For those of you whose cookbook wish list is long, and whose bookshelf has lots of splattered cookbooks marked up with “must make” picks, you’re going to be thrilled. For those of you who just want someone to tell you which cookbook is right for you, we’ve got exciting news. And for those of you who love savage games and real talk, but couldn’t care less about sports or talk shows, you’re in luck: The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks is back for its 9th year! It's a March Madness-style bracket contest that has nothing to do with basketball, and everything to do with cookbooks.
The Piglet was founded by cookbook author Charlotte Druckman and Food52 co-founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs in the hopes of generating better, more transparent cookbook reviews—and a little lively, friendly competition.
Its structure and name are inspired by the Morning News’ tournament of novels, The Rooster. Sixteen cookbooks are chosen as the standouts of the past year: books that are thoughtful, cookable, and original in spirit. In the case of this tournament, it really is an honor just to be nominated.
The books are filtered into a bracket and paired off. Judges pick a favorite between the two titles. And who are these judges? In the past, everyone from Freddie Prinze Jr. and Ari Shapiro to Susan Orlean and Gabrielle Hamilton have participated. Judges are chosen for their ability to test the books in a way most home cooks would experience them, and for their ability to write an honest review of how it went.
Each review explains the judge’s point of view: Are they more of a winging-it cook and less of a recipe person? Are they a box-mix sort of baker? They also might talk through the first impression of each book, what they think the books set out to do, and ultimately—after spending time with and testing at least two recipes from each book—how the books hold up. They will then crown a winner of their heat, and that book will advance to the next round.
The result of all these judgments: Strong opinions (by judges and commenters), good fun, an introduction to some of the year’s best cookbooks, and, ultimately, one winner. You’ll know why that book won because there will be four reviews from four very different cooks to back it up, which is one of the many reasons why we find The Piglet so special.
For the roster of this year’s cookbooks, head here. And for a peek at what’s to come, enjoy some of the standout reviews from years past: