The Piglet

The 2016 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks is Here!

February  2, 2016

For those of you who’ve been waiting: We very much hope to reward your patience on the 25th of February, when the first day of Piglet play officially begins.

Until now, tide yourselves with the sporting list of cookbooks (what we think are the year’s best) and the judges—the minds and kitchens we think will put them to the test like they haven’t been before—that we're announcing today.

For those of you to whom this business of baby pigs is news: The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks began in 2009 with a hope and a dream that cookbook reviews could be better, smarter—and with a lot of hard work from three very smart women: Our very own Amanda and Merrill, and our compatriot (and resident queen of cookbooks) Charlotte Druckman.

They picked 16 cookbooks because they thought them shining examples of our industry and 15 judges who weren't your typical cookbook writers. Then they faced them all off in a March Madness-style bracket because they are cruel, and because they thought the world of cookbook reviewing lacked irreverence, cartoons, whimsy.

Skip to the bottom to see 2016's official picks, but if you care to take a trip down memory lane—the long, scenic route—allow me to walk you through some of the past years’ highlights. For you:

  • Bryant Gumbel talks about mousetraps—and advances the beloved Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
  • Which also happens to be the same book that launches Elizabeth Spiridakis into a tirade about dust jackets. A tirade.
  • Remember the time Brian Boitano did triple axels around Persian food in the kitchen? No? Now you do.
  • Tad Friend writes perhaps the Piglet's best ever kicker in 2014—see for yourself.
  • Why should cookbook reviews be constricted to only words? Is something we’ve always asked. Roz Chast and Adam Roberts come to the rescue.

More: See so many more highlights by looking to all of the Piglet years on the right rail here.

Just like last year, we'll also be running Piglet Community Picks, in which our community members (yes, you!) cook from our list of 2016 Community Pick nominations, and then deliver their reviews on the site each day.

See below for the books, here for our incredible cast of judges, and here for our 2016 bracket (download, print, and fill in your predictions to follow along). And to add any one of these titles to your bookshelf, just click through on the book title or image. You might notice we're one judge short—this is because we'll be announcing the final separately. Let the games begin—almost. See you here again soon.

24 Comments

Chef L. February 27, 2016
Gotta love Hot Bread's content and sense of purpose. Win-win!
 
pbf February 8, 2016
OK, great selection. I wonder, though, how Piglet does the lineup? I have seen this in previous years where two or sometimes four books which should make it into the final rounds are pitted against each other in the first round. Between The Food Lab and Zahav -- who wants to see either of them eliminated from the get-go. I could understand this if it were just names drawn from a hat, but if there were some other method, could you please explain it?
 
Bia N. February 10, 2016
Good point! To see either Food Lab or Zahav out on the first round is really sad!
 
pbf February 10, 2016
So, does anyone know how the line-up is done? It would be interesting to know.<br />
 
Author Comment
Kenzi W. February 11, 2016
Yes, and thanks for asking! We carefully choose what we think are the best 16 books of the year—in our minds, each one of these books could and should make it to the final (or else we would not have chosen it). For the first round, we do our best matching up the books based on what we think might make the most sense to a tester. Inevitably, based on judge conflicts and the like, this will get a little shuffled in a way that is out of our hands. We *never* rig the first round based on who we think should make it into the final—both because we think every book has that potential, and because it's our job as Pigleters to remain objective and let the tournament play out. Rather, we make first round pairings based on what I described above—and then let the judges and the bracket decide the rest.
 
pbf February 11, 2016
Oh, please don't think I meant that the lineup was rigged! I certainly didn't think that. But did wonder how the pairings were made. I also wonder how the results would differ if they had just been done by pulling names out of a hat. In some ways that might be better than trying to pair them based on the tester since that puts two books in close competition with each other for the same tester. Whatever.... it is a fun contest and I like to follow it. Thanks for your answer.
 
Author Comment
Kenzi W. February 11, 2016
I didn't—I promise! Just wanted to clarify. So happy you enjoy following; we're happy to have you here!
 
Ashley R. February 4, 2016
Such great books! Super excited to see Tara up in there!! Wahooo!
 
QueenSashy February 3, 2016
I was 100% unbiased for all these years. This year I am not. Kenji must win :)
 
SoupLady February 3, 2016
Favorite time of the year!!! Love this. As a cookbook geek this is heaven.
 
Megan February 2, 2016
What a great lineup! I can't wait!!
 
Alexandra H. February 2, 2016
IS IT FEBRUARY 25TH YET?!?<br />Hooray for the 2016 Piglet!! I just love, love, love the Piglet! Let the best cookbook win!
 
Dianerquinn February 2, 2016
My favorites form this list are Gjelina, Hot Bread Kitchen (love the recipes and the empowering story behind the business), and Cooking Near and Far - all the recipes tried to date are wonderful in all three. So looking forward to seeing the reviews and discovering the rest. I just LOVE Piglet. I have over 1,000 cookbooks that I read like Romance Novels. Piglet always helps inspire me to indulge more. I love the Ruth R book because I love her. Haven't made the recipes but I loved her memories. Thanks for doing this every year. Let the games begin!!!!!
 
Shalini February 2, 2016
This is exciting.
 
Teresa P. February 2, 2016
The Food Lab transformed my life with his stellar grilled cheese sandwich!
 
ariel A. February 2, 2016
Yes! Let's goooooo
 
dw.mackie February 2, 2016
I'm really surprised the Reichl book made the cut - I checked it out from the library and was completely underwhelmed (and I loved Gourmet magazine and Reichl's other books).
 
olive February 2, 2016
Yayy! My favorite time of year! This group of books looks AWESOME! I already want them all! So excited !!!!
 
McLeod February 2, 2016
From A Girl and Her Greens: Polenta with Kale Puree. Yummers. Accessible, easy and delicious. Anyone who uses the measurement "glug" is my friend.
 
QueenSashy February 2, 2016
I live for Piglet. Case closed :)
 
cookinginvictoria February 2, 2016
Such an exciting collection of cookbooks and a stellar lineup of judges. Can't wait!
 
stefanie February 2, 2016
Zahav is one of the best cookbooks I've used in years! The food actually tastes like the restaurant, the writing is humorous and honest, and the photography is so beautiful. The Bulgarian/Romanian kebabs, pita bread, hummus, and onion pargiyot have all become much-loved parts of my dinner rotation.
 
mcs3000 February 2, 2016
Fantastic selections. Love the Piglet!
 
sianbum February 2, 2016
So thrilled that Mamushka is on the list. Everything I've made from it so far has been delicious!