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World's best cookbooks


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The River Cottage Cookbook, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, is a joy to read. If you haven't read it (or any of its many derivatives, or the TV show...) it's sort of like Nigel Slater meets Henry Thoreau. Eccentric chap lives in cottage in English countryside, keeps pigs and chickens, goes fishing, gathers mushrooms, then cooks them all.

It manages to convey an awesome respect for animals, nature and ingredients but comes across as indulgent and fun rather than preachy or tiresome. A cynic would say this book is bucolic lifestyle porn, but I like it anyway (and don't most cookbooks on one level or another include a good dose of lifestyle porn? - Elizabeth David's Book of Mediterranean Food is a case in point, but is still wonderful).

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Hi All- This is my first post but from reading the previous, I feel like I'm at home. There are 4 8 foot shelves in my kitchen with cookbooks, and that does not include the "to be read" pile next to my bed. My reliable go to's are:

1. The making of a chef, 2nd edition. Madeline Kamman. Her history and discussion of each topic give me confidence. Her "golden veal stock" has elevated my cooking.

2.Cuisine Economique-Jacques Pepin-(he always reminds me that elegant french need not take a kings ransom or a million years to make!)

3.The Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook-Alfred Portale I like his straightforward,"its about the food" attitude.

4. The Jessie Marie DeBoth Cookbook for all Occasions . (The spiral bound edition)-I always get the feeling that this cookbook accurately represents the cooking of the 1950's. Menus are included.

5. The Working Girl Must Eat by Hazel young, 1938. This is a great book, published in 1938, Each 2 pages include a themed menu, market list and discussion. The menus are geared for ease and speed to the table. The menu for, "When the boyfriend comes to dinner" is a scream.

6. Creole Feast- 15 master chefs of New orleans Reveal Their Secrets, Nathaniel Burton and Rudy Lombard. This book has the killer shrimp creole recipe. If the shrimp are clean, from the time you turn the stove on untill the time you are sitting down is 30 minutes-look for it on p.109

7. Paul Wolfert in any iteration. My husband was recently diagnosed as a type two diabetic, and throught her books we know that great food is still part of our reality. My favorites include: Mediterreanean Grains and Greens, Mediterreanean cooking, The cooking of the eastern mediterreanean and Slow cooking........ I will be forever gratefull to her.

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How about suggestions for Mexican cooking including sub-specialties?

I'm sure that others, more expert than I will chime in, but I think the Diana Kennedy books are terrific and they are also very highly-regarded by a lot of people I talk to.


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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The pastry books that are used in many culinary school that are writen by Bo Frieburg.  I am not sure off hand what the title is.  Some of the reciepes are old school, but they always seem to work.  Wich is more than I can say for many other cookbooks.

The books you're referring to would be his "Professional Pastry Chef" and "Advanced Professional Pastry Chef."

We used the former as our text at my school, for the patisserie module of the Culinary Arts program. As you've observed, his recipes are very reliable (they've been honed through his decades of teaching). If I had a complaint, it would be that some of the recipes have been manipulated to make them more "foolproof." His brioche, for example, works out to be only about 20% butter by weight, which (to me) can hardly be called brioche. I'll grant you it's easy to work with, but the result is not quite what I'm looking for. His laminated doughs, similarly, reduce the butter to a level that I'm not quite happy with.

That being said, though, his books are an excellent starting point for anyone interested in pastry. I've used my copy a lot, and expect to wear it out over the next couple of decades.

I see from his website that the "Advanced Professional Pastry Chef" won a 2004 IACP award. Really should start shopping around for that, I suppose...<sighs, checks bank account, sighs again...>

“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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"Larousse Gastronomique" is foundational in western cuisine. I like to cross refrence it with the "Oxford Companion to Food" to broaden knowledge base. Tie this with a basic cooking book like "On Cooking" and one will have an operational cooking reference source with understanding as opposed to just following directions.

"On Food and Cooking," by Harold Magee, is simply a must to help discern truth.

"Cooking with the Seasons" by Jean-Louis Pallidin inspires me still.

On a contemporary note...

The "Grand livre de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse," both dessert book and savory book, is essential for today as it depicts recent history of culinary genius.

"El Bulli 1998-2002," Ferran Adria, opens doors I never thought possible.

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How about suggestions for Mexican cooking including sub-specialties?

Kennedy, of course, for the classical cuisine; Patricia Quintana for current fare.

Martinez for Veracruz; Martinez and Trilling for Oaxaca.

Can anyone else recommend Mexican regional cookbooks in English?


Food is all about history and geography.

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I love hearing about all of these cookbooks!!!

I think we should make explicit a point that has really just been implicit thhroughout this thread:

***There are different "types" of cookbooks***

No duh, right?

Some are general books (The New Professional Chef, On Cooking, The Making of a Chef) that teach basic principles of cooking

Some are general recipe books (The Joy of Cooking, the Silver Palate series)

Some are specific reference books (On Food and Cooking and Cookwise on the science of cooking, Larousse Gastronomique as a food encyclopedia, Culinary Artistry on flavor combinations)

Some are specific recipe books (any ethnic cookbook, Vegetables or Sauces or Fish and Shellfish by Peterson, Chez Panisse veggies or fruits or whatever)

Some are restaurant/chef books (The French Laundry, Naked Chef, The Magic of the Kitchen)

Some are books about the food business that also contain recipes (Becoming a Chef).

Of course many books cross boundaries to some extent.

The reason it is important to recognize this is that it helps guide someone as they develop their cookbook library. Everyone needs a general recipe book, and for some that's all that's needed. A text like The New Professional Chef is very helpful but for many people The Joy of Cooking will suffice. Specific topics can be added according to the person's tastes; perhaps a Rick Bayless mexican book or Fish and Shellfish by Peterson or Simple Italian Food by Batali. Books in this category are added to the library as the cook's tastes and interests (and pocketbooks!) grow. The addition of books like The French Laundry or Amuse-Bouche by Tramonto (one of my fave's) serve more to inspire and enlighten creativity than anything else. A beginning cook on a limited budget should acquire them carefully so as not to break the bank and not to get discuouraged by their less approachable recipes. But as their cooking sophistication matures these books become invaluable.

I think every serious cook should own a "science of cooking" book (On Food and Cooking is outstanding)

I like the way restaurant/chef books capture the artistry of food, so I have a lot of those. And as I tell my wife, the fact that I've made only a handful of their recipes doesn't mean that they haven't served their purpose. These books would be at the top of my favorite list, but that doesn't mean they are the best recommendations for a 21 year old student.

I like just about everything published by Artisan Books (the French Laundry Cookbook, many others).

I avoid buying expensive books near list price; on Amazon the affiliated merchants that offer new and used books often have great deals. I got Giradet for $6 brand new. Shipping isn't free, but it's still a great way to go.

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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my favourite books are

1. patisserie-the roux brothers

2.white heat-marco pierre white

3. wild food from land and sea-marco pierre white

4. rhubarb and black pudding-paul heatcote

5.cooking at the merchant house-shaun hill

6. my gastronomy- nico ladenis

7. nico-nico ladenis

8. four seasons cookery book-margaret costa

well thats my choice for now



cooking is my passion
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Jenny, do yourself a favor and pick up The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis -- absolutely wonderful. Also look for anything by the late great Bill Neal.

I am joining in this thread on the late side.

Anything by Edna Lewis. The Taste of Country Cooking is marvelous.

Damon Lee Fowler's books are also good. I can't remember the names of them right now and mine are packed away, but he has several really good books about southern cooking

And of course, Bill Neal. I think his classic one is called Bill Neal's Southern Cooking. I don't have it with me to check out the title, but I think that is right.

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Anything by Michael Fields

Anything by Pierre Franey

I can't help loving "The Silver Palate Cookbook"

Also, can't help loving the Lee Bailey (picture) cookbooks starting with "Country Weekends"

Oh, I really started cooking with some of those! Michael Field's Cooking School was one of my early favorites. I think I looked for his books back when he was the editor of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. I learned to cook some wonderful things from his book.

Pierre Franey: yes. I love 60 Minute Gourmet.

And, I too like Lee Bailey's cookbooks. I think I have all of them now, and have had great sucess cooking from them.

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My favorites are Joy of Cooking, Hot Sour Salty Sweet (Alford and Duguid), Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Sahni, A Book of Middle Eastern Food as well as The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden...

These are what I use regularly, but I have more, and certainly more to read and buy.

I agree with the poster who suggested using the library as a source! I "try before I buy," and that has served me very well.

-- Judy B

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.

--James Michener

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I have many books I like a lot but the top of my list is:

1. Joy of Cooking - I even gave my son a copy on his 21st b-day and it gives you an idea on almost anything.

2. Any Rick Bayless Mexican cookbook.

3. I'm Just here for the Food - Alton Brown (besides learning it is fun reading)

4. The New Orleans Cookbook - Richard & Rima Collin (not in print now I don't think but well worth it to find.)

5. The Classic Italian Cookbook - Marcella Hazan

6. The Food of Outhern Italy - Carlo Middione

7. Craft of Cooking - Tom Colicchio

Charles a food and wine addict - "Just as magic can be black or white, so can addictions be good, bad or neither. As long as a habit enslaves it makes the grade, it need not be sinful as well." - Victor Mollo

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I didn't read through all of the posts, but for someone just starting out I highly recommend all or any of Chris Schlesinger's cookbooks - they are very easy to cook from and yield consistently good results.

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One of the best-written cookbooks out there (aside from the Joy...anyone else read Stand Facing the Stove?) is How to Cook and Eat in Chinese. I've had the book for many years, and I recently saw a writeup of it in the New York Times. It's out of print, but deserves to come back. There's a great recipe for (I think) 'Stirred Eggs' which discusses at great length the practice of breaking the eggs against one another into a bowl. Since you will always need one additional egg to break the last egg against, there is a strong possibility that the seventh egg will make it into the bowl rather than the sixth, in which case, you are advised to renumber that egg. I love cookbooks with a distinctive voice, and this one is practically bursting its covers trying to chat with you.

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I'm having to work from memory, since my cookbooks are currently in boxes waiting for us to put up shelves for them (we just moved.)

Most of mine are reading books (rather than strictly recipe books):

Nigel Slater's Appetite

Nigella Lawson How to Eat & Domestic Goddess

Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen (strongly considering getting his other one as a gift, as I think the somewhat logical approach to things might appeal to some of my geeky friends who get put off by "until it seems right" type cooking instruction. Anyone have an opinion one way or the other? I haven't had a chance to check it out in person yet.)

I'm sure there are some others, but those are the ones that come to mind.

For actual recipes, I do have a couple I always reach for:

Good Housekeeping's Cookery Book (AKA How To Cook All Those Traditionally British Things People Request That You've Never Heard Of, You Silly American.[1] It does have recipes from other cusines, as it's a general book, but I tend to go to different sources for those sorts of things.)

Delia Smith's Christmas (Delia herself annoys the heck out of me, but the recipes I've tried are quite reliable.)

Just Desserts by Gordon Ramsay (mostly food porn, but I use it for the basic recipes, and for inspiration.)

The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (I've had mixed results- some of the cake recipes turn out as nothing special, for me, although some are quite good, but it's a never-fail reference for recipes for frostings, icings, fillings, and also a good read for the hows and whys of cakes.)

I also have a few extremely well loved issues of Cook's Illustrated, that I refer back to time after time. If they didn't offer the website subscription option that lets you search for past recipes, I'd have the bound versions, so I'm putting them here too. :smile:


[1]- I moved to the UK several years ago, and now have a british husband and therefore british in-laws. British in-laws who are picky eaters and prefer traditional food. :smile:

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for general cookbooks i have:


new york times cookbook

the all new fannie farmer boston cooking school cookbook in paperback- 2 copies of this one since i took the original to college with me and it now begins on page 5 and ends of page 642. the second copy has been hard bound for durability

the old fashioned cookbook by jan mcbride carlton - one of the best beginner cookbooks i have seen anywhere

the joslin diabetes gourmet cookbook - i use this especially for the protein sections

two specialty cookbooks i own are:

a fresh look at saucing foods by deidre davis - gives you a master sauce, variations of the sauce, a basic recipe and other uses for the sauce. i love to just pick this one up and read it when i just want to shake it up

seafood recipes from local waters by Jacqueline Pell Tuttle. this one was my mom's written by a friend and coworker. i still refer to it and, while there are those recipes with the cream of whatever soup in them there are some unique and original recipes such as scallop aspic canapes, crabmeat and bacon balls and flounder fillets in shrimp wine sauce.

just my $.02 :wink:

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.


Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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The book that really opened up my cooking is Chez Nous by Lydie Marshall. I have probably cooked more from that book than any other and it is consistently good -- any not so hard. The re-issued name is Passion for Provence, I think.

The book that I found after a few years of Chez Nous is Simple French Food by Richard Olney. I think that book is terrific (and often very funny) and I intend to re-read it every few years. I have made (or been inspired by) quite a few recipes from there.

That book led me to the other Olney books (I made the ratatouille from his Provence the Beautiful last night and it was, IMHO, spectacular), and then to Olney's friend, Elizabeth David. I like ED a lot, but I read her more for background, inspiration and inspiration.

I like and use Chez Panisse Vegtables a lot as well.

All of those folks know (or knew) & respect (or respected) each other. They are a kind of gold standard for me.

Those are my favorites (and biases).

Charley Martel

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Glad someone mentioned Coleman Andrew's Catalan Cuisine. I agree with many others listed so far: Hazan's Essential Italian, Larousse (as much reference as cookbook), Paula Wolfert's books (my favorites are The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean and Mediterranean Grains and Greens), McGee, Kammen, etc.

I'm a fiend for Mediterranean foods. I couldn't do with Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Foods. Her Book of Jewish Food is good as well.

Clifford Wright's books are also excellent. I have A Mediterranean Feast and Mediterranean Vegetables and lover everything I've cooked from them and all the knowledge I've gained. Their perspective is academic - coming from the history of cultural "fusion" and trade, particlarly between Europe and the Arab and Eastern Mediterranean worlds (hah - as if they're separate planets) - but they never neglect taste.

I really like Patricia Wells books. I'm biased though since At Home in Provence was my first cookbook when I was around 21. That said, they hold up - Provencal and bistro food that that can be done every day and demonstrates a real savoir-vivre.

Penelope Casas Foods and Wines of Spain is a good survey (more for the food than the wine).

Richard Olney's Simple French Food is excellent.

Alan Davidson's books on fish - Mediterranean Seafood and North Atlantic Seafood - are as good as reference books as they are as cookbooks. His Oxford/Penguin Companion to Food is also a nice supplement to the reference material in Larousse; sometimes more concise, sometimes more expansive, almost invariably more personable.

David Thompson's Thai food is magnificent.

Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking and Classic Indian Cooking are my favorite Indian cookbooks.

Elizabeth Andoh's At Home with Japanese Cooking and An Ocean of Flavor: The Japanese way with Fish and Seafood are excellent, approachable volumes (though maybe out of print).

Though it's often overkill for the home chef, the 7th edition of C.I.A.'s The Professional Chef does give the full course. I consult it often for tutorials.

Though I'm not into high French, I'm sure some hold La Retertoire de la Cuisine by Saulnier in as high a regard as Escoffier. Careme

Though they're not "cookbooks," the following are great books for cooks and anyone else that enjoys food ... sort of the equivalent of the Western Cannon of food lit: Elizabeth David (French Provincial Cooking, Italian Food, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, and A Book of Mediterranean Food), Waverly Root (The Food of France, The Food of Italy, Eating in America), MFK Fisher (The Art of Eating), Calvin Trillin (The Tummy Trilogy), and, though sometimes excessively dry (over-cooked?) or overly punchline oriented (too saucy?), Brillat-Savarin's Physiology of Taste.


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So, only my second post. I love reading cook books. For cooking I like

Barbara Tropp, Marcella and Lidia as well as Marion Cunningham's two new

books. For enjoyment - like talking with a friend - I like Laurie Colwin. My "Joy"

is the 1943 edition and falling apart. I like the wartime rationing recipes. I like Cook's Illustrated for their detailed explanations.

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Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by D. Madison taught me scads about vegetables, among other things.

And for the southern vegetarian - The Grit Cookbook - from the restaurant in Athens, GA. They have recreated all those bacon-based veg. delights for vegetarians. Good stuff I tell you.

And I am so excited that after reading this thread this morning, I stumbled upon McGee's On Food and Cooking in a used bookstore (one that is sadly closing and has everything discounted 50%). Kitchen science will be my bedtime reading for the remainder of the summer. I imagine it will make for interesting dreams.

And like many others, I really enjoy Elizabeth David's writing. It makes me want to reinvent myself as an adventuress in the kitchen, instead of the recipe-bound, cook book clinging novice that I am.

Robin Tyler McWaters

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Hi, I'm brand new to this site but very excited to have come upon it via Jeffrey Steingarten's article about ice cream in the August Vogue. I live in NYC and have enjoyed the gelato from Otto's and it is amazing. I love that restaurant because I can sometimes afford to go there and most of the really renowned restaurants I can't afford at all. I just recently moved to Brooklyn from the East Village so now instead of eating out or having food delivered I'm cooking at home since now I have a full size refrigerator freezer and a full size gas stove and oven instead of an under the counter refrigerator with a broken freezer. I grew up on the St. Lawrence river in northern N.Y. state. My dad was a gourmand, we would drive across the river to Canada to buy fish and cheese and beer. We would have sardines on saltine crackers, he bought cheese that stank so badly he would keep it on the windowsill outside the kitchen. He would make plum pudding with hard sauce for Christmas and oxtail soup and mexican food He gave my mother a copy of the cookbook by Vincent and Mary Price and he subscribed to Gourmet, this was during the 1960's in Northern New York state he died of a heart attack in 1970. Later on I was a waitress in various fine dining establishments in Portland Oregon during the 1980's, I shared housing with a couple of chefs and began to really appreciate the love of food but they were always the cooks I just observed and enjoyed the fruits of their labor but rarely participated in the preparation so now

I love good food and enjoy cooking and baking but feel a real lack of ability and lack of

confidence in the kitchen so my favorite cookbooks are, The Best Recipe by the editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine and The Minimalist Cooks at Home by Mark Bittman who writes a column for the New York Times Dining section.

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As a huge fan of baking...the Pie, Cake and Bread Bibles are incredibly reliable and great on food science...I read the first couple of hundred pages of each just completely enthralled.

Glad someone brought up this topic...I forget what's out there in terms of great cook books!

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