My go-to cookbooks.

My go-to cookbooks.

I’ve loved to cook since I was in grade school. As an adult, I go through seasons of creatively experimenting with cooking, and seasons of cooking for survival. (This whole gluten-free business really put a damper on my stress baking tendencies, or I would include that as its own category. Sigh.)

In creative times and dead-practical ones, these terrific cookbooks have been by my side. When I’m in survival mode (in the kitchen, at least) my favorite cookbooks hold sure-fire recipes that will get dinner on the table, fast. When I’m in experimentation mode, these same books are an invitation to explore.

Today I’m sharing my favorite cookbooks. A caveat: I’m really looking forward to the comfort foods that accompany cooler weather, and that may have influenced my choices here. (Maybe I should make another list for spring?) Until April, I’m sticking with these favorites:

The New Best Recipe

The New Best Recipe

When I want to find a basic recipe for any imaginable dish, this is the book I turn to first. At 1000+ pages, it’s likely to have whatever I’m looking for. Cooks can be a little high-maintenance at times, but I trust their methods and their recipes, and love the essays that accompany each one describing the dish and how they arrived at “the” perfect method. A great all-purpose cookbook. More info →
Slow Cooker Revolution

Slow Cooker Revolution

Okay, this isn’t actually a favorite yet—but I’m hoping it will be. One of my personal cool-weather resolutions is to use my crock pot several times per week. When I mentioned this in the latest What I’m Into post, several comments and emails told me I needed a copy of this book. I obliged. My copy’s on its way, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’m hoping it’s as amazing as you told me it would be. More info →
Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Recipes and Stories

Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Recipes and Stories

I randomly found this book in the stacks at my local library years ago, and promptly fell in love with it—possibly because that while I love to cook, I’m no pro, but can handle the stuff culinary legend Rick Bayless throws at his teenage daughter. Fun format and terrific recipes that reflect the culinary interests (and diversity) of a chef’s family. My kids, unsurprisingly, love to browse this book. More info →
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Author:
Before I ever visited the blog or saw the cookbook, I heard Deb Perelman speak at my local library. She won me over with her warmth, humor, and kitchen know-how. But then I saw the cookbook and was blown away—gorgeous (and funny) writing, beautiful photos, and recipes that work. She’s yet to let me down, and I’ve cooked my way through a significant portion of the cookbook. I’m thrilled to hear she has another one in the works. More info →
Perfect Recipes for Having People Over

Perfect Recipes for Having People Over

Author:
Pam Anderson (not that Pam Anderson) was my first cookbook crush, and not just because her cookbook How to Cook Without a Book helped me survive my first year cooking for myself. She’s a Cooks Illustrated alum, which explains a lot. I love this book for its recipes that can serve a small family or a crowd, its tidy categorization, and its menu planning helps. More info →
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Author:
I love the whole series, but this first cookbook is my favorite, closely followed by Barefoot Contessa Parties. (Although I just pre-ordered Make It Ahead, her new cookbook that comes out October 28, so I reserve the right to change my mind.) My edition is well-loved and shows it: the recipes for family favorites Indonesian Ginger Chicken and Outrageous Brownies (best on the planet, seriously) are notably worse for wear. More info →
Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

Author:
This is a beautiful, practical, inspiring cookbook for anyone who wants healthy, happy food, and an absolute gold mine for those with dietary restrictions. Joulwan’s recipes are 100% paleo and 99% Whole-30 approved. I might like Well Fed 2 even more. (If you’re debating which one to buy, Well Fed 2 is twice as thick and a dollar cheaper. Hint, hint.) More info →

I also have a soft spot for the foodie memoir genre. Some of my favorites that I actually cook from are A Homemade LifeBread and Wine, Garlic and Sapphires, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, and My Berlin Kitchen. These all have excellent recipes and make excellent bedtime reading.

What are your favorite cookbooks? Please share in comments. 

 

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87 comments

  1. Jenna says:

    I have many of these on my shelf as well. One series that I turn to very frequently as well are the Everyday Food books. They are all wonderful with straightforward recipes, many of which can be easily put together on a weeknight.

  2. erin says:

    when you mentioned foodie memoirs, i immediately thought, “a homemade life! bread & wine!”
    and then looked at your list…
    bam! right at the top.
    both awesome…though i loved b & w considerably more.

    loving following along. new here.
    so glad i found you.

  3. Ariel says:

    As a New Orleans native, my personal favorite cookbook is Cooking Up a Storm, a compilation of recipes from the Times Picayune post-Katrina. It has the best jambalaya and red beans and rice recipes I’ve found. Some of the recipes have become ones I make all the time, and some are just really interesting (like rosemary cookies)!

  4. Mary B. says:

    My go-to cookbook is “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen” by Jack Bishop. I have made dozens of the recipes out of it, and literally every single one has been exceptional in every way. We are not professed vegetarians, but since we live on such a tight budget we only buy meat once or twice a month. Bishop;s delicious recipes make going without meat much less painful!

  5. Faith R says:

    Oh I LOVE my smitten kitchen cookbook!! The pancakes recipe is AMAZING, even if you make it without the peaches. I love that her kitchen is tiny and the way she writes about her recipes is so endearing.
    I wish I could think of another one to recommend. Simple Fresh Southern (by the Lee Bros) is fun. Even if you don’t ever make the recipes just reading the cookbook is an enjoyable experience.

  6. Stephanie says:

    So many great ideas here! This is the perfect time of year for this post, too–I have plenty of time to check some interesting candidates out from the library, bake/cook from them for a couple of weeks, and then put the most promising ones on my Christmas list! =)

    One cookbook that’s already there is Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes.

    • Sandi says:

      I have to second “Keepers.” This one is my go-to book when I’m struggling to find something yummy and quick (and I just started thinking about supper an hour before I need to serve it.) Most of the recipes are fairly healthy (as someone who eats grain-free and sugar-free, I can utilize all the recipes except for the pasta ones.). It also focuses on being resourceful, using what you have. It is very family-focused as well.

  7. I had to look up the recipe for Indonesian Ginger Chicken right away. Looks wonderful and simple! I’ve pared down my cookbooks considerably since I use recipes online at least 75% of the time. When I am in the mood for cookbook browsing, my go-to ones are Rachael Ray 365, the Betty Crocker Big Red Cookbook, Food That Says Welcome (Barbara Smith), and an old community cookbook, The Stuffed Cougar.

    Chattavore (local food blog!) has raved over and over about the Smitten Kitchen site and cookbook, so it’s one I may ask for at Christmas. I have tried several recipes from her site with great success – especially the delicious all-butter pie crust.

  8. Laura says:

    Laurie Colwin’s “More Home Cooking” is of the Cooking Memoir genre and my favorite. I LOVE reading it and have loved the recipes from it that I have tried. I’d love to find the first one, presumably named “Home Cooking” someday! She had a terrific voice and sadly, passed away too young.

  9. Sara says:

    I cannot believe there weren’t more Mark Bittman “how to cook everything” fans. I often reference that and the New Best Recipe (my #2) for a particular dish, and then end up with a hybrid…personally I find the extensive notes in New Best Recipe gives me the confidence to pare down the extra steps and know exactly how it will affect the dish. Their meaty lasagna is A-mazing!!

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