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Best Cookbooks To Make You Feel Confident in the Kitchen
Last updated: 17 Jan 2023
If your idea of a home-made meal is a slice of toast, starting out in the kitchen may be intimidating for you. For a new chef, the simple task of whipping up a smoothie can be daunting. That doesn't mean you have to survive on instant ramen, cereals, and takeaways forever. With the right recipes and ingredients at hand, you can quickly transform from a kitchen novice to a seasoned chef.
We understand that finding a good cookbook is not easy. The vast array of titles can quickly overwhelm anyone, especially a beginner who can't decipher what books are worth buying. We decided to make this task simple. In this post, you will find a list of the top cookbooks of 2023. We have included several premium options, and we have also curated a shopping guide to help you identify the right book for your needs.
The task of choosing a cookbook can become simple when you know what you want. Consider what type of meal you want to cook. Is it vegan, vegetarian, or meat-lovers? If you have just started out, look for beginner-level recipes. If you prefer a specific cooking tool or have a signature cooking style, look for books that touch on these preferences. Use the buyer’s guide below to zero on the right books for your needs.
The Different Types of Cookbooks
Since the range of cookbooks is infinite, we have first classified them into following types to make your choice simpler.
Single-subject cookbooks focus on one subject. It could be a specific ingredient, cooking technique, tool, a target group (e.g. for vegans), or a class of dishes. Some examples include cooking for kids, holiday cooking, grilling books, outdoor cooking, or a collection of pizza recipes. You can choose a subject of your interest and buy a book centered around it.
International and ethnic cookbooks
These books fall into two categories, a kitchen reference of a specific culture translated into another language, or books that convert recipes from another culture into the techniques, ingredients, and language of a new audience. They often serve as a culinary log describing the background and context of a recipe for their readers. You can get one of these if traditional cuisine inspires you.
These cookbooks came as a unique genre in culinary literature. Their focus is home cooking with special attention to regional, ethnic, family, societal traditions, and local history. These are created by gathering recipes from the people of a certain region, so you can trace their origins back to the community where they actually originated.
Some cookbooks feature recipes created by a specific chef, often in conjunction with a restaurant or a cooking show. If the said chef is particularly famous, they may release a series of books over the course of years. If you are a follower of such chefs, such books are bound to attract your attention.
Professional cookbooks serve as a guide to working chefs and culinary students. They are sometimes also used as textbooks at culinary institutes. They feature recipes and techniques, and also discuss service and kitchen workflow matters. They may not be an ideal pick for home cooking, because they deal in substantially larger quantities.
How To Choose a Good Cookbook
When it comes to cookbooks, the choices are infinite. Here are some parameters to judge the books against:
Number of recipes
The first thing that you should check in any cookbook is the number of recipes it contains. Contrary to common belief, you don’t have to go for the book with the highest number of recipes. Rather you should decide how you are going to use the book and then look at the number of recipes it contains.
If you plan to cook from the new book alone, choose a book with more recipes, as doing so gives you more options and variety. But if you will occasionally cook from it, a book with a small number of recipes will do just fine.
The idea is to prefer quality over quantity. A book with 20 useful recipes is a better option than a cookbook with 500 recipes that you’ll never think about trying.
You should also keep an eye on the type of ingredients the recipes call for. Recipes from other cultures often call for uncommon ingredients that you might be hard to come by. If you are a beginner, it’s best to play safe and choose a book with ingredients that are readily available.
Cookbooks are written for chefs of all experience levels. You should also consider your level of familiarity prior to purchasing one. If you are a complete novice, choose a book that is introductory level with comprehensive directions. You can gradually progress to an advanced level, once you are familiar with the basic ingredients and cooking techniques
If pictures teach you more than words, a book with photos should be your first choice. The visuals not only walk you through the various steps of the recipe, they also give you a better idea of what the final dish should look like. Experienced home cooks may do without such visuals, but having them in a cookbook increases its visual appeal.
Some single-subject cookbooks feature dishes that you can prepare with only one appliance, such as an instant pot, grill, air fryer, or slow cooker. These books make your time in the kitchen more efficient. If you are inclined towards such equipment, make sure to purchase the book with recipes for that particular appliance.
A recipe is as good as the directions that accompany it. A good cookbook will provide clear and concise directions that explain each step of the method in a satisfactory manner. This way you won’t have any difficulty understanding and following it. An easy-to-read font and fun, playful language also make the book enjoyable to use.
Special tags may be a minor detail in any cookbook, but they take on a major role when you want to look out for special conditions, allergens, or special diets. They can be a huge help when you are cooking for guests with varying dietary needs, or when you have little time to make dinner. Special tags help you quickly narrow down on the most suitable recipe.
Some Cookbooks That You Should Avoid
Cookbooks can be fun. But not all of them are worth the money you are spending. Here are the types of books that you are better off without:
Cookbooks with too many recipes
Always be wary of cookbooks that feature too many recipes. You may think $10 for 1000 recipes is a steal, but think about how many of those recipes you are actually going to try. The people who create such books are usually more concerned with quantity than quality. You are better off buying an option that offers fewer but more interesting recipes.
It’s typical for a celebrity cookbook to tell you about the personality, background, and stories of the celebrity themselves. They will have recipes, but they are likely written by a ghostwriter rather than the celebrity themselves, so they aren’t very credible. The books actually serve as advertisements to gain popularity. The same goes for pop-culture books.
Benefits of Using Cookbooks
Cookbooks began as kitchen bibles that didn’t just provide different recipes, they also contained kitchen and household techniques. It may surprise you but some books still follow the same pattern, providing you with tips and tricks to help you run your kitchen and home more smoothly. Here are some other benefits of using cookbooks:
Guarantee consistent results
Cookbooks present you with the right amount of ingredients and proper directions to create a certain recipe. If you measure the ingredients correctly and follow the directions, you will obtain consistent results.
Convey a story
Did you ever get a chance to explore what is inside your kitchen? Each cabinet contains ingredients or tools that can tell you a story. Some cookbooks do a good job of telling you the background story of how the various kitchen tools took shape. They also tell you how to use the kitchen equipment that you previously didn’t even know you had.
Help you become a better host
A good book helps polish your skills as a host. If you have been negligent about the special dietary needs of your guests, a cookbook will help change that. Plus, it also helps you create more meaningful menus with each course complementing the flavor of the other.
Build culinary vocabulary
Do words like paw-paw, sauce gribiche, and mousseline intimidate you at a restaurant? Reading your cookbooks carefully will tell you what they, and other words like them, mean. If you are lagging behind in culinary language, open a cookbook to stock up on your vocabulary.
Introduce you to new flavors
Cookbooks help you let go of your picky eating habits. They contain a treasure trove of exotic and unexpected recipes with inviting pictures that you can’t help but try. When you try new recipes, you introduce yourself to new flavors that you didn’t know about before, but will grow to like a lot.
The “5-Ingredient Cooking for Two” book is a wonderful culinary tool that’ll help you save both time and money. It features more than 100 recipes that are portioned for couples and use only five ingredients for preparation. Most of the ingredients it uses are readily available. In fact, you probably already have most of them in your pantry. If you are short on time, the book contains dishes that can be prepared in a single pot or pan, recipes for 30 minutes meals and freezer-friendly foods that you can make ahead of time. We rated it as our top pick overall for its inclusiveness, simplicity, and organization.
Already have a panini press but don’t know how to make the best use of it? Don’t worry, Sean Curry has your back with this gem of a cookbook! It’s the all-you-need guide to make toasty, tasty, and tempting paninis.
It covers everything from the basics of choosing, using, and maintaining your panini press. You also learn how panini-stacking works to get your cheese extra-gooey and melty, all while still keeping other ingredients crisp. Once you know the fundamentals, there are 100 recipes for your try out — and you’ll be itching to fire up your panini press right away!
Many dairy-free and vegetarian recipes
Ingredients swaps for gluten-free and paleo recipes
Recipes include sauces, dips, marinade, and spreads
Pressure canning is a pretty niche skill that even many experienced chefs are clueless about! But, with the help of this well-structured and easy-to-follow book, you can become a master canner in now time. It’s a step-by-step guide that teaches you how to preserve those low-acid foods that you’ve always loved.
From jar meals, stews and soups, to staples like beans and broths, you can use pressure canning to preserve all your favorite recipes. This cookbook alone has 80 great recipes for you to try out. It covers all the intricate details you need to know in canning charts with info like yield, quantity, PSI levels, processing time, jar size, and more.
“The Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fry Oven” is a splurge, but it is worth it. This official book is not just bursting with tasty sheet pan recipes, it also tells you everything about mastering the appliance. There are 75 easy to whip up recipes in this book. The delicious dishes range from vegetarian dishes, pork, beef, or chicken mains, appetizers, desserts, and more. It includes something for every lifestyle and diet plan, so you won’t be short for ideas. The instructions are all straightforward, so even a beginner won’t have any difficulty using it to create masterpieces.
Canning is a cooking technique that even the most expert chefs struggle with. It won’t be with the “Canning and Preserving for Beginners” book. Canning and preservation are difficult techniques that can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. But this cookbook makes it simple and easy. It features 70 recipes for all time favorites such as jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes. They are all easy to follow and include a step-by-step guide to help you conduct both pressure canning and water bath canning in a safe manner. You can use it to preserve your seasonal favorites for year round usage.
If you own a Ninja Foodi Grill but don’t know how to use it to its full potential, our next pick will walk you through all its features and provide you with amazing recipes to cook in it. “The Official Ninja Foodi Grill Cookbook for Beginners” is designed to convert a complete Foodi Grill novice into a pro. It contains 75 recipes telling you how to prepare a wholesome dish by baking, searing, and air frying the different ingredients. This book contains recipes for fish and meat main courses, appetizers, and even vegetarian meals, so there is no shortage of ideas. We really like it for cooking charts, shopping lists, and simple instructions.
Our next pick shoots two birds with one stone. It features easy to cook five ingredients recipes, all of which you can easily prepare in a slow cooker. “The Easy 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Cookbook” is a very comprehensive option with mouth-watering recipes. It contains 100 delicious recipes all of which are helpfully categorized into handy sections based on what you have as the main ingredient. They are all set-and-forget types, so you don’t have to worry about adding ingredients at various points. It includes meatless recipes as well as amazing breakfast ideas. The instructions are easy to follow and all dishes take 15 minute or less to prep.
Grill smarter, not harder with the “Ninja Foodi Smart XL Grill Complete Cookbook.” This cookbook has 150 recipes of amazing dishes you can create using the Ninja Foodi smart grill. It will teach you the recipes, ingredients, tools needed besides the grill, and even tips and techniques that will elevate your food by changing how you use the grill. Each of the dishes was cooked and designed to work seamlessly with the grill for quick, delicious meals any time of the day.
You’ll learn how to cook meals like country-fried steak and eggs, garlic fries, adobo chicken, lamb kebabs, buffalo cauliflower bites, and much more! There are also desserts, like apple crumble pie, included as well if you have a little sweet tooth. Whatever you and your family enjoy, try making it with the Ninja Foodi smart grill using this amazingly helpful cookbook.
Q: What types of recipes can I find in a cookbook?
A: A good cookbook contains various types of recipes including appetizers, salads, sides, main dishes, desserts, and even snacks. It has an easy to navigate index that classifies all the different recipes into similar categories so you can easily locate them.
Q: What information do cookbooks provide other than recipes?
A: Cookbooks are not just about recipes. They often contain an enormous wealth of information about the author, the recipes, and the ingredients used in them. You can learn about how the different recipes came to be, their significance to the culture, and also about the history, travel, and economy of the country whose cuisine the book features.
Q: What should I do with my old cookbooks?
A: If your old cookbooks are in a good condition, but are not very valuable, it's a good idea to donate them. Places like your local library, thrift store, high school, and even prisons are good options who will not only accept the books, but also put them to good use.
Q: Are the recipes in cookbooks tested?
A: That's something you can't tell for sure. Some cookbooks are compiled randomly and not every recipe that they feature is tested prior to publication. There are some options that are based solely on recipes that the author personally developed and created. Books by expert chefs are printed after ensuring their accuracy.
The Mighty Moms Reviews Team’s product reviews and in-depth guides are here to help you tackle motherhood and everything that comes along with it. The content is created by The Mighty Moms Reviews Team. Mighty Moms’ editorial staff is not involved. Mighty Moms is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.