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What are the best cookbooks for aspiring cooks

Hey everyone I was just wondering as a person who loves to cook whenever possible I am looking to taking my cooking to a new level. In order to do this I am interested in buying some new cookbooks and I was wondering if you could help me find these books. I have already purchased many cookbooks like pepins techniques and olivers guide to being a better cook, but I am still looking for that one cookbook that will explain everything like techniques and how to put them together along with flavors to bring my cooking to the next level. So any help in finding this book will be much appreciated

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  1. Either of these should serve your purposes very well. In fact, I'd recommend you add both to your library as one actually compliments the other.



    This one, although informative, might be worth considering if you want to get the scientific aspects of the cooking process:


    1. As someone who has just recently "going to the next level" I just started using "the Joy of Cooking"


      that my mother gave me a few years ago. It helps a lot with techniques, things to look for, what things should look like, etc. And the newer version is updated with new things, but holds on to some fantastic older things (I love reading old cookbooks though).

      3 Replies
      1. re: r_l_kakos

        See well I have the joy of cooking and many books like it but I dislike it for the fact it is ery impersonal and it doesn't gear towards thinking like a cook and being able to cook on the fly with no boundaries.

        1. re: mike11

          You've already got some good info, and you like to cook - so, to quote Nike, "Just do it!" You need to know the idiosyncrasies of your own cooking equipment and appliances, and to learn to adjust recipes to suit your particular palate.

          The Michael Ruhlman book on ratios, which I want to look at, breaks down the proportions for categories of dishes. See the baking chart in the CH story, "Michael Ruhlman is so rational". Perhaps this is the "on the fly with no boundaries" info you are seeking.

          1. re: greygarious

            Yeah your right I do have some good info but I haven't found a book yet that isn't just recipes and some small techniques. What I really want is a book that can really help me be creative and experimental a book that is written in a much personable manner like one on one. I really hope someone can understand this cause I really want one like this.

      2. IMark Bittmans' cookbooks. How to Cook
        the CIA, New Professional Chef for techniques
        the most recent Julia Child cookbook (can't remember name) for classsics and techniques

        1. I taught myself to cook almost twenty years ago using Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" and still refer to it often. You might want to give us more information though about the kind of cooking that you'd like to do more of - particular cuisine etc. Strangely enough, I find myself turning more and more often to JC's Mastering the Art of French Cooking when trying to develop my own dishes, but using tradtional techniques.

          Best of luck on your journey.

          8 Replies
          1. re: MMRuth

            I love "The Way to Cook" and actually own a copy inscribed to us by her. Sigh :) I also like "The Best Recipe" since they always talk (sometimes too much!) about how they got to the *best*. Not exactly sure what OP is looking for.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Well I really have no direction on where I want to go with my cooking or what type of cooking I want to do right now I'm not worried about this more importantly I am trying to find a cookbook with more than just recipes. A book where the author does not just recite his/her own recipes but either explains them or helps one understand them and why they work. Because Right now I am a pretty good cook but I have problems being super creative, and I really am trying to find a book that can fix this. And I can't tell whether I don't understand how certain flavors mix or whether I am having these problems because I don't understand how to utilize different cooking techniques. But I have somewhat come to the conclusion that it is a mix of both and I really want to find a book that does not just recite recipes but most importantly gives advice. Because I believe in order to become better I must not just be able to follow recipes but understand them as well therefore being able to fully understand the world of cooking

              1. re: mike11

                I see you're new to Chowhound. Welcome. Where do you live? Go to your local library or a Barnes & Noble or equivalent and sit down with a whole lot of cookbooks. Libraries will also let you check out magazines so you can take home issues of Cooks Illustrated, Bon Appetit, etc. You'll quickly figure out the styles you like. Though specialized, I love Mario Batali's "Molto Italiano." He *talks* alot.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Checking out your library is a great idea. Another book that might be very useful is Madeleine Kamman's "The New Making of a Cook" - I have found it to be a good resource, with excellent recipes.

                  This thread might have good suggestions as well:


                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I don't mind having good recipes that definitely is a plus but I am looking for more. Like advice hints and maybe their personal thought process you know what I mean. But I actually did look at that book along with several others which happen to be Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, cooking by James peterson, and Think Like a Chef by Tom colicchio. If any any of you have these or have read them any input would also be appreciated.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Kamman's book is an excellent suggestion. I would also add Mary Risley "Tante Marie's School of Cooking Cookbook," which contains notes on how to cook without a recipe in each section. It may be out of print but can be found easily through any of the websites that link with used book dealers. Oddly, I've just come to Julia Child. I was out of the country during the years of her television broadcasts and never actually saw any of her programs. Her reputation intimidated me. I just cooked ratatouille from her book "How to Cook." She is wonderfully user-friendly.

                  2. re: mike11

                    There is a Zuni Cafe Cookbook that you may like. The recipes are solid and not overwhelming, they tell you what might be good to serve along side it (and wione pairings) and explain some basic stuff that may be very helpful.

                    Check it out in the library. Try a few recipes and then buy it if you think it suits you. That lessens the pain if you buy and it is rubbish.

                2. I am going to type in a short paragraph from a book for you to consider. It is the first paragraph from the chapter called "Techniques"

                  Few cooking techniques require great skill or hours of practice. And even though lots of minor techniques and tricks are used in cooking, most dishes are prepared by one of ten basic methods: roasting, braising, poaching, sautéing, steaming, frying, grilling, smoking, barbecuing and boiling. Once you have mastered these methods and understand how they work when applied to each basic food group, such as seafood, meats and vegetables, you'll be able to alter recipes to suit your own taste or to take advantage of what's in the market--or you won't need a recipe at all.

                  The book......"Cooking" by James Peterson.

                  1. One book you may like is Think LIke a Chef by Tom Collichio (sp). It has chapters on basic techniques, like roasting, braising, and blanching, with discussions of each and recipes using each. I think it would have the personal touch and discussion of technique and principles you are looking for. Includes both basics and special unique touches.

                    Another one that comes to mind is Simple to Spectacular by Jean Georges V. and Mark Bittman. The book presents a core recipe, followed by variations that elaborate on it. Again, I think you would find a discussion of principles and the personal touch in this one. I've found many recipes that looked interesting in this book, as well as in tThink Like a Chef.

                    If you have an interest in baking, the book called The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard, takes a similar approach. It is divided into different "family trees" of baked things and components, like ganache, curd, vanilla sauce, pate a choux, pound cake, brioche and more, with discussions of how the different branches of the family trees relate, with tips and with lots of variations for each type. I've learned a lot from this one.

                    Hope these are the type of thing you're looking for.

                    1. Have you looked at any issues of Cooks Illustrated magazine? I often don't agree with their goals or conclusions, but I still enjoy reading their articles. For instance, they will take a particular dish (e.g. coq au vin), try a bunch of classic recipes, zero in on what they like, then vary the techniques or ingredients until they get the 'perfect' recipe. Even if you're not interested in the science of food (which is mostly in sidebars anyhow), just reading a bunch of the articles might give you more ideas about where latitude is in recipes and what kinds of things you can try.

                      However, if your question is really about flavor, as in, how can I put together a bunch of ingredients into an entirely new recipe, I don't think there's any answer beyond tasting, experimenting, reading, more tasting, experimenting, etc.

                      On a slightly more prosaic level, have you looked at Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison? In her section on individual vegetables, in particular, she gives a quick summary of techniques and complementary flavor combinations for each one, which would give you a springboard for experimenting.

                      You might enjoy participating in the Cookbook of the Month (COTM) discussions here on Chowhound. Yes, it's mostly following recipes, although it quickly becomes obvious that almost no one follows recipes exactly, for a variety of reasons, and the discussion of the variations can be quite enlightening.

                      1. i'd be inclined to consider the compilation, <best recipes>, from cooks illustrated. each recipe is accompanied by a pretty straight ahead rationale for it. these little essays help teach techniques by helping to show the effects of the techniques.

                        eventually, you might discover that all of the recipes aren't the "best" for you--or that there are more sophisticated (and complicated) techniques that suit you better. a valuable resource even so and a good choice as the "next" cook book in what'll likely become a lengthy string of reading.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: silverhawk

                          I do have this book and I do find that the book is very interesting and helpful. And for any specific recipe that is the book I usually grab, but I find that there are so many recipes that it is completely overwhelming and for an individual recipe it is really great with it's little tips and things but It is hard to learn from when all u do is read thousands of recipes I hope u understand what I mean. Second of all I have some trouble taking one concept that is used on one recipe and transferring it to another therefore I feel like it is helpful but not enough to alter my whole way of cooking.

                          1. re: mike11

                            I do think Think Like a Chef might help you then on your "second" point above.

                        2. Have you thought about taking a cooking class? It sounds like hands-on instruction with a knowledgeable teacher where you can ask questions as you go might be more helpful than a book, where you have to figure out things for yourself.

                          1. As a cook with dozens and dozens of books, all read cover to cover (I'm weird that way) I'd suggest the books by Mario Batali. As one of the best winning chefs on Iron Chef, he would repeatedly say show after show that the key is "Keep it simple" and he follows that philosophy in his books. Nothing over complicated, every recipe with minimal ingredients, and every one gives outstanding results.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Goldendog

                              Here's a link to the "Cookbook of the Month" thread when we covered several Batali books. I agree with your characterization of his recipes/cooking.


                              And, actually, here is the links to all of the books we've done.


                              While Sunday Suppers at Lucques does not, I think, on one level fit in with the OP's request, it is also one of the cookbooks from which I have learned the most over the past several years, just by following her recipes and learning about her layering of textures, flavours, colours, and then bearing that in mind when either cooking other recipes, or coming up with my own dishes. And, I think that Simon Hopkinson is another cookbook author who, for the most part, embraces simplicity with recipes that really work.

                            2. I'm going to assume you already have a subscription to Gourmet Magazine. If not, get one.

                              The poster above who mentioned Rombauer and Becker's "The Joy of Cooking" was spot on. The informational articles in it on cooking methods are worth it alone.

                              In your quest to reach a higher level, you may be aided (on the Italian side) by Giuliano Bugialli's "The Foods of Italy," a magnificently illustrated coffee-table-sized tome which discusses ingredients and techniques in detail. Any of Craig Claiborne's books are good, too.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: shaogo

                                I would add Alice Waters' Art of Simple Cooking - lots of recipes but more instructive for me was the first half of the book which consists of lessons on topics like braising, roasting, stocks, etc...I feel like I learned so much working from her guidance and like Batali she keeps it simple and straightforward

                                For cooking with local, seasonal ingredients I highly recommend the Santa Monica Farmer's Market cookbook - not only filled with great, simply yet creative recipes (using ingredients I was not as familiar with) but also tips for navigating farmers markets, cooking seasonally, etc.