Let’s be honest—I love to cook, bake and try out new recipes. And I am definitely that girl who can stand for hours in the aisle of my local bookstore thumbing through cookbooks and dreaming about dinner parties that I’ll someday throw. So, when I need to shop for a housewarming or hostess gift or I’m looking for a pick-me-up that doesn’t cost a fortune, a cookbook is my favorite go-to item.
But given the endless sea of options out there, everyone needs a little direction when it comes to picking “the best” cookbooks to buy. So here we’ve rounded up the must-haves—the tomes that every cook, novice and expert alike should have in their arsenal—and among them are the best tutorials for true beginners (which make a perfect graduation gift, btw!), including some classics that no home should be without. PSA: If you don’t have Joy of Cooking, you need to click purchase as fast as your fingers will let you.
And then we’ve also included some manuals that provide expert instruction on recipes for parties or holidays or tell us how to grill like a boss or concoct authentic Chinese, Italian, Mexican or Southern cuisine. Because here’s the thing about cooking, there always more to learn. And these picks are sure to build out your culinary library so that the next time you decide to host taco night (or tackle beef bourguignon!) you’re totally covered.
The Kitchen Bible
If you were living in one of those teeny tiny houses and only had room for just one cookbook—this would be it. Joy of Cooking is a complete encyclopedia of how to prepare virtually any meal you can think of. Want to make a pot roast? Grill a steak? Poach an egg? This book will teach you exactly how to do it. Want to tackle something a bit more advanced like canning your own preserves or making pasta from scratch? It’s all here. Updated in 2006, this version has expanded sections on slow cooker meals, nutrition and meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.
Joy of Cooking
Whether you grew up with a mother who credits Julia Child with her culinary skills or you fell in love with Julia’s story while watching Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a must-have cookbook. Every recipe is written out in exquisite detail, with step-by-step instructions that will ensure your success whether you decide to make boeuf bourguignon, quiche lorraine or chocolate mousse.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
For Your Grandma's Cooking
If you have fond childhood memories of your mom’s or grandmother’s home cooking, chances are this Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook was on her bookshelf. I love this cookbook because it is filled with basic everyday recipes like casseroles, oven fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes and lots of yummy desserts that your family will love.
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
The Best of Simple Cooking
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything focuses on using fresh, natural ingredients, simple techniques and basic equipment. This book truly believes that you should relax and enjoy yourself in the kitchen as you whip up delicious meals—and shows you that cooking doesn’t need to be stressful!
How to Cook Everything
For Seasonal and Sustainable Recipes
If you spend your Saturdays wandering through your local farmer’s market picking the freshest in-season ingredients, then you will love True Food by the creators behind the eateries known as “True Food Kitchen”. Written with the philosophy that if healthy-eating meals are delicious people will eat them, the recipes in this book focus on both the taste as well as the diner’s well-being.
I’ve been a subscriber to Bon Appetit magazine since before I left for college, so I’ve long been a fan of editor Adam Rapoport, having drooled over his food stories for years. Known for his love grilling, this book is filled with over 350 fool-proof recipes sure to turn each of us into a grill master.
The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit
To Become a Master Baker
If given the choice of bringing a side dish to a dinner party or the dessert, I will ALWAYS choose to make the dessert—something completely from scratch and delivered warm from my oven. And this book, The Baking Bible, has me dreaming about breads, brownies, cakes, and cookies that I’ve yet to try. (If your looking for a freebie recipe, click on the below link to discover Rose Levy Beranbaum’s to-die-for Luxury Oatmeal Cookies!)
The Baking Bible
For Everyday Italian Dishes
Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis is the true expert on everyday Italian cooking, so who better to teach us how to prepare pasta, sauces, pestos and roasts in a fresh, simple, and accessible manner?
For Basic Chinese Dishes
Why order out when you can create an amazing dinner at home for less than half the price? With clear and simple instructions using easy-to-find ingredients, Katie Chin teaches us how to make everything from pot stickers to General Tso’s chicken.
Katie Chin's Everyday Chinese Cookbook
When You Want Authentic Mexican (On a Weeknight!)
Author Pati Jinich is a busy soccer mom of Mexican heritage, who is out to prove that Mexican home cooking is easier and quicker than most Americans think. This book teaches you how to make your own tortillas, tortas and tostadas, enchiladas and more.
Pati's Mexican Table
For Southern Classics
If you are from the South or just love Southern-style cooking, this is the cookbook to own. From the editors of Garden and Gun (the bible of Southern food, cocktails and culture), this book includes recipes for well-loved classics like biscuits and fried chicken as well shrimp and grits, cobblers and pies.
The Southerner's Cookbook
A Master Class in Entertaining
Isn’t it everyone’s dream to someday be invited to a party hosted by Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten? But since I don’t see that happening anytime soon (for me, anyways), I’ll take the next best thing and plan a party using her words of wisdom. Packed with ideas on party themes, appetizers, drinks, and desserts, this oldie-but-goodie will be your go-to party planning resource for years to come.
Barefoot Contessa Parties!
For Holiday Home Runs
If you don’t love Ree Drummond (better known as The Pioneer Woman), then I just don’t think we can be friends! I adore her down-to-earth cooking style and her love of big family meals. She makes holidays special by focusing on traditional foods and family togetherness (and nothing brings a family closer, or happier!, than her whiskey BBQ sliders!).
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
For a Celebrity Cookbook...That Is Actually Great
Now don’t be afraid to get your cooking advice from a celeb! Yes, Chrissy Teigen is a beautiful and sexy supermodel, but she’s also a fantastic home cook. Now you’ll understand why her Insta and Twitter feeds are filled with food pics—and you’ll find her familiar (and oft-shared) favorites like fish tacos, stovetop pork chops and her Mom’s Thai classics in this tome.
The Best Book for Bachelors
Looking for a great gift for that guy who needs to learn how to cook? What the F*@# Should I Make for Dinner? fits the bill. This book Is filled with colorful language that will keep him entertained while he learns how to prepare 50 tasty yet easy recipes.
What the F*@# Should I Make for Dinner?
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