A whole host of folks have come out with books that look at "beginning cooking" in a new way. And while these 10 books may not tell you how to boil an egg (you have the internet for that), but they'll be your textbooks with sound teachers to guide new, hesitant, and terrified cooks with care and enthusiasm.
1. Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market
Marcella Hazan is one of most influential teachers of Italian—and just plain solid—cooking. We have her to thank for the simplest tomato sauce, the purest white bean soup, the homiest of cabbage dishes.
Her last book, Ingredienti, is her most personal: her musings, guidance, lessons, and paragraph-form recipes for fresh ingredients. Her husband, Victor, transcribed and translated her journals to create this book, the thesis of which is, in her friend Amelia Saltsman's words, "everyone can make better food."
2. Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs
Julia Turshen's first book is driven by small victories: the little moments in the kitchen that make you feel triumphant, but also make for great food. Watch her make the buttermilk and pimentón fried chicken from the book.
3. The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices
Here's your road map for when you're like, what kind of salt do I need, and also what's the difference between black salt and grey salt? What does fenugreek taste like again? I have half a pinch of nigella seeds left; where do I stick em?
This is Brown's most personal cookbook. The recipes are a motley assortment of the food he cooks and eats every day—not snazzy show-off moments for television. As such, the tips and techniques he teaches are useful for everyday cooking.
5. Home Cooked: Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook
The food in Home Cooked is thrifty but rich: Anya Fernald, the author and co-founder of Belcampo Meat, takes unassuming ingredients (like chicken hearts, but also chicken braised in vinegar and aromatics) and turns them into staple dishes to make into nourishing weeknight meals.
6. How to Bake Everything: Simple Recipes for the Best Baking
Mark Bittman's the man whose taught us all how to cook everything. Now, he's teaching all of us how to bake. Phew!
More: Start with the gooey butter cake recipe from Bittman's book.
You can often judge how essential (and versatile) a cookbook is based on their sauce/pantry/staples chapter. It's usually tucked in the back, without any flashy images, where the recipes that make all food better live. In Cal's sophomore work, A Recipe for Cooking, this chapter includes two exceptional sauces—a good clue that there are a lot of other saving graces among its pages.
Before you think we've gone bonkers and whole-heartedly joined the spiralizer train, know that not all spiralizer cookbooks were created equal.:
Martha's mission is to present the spiralizer as a democratizing tool: It eliminates tedious kitchen tasks, like chopping or grating; it's safer than a mandoline; it sets you up for faster cooking. And while some of the recipes are vegan or gluten-free, she emphasizes that they're all designed for "a broader spectrum of eaters and cooks" and meant to "be appealing, even irresistible, for people who do not, as well as for people who do, eliminate certain food groups from their diet.”
Prolific cookbook writer (and collector) Diana Henry's latest book is called Simple, so already you know where this is going. But it's not basic food: This one is for someone who finds comfort in basic techniques, but is willing to put time into getting there (knowing that the payoff is worth it).
10. A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead
Okay, yes, our bosses wrote this book, but all of us who've cooked from it are better cooks because of it. The recipes are straightforward—like, put bacon on the outside of your grilled cheese, silly!—and the ideas for how to eat them puts anyone who doesn't want to cook every single night at ease.
A New Way to Dinner, by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
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What's the cookbook that taught you the most about cooking? Tell us in the comments below!