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Aug 14, 2008 10:53 AM

Which technique book?

Hi all!

I'm the owner of an embarassing number of cookbooks which turned me into a moderately skilled home cook. So far my culinary education has consisted of picking ideas here and there. There are many things that I don't know how to do. I want to take my skills and understanding to the next level. Problem is I don't really know how.

Looking around Amazon I found a few books that appear to be what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for recipes so much but for a book that with a fair amount of practice will give me skills and a better understanding of cooking. I'm also looking for the most in depth and comprehensive one.

On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (4th Edition) by Sarah R. Labensky

The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America

Le Cordon Bleu's Complete Cooking Techniques

Professional Cooking, College Version by Wayne Gisslen

Larousse Gastronomique

I've read most reviews but it's hard to tell how they compare with each other.

Any ideas? Has anyone compared any of the above?

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  1. over the years I've at least glanced at a number of "professional" oriented books (once had a roommate in "hospitality school"). Most of those really are oriented to professional kitchens and not much use for the home cook (unless you want recipes geared for serving 500 at a time.) Larousse Gastronomique, at least the older editions, is a worthy reference, but more "academic" than home-kitchen useful. For pure technique, I like Jacques Pepin's book (can't think of the name offhand) and if it's still available, I think there was a video set that might be even more useful. Unusually for me, I have no idea where I think I've heard that the Cordon Bleu book is very good for the type, but that's probably worth looking at. Lastly, Julia Child's "Way to Cook" is pretty good though I rarely refer to it, and the former mostly co-author/visible-ghost-writing Dorie Greenspan's books are probably good though I don't own any of those nor recall perusing them in person. Bottom line: probably a good idea to go to a brick & mortar bookstore and check a few out, maybe see if there's anything you hadn't thought of in the section of the bookstore where you find the others...

    1 Reply
    1. re: MikeG

      This list would be incomplete without Madeleine Kamman's The New Making of A Cook.

    2. The two I use most are:

      Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques
      The Professional Chef from CIA

      They both, at different times have come in very handy.

      1. I do not have personal experience with any of the books other than The Professional Chef (CIA). I find it to be a very thorough reference, for everything from fruit/veg/seafood/shellfish/dry goods identification to knife cuts and various techniques for cooking and baking. Many of the recipes are hard to reproduce at home (e.g. most of the sauces are in gallon increments, six pounds of dough, etc.) but the techniques are there. I paid that price on Amazon and would happily pay it again for this book. Of course, if you fall in love with a technique (braising, for example, as I did), you'll need something like "All About Braising" in addition. I would recommend going to the bookstore and comparing a couple yourself, if you can find them.

        1. Don't you just love all those wonderful books out there? I own well over 400 and am always on the look out for more. I have each of the books you mention and love them all - my favourite would be Larousse - I read it and read it and read it! in addition to the above for more practical purposes I use my "Fundamentals Techniques of Classic Cuisine". It is a beautiful book and great for reference. You may find Julia's books too simplistic at this stage. If you are interested in sauces Pearson's "Sauces" is an excellent book.

          1. If you are at all into cooking with herbs and spices (I am absolutely CRAZY about it!) the Spice and Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill is excellent as it details tons of herbs and spices in almost an encyclopedic format. It discusses those interesting unique ones such as achiote, sumac, calamus, ajowan, etc. It inspired me to make another huge order from Penzey's recently. Excellent for combining flavours with foods and also offers a recipe or two per entry. I use it often.