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7 Tips for Cooking Your Way Through an Entire Cookbook

by:
February 23, 2018

First, Julie Powell did it with Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Now, multiple members of the Cookbook Club are taking on that same challenge of cooking every single recipe in a cookbook with this year’s bonus book selection, Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden. The concept was the brainchild of member John William Barton, and after a quick mention of it in the Club, multiple members were inspired and vowed to join him in the journey.

Why would someone consider cooking every recipe from a book in one year? Perhaps to explore recipes they might normally look past, to hone skills, or to experience new flavors and cuisines. For Kirsten Svenson King, it was to look for a way to change up her routine. When King saw Barton’s personal challenge she was inspired: “The timing was serendipitous—I needed a New Year’s resolution, and it was early in January.” For Barton it was about seasonality, “I wanted to follow the ethos of McFadden’s book and only cook recipes from the season I am currently in.”

Ready to give it a try? Whatever your reasons for challenging yourself to complete all the recipes in a cookbook in one year, a plan will help you pull it off. We've got 7 tips to get you off to a good start.

1. Do the math. How many recipes are actually in the book you want to cook through? (Six Seasons has well over 250!) Determine an average of how many recipes you would need to cook per week and start there. Sometimes this will be easier then you think—many books include recipes within recipes. For example, McFadden’s recipe for Fontina Stuffed Arancini requires leftovers from his Winter Squash and Leek Risotto.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I’m currently cooking my way through Ina Garten’s 1,000+ recipes (I’ve done 482 so far) and I’d probably go crazy without an excel tracker. It took a while to create but saves a huge amount of time when planning meals for the week. Instead of scouring all 10 books each week, the recipes are all in one spot. The excel has the following categories: • Recipe • Book + Page • Rating • Notes on changes I made or would make next time • Specialty cooking equipment (eg Madeleine pan, food mill). Nothing is worse than buying all the ingredients and then not having the tools you need. • Herbs, Specialty, Expensive, or Hard-to-Find ingredients – This is the most helpful for planning. It helps prevent wasting fresh herbs and allows me to skip recipes when I don’t have the time to search for ingredients that week. I also struggle with figuring out which recipes to make some weeks, so started using this code: =INDEX($A:$A,RANDBETWEEN(1,COUNTA($A:$A)),1) in excel to select a recipe at random. So helpful when your super indecisive! Thanks for letting me geek out for a minute. ;) Trent @storeboughtisfine ”
— Trent P.
Comment

2. Find the time. Consider setting aside certain days of the week or times of the day. Once cooking becomes a part of your routine, the challenge becomes much more attainable. King reminds us that it's important to be realistic: “I know there will be some weekends away, sickness, and general life events that may make this difficult, but I want to keep it happy and flexible. I would never want a silly challenge to turn my joy and passion for cooking into stress and grief.”

Winter Squash and Leek Risotto and Fontina Stuffed Arancini Photo by John William Barton‎

3. Organize your supplies. Be sure to have plenty of staple ingredients like olive oil, butter, onions, and the like in your pantry. Skim through the book, evaluate which ingredients and equipment are used frequently, and keep them close at hand. Consider dedicating a shelf or counter space to store these items (this will eliminate the oh so frustrating task of moving aside all those pots and pans to reach the Dutch oven stacked on that back shelf day after day).

4. Write it down. Get a notebook for grocery lists, a pantry and fridge inventory, and to log which recipes you have completed. Or consider trying what Club member Patty Pomper Leeman does: “I'm a total geek and keep a spreadsheet of all of the recipes that I cook.” Geeky isn't a bad thing when you have hundreds of recipes to cook and only one year to do it in!

5. Keep seasonality in mind. While we have grown accustomed to being able to purchase some summer vegetables in the dead of winter, it cannot always be counted on and the quality can often be sub-par. If there are certain ingredients that may be difficult to find year-round, set up a calendar that includes recipes which are best suited towards a particular season. This will help you avoid hunting for fresh asparagus in the dead of winter!

6. Start with the staples. Barton states that one of the main things he has learned so far is to “have lots of the go-to recipes on hand.” Things like dressings, croutons, and spice mixes which are used throughout the book can be made in advance, labeled, and stored for later.

7. Find an accountability buddy. Know a friend who might be up for the same challenge? Do it together! A partner can help you stay on track, and provide support. Or maybe just join us over at the Food52 Cookbook Club (you'll have the benefit of over 20,000 accountability buddies!)—there's still plenty of time left to join John William Barton, Kirsten Svenson King, and plenty of other members in cooking through Six Seasons this year.

Bonus: Plan a casual dinner party (or two!). Your friends won’t care if you don’t roll out the red carpet for them every time they come to your house. And you could even consider asking a friend to come help you cook. This will knock out multiple recipes, hold you accountable for completing recipes in time, and help you maintain a social life at the same time!

Have you cooked through an entire cookbook? Tell us your tips below!

8 Comments

Joy G. February 24, 2018
I challenged myself to cook every recipe in Genius Recipes a few years ago. I haven't finished yet (I have 2 kids under 3) but I'm closing in. I have enjoyed the process and that particular book has helped me to be a better cook and given me some go-to recipes that I will use for years to come (granola, tomato butter sauce, apple cake). At the beginning it was easy to add in a recipe or two each week but now I've got a few lingering that I'm waiting for seasonal ingredients (green peaches, asparagus, figs). I think the key to picking a book to cook everything in is finding something that interests you and pushes your boundaries.
 
Joy G. February 24, 2018
Also, I keep track by actually writing in my cookbook. I make comments about what I would change next time and whether its worth repeating. I do this with all my cookbooks. When I remember, I try to add comments in Eat Your Books too.
 
Kirsten S. February 23, 2018
This is so great, Linsey! Feeing grateful for the supportive community of the Cookbook Club!
 
Sheila February 23, 2018
Great tips! I'd like to give a shout out to using Eat Your Books to track recipes with bookmarks and to search for recipes that use ingredients on hand. I'm not sure I can cook all the recipes in Six Seasons (ramps just don't happen in SoCal) but I'm tracking them on EYB and have cooked 53 recipes so far this year!
 
KDH9966 February 23, 2018
Great article and amazing tips. I enjoy John’s reviews in particular, they are super detailed and his photo’s just make me want make it.
 
Author Comment
Linsey February 23, 2018
He really does take such care with his posts, and always provides great tips! He is like the ultimate cookbook club member!!
 
Trent P. February 23, 2018
I can’t vouch for #4 (write it down) enough. I’m currently cooking my way through Ina Garten’s 1,000+ recipes (I’ve done 482 so far) and I’d probably go crazy without an excel tracker. It took a while to create but saves a huge amount of time when planning meals for the week. Instead of scouring all 10 books each week, the recipes are all in one spot. The excel has the following categories:<br /><br />• Recipe<br />• Book + Page<br />• Rating<br />• Notes on changes I made or would make next time<br />• Specialty cooking equipment (eg Madeleine pan, food mill). Nothing is worse than buying all the ingredients and then not having the tools you need. <br />• Herbs, Specialty, Expensive, or Hard-to-Find ingredients – This is the most helpful for planning. It helps prevent wasting fresh herbs and allows me to skip recipes when I don’t have the time to search for ingredients that week.<br /> <br />I also struggle with figuring out which recipes to make some weeks, so started using this code: =INDEX($A:$A,RANDBETWEEN(1,COUNTA($A:$A)),1) in excel to select a recipe at random. So helpful when your super indecisive! <br /><br />Thanks for letting me geek out for a minute. ;) <br /><br />Trent<br />@storeboughtisfine<br />
 
Author Comment
Linsey February 23, 2018
Trent- I am glad you enjoyed the article! I just love the idea of letting excel select at random a recipe for you! Keeps things interesting for sure! Thanks for sharing your great ideas.