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Your 10 Favorite Cookbooks


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I am building a library of cookbooks and reference books. I would appreciate if fellow foodies can offer some suggestions on what books I should get next. Here are the books that I have:

various Jamie Oliver authored titles

On Cooking

On Baking

The Professioanal Chef

The French Laundry

Barron's Food Lover's Companion

Saveur Cooks Authentic American

The Complete Book of Desserts

Rice & Risotto by Christine Ingram

Practical Cookery - Pasta & Intalian


Nobu New

Susur: A Culinary Life

Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia

el Bulli: 1998-2002

Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Culinary Encyclopedia


Looking forward for the responses. :smile:

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These are my current favourites from my collection that I have recently worked through which havent already been mentioned:


The Cooks Book: Various Authors

The Silver Spoon: Various Authors

Workin' More Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter: Charlie Trotter

BBQ USA: Steve Raichlen


Food: A culinary history: Flandrin and Montinari

I also love this book which I read over Christmas.

Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy: Brillat-Savarin, M. F. K. Fisher



Edited by Doc-G (log)
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I second the Silver Spoon

The Leith's Cookery Bible - I use this as a general reference for everything

Moro - 1 and 2 - Spanish/North African cuisine - great food, accessible to all

Nigel Slater - Appetite - A complete revolution in cook books - unique and inspiring

Nigel Slater - Real Food - Comfy, tasty homley food.

Nigella Lawson - How to be a domestic goddess - camp, kitch and a great baking book

Crazy Water and Pickled Lemons - Diana Henry - middle eastern/ mediterranean food with a twist - well written and makes you think of food in a different way

The Bread Baker's Apprentice - shows you how to make proper bread well.

Edited by fatmat (log)
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Les Halles - Anthony Bourdain

All About Braising - Molly Stevens

Martha Stewart's Hors D'oeuvres Handbook

The Cook's Book



Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Ben: Welcome to eGullet!

I recommend that you spend some time browsing through pages at this site to see what other members are using, what they recommend and what gets panned.

There are some threads that are about cookbooks, especially in the Food & Media forum. Go to what is now the third page and see thread on Cookbooks published in 2005.

On page 2 Doc-G's & Marlene's suggestion, The Cook's Book, is praised and includes photos taken after its use by Daniel (see more of his stunning work on the Dinner thread in the forum on Cooking).

If you go to the Baking & Dessert forum, you'll see why eGullet members are obsessed with Pierre Herme's desserts and pastries (books co-authored by Dorie Greenspan who is an eGullet member).

I'd say that no one should be without Marcella Hazan 's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book that I personally feel is vastly superior in introducing North Americans to a wide variety of Italian dishes and cooking methods.

I use Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone all the time.

(There is actually a thread somewhere on eGullet where members report which books they rely on all the time, but I can't find it.)

While more of an encyclopedia with recipes than a cookbook, if you're interested in using a variety of vegetables, turn to Elizabeth Schneider.

Since I find more ways to vary meals by featuring vegetables, I also would recommend the book Alice Waters devotes to this subject.

Paula Wolfert 's books on Middle Eastern cooking are terrific, though I am partial to The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. (The author is a member; see discussions of her most recent publications throughout this site.)

Restaurant-generated cookbooks that I own and love include the one Judy Rodgers wrote (Zuni Cafe) and the first of the two books published for The Union Square Cafe (Danny Meyer & Michael Romano).

Cheaper paperbacks?

Paul Bertolli's cookbook for Chez Panisse (more useful than the menu book by AW);

Cucina Fresca, often in second-hand bookstores &

Patricia Wells on Bistro Cooking.

You'll find great discounts, prices and more ideas at Jessica's Biscuit (epicurious.com) and Amazon.com's dealers (enter the latter's site through eGullet to aid its finances).

All-purpose cookbooks come in and out of style (I believe Michael Ruhlman started a thread on this topic late last year). Mark Bittman's two most recent volumes are both good, the new one being deliberately multi-cultural in scope. The Gourmet volume, edited by Ruth Reichl, is also discussed here in various places.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Julia Child's Baking with Julia and The Way to Cook are both excellent. The latter is especially good about letting you know what you can do ahead.

For more advanced pastry work, I recommend Bilheux and Escoffier's French Professional Pastry Series. Very detailed instructions and timelines. Recipes usually have a professional quantity version and a scaled down smaller version.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Ben, if you gave us some sense of the direction you want to take this library, that'd help. You're clearly giving preference to recent haute cuisine, oui? Where else do you wanna go? I'll hold on recommendations until then!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I definitely second the Marcella Hazan and I also love Paula Wolfert but would recommend The Cooking of Southwest France (all of her books are good, it just depends on where your interests lie).

I also find that I use the following cookbooks a lot.

Jasper White - Cooking from New England

Excellent for most varieties of seafood common in the Northeast, including excellent sections on fish and shellfish. I am also partial to Lobster At Home, but it really depends on how often you can/want to make lobster.

Anthony Bourdain - Les Halles Cookbook

Keith McNally et al - The Balthazar Cookbook

Both are excellent brasserie cookbooks. Either one is great on its own, but given the option, I would (and do) own both. If I really had to choose one, I would pick Balthazar, but you will do well with either.

Colman Andrews - Catalan Cuisine

I also love Penelope Casas's cookbooks, but if I had to choose a Spanish cookbook, I would choose this one.

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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I scour second hand shops for the old "Time-Life" 1960's cookbook series. It's rare to find the recipe booklet (when you do you should hurrah!) with the actual book but I still find these books to be a wealth of information... as well as giving you an idea of what life in these areas is most likely NOT like anymore. (If eG folks have any they want to get rid of--please let me know!!!).

Anything by Hazan, Sahni, Wolfert, Beard, Child....

Some of the old New York Times stuff edited or forwarded by Craig Claiborne can be helpful and fun (look through them first to see if it fits you).

The Talisman Italian Cookbook, Ada Boni (1950), is a prize.

I've got an old Graham Kerr that is an absolute hoot! And maybe it's terrible but I have a soft spot in my heart for Jeff Smith.

Newer? Bordain, Oliver.

Odd? The Uncook Book.

Oh, and McGee is a must.

Sorry, scouring through my own library in my head has made me realize why I stopped trying to build a database after 200. Be careful, my friend.

Edited by JCD (log)
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All the previous replies look good, but I don't see mentioned "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. That title is not totally accurate, but close. I use it frequently as a starting point, especially when I just want to cook but not be adventurous.

Also, look in used-book stores for anything by Pierre Franey. I have his "Seafood Cookbook", and it's a treasure. One can count on every recipe being absolutely accurate.

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In addition to those mentioned, I like

"Authentic Mexican" by Rick Bayless- both a pleasure to read and to cook from

"Cakes" by Maida Heatters- terrific on technique

"How to Grill" by Steven Raichlen- again, great to read, good techniques, great photos

"Mastering the Art of French Cooking"- can't remember if it was mentioned, but if not you need it

For reference, I like James Beard- concise, basic

I like the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks but they aren't part of the cannon, good food that is well done and nicely photographed.

You might want to spend a little time in your library and see what they have that interests you. I hate buying a cookbook with recipes that are not well tested or explained. Now I'm trying to try before I buy.

Have fun building your library.

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I just received a copy of Saveur and noticed they have an article regarding the Time Life cookbooks--no wonder I can't find any in the thrift shops anymore and if I do they are more expensive than they used to be.... :shock:

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I just received a copy of Saveur and noticed they have an article regarding the Time Life cookbooks--no wonder I can't find any in the thrift shops anymore and if I do they are more expensive than they used to be....  :shock:

What was the article about specifically? yea on the series?

I just was gifted 3/4 of the series from my Mom :wub:

I didn't take all of them (could only carry so much!)... left the American, German and French ones at her place.

I have found memories of sitting on the kitchen floor pulling these cookbooks out and looking at all the pictures. I didn't appreciate the spiral ones at that time :laugh:

flavor floozy

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Oh Mcauliflower I am jealous--I read them like novels. The article was specifically about the first one "French Provincial Cooking" and it's reception, review by Claiborne (bad), etc... but it also goes into the launching of the series-- it was called "Foods of the World" and how everyone was so jazzed about putting it together and took it so seriously..... check it out if you can. :smile:

Will your mom adopt me? :sad:

Edited by JCD (log)
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I'll second the call for Bittman's "How to Cook Everything".

There are far better cookbooks out there, I hear, but this is an excellent starting point for just about everything. Particulary when the kids call you, cause you can "anything", about something you may not be too familar with.

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Will your mom adopt me?  :sad:

I think she would :)

thanks for the reminder for me browsing for recipes!

For topic relevency:

- Deborah Madison: Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone has become my reference book for cooking times and suggestions for vegetable.

- the CIA's Techniques of Healthy Cooking has many helpful procedures and recipes, especially for this resolution time of year.

- the Artful Vegan, fresh falvors from the Millenium Restaurant I definitely recommend for vegan's looking for help seeing the breadth of gourmet vegan recipe options. I appreciate the level of detail given to each recipe: nutritional info and plating instructions.

Oddly, i don't consider my self vegan, vegetarian, or obsessed with healthy cooking! Go figure. :raz:

flavor floozy

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I second the Silver Spoon

The Leith's Cookery Bible - I use this as a general reference for everything

Moro - 1 and 2 - Spanish/North African cuisine - great food, accessible to all

Nigel Slater - Appetite - A complete revolution in cook books - unique and inspiring

Nigel Slater - Real Food - Comfy, tasty homley food.

Nigella Lawson - How to be a domestic goddess - camp, kitch and a great baking book

It depends what you're going to do but if it's to get you cooking at home I have to second the recommendation for Leiths Cookery Bible (get it in hardback - my softback is nearly dead despite careful handling). It is light on pictures but packed with recipes and techniques and is the result of many years of experience of a cookery school. It was one of the first books I got and it has been hammered.

Anything by Nigel Slater also gets my vote, I picked up Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook today and that looks very good. I've also recently have got Simon Hopkinsons Roast Chicken and Other Stories.

I find Gordon Ramsay books are a bit cheffy but not overly so and the same with Les Halles which I like as it's quite straightforward

These are all books I find you can use often and as inspiration, I find books like Bouchon, French Laundry etc nice to read but fairly impractical for the home cook

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you very much for all the recommendations. I will write down the suggested titles and take them to the local culinary bookstore with me and check them out. As one can see, I love cook books with pictures because that gives me inspiration on the plating. However, I am also aware that pretty pictures doesn't usually translate to good cook book. Have fun cooking!

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I'm surprised as a home cook how much I use McGee (revised) for reference. It is a formidable tomb but excellent reference and easy to understand.

I think that although there are no great pictures (all hand illustrated) The Best Recipe from Cooks Illustrated is great. They describe in detail how they arrived at "the best" and what cooking methods, temperatures, ingredients worked or not and why. Real solid science behind everything. Very helpful for the home cook.

If it matches your wit, Les Halles is a must. The recipes are solid and the narrative is a crack up.

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Wow, sounds like The Best Recipe from Cooks Illustrated in my kind of book. I love to know the science behind why we do certain things. That's why I love watching Alton Brown so much. Thanks Genny!

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