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|The New Best Recipe
by Cook's Illustrated
If I have to pick one book, I want it to be the book that explains in detail how it tested multiple versions of each recipe, what the results were, why the authors picked the one they decided was best, and what variations they suggest. At a thousand fully-explained recipes, this dictionary-size reference book is the first one I consult for everything from eggplant Parmesan to steamed mussels to carrot cake. Much more authoritative than Googling, it's the Consumer Reports of classic recipes.
|How to Cook Everything
by Mark Bittman
Full of straightforward, well-crafted recipes and amazingly beautiful step-by-step photos, this cookbook is a goldmine for chefs of all levels. Though it works well for even the most seasoned of culinary wizards, beginners will be especially delighted by the approachable tone and plethora of classic dishes contained within the book's nearly 500 pages. Add the expert instruction of universally loved author Mark Bittman and you've got the perfect cookbook.
|Joy of Cooking
by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker
I come from a line of smart, independent women who swear by the Joy of Cooking — my mom and aunts received copies of it from their mom when they struck out on their own, and I got this 75th anniversary edition from them when I turned 18. It's a tome, yes, but it's also the only cookbook I consult with regularity because it has absolutely everything in it: not only recipes but also cocktails, techniques, household hints, etiquette, and more! I feel so much more confident in my abilities to feed myself, cook for others, and entertain because of this book, and you can bet that if I have a daughter, she'll be getting the latest edition from me.
|The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
by America's Test Kitchen
I consult this cookbook almost every day for guidelines to help me to get the best results. All of the recipes have been tested, and it also makes recommendations for the best cookware, canned goods, pastas, utensils, herbs and spices, and all the other accoutrements of cooking.
|The Science of Good Cooking
by Cook's Illustrated
I'm one of those people who like to personalize every recipe they get. I like knowing why certain ingredients are important to a recipe. The Science of Cooking not only has good recipes but also teaches important cooking techniques and has a glossary of important cooking equipment. This cookbook is good for beginners as well as experienced cooks. Each recipe comes with a scientific explanation and includes tips on how to best pick the ingredients to match your tastes.
|Better Homes and Gardens
by Better Homes and Gardens
I am not an experienced cook and I spent my 20s and 30s being a vegetarian, so this book is my absolute go-to book for basics and for cooking meat. I have owned my copy for 35 years. I rolled my eyes when my mother gave it to me and I cherish it now.
|The Flavor Bible
by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
While not exactly a cookbook, Page and Dornenburg provide a thoroughly researched list of flavor "affinities" for thousands of ingredients. If you find yourself staring into a bare cupboard or fridge, flip this bad boy open for some inspiration and get creative.
Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
by Anthony Bourdain
Witty, sarcastic, profane... everything that makes Bourdain Bourdain. Les Halles Cookbook is full of great recipes, handy techniques, and the stories that launched Bourdain's writing and television careers. A must-read for any Kitchen Confidential or No Reservations fan.
|Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking
by Nathalie Dupree
With all due respect to Julia Child and Mark Bittman, as a born and bred Georgia boy, I'd like to call your attention to Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. A well-honed mélange of English, French, and African traditions, Southern cooking is perhaps the earliest strain of real American cuisine and the ultimate comfort food, as far as I'm concerned. This cookbook is a wide-ranging collection of over 750 recipes covering breakfast to dessert and anything in between. The luscious layer cakes and fluffy biscuits are there, but with recipes ranging from a bright citrus and fennel salad to "Dixie cassoulet" and, of course, mouthwatering collards complete with "pot likker," I promise it's not all about the butter, y'all.
|The Gift of Southern Cooking
by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock
Of the 400-plus cookbooks I have, this is hands-down my all-time favorite. Everything I've ever made from it has been amazingly yummy. I've had multiple people say the apple cake with caramel glaze is the best cake they've ever had, the fried chicken method is legend-worthy, and if you make the deviled eggs using the homemade mayonnaise, you'll never look back. It's also an incredible and moving account of the backgrounds of and friendship between the two Southern chefs that breaks the mold.
|Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
by Rick Bayless
A great overview of regional Mexican cooking with recipes and text, Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen also features ingredients and dishes not typically found in U.S. Mexican restaurants.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
by Deborah Madison
I come across many, many cookbooks and more often than not take them home to try them out. This cookbook has quickly become one of my favorites. Every recipe — really, every one! — that I've tried has been excellent — not just good or successful, but above and beyond what I expected. There's no shortage of material, either; this cookbook is huge, is sturdy, and will last a lifetime. The introduction is thorough and relevant for cooks at any level, bringing cooking back to its essence: experimentation, fresh ingredients, and pleasure. And, as Madison states on the cover, you don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these recipes; you could add meat to many, and the book is worth keeping for its extensive section on vegetables and side dishes alone. If I had a kitchen fire, this is the cookbook I'd rescue.
|The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
by Diana Shaw
This cookbook is so great, I own two copies! One for kitchen use and one for menu planning and reference. At the back of The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, there is a guide to grains, legumes, and vegetables — how/when to buy, store, and cook them. I use this cookbook almost every day. I owe my culinary confidence to this book!
by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg
Even if you're not vegan (or even vegetarian), this cookbook is bursting with unique recipes that will tantalize your taste buds and convert the most dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. If you're looking for healthy (and easy-to-make) recipes for everyday meals, holidays, or even late-night cravings, you'll find them in this beautifully photographed book! You'll never look at quinoa (its pronounced "keen-wah," by the way), seitan, miso, or agave the same way again!
|Betty Goes Vegan
by Annie and Dan Shannon
If I could only consult one cookbook, it would have to be Betty Goes Vegan by Dan and Annie Shannon! It has every kind of recipe you could possibly need, whether it be a fancy dish to impress your dinner guests or just some simple, delicious comfort food for a night in. My favorite part about this particular cookbook is that it takes traditional recipes we all know and love and adapts them to fit the needs of someone living a vegan lifestyle, so you don't have to sacrifice any of your favorite dishes from your pre-vegan days!
|Rabbit Food Cookbook
by Beth Barnett
I have a shelf full of cookbooks at home, and yet I almost invariably turn to this one when it's time to venture into the kitchen. It's small, it's spiral-bound (which makes it easy to use), and it's full of delicious recipes. The pot pie and the "chicken" fried steak are personal favorites, as well as the desserts. Plus, the author is from Portland.
|Vegan with a Vengeance
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
When it comes to vegan recipes, Isa Moskowitz is the best. Her first book, Vegan with a Vengeance, is the best of the best. All Moskowitz's books are terrific, but this is the one that I used until it fell apart. P.S. Check out Moskowitz's website, Post Punk Kitchen, for oodles of recipes and vegan-related chitchat.
Whole Grains for a New Generation
by Liana Krissoff
I bought this book earlier this year, and now I turn to it constantly for clean, wildly inspired whole-grain recipes that appeal to everyone (even my toddler!). Krissoff's roots are southern, and her recipes run the gamut from pimiento cheese and catfish larb to brown rice "krispy treats" made with tahini and dark chocolate. Many of the recipes are gluten-free, and Krissoff provides a comprehensive guide to cooking and swapping grains to accommodate dietary needs and limited pantries. If you've ever wondered what to do with forbidden black rice, or just want to perk up your morning bowl of oatmeal, Whole Grains for a New Generation is the best resource available.
|Cookin' with Coolio
Let's face it: no one has the time to cook a decent meal. NO ONE. That's why Coolio has taken the best of his former cooking show and compiled this collection of quick, cheap, and delicious recipes. Your date will be impressed, and you'll spend under $20 on dinner! Trust me; I've done it many, many, many times.
|Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
I'm super impatient when it comes to cooking and need something simple to make. Not only was this cookbook easy to use but it produced some very delicious results. I'm constantly looking through it as a reminder for the recipes I use frequently.
Books mentioned in this post