10 Must Have Books for the Cook in Your Life
It should come as no surprise that this Mama loves to cook. As many of my readers know I even attended culinary school for a while. I have cooked on the line in restaurants and worked for a year at a convention center as a line chef. Now I cook at home, and trust me when I say it was my cooking Bacon Beer Hubby fell in love with first! My love of food and cooking has spurred a love of cook books and books about cooking. Some cookbooks I drag out over and over, others I have collected because they are antiques filled with fascinating (and kinda weird) recipes. I also have a nice stash of books about being a chef, cooking, and just a love of amazing food. We all know a few great cooks obsessed with food (if you don’t find a few asap, those who love to cook love to feed people!). If you are looking for a great gift for the cook in your life, or if you love to cook and are looking for a good book this list of Must Have Cookbooks (and a few books about chef life and great food) is a great place to start!
The Standard Must Have Cookbooks:
Everyone, from those who love to cook, to those who have to cook because not feeding your kids is illegal, and those just starting out on their own these are the cookbooks you just have to have:
1. The Plaid Books: Technically two different books, and yes, I own both. These two iconic books are the ones you likely saw your Mom or Grandma get out over and over, with good reason. These two books have a little of everything, and are the basic go to for a recipe for dinner, lunch, holidays, and baking! I still get mine out often!
2. The Joy of Cooking: Already have the plaid books? The Joy of Cooking is the bigger, badder version. Where the plaid books cover a little of this and a little of that The Joy of Cooking covers it all. This is the go to ultimate cookbook standard. Odds are your Grandma had it, and odds are most younger generations don’t, but hand this cookbook to someone who enjoys cooking and they will be paging through recipes for hours. And then, they will be cooking up a storm for weeks!
The Classic Must Have Cookbooks:
1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking: It’s Julia Child, that should explain it all. But, if it doesn’t this book takes classic (read fancy and tasty) French cooking and adapts it, explains it, and makes it as easy as possible. Designed by Julia and friends for the American housewife with this cookbook you can cook and eat like your living in France! And, it’s Julia Child, I can’t accentuate that enough!
2. The Complete Guide to Modern Cookery (Escoffier) This is considered by some to be the end all be all of cookbooks. Used in Culinary Schools as a textbook to this day this book contains some 4000 recipes,weights, measures, and a score of other useful information. Whether you are a foodie, a home cook, or a professional this book is a marvel and a must!
Fancy, Fun, and Modern Must Have Cookbooks:
1. On Cooking: Yet another book on this list that is not just a cookbook,, but also a text book used in Culinary schools around the world. I love this book, and it is always the first one I pull out if I want to try a new ingredient or get inspiration. The recipes are amazing. The breakdown of equipment and tools is like no other. If you can cook it, it’s in here somewhere. This is my favorite gift for anyone who loves to cook or is considering a career in cooking.
2. Professional Baking: I don’t bake, it is a perfect science,you can’t just throw things that sound like they would mesh together and bake them and get a cake. That’s not how it works. But, I have this cookbook for a reason. This is the book they made us get for Baking class in culinary school. I don’t even have the copy from school because I sold it back, and then years later turned around and bought it again (not the wisest move selling it back in hindsight). The reason is simple this book is the book if you want to bake. Sure standard cookbooks have recipes for a few cookies and some cakes and a bread recipe or 3. This cookbook has everything. With it, and some patience, and some measuring you can bake up just about everything and impress everyone, me included because again, ugh, baking. The book is amazing, the food you can make armed with it is to die for. Which is why I bought it back, there is no recreating the heaven that is the recipes in this book without it.
Books for Cooks that Aren’t Cookbooks
Cookbooks are great, I have an entire bookshelf of cookbooks. I also have a slightly smaller collection of cooking books that aren’t cookbooks, and I pull them out to read almost as often as my cookbooks!
1. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: This is a book by Anthony Bourdain, and as you may know he doesn’t hold back. I love this book, it made me want to cook professionally even more! I just bought a copy for a friend’s son as a gift before he heads off to culinary school. This book is a true window into the life of the kitchen; it is gritty, raw, and fantastic! Great for foodies, future cooks and chefs and anyone who just loves Anthony Bourdain in all his raw, gritty, blunt glory!
2. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham: I am a bit of a John Grisham fan, I used to be able to say I owned all his books, but he churns them out pretty fast, and I am several behind now. This isn’t a legal thriller or a cookbook. It is a fantastic story about football and food in Italy. As a gal who loves football and daydreams (often) about eating my way through Italy this book is perfection and served to only fuel my desire to get to Italy some day and promptly eat myself stupid.
3. The Soul of a Chef by Micheal Ruhlman: This is a beautifully written look into the world of professional cooking. Unlike Bourdain, Ruhlman focuses on the beauty, the rigourous hours and life, the perfection. I read this book years ago and have been dreaming of going to the French Laundry ever since. A beautiful look into cooking and food and the love chefs have for both.
4. Heat by Bill Buford: Many home cooks pride themselves in their abilities. We watch Food Network and Hell’s Kitchen and the like and wonder, could I? One author set out to test that very question, could he make it as a professional cook and how different can it really be? This book is fascinating, fun, and all around amazing, a great read even if you don’t wonder if you could or even if you don’t really love to cook!
Whether you are looking for a book for a home-cook, a future chef, or pretty much anyone passionate about food the books on this list are a great start. Odds are they don’t have a copy of a few of these gems and I guarantee they will love them, and you will love the food they inspire! Now, I think I need to grab Bacon Beer Hubby and head out to the local bookstore, I’ve got an itch for a new cookbook or two! Since I’m looking for new books let me know in the comments your go-to favorite must-have cookbook or book about food that I missed! I can’t wait to hear what inspires you in the kitchen!