Cooking can be hard to break into: it’s technical, sometimes appears daunting, but can actually be a great thing — whether it’s a hobby or a job. In this digital age, potential cooks often turn to YouTube tutorials or online recipes, passing by a great opportunity to use cookbooks. With so many on the market, though, it can be hard to choose, so read ahead to understand a bit more about what makes a cookbook stand out — and maybe find some recommendations along the way.
Simplicity and convenience can be key ingredients in a cookbook if you’re just starting out. Too many ingredients or parts of a dish to manage can make you feel overwhelmed. Cookbooks that highlight simplicity, even if not marketed to beginners, can allow for a more focused and calm experience. Mastering the basics is a great way to get some practice in the kitchen or get really good at one dish. If you have the basic skills down or if you’re still mastering them, books like Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple are a great option. This cookbook, written by chef Tieghan Gerard, includes recipes for elevated versions of classic dishes like mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies. The book also includes vegan and vegetarian dishes. Gerard’s focus when writing the book was to create doable recipes for anyone to cook. After all, you don’t have to be a beginner in the kitchen to appreciate a classic yet tasty dish.
Alternatively, some cookbooks for new chefs accommodate for lack of ingredients or experience entirely. Pamela Ellgen, author of The Five Ingredient College Cookbook, for example, caters to her audience. The book features meals that can be made in a dorm room with little skill and few tools. Not only does Ellgen include beginner-friendly references, but she also includes cooking tutorials. Young chefs buying this book as their first cookbook can learn how to, for example, use a knife or store food properly.
Many modern cookbooks are unique in some way. A good cookbook could have a personal appeal, a new spin on an old tradition, or a specific cuisine to focus on. In his seemingly contradictory cookbook titled The New York Times: No-Recipe Recipes, author Sam Sifton explores what he calls improvisational cooking. At-home chefs reading along are able to change or add ingredients as they see fit. Cooking can be intimidating when you’re trying to find the right recipes and purchase the right ingredients; No-Recipe Recipes alleviates some of this stress and allows new cooks the space to sit back, relax, and enjoy their time in the kitchen.
The last kind of cookbook to check out is a genre that has risen in popularity over the years: pop-culture-focused cookbooks. These are the books written by celebrities who want to share their recipes or cooks who have gotten inspiration from internet culture. Gwenyth Paltrow published her well-reviewed cookbook It’s All Easy in 2016, capitalizing on her own celebrity and sharing her recipes with fans. Like many other popular cookbooks, this one aims to make cooking easy and accessible.
If you’re less interested in celebrities and more fascinated by the recipes floating around the internet, check out As Cooked on TikTok. As Cooked on TikTok is a cookbook published in 2022 by Penguin Random House featuring a series of recipes contributed by TikTok users themselves, accompanied by a foreword from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. It contains relatively fun and different recipes, including salt and vinegar pasta chips, as well as a baked feta pasta soup inspired by a viral feta pasta recipe. Instead of rejecting internet cooking culture altogether, this book embraces it and serves as a display of TikTok’s best recipes.
Food is important. It brings us together, it marks holidays and traditions, and it can be a symbol of culture or even time. However you prefer to cook, there’s a vast selection of cookbooks out there to help you do the job — from celebrity chefs to convenience-centered cooking. Check out this article for even more cookbook recommendations!