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What's your most useful cookbook?

What's the name of the cookbook which you frequently turn to, with recipes you keep making over and over again? I'm thinking of buying a new cookbook, but I want to make sure that it'll be the one from which. I cook frequently

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  1. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

    But that's no assurance you'd have the same response to the book...

    1. Rombauer's Joy of Cooking, 1975. All the basics for North American cooking. Even squirrel.

      4 Replies
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        I second JOK. It's the bible of cookery.

        1. re: mtlcowgirl

          As with other sacred texts, this subject sees ecclesiastical debate. Some would rank the Fannie Farmer as the main book of 20th-c. US cooking (it's older, less quirky, and has solider roots -- JoC began as a remarkably hokey set of family recipes for canned foods), but most serious US home cooks I know have both.

          That's all "New Testament" of course. "Old Testament" of US mainstream cookbooks was Eliza Leslie's, the author that everyone used before the Fannie Farmer came along at the end of the 1800s, and in some ways much better than either FF or JoC, but maybe not something to recommend to every household for modern daily use. Food fanatics however generally have copies of Leslie's "Directions for Cookery" (1837, eventually 58 editions). The common modern facsimile paperback edition (from 1851) is ISBN 0486406148, easily and cheaply available used.

          1. re: mtlcowgirl

            Thirded. Fantastic line drawings showing everything from how to skin a squirrel using your hunting boot to constructing a champagne fountain out of glasses. Quirky, yes, but the very personal approach of the two very different women who wrote it are part of what makes it a masterpiece. Would not live in any house without it.

          2. Cooking by James Peterson

            It's got a huge array of recipes, concisely written and everything I've worked from has worked for me.

            He covers pretty much everything, too. From pancakes and waffles to deserts and salads and soups and mains and on and on.

            1. Joy of Cooking is a winner. I also love having Larousse Gastronomique around. It has tons of recipes (although many have to be scaled back to feed the small number of people that I usually feed) but it is also a great reference as an encylopedia of culinary terms and ingredients if you come across something that may be unfamiliar.

              1. Joy of Cooking, Weber's Big Book of Grilling, 400 best Comfort Food recipes (Johanna Burkhard), The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, River Cottage Veg Everyday, Jerusalem.

                Hope this helps!

                1. I find that my taste changes with time and with seasons. So do favourite cookbooks. At this time I am very drawn to Around My French Table and continue to cook regularly from Jerusalem. Planning to buy A Change of Appetite as Diana Henry's approach seem to be in sync with how I want to eat.

                  1. I only use cookbooks when I specifically want to cook a cuisine that is unfamiliar to me. So, my Thai/Indian/Chinese cookbooks get way more use than my standard American cookbooks. I also use the internet heavily - Food & Wine and Epicurious/Gourmet/Bon Appetit are great recipe sources.

                    1. Sun drenched cuisine by Marlena Spieler. Not dumbed down but Western adapted recipes from all over the equator. Italy, Spain, Mexico, India, Peru, Morocco, Indonesia. Love this book...mine is falling apart.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Madrid

                        This is my favorite. Simple ingredients but very challenging techniques required to get the result perfect.
                        Not for the newcomer to cooking by any means.
                        Available used on Amazon cheap.
                        Try making the 'Cailles a la Grecque' using 8 quail. LOL

                      2. I didn't think about because I basically never actually open the book anymore. But the reason I never open the book is I've made so many of the recipes so many times that I don't need to.

                        Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio from around 2000. So many things in that book are staples in my house now. Caramelized tomato tart and braised artichokes are weekly items in season.

                        1. Nigel Slater, Appetite. Although similar to ccbweb, and coliccio's book, I needed it a while back, and now much of it is second nature.

                          1. Joy of Cooking ... not sure the edition but I think it's the 7th

                            1. Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice.

                              1. I don’t refer to cookbooks very often anymore. And that’s because I have all my favorite recipes, and recipes that could become favorites, in computer files and folders. They come from many sources including magazine and newspaper clippings dating back to the 1970s. They are all indexed and easy to locate and print. I keep printouts of a hundred or so of my most frequently used recipes in a 3-ring binder.

                                Most useful cookbook? Probably the Joy of Cooking, C 1975, because it contains so many useful explanations of basic cooking techniques as well as loads of recipes.

                                Favorite cookbook? The L.A. Gourmet by Jeanne Voltz and Burks Hammer published in 1971. Mr. Hammer was a publicist for the food and restaurant business and Ms. Voltz was a former food editor for the L.A. Times and Woman’s Day. The recipes contained in the book are from the most popular upscale restaurants in Los Angeles during that era.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Sam D.

                                  Hope I'll reach that stage where I don't have to refer to cookbooks soon :). When do you buy new mags and cookbooks and there're many recipes you want to try later, but after a while you forget in which mags/cookbooks they're in. How would you do?

                                  1. re: pearlyriver

                                    These days I almost never buy magazines as a source for recipes and I seldom buy new cookbooks. However, I do occasionally scan recipes from cookbooks and convert them to text files. When that's not possible, then I just type them out and save them in the computer.

                                    As for remembering recipes to try and the sources, I can't trust my own memory. I make lists and save the lists on the computer in a way that makes them easy to find.

                                    Remember, without lists the world would be listless. :-)

                                2. Delia Smith's "Complete Cookery Course". It's the book I've turned to for 30+ years for precise, enjoyable recipes and exact "how to" advice.

                                  If I may sneak in a second book, then Nigel Slater's "Real Fast Food" has provided many midweek dinners.

                                  1. Cook's Illustrated "The Best Recipe."

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: gmm

                                      Like some others here I can 'cook' anything and get a servicable result.
                                      The OP asked about the usefulness of a specific cook book.
                                      These are cook books which IMO describe how to make a specific dish. That requires precise adherence to a recipe. That's why I go to books like Escoffier. I follow the recipe to the letter and I get a dish that is without question far superior than if I just 'slapped up' what my concept of a 'Potage Saint Germain' is. In that case for instance if I don't have 'fonds blanc' I don't make the soup.
                                      Making classic french food is my hobby so I'm coming at the idea of 'useful' cook books from a different place then when I needed TJC (my first cook book) to make a decent potato salad many years ago. I'm on my third TJC edition having literally worn out the first two. I think the first one fell apart due to poor book binding.
                                      My notes tell me the first TJC I was given was in 1969. The next in 1995. Most recent in 2003.
                                      For basic cooking 101 there's none better than TJC. Every grade twelve graduate ought to be given one with their certificate IMHO. Instead many are handed a pack of gift coupons for 'Happy meals'.

                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                        Puffin3: "That's why I go to books like Escoffier."

                                        Greetings Puffin3, I'm guessing you mean Escoffier's "Guide Culinaire," which I understand is his best-known work. But he wrote some other cookbooks so please correct me if I have mistaken. (I believe the others were much more specialized except for "Ma Cuisine" which was late in life, more personal, and showed some changes in outlook, e.g. less reliance on thickened sauces.)

                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                          I have the 'Guide' and use it occasionally. The Escoffier book I'm getting the most interesting dishes from for the last couple of years is 'The Illustrated Escoffier'.
                                          Basic french classics. Simple ingredient lists.
                                          The photos are the most XXXX rated 'food-porn' shots I've ever seen.
                                          The book is available cheap used on Amazon.
                                          Check out the photos.

                                    2. All of these suggestions are great--and I own a lot of them. But if I were only looking to buy ONE book, it would be the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. A large compendium of thoroughly-tested recipes across all areas of cookery. No instructions on how to skin squirrel, but a respectable collection of contemporary recipes on many other topics. I've always been pleased with the results and I return to the book often.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Goblin

                                        I agree with Goblin. I turn to my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook all the time, so much so that the pages are starting to fall out. Everything I've made from it has been great, and if I get tired of making a recipe one way, there are usually variations to change it up.

                                        Another book that I go to all the time and also has a lot of variations is Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. But that's only good if you have a pressure cooker.

                                      2. Sorry, I've just edited out my duplicate post!

                                        1. Michael Ruhlman's "Ratio", because unless I am cooking a cuisine with which I have no experience, I don't need specific recipes. This book is a resource for the proportions of ingredients needed for basic preparations like breads, custards, sauces, dressings, etc. For the most part, you can plug in your choice of fats, milks, acids, etc.

                                          1. You may find it helpful to test-drive a few from your library. To protect it from spatters when you cook, either photo copy pages or place it in a large clear plastic bag.

                                            You could also click on profiles for posters here on CH that you've enjoyed - many of us have answered the "what's your most tattered cookbook" question.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                              Or you could do what I saw two young women doing in a large book store in Victoria.
                                              One was holding the chosen page of the latest cook book open while the other took photos of the recipes on her cell phone.
                                              The poor girls working there were so mortified they just stood there and didn't say a word. After the women had chosen their favourite recipes the new book was put back on the display self and the women left. Mission accomplished.

                                            2. A few years ago I'd have said the Cook's Illustrated "Best Recipes", and I do still love that one. My current fave, which I've given now as a gift to several happy folks, is Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". His approach, recipes plus guidelines on how to branch out from them, is wonderful, and his dietary style matches well with mine right now. Lorna Sass' "Pressure Perfect" falls open to the grain or bean cooking timetable pages at this point, and is constantly on my counter.