Best Cookbooks for Home Cooking

Recently, Epicurious published their list of the 100 best home cooks of all time. Now the editors have derived a list of cookbooks recommended for the new collector pulled from that list with The Food Lab being given the coveted position of number one. 

In July, I complied a list of books that I recommended to elevate your cooking game based on my thoughts and those of other cookbook lovers with The Food Lab being a top contender and probably my number one pick as well. 

If I am being honest, I disagree with many of their selections – especially for a new cook wanting to build a repertoire of go-to guides. While I have some of the books that have made this list, I wouldn’t recommend them to a novice cook or someone who wants to actually utilize the books they acquire. I know many cookbook collectors love The Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker books but I’ve never used either and recently just donated my copy of Joy of Cooking which I was holding onto merely for sentimental reasons.

I whole-heartedly agree with suggestions such as The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Small Victories, Dinner Changing the Game and My Kitchen Year for someone wanting to build their library for home cooking – while I understand they are building their recommendations from their greatest cooks list, many aren’t logical to me. Certain titles on their list focus on international cuisines and some home cooks aren’t ready for diving into unchartered waters, other titles focus on food writing which I feel most dedicated cooks would only enjoy and while I would surely recommend the classics on this list (Julia Child, Marcella Hazan and Paula Wolfert) down the road in a culinary adventure, I wouldn’t go right out and buy for a newbie.

In my opinion, The Food Lab, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and Taste & Technique help explain the core basics in an exciting and modern way and other books such as Food52 Genius Recipes, Food52 A New Way to Dinner and any of Diana Henry‘s titles are my go to for adding some oomph to my dinner rotation.  

Updated: Tasting Table just published their thirteen top cookbooks every homecook should own. My same thoughts apply. 

What cookbook would you recommend as the best for home cooking? 


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  • sir_ken_g  on  August 19, 2017

    Well when we started out our kids 1st apartment they got
    Joy of Cooking
    Bittman's How to Cook everything and
    How to Cook Everything in the World
    Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking
    Japanese Cooking a Simple Art
    and Joyce Chen Cookbook – if it were now I would probably change that to Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice.

  • Jenny  on  August 19, 2017

    Sir Ken – because of you and a few others – I ordered Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking!

  • sir_ken_g  on  August 19, 2017

    You will not be sorry Jenny. That book is great.

  • lkgrover  on  August 19, 2017

    When I became interested in improving my skills (at age 38), the first cookbooks I bought were Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cuisine and James Peterson's Fish and Shellfish. Because I love Italian food, and I was intimidated by fish (but always enjoyed it in restaurants). Most of my cookbooks are still either ethnic or ingredient-specific — but I have learned a lot of technique from them.

  • veronicafrance  on  August 20, 2017

    I smiled at the list because I've heard of almost none of the authors. However, Richard Olney's _Simple French Food_? I certainly wouldn't give that to a beginner — his wordy prose would be a total turn-off. Instead anyone who wants to learn to cook traditional French food would be better off with Mireille Johnston's _Complete French Cookery Course_. It's superb — the book I turned to when first inviting French neighbours round for dinner. As for modern, non-French cuisine, the friendly style and simple recipes of Nigel Slater are winners and will give beginners the confidence to improvise. I agree with the choice of Diana Henry, her recipes are so reliably good and cover both simple family meals and entertaining.

  • hrhacissej  on  August 20, 2017

    I think the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks are awesome for new cooks. There are step by step photos that provide reinforcement for someone who may be nervous about their skills and who doesn't have access to a human being with more culinary experience. I have read that some of Ree's recipes are from community cookbooks. I used to dismiss community cookbooks until someone told me that the people who contribute recipes are sharing their Best Recipes. I think the Pioneer Woman provides an accessible way to building the skills and the confidence to explore more challenging cookbooks and cuisines.

  • annmartina  on  August 21, 2017

    How to Cook without a Book by Pam Anderson. Back when it was first published, this book, along with watching Good Eats, dramatically improved my cooking. I still refer to it and it is probably the most battered cookbook in my collection of hundreds.

  • eliza  on  August 21, 2017

    Like veronicafrance, I read through this list and didn't recognize a lot of the suggestions. While the Food Lab book looks very good, I think it would be a bit intimidating to a beginner. Some suggestions for beginning cooks; for general cooking, Nigel slater's Appetite is fantastic as are most of Diana Henry's books, for vegetables, Fast Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton and Jamie at Home by J Oliver, for preserving, The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin, for no knead bread, My Bread by Jim Lahey. I also would recommend all the river cottage books as they are simple and well explained; River Cottage Veg is one of my favourites, and would be a good intro to vegetarian fare.

  • Potterhill  on  August 28, 2017

    I've never been a fan of Joy. I do make waffles from it, However if one is looking for a similar compendium type book, there are 2 I like a lot. The Gourmet Cookbook (Yes that one with the dreaded yellow ink), and The Essential NYT Cookbook, that huge red one!
    All the recipes I've made from both of them have been great!

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