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Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything"

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JoC is a collection of recipes, many bizarre, that appear to be assembled uncritically.  You'd better be a capable cook to choose and successfully make a dish from that book. 


POS? Well that was obviously hyperbole and fit nicely with the JoC abbreviation, I thought. 


I'd be happy to just say JoC is vastly overrated and a lousy cookbook. Having said that I still have one on the shelf. 

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3 hours ago, ProfessionalHobbit said:

See, JOC is really great. And if that were the book chosen, I'd be more enthusiastic.


I don't feel the same way about Bittman's. I've made a few things from JOC and they've generally worked out well. I feel that one of the differences is that JOC doesn't cut corners unlike its competitor. You can clearly see it in the recipes.


I am firmly in the JoC camp.  Not a few of my favorite standbys come from there.  I've been relying on JoC for close to fifty years.  Is it possible you and @gfweb have different editions?


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@ProfessionalHobbit, I think it's safe to say that you are not in Bittman's target audience for that book.


Nonetheless, if you can get past his titles for things, does it really matter what you call something, as long as you enjoy what you make? And if you don't like something, once you have the experience to specify what you don't like (NOT "This isn't adobo because the ratios are all wrong!" but rather "Hey, this chicken braised in soy sauce tastes OK, but I think I'd like it better if it had more vinegar and less soy sauce!"), you can change it, and make notes in your cookbook about how you changed it and why. And when you're ready to move on to something more advanced, you can look up other recipes for a particular dish, and figure out for yourself how Bittman's is different and whether you like his version or someone else's better.


For an absolute beginner, HTCE isn't a bad starting point, because it explains techniques reasonably well. Many cuisine-specific cookbooks can't say that. If you're new to the kitchen, and still need someone to tell you that it's OK to flip something when it's browned on one side even if the ten minutes specified in the recipe aren't yet up, you really need a Cookbooks 101 text rather than something that jumps in at the graduate level.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The party seemed to be a success.








Sausage with broccoli rabe, grapes and walnuts














Pork spareribs braised in tomato sauce.


I know that I rag on Mark Bittman a lot, but I do find that some of his recipes can be good if they mimic Italian dishes like this one does. It's from "How to Cook Everything", pages 532-533. It's a basic rendition of Sunday sauce - the only changes I made were omitting the dried chile he calls for and reducing the amount of garlic (i.e., from three chopped garlic cloves to one crushed garlic clove).


Then shredded the pork and combined them with rigatoni cooked in the same sauce. I ditched the chicken biryani in the end.

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On 3/13/2018 at 7:58 PM, gfweb said:

I'd be happy to just say JoC is vastly overrated and a lousy cookbook. Having said that I still have one on the shelf. 


I have one on the shelf too. New. Never opened.

They make great door stops!

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  • 1 year later...

Folk seem to hate JoC, but at our house not all of our guests are particularly adventurous. Referring to the JoC seems to please many without delivering a whole lot of complexity.  Regarding Bittman? HTCE arrived today - I've wanted to read it for some time, as it seems like one of those books that demands a personal review. I might want to donate it 10 minutes in, but I still feel like a run at reading it is more valuable that dismissing it outright.


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I know a lot of folks look down their noses at Bittman, but I love this book. I got it at a time I was just getting into cooking outside the realm of what I'd grown up with, and it was a wonderful resource for me. I'd call it worth the price of admission for his recipe for fried rice, and for his pizza dough.


Don't ask. Eat it.


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I really liked his North African lentils recipe and easy Chinese stir-fry. 


Some recipes taste terrible though and might be poorly executed if you follow his directions. 


But I think it's very American bc its like a conglomerate of different ethnic foods (which is positive) but can lack fundamental, codified, techniques and principles. 


Like.I read that Americans, a country of working class immigrants when they arrived, lacks tradition and longevity of culture and that over 50% of our engineers are also from overseas bc we lack the math, science and technical skills (I blame it in our bad public school system)


I think Bittman is very American alright - like conglomerate of cultures but lacks tradition and codification etc. 



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