enviable collection!

-Mike & Andrea

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  • 2 weeks later...

While I do a lot of 'on the fly' cooking, I treasure my cookbook collection, too. Recently the whole 'collection' thing became an issue with my DH (heathen!) and we made a deal...if I don't use a cookbook for 6 months, it comes off the shelf (my one, single, meager shelf-allowance <sob>) and gets boxed up. Needless to say, I'm working very hard to prove him wrong AND use all of my collection more often.

Along the way, I've discovered that I have a treasured few that I turn to more often than others. These are my core cookbooks and are officially untouchable (not that I'd leave them alone for 6 months, anyway).

Amish Cooking - Ruth Good

This is my cultural heritage foundation, all in one nifty book. My Mom gave me a copy several years ago, annotated with comments and adjustments. I love it!

Soup & Bread - Crescent Dragonwagon

First, what a cool author's name! Second, it's an enormous collection of excellent soups and a great resource for making a variety of stocks. The bread section is a little meager, but it's quite sufficient to go with the wonderful soups. (My favorite, the creamy garlic soup with tiny croutons. Good for what ails ya!)

Vegetarian Epicure - Anna Thomas

I'm a dedicated carnivore, but in an effort to eat more healthily, I went on a quest for a good veggie cookbook. I have quite a few, actually (love almost every Moosewood book f'rinstance) but the one I tend to grab the most is this gem. Printed proof that veggies alone can be tasty and indulgent.

The Kitchen Garden Cookbook - Sylvia Thompson

If you have a kitchen garden, you need this book! It's that simple.

One more, part of a good/bad, thing:

I love the Gourmet collection cookbook, but did the titles HAVE to be in yellow???? Bad choice, visually. I almost wish this could be broken up into smaller pieces, as well, cuz it's so darned unwieldy.

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My most used cookbook is Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker. The woman is responsible for so many accolades on my behalf! In fact my first copy is so worn and falling apart I purchased a second as a back up. I use all the usual suspects on occasion but could not live without On Food and Cooking, Mcgee and Cook Wise, Corrihor. Most people find them tedious, I find them fascinating. I must know why something didn't work and love knowing how to combat errors head on.

I am a cookbook collector and probably have amassed as many Ancient Studies books my husband owns. So there'll be no use it or lose it in this house! :cool:

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
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