Everybody loves food, especially good food. But making great food can be a tricky challenge. We’ve all been there, we’ve watched an incredible chef whip a meal together in no time at all and we think we can do just the same. Only to be covered head to toe in ingredients minutes later. So what separates success from disaster in the kitchen for us beginners? The answer is – great cookbooks. I’m on the hunt for the best cookbooks for beginners. Growing up, I can recall my Mother’s wonderful collection of cookbooks. In fact, some of today’s guests could actually be found on those shelves (I’m looking at you, Ken). Although she may have had a hundred or so cookbooks, you could tell by the dog-eared page corners and endless post-it-notes that she kept returning to the same four or five books. It got me thinking, as a beginner in the kitchen – how do you whittle down the tens of thousands of cookbooks available down to the five or ten best cookbooks for beginners? Well, luckily for you – I have just what you need. An expert panel of some of the world’s finest minds (and hands) in food, who have volunteered their time to help you select the best cookbooks for beginners. Would you like to meet them? Well, okay – go on then…
Ken Hom is a celebrity chef who travels the world endlessly, educating the world on producing wonderful food, whether that be via his television appearances or his fantastic books. Recognised the world over, Ken has written 36 books, has presented five television series, and sold over eight million of his woks worldwide. He is quite literally a legend in the world of food.
Denise Landis is a prolific food writer, editor and cookbook author. She was a recipe tester for the New York Times for over twenty-five years and is now the editor of the first international food magazine for professional and aspiring food writers, now known as The Cook’s Cook: A Community of Cooks, Food Writers & Recipe Testers. Denise owns over 3,000 cookbooks!
Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef, author, restaurateur and television presenter. He has had the honour of cooking for special guests like the Prince and Princess of Denmark and a private dinner for Martha Stewart, amongst others. Pete Evans has over 10 bestselling cookbooks, with the mission of inspiring the general public to cook great tasting, healthy food.
Simon Majumdar has dedicated the second half of his life to achieving his ambition to ‘Go Everywhere. Eat Everything’. Simon has written three books; including Eat My Globe. On top of all of that, he is a familiar face due to his appearances on Food Network shows such as Beat Bobby Flay, Iron Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen, among others. In other words, Simon Majumdar knows his food.
Niki Nakayama is an American chef and the owner of n/naka restaurant in Los Angeles, she specialises in modern Japanese kaisekicuisine. Before that, Niki Nakayama’s Azami Sushi Cafe was recognised by LA Times and Zagat as well as earning Citysearch’s “Best of Sushi” distinction in 2006. Niki also appeared on a brilliant episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Mario Batali is a world-renowned chef, restaurateur and author, who received his first formal culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in London. He has been recognised in numerous ways, including being named ‘Man of the Year’ in the chef category by GQ Magazine, as well as winning the James Beard Foundations’ ‘Best Chef: New York City’ and ‘Outstanding Chef of the Year’ awards.
You’ve met the expert panel, now – let’s discover the best cookbooks for beginners.
I consider this book the ultimate “desert island cookbook” as it is thoughtful, comprehensive and does not overcomplicate anything delicious. It’s the perfect place for a beginner to start and the expert to check timing, precise measurement and ratio to scale.
With over 2000 recipes, the latest edition of this remarkable book is not only one to refer to in moments of kitchen crisis, but also one to spend time noodling through when looking for inspiration. I would place Bittman at the very forefront of the list of the 21st Century’s culinary teachers.
Home cooks, as well as professional chefs, should know how to correctly wield the most important tool of the trade – the knife. I like Complete Book of Knife Skills: The Essential Guide to Use, Techniques & Care by Jeffrey Elliott and James P. DeWan. This large spiral-bound book explains numerous types of knives and how to hold and use them, as well as the various shapes that can be cut with specialized knives. Photos throughout the book are very helpful, and the text provides a nice education in professional terminology.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking is simple enough for beginner cooks but delves into classic French cooking methods.
A real gem of a cookery book as it hooked me on French food and cooking. It is everything you ever wanted to know about French cooking but was afraid to ask. Every recipe has been tested numerous times, so that any question you may have as a beginner is easily answered. Julia Child talks on each page to the reader and cook. How a dish should taste, look and all the whys. By the time I arrived in France, I realized that I had the foundation for what I discovered a sensational world of food.
There are cookbooks and there are poetry books, but their true confluence is in the mind and prose of the truly fantastic OG of all food writing. Ms. David writes with a simple and whimsical wonder about the reasons we cook, we shop and eventually share nearly everything we do in the kitchen and I am inspired every year when I reread this classic the week before thanksgiving, simply to remind me of my first love in the kitchen.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji is thorough yet enjoyable to read and gives a wonderful explanation of what Japanese food is all about.
This is a real foodie book from a master chef who knows how to convey his love of food through not only recipes but his passion of eating as well. Simon was my food hero because he is a chef teacher for beginner cooks. It is because he teaches about taste which is what any cook should have, an essential trait for any aspiring cook. Anyone can master a recipe but only a cook who has feeling can make the dish his or her own which is what cooking is all about.
Recipes are not needed for cooking, but they are necessary for the study of cooking. And if you hope to record your work so that you or others can replicate it, learn and use the correct form of recipe writing. Recipes Into Type: A Handbook for Cookbooks Writers and Editors by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon is an excellent guide and reference book for new and established food writers. Easy to read, simple to follow, and – if you’re a foodie – interesting to dip into, it will teach you all the basics and more about getting recipes into shape for publishing.
While there has been an explosion of culinary schools in the US in recent years, one sometimes needs reminding that the Culinary Institute of America remains the ne plus ultra. The book reflects that and offers over 600 recipes, technical cooking information, as well as discussions on nutrition and business. Even if one does not aspire to a life in the professional kitchen, this is still a book every cook should own.
Madhur’s first book opened the door to one of the world’s greatest cuisine for me. Her passion can be felt on every page. I could almost smell the spices she was talking about. Madhur also showed that food is also about history and society and that is evident in her description about the origins about each dish and most important why it is cooked a certain way. Even if a beginner never cooks from her book, he or she can learn about spices and history.
Beginner cooks need cookbooks as well as reference books. The best cookbooks provide pleasure in reading as well as cooking. For a cook who enjoys baking of any kind, I recommend any of Dorie Greenspan’s books, such as Baking From My Home to Yours. The recipes are well-written, expertly tested, and are a siren call to the kitchen. The photos are also tempting. What could be better than that?
This breeze block of a book has been at the heart of American cooking since it was first self-published in 1931. Now, some nine editions later, it has taken on a “must have” status in every American kitchen. The latest version, as well as containing some of the classic recipes from earlier years, also reflects more modern trends, with a range of recipes to prepare in thirty minutes or less.
Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst is a dictionary of culinary terms is a wealth of information for all cooks, including beginners.
I lived in Emilia Romagna for 4 years and Lynne has left no stone unturned in her search for authenticity and honest flavor. This book is perhaps my all-time fave for its historical perspective and the depth of its deep dive into my favorite region of the boot.