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Cookbook: James Peterson or Alton Brown ? [Moved from Cookware board]

I'm looking for a cook book that is as much a recipe book as a "why" book. I'm trying to decide betweem Alton Brown's, I'm just here for the food and James Peterson's, Cooking.

I really want to be able to learn from the book and cook from it, with out having to deal with to much technical jargon or boring subject matter. Hope that makes sense.

I am also open to other suggestions and possibly other James Peterson cookbooks.

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  1. Any James Peterson book wins, hands down. I have his French cookbook. It is very good and covers all the major dishes. For some reason, he seems very underrated to me. I also have his book on Sauces and it is very thorough in its content.

    1. I've been thinking of getting AB's book too, so I'm eager to hear the replies. The one thing I don't like about Good Eats is AB's tendency to use quasi-obscure tools, gadgets and ingredients that I don't have. Is the book like that too?

      1. Another big fan of James Peterson here. I have the French book and the Shellfish book. He writes cleanly and simply, without a lot of gushing, and explains things very clearly. I've yet to try a recipe from either book that had problems with timing or instructions. They all work; they all taste good.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          I'm going to have to look him up - have to confess, have never heard of him. Haven't bought a new cookbook for a good couple of weeks now!

          Edit - this looks v. interesting:


          1. re: MMRuth

            If you are a cookbook addict, run don't walk to B&N and check out his many books. All are excellent. His book on Sauces is exceptional. JP is well worth exploring. I just don't understand why this guy is under the radar and so overlooked...

            1. re: Ora

              Thanks - I have a great cookbook store around the corner from me - Kitchen Arts and Letters - and may go by tomorrow. He certainly has been under my radar.

        2. I have Peterson's "Glorious French Food" & I love it-he's a lot more laid back with less hype than Alton Brown. After all, he's not competing with Ina or the rest on the cooking channel. All the info is there, but you don't feel compelled to read & absorb it all to successfully make his dishes. I'd go with his "Cooking " book, sounds more like what you're looking for.

          1. I prefer Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise" more then Alton's tome. http://www.amazon.com/Cookwise-Secret...

            I love the CIA textbooks, but they cost more then many are willing to spend and the recipes are not sized for typical families.

            The Cooks Illustrated book's have great recipes and still teach. http://www.amazon.com/New-Best-Recipe...

            1. I have all of Peterson's books. "Cooking" is remarkable. I think he's one of the best cookbook writers working in the last few decades. His writing is clear and he has tacked a number of topics individually and in impressive depth. "Soups", "Sauces", "Fish and Shellfish", "Vegetables", "Glorious French Food"....all clearly informed "Cooking" and all for the better. You can't go wrong with that.

              Brown's "I'm Just Here for the Food" is, if anything, actually more elementary and I don't mean that in a bad way. It's more science project oriented than kitchen project oriented. I thought it was a fun read and I enjoyed what he had to say and how he said it.

              Ultimately, Brown's book just ended up in the giveaway pile and "Cooking" is on my bedside table. I think you'd be happy with either, but if you're embarking on a path of serious cooking then I think Peterson's book will last much longer as a reference.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ccbweb

                I know I could google, but can you tell me a little more about Peterson?

                1. I haven't even looked at Alton's books, but would recommend Peterson just because he is so good, and Alton is a TV guy, you can get what he has got there.

                  1. The Peterson book is uncharted territory to me, but I nevertheless would tend to pick it over "I'm Just Here For the Food."

                    Don't get me wrong, I love AB's book. It's informative and humorous. His explanation of why frying at 350F cooks food faster than baking at 500F is priceless. (350F oil is an angry 140-pound laid-off dot-com geek who's had too much coffee and is hiding a lead pipe behind his back; 500F air is a sleepy 280-pound retired NFL lineman who likes puppies and has had a lot of beer today--who would you rather have take a shot at you?)

                    But even though the book contains a lot of useful information, it seems like more of a collection of interesting facts and wry observations about food than a true "why" cookbook. It's something I read for fun and refer to occasionally, not a source of solid information for kitchen questions that come up while dinner's cooking.

                    1. Well. Sounds like Peterson wins hands down! Alton's books look like childrens books anyways.