These 16 Cookbooks are the Most Impressive of 2016

February 15, 2017

Our annual Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks started 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 co-founders Amanda and Merrill, and our compatriot Charlotte Druckman. We wanted to put books in the hands of not just recipe writers, who are trained to cook out of them, but real people. You-and-me people. The kinds of people cookbooks are made for and marketed to.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

For the 8th year, we’re back. Today, we announce the list of nominees we thought were 2016’s most impressive cookbooks—these will face off in a bracket-style tournament over the next month—and the eloquent judges who will evaluate them. Official play begins on the 22nd.

Skip below to find out who’s in this year’s tournament—or read on to see what’s in store over the next week before we kick off.

  • Just like last year, we'll also be running Piglet Community Picks. That list is up today (go look!). Unlike last year, you all picked these books. We’ll be posting a review each day of the regular tournament.
  • We’ll be running a prediction contest with a spiffy prize—check back for details! And start noodling on which book you think will win.
  • For the first time, we’ll have a special Piglet bulletin via email—starting tomorrow, you can sign up for updates on judgments and exclusive recipes from winning books straight to your inbox.
  • To help you get to know the books in the tournament, we’ll be posting a cheat sheet—and to help you get to know the tournament (hi, new reader!) we have a video explainer coming right up. (To get a little more caught up on the process of the tournament now—here’s a podcast on how all of this works.)

Let the games begin—almost. See you back here soon.

This Year's Books

This Year's Cast of Judges

  • Emma Straub, The New York Times bestselling novelist
  • Talia Baiocchi, Editor-in-Chief of PUNCH and James Beard Award-nominated author
  • Bill Addison, Restaurant Critic at Eater
  • Rachel Khong, formerly of Lucky Peach, writer, editor, and novelist
  • Pavia Rosati, founder and CEO of Fathom
  • Dan Saltzstein, Editor at the Travel section of The New York Times
  • Gabe Ulla, writer
  • Katie Quinn, food video journalist
  • Freddie Prinze Jr., actor and recent cookbook author
  • Dwight Garner, book critic for The New York Times
  • David Plotz, CEO of Atlas Obscura and one of the hosts of the Slate's Political Gabfest
  • Silvia Killingsworth, editor of The Awl and The Hairpin
  • Marlon James, novelist and Man Booker Prize winner
  • Monique Truong, food writer and bestselling novelist
  • Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner of Lenny Letter

Keep checking this space for Piglet updates, and check out the nominated cookbooks!


The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kathy Lee
    Kathy Lee
  • Suzann
  • Meris Cherian
    Meris Cherian
  • Mayukh Sen
    Mayukh Sen
  • clare
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


Kathy L. February 20, 2017
Sadden to not see Red Rooster Cookbook on the list. It is a great cookbook.
Suzann February 17, 2017
You misssed one of my favorites "A new way to Dinner " in the picks for best cookbook. I received it as a gift. All most finished cooking every recipe from the winter section, love this book.
Connor B. February 17, 2017
We might be a bit biased towards that book. :)
Meris C. February 15, 2017
I am so excited about 'My Two Souths', Asha Gomez I love you and I am so proud of you!
Mayukh S. February 15, 2017
I am so excited about our judges!!!!
chardrucks February 15, 2017
amanda R. February 15, 2017
Seriously, this is a strong cast
clare February 15, 2017
Wow! Some interesting judges. Was hoping to have Michael Twitty again but looking forward to hearing from these people too.
chardrucks February 15, 2017
Clare! Michael Twitty was such a good judge. But up until now, with one exception, we've deliberately refrained from having anyone judge twice. (Gabrielle Hamilton was that exception--she helped out in a pinch and judged a second time, and was as extraordinary as she'd been the first time.)
clare February 15, 2017
Makes sense. Very intrigued to hear from Marlon James and Emma Straub!