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Best Cookbooks for Beginners


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You can never go wrong with The Joy, and Pepin's La Technique & La Methode are now out as a single volume. All of them served me very well in my earlier years. One book that has gotten great reviews online seems to be Ruhlman's Twenty. I have a couple of his works and they do their job well, Ratio especially, haven't gotten Twenty yet myself but a cookbook with a first chapter titled "Think" as one of his essential techniques has to be a great resource for a young aspiring cook.

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I picked up Ruhlman's 20 today to see what all the hype was about. I avoided it earlier because as much as people raved about ratio and as much as I liked the idea behind the book I didnt think it was that great. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by 20, but I was dead wrong. The book is fantastic and teaches the foundations for learning how to cook. It teaches and explains all the basics, has clear instructions with pictures etc. Its like ruhlman took the first 2 months of culinary school and put them into an easy to follow, beautiful book. I cant recommend this one enough for new cooks or experienced home cooks. Unfortunately it is sold out almost everywhere on the internet with no copies available for a few weeks, but I found a copy at my local B&N

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For a complete novice, I think you could do worse than books such as Cooking for Dummies, Essential Cook, etc. I started cooking out of Joy as a teen (and I still use it for desserts) but there was a great deal of handholding from my great-aunt, God bless her sainted soul.

And make sure they have access to decent equipment, too. It makes all the difference in success ratios.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I would second Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food, because it uses simplified concepts of cooking that can applied to other dishes, rather than specific recipes. Beginners should be learning concepts instead of simply following specific recipes.

Any of the Pépin w/ Claudine books would also be good - the concept being a novice learning from a master, using user-friendly recipes.

Monterey Bay area

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I picked up Ruhlman's 20 today to see what all the hype was about. I avoided it earlier because as much as people raved about ratio and as much as I liked the idea behind the book I didnt think it was that great. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by 20, but I was dead wrong. The book is fantastic and teaches the foundations for learning how to cook. It teaches and explains all the basics, has clear instructions with pictures etc. Its like ruhlman took the first 2 months of culinary school and put them into an easy to follow, beautiful book. I cant recommend this one enough for new cooks or experienced home cooks. Unfortunately it is sold out almost everywhere on the internet with no copies available for a few weeks, but I found a copy at my local B&N

My opinion of Ruhlman's Twenty is very different. I don't think it would be particularly useful for a beginning cook, and a more experienced cook could do much better reading Pepin for technique and McGee for science. While I think the idea behind Twenty is solid, the execution is poor. So many things in the book are either wrong, inconsistent, incomplete or confusing that it's not something I would buy for anyone, beginner or not.

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I picked up Ruhlman's 20 today to see what all the hype was about. I avoided it earlier because as much as people raved about ratio and as much as I liked the idea behind the book I didnt think it was that great. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by 20, but I was dead wrong. The book is fantastic and teaches the foundations for learning how to cook. It teaches and explains all the basics, has clear instructions with pictures etc. Its like ruhlman took the first 2 months of culinary school and put them into an easy to follow, beautiful book. I cant recommend this one enough for new cooks or experienced home cooks. Unfortunately it is sold out almost everywhere on the internet with no copies available for a few weeks, but I found a copy at my local B&N

My opinion of Ruhlman's Twenty is very different. I don't think it would be particularly useful for a beginning cook, and a more experienced cook could do much better reading Pepin for technique and McGee for science. While I think the idea behind Twenty is solid, the execution is poor. So many things in the book are either wrong, inconsistent, incomplete or confusing that it's not something I would buy for anyone, beginner or not.

Wow. Pretty discouraging.

Especially since I just ordered it yesterday.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Just to add a different perspective on things...

Given that you've included that this young lady is both a budding physician and olympian...perhaps she won't be intimidated by much!

Regardless, Jacques Pepin's complete techniques/La Technique will always be a great start. If she's got a strong academic slant even in her "hobbies", I'd also suggest Labensky and Hause's on Cooking. It's the book I most dug through when I was just starting to dig into cooking. McGee if you think she wants a deeper level of ingredient knowledge. For something more homey, ad hoc at home would be a great addition. And if she's interested in being very organized while being limited in time, Adria's The Family Meal is a great way to go.

Who knows...maybe even if you throw her the noma cookbook, she'd be sharp enough to make great use of it at home.

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Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and, Best Recipes in the World.

NYTimes

Joy

And for simple, quick and flavorful, "High Flavor Low Labor" by J M Hirsch - not a highbrow book but good for when time is short.

If there is any impetus toward creativity, "The Flavor Bible"

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NYTimes

Speaking of the NY Times cookbook, I remember way back when, I was gifted with a copy of the NY Times International cookbook and was so inspired as I perused those recipes from around the world. Helped to get me off to a terrific start.

I was also lucky enough to receive copies of two cookbooks that focused on spices:

The Spice Cookbook

The Spice Islands Cookbook

I still refer to both of these books often. Anytime I get a recipe for something that seems as though the flavor profile might be a bit mundane or pedestrian or expected, I look it up in my "spice" reference sources (i.e., these two books) to see what they suggest be added. And it's frequently something surprising that I never would have thought of.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi Everyone,

My 16 year old daughter is wanting to learn how to cook. I teach her myself and so does her mum. But she is not the the best at retaining info and like a lot of teenagers wants rich tasty food that is simple to cook. She is good at following recipes but isnt sure what some of the cooking terms mean.A book that will explain and/or show the difference between a simmer, boil, rapid boil, etc.What is Baking, roasting, grilling frying, etc.

Does anyone know if a good book for her requirements. She has an iPad so it could be an ebook or app too.

Any Assistance would be greatly appreciatted,

Vol

Edited by Volition (log)
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For my 2 cents, an older edition of The Joy of Cooking. It has lots of detractors these days, but the recipes are thoughtfully laid out, well explained, and there are sections covering all of the basic and moderate techniques in the kitchen.

http://www.amazon.com/JOY-OF-COOKING-Irma-Rombauer/dp/0026045702

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I highly recommend The Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook, it's a great beginner's book that does a good job with definitions of terms and such.

You should be able to find it dirt cheap.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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I think you can't really go wrong with Alton Brown's books. You can just use the recipe, or read more about what's going on from a food science standpoint, etc. That and I agree, an older copy of Joy of Cooking or Fannie Farmer...

-tkopfer

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They're not sexy, but I think the best answer to this question (and it's one I've answered often IRL) is one of the basic cookbooks like Betty Crocker, Better Homes & Gardens. or Good Housekeeping. There are plenty of better and more comprehensive cookbooks out there, some of which have been mentioned above and in the linked thread, but IMHO those are best as second or third, etc. cookbooks. For a beginner, a basic cookbook which covers lots of familiar dishes is the place to start.

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For my 2 cents, an older edition of The Joy of Cooking. It has lots of detractors these days, but the recipes are thoughtfully laid out, well explained, and there are sections covering all of the basic and moderate techniques in the kitchen.

http://www.amazon.com/JOY-OF-COOKING-Irma-Rombauer/dp/0026045702

I'd second the recommendation for Joy of Cooking!

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Julia Child: The Way to Cook

http://www.amazon.com/Way-Cook-Julia-Child/dp/0679747656/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385555505&sr=1-1&keywords=way+to+cooks

or Jacques Pepins' books: Fast Food My Way ( the title is a bit misleading ) these have videos that can be seen on-line or purchased

videos are very very helpful, and i think the current standard for starting off cooking. See it, Do it.

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Many of the above are great. Problem with the Joy of Cooking is that the illustrations are minimal and the prose telegraphic in many instances.

My choice would be Beard's Theory and Practice if you can find it or even better, Bittman's How to cook Everything.

Edited by gfweb (log)
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I think you can't really go wrong with Alton Brown's books. You can just use the recipe, or read more about what's going on from a food science standpoint, etc. That and I agree, an older copy of Joy of Cooking or Fannie Farmer...

-tkopfer

I have both and agree. The number of recipes are limited, but the techniques are great. And they are fun, which for a kid, even one with a strong interest in the subject, can be helpful. Maybe pair his book with one that is more traditional.

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For American home cooking, I agree with pbear about learning the basics and with gfweb when one has a better handle on the kitchen and cooking. All have lots of pictures and drawings as well as in-depth explanations.

The Way to Cook, J. Child is excellent for learning French home-cooking. It has some photos that are in B&W as well as a lot of sketches.

If you can find them, The Good Cook series from Time-Life is excellent for beginners. It has a book dedicated to each topic (e.g., cakes, poultry, beef, vegetables, et alia) and lots of technique pictures and an index with recipes from around the globe. They are available on eBay or in used book stores but usually not the whole set.

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