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Cookbooks that teach cooking school fundamentals

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For those of us that are not able to (but would like to) attend cooking school, what cookbook gets us closest to that?

I am looking for a book that covers the cooking fundamentals chefs learn at cooking school: techniques, tools, basic preparations...

Thank you in advance!

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There are so many books of this nature. There's Pepin's Essential Techniques and Larousse. I like 'The Cook's Book'. Neil Perry's 'Food I Love' is okay. There are many books that specialise in the techniques of one cuisine, be it US BBQ or sushi or Chinese. No book covers everything in depth.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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That's sort of a tall order! Rule one about learning the fundamentals is you just have to cook a lot, of course. Assuming you're willing to do that, in terms of coverage of the basics the CIA's Professional Chef gets the core, but is by no means the last word. Modernist Cuisine will give you the knowledge of a huge range of techniques, tools, and preparations, but it's a life's work to learn what to do with all the info (that and its cost is... non-negligible). Are you looking for any particular cuisine, or you just want to learn the finer points of European-style kitchens?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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FCI's Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine. Its easy to read and understand, with great and clear pictures.

Cooking by James Peterson is another winner and will grow with you

I LOVE Adv Bread and Pastry BUT would NOT recommend it for anyone other than Pro's and Very adv Amateurs. Gisslen Professional Baking is a better start. Heck I wouldn't recommend AB&P unless you are fairly competent with the concepts in Gisslen's ProBaking

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We'd also recommend the CIA's The Professional Chef. Its in metric, well organised, follows the standard Escoffier style classical training but with contemporary information and recipes.

Similar texts are available for the UK, Australia etc. Wayne Gisslen's Professional Cooking is good but perhaps not as well designed. Others include Cracknell & Kaufman Practical Professional Cookery.

Non text books - probably the best is The Cook's Book edited by Jill Norman published by Dorling Kindersley - great step by step instructions, each chapter written by a headline chef....

"The purpose of a cookery book is one & unmistakable. Its object can conceivably be no other than to increase the happiness of mankind - Joseph Conrad"


new & old books about wine, food & the culinary arts bought & sold

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Pepin has a two volume large format set entitled 'The Art Of Cooking'.

It is in color with many many pictures for each step of a recipe or technique.

It is the best I have ever read or have.

The two volume set is out of print but you can find sets available, i purchased a set for my daughter. It is available in one volume in a reduced format. I would take a look at the reduced format before purchasing, the original large format is much easier to work with.-Dick

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Cooking by James Peterson is another winner and will grow with you

Most Peterson books that aren't topic-specific are excellent for this. He's quite a teacher.

I recently picked up a secondhand copy of his Essentials of Cooking, and I'd recommend it to anyone ready to graduate past Bittman or Joy of Cooking. It teaches how to cook, not how to make dishes--there's not a single recipe in the whole book. And probably the most beginner-friendly of any of his books (I have several) but useful for the advanced cook as well.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith


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Cooking by James Peterson is another winner and will grow with you

Most Peterson books that aren't topic-specific are excellent for this. He's quite a teacher.

I recently picked up a secondhand copy of his Essentials of Cooking, and I'd recommend it to anyone ready to graduate past Bittman or Joy of Cooking. It teaches how to cook, not how to make dishes--there's not a single recipe in the whole book. And probably the most beginner-friendly of any of his books (I have several) but useful for the advanced cook as well.

That's one of the ones I learned on Way back in the day!

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Thank you SO MUCH for all the EXCELLENT answers!

I have already added a few of the recommended books on my library waiting list, and I can't wait.

Some comments and answers to questions:

* I am absolutely willing to cook a lot. In fact, I already do that, but I feel like I am not optimizing that time well. Following recipes is a great way to start, but I want to make sure I have the basics well covered so that I can start being more adventurous. Without having to quit my day job :)

* Agree about Modernist Cuisine. I just finished reading the whole thing (I borrowed the books from a friend), and I hoped it would give me the fundamentals I am looking for. However, although an amazingly fascinating read, I feel like I have quite a ways to go before I can apply that knowledge in my everyday cooking.

* I am particularly interested in European cuisines for desserts and Asian cuisines for everything else. But I have an interest in all cuisines really, and like to remain open-minded and to be challenged with new ingredients and techniques.

* I would consider an online cooking school, if it really was worth it and recommended. I would also consider classes (I live in the Seattle area), although I am not at a point in my life where I can enroll in a full time program (maybe some day in the future...)

Your recommendations are very appreciated, so please keep them coming!

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Americas Test Kitchen recently started an online school. I know nothing about it except that it costs $20 a month and I believe theres a trial. Ive learned a lot from their shows and books myself.

Maybe I would have more friends if I didn't eat so much garlic?

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I would say the Peterson fish and shellfish book has been very helpful to me in the professional setting as well as the culinary artistry book by dornberg and page. Both of those for conceptual development of dishes. For technique I would suggest pro chef or other textbook of the like. For terminology the food lovers companion is an indespensable reference.

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For Chinese or food 'from the Chinese province of San Francisco' I would heartily recommend Barbara Tropp's China Moon cookbook. There is a lot of good technique in there and fun easy to crave recipes.

There seems to be a bit of strong love or hate about that book though I found it life changing. The bit where she and Jacques Pepin are drinking champagne and cooking is classic. I think her earlier book The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking covers basics precisely and well.

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The textbook I used was On Cooking bt Lebensky and Haus. A bit pricey, but details all the classic techniques pretty well.


I have this textbook. Still haven't gone through all of it, but it is very detailed and has categories for all types of foods/ingredients. Highly-recommended reading! I hear the 5th edition has a weak binding holding the book together. I have the 4th edition, and it's solid as a rock.

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Apologies if I missed it being suggested with all of the other excellent ones above, but as I have mentioned elsewhere recently, Ruhlman's Twenty is apparently an excellent tome to get one thinking along the right lines in the kitchen. All the books and recipes in the world are no match for thought, and knowledge of technique.

Just my $0.02.

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I suggest Anne Willan's La Varenne Pratique. I no longer own the book, but when I did I was impressed by the breadth of topics it covered, and the excellent how-to photos.

Preview on Googlebooks:


Unfortunately, out of print. Used copies on Amazon.


Used copies also on abebooks.com, at a cheaper price. http://www.abebooks.com/

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Thank you for more excellent suggestions.

I just spent the last hour watiching Ciril Hitz on youtube - he's fantastic! I've been experimenting with making bread lately, so this was a very timely recommendation.

I do have a half price books store nearby, that I don't use nearly enough. Will make a point of making a trip there with the list of book suggestions I have compiled from this thread.

Love all the book suggestions! Thank you!

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I just spent the last hour watiching Ciril Hitz on youtube - he's fantastic! I've been experimenting with making bread lately, so this was a very timely recommendation.

I finally learned how to slash a baguette semi-correctly (still practicing) using his YouTube videos. And although I doubt I would ever do the decorative breads, it is fun to watch him make such beautiful things from dough.

I also highly recommend his books, Baking Artisan Bread and Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads. I have both for Kindle and use them a lot, especially the bagel and baguette recipes in the first book. An old friend who owns a wood-fired oven bakery (Juli Vanderhoop owns The Orange Peel in Martha's Vineyard - it's awesome!) told me about his books when I was raving about Juli's delicious biscuits - her recipe is based on his (it's in the breakfast book).


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