The Piglet

Meet Our 16 Favorite Cookbooks of 2018 (& Tell Us Yours)

The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks is crying "wee-wee-wee" into its 10th year.

December  3, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

Have we reached a Golden Age of cookbooks in 2018? We certainly think so. Which is why we're thrilled to welcome another rousing rendition of the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, now celebrating its 10th birthday (my, don't they grow up fast?)!

Kicking off in March 2019, the nearly month-long, bracket-style tournament will go down in four rounds. 16 incredible cookbooks go head-to-head in the first round, and will be reviewed against one another by an illustrious cast of judges. Over the three weeks that follow, the strongest books advance through the rounds until one winner comes out on top. Along the way, all manner of surprises, upsets, triumphs, and oops!es in the mix will keep you hanging out on the edge of your seat!

In addition to the drama, the Piglet is all about getting acquainted with some of the year's best cookbooks. And boy, do we have a line-up for you. In fact, we were too excited to keep our picks to ourselves that we had to share them with you, here and now.

But—before you scroll down—there's more we'd like to share! We're bringing back Piglet Community Picks, the tournament's more laid-back, just as festive cousin. It goes a little something like this: you nominate your favorite cookbooks from 2018 that didn't make it into this year's Piglet, we share the 10 nominees you loved best, and give you the chance to pick one to review at home and send our way.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I am always curious about what the Piglet picks and love getting greater insight into cookbooks before making purchases. I know every worthy 2018 release can't be included in a list of 16, but reading the problematic reviews (over recipe issues, not matters of taste) for the Superiority Burger Cookbook makes me wonder why that was chosen over Green Burgers: Creative Vegetarian Recipes for Burgers and Sides. We're avid cooks and have made many drool-worthy burgers that I dream about from Green Burgers---and we're not even vegetarian. The guy is just a genius about flavor combos and every recipe is so darn satisfying (and clearly well-tested), I could imagine it pulling off an unlikely vegetarian cookbook win were it included in the Piglet. I guess I'll have to submit it to Community Picks and hope it helps this gem of a book get more attention.”
— Aimee E.
Comment

We'll select a handful of these reviews, and will run them on the site once a week, starting in January, right up until the Piglet tournament starts in March. (We hope that helps you cope with the anticipation for the tournament—we know we'll definitely need it.)

Now that the housekeeping's taken care of, without further ado, here are (in no particular order)...


This Year's Piglet Books

Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food by Nik Sharma

Rose's Baking Basics: 100 Essential Recipes, with More Than 600 Step-by-Step Photos by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One by Anita Lo

At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking by Nigella Lawson

Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya

All About Cake by Christina Tosi

Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by Alexander Smalls, JJ Johnson & Veronica Chambers

Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious by Brooks Headley

Soul: A Chef's Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards

Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South by Von Diaz

Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories by Naz Deravian

How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Stories, and Places by Diana Henry

Mastering Pizza: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone by Marc Vetri

The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes by James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst

The Noma Guide to Fermentation(Foundations of Flavor) by René Redzepi and David Zilber

I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad

We're so excited about this year's Piglet books! Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments. And stay tuned for Piglet Community Picks reviews, starting on January 11!

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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!

GET THE LATEST
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Brinda is the Books & Special Projects Editor at Food52, where she edits all of Food52's cookbooks and covers the latest and greatest books on the site (drop her a line with recs!). She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants.

33 Comments

Paola B. March 9, 2019
I am a Filipino but living in Manila. It is heartbreaking that I cannot join the contest. :(
Can you make this a worldwide thing next year? I'll be waiting.
 
Scott G. March 24, 2019
What is the title of your cookbook?
 
stefanie February 27, 2019
Really looking forward to reading about the moment when whoever has to review Mastering Pizza finds out that all the pizza dough recipes take like 3 days.
I say this from a place of love - I'm a Philadelphian with deep respect for what Vetri does.
 
Mihaela P. February 22, 2019
When will the Piglet posts start? Can't wait!
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
Hi Mihaela, we'll post more about this next week, but the Piglet kicks off on March 5. Stay tuned—coming at you really soon.
 
Erin P. January 31, 2019
Excited for this year's competition! Thank you for doing this yearly, it's a wonderful event to highlight books I've failed to dig into. Curious if you plan to post a bracket this year prior to kick-off so we can play along. :) Best, Erin
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
Hi Erin! Sorry for the delay on this. I'm so glad to hear you're a fan! We'll get up a bracket soonest, before the competition kicks off on March 5. Thanks for following along!
 
Erin P. February 22, 2019
Thanks Brinda! 😀🙏
 
Jk P. March 4, 2019
Good morning, google searches and attempts to use search on the sight haven’t helped me find any of piglet 2019 resources or related community picks. The link below for the community picks returned 1,200 items. What am I missing? (I found this through cookbook club link posted back in December.) Thank you.
 
Erin P. March 4, 2019
Hi Brinda, I was curious if you have a link yet to the bracket for tomorrow’s kickoff. Many many thanks for making this all possible! Looking forward to it. :)
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. March 4, 2019
Hi Erin! Here's the bracket: https://food52.com/the-piglet/2019/bracket
 
Erin P. March 4, 2019
🙌🙏😀
 
Omsafeeya January 24, 2019
I have two doorstoppers to add -- Feast: Food of the Islamic World by Anissa Helou and Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes and Kitchen Secrets by Najmieh Batmanglij. Other 2018 books I am cooking from are Kaukasis: The Cookbook by Olia Hercules, #BakeforSyria Recipe Book, by Lily Vanilli and Clerkenwell Boy and Serena Guen. And Simple by Ottolenghi is the first of his books that I have found approachable, although I have all of them and have cooked from them, if someone else recommends the recipe.
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
Feast is a stellar book! And Kaukasis was in last year's Piglet Tournament (it was a semifinalist!), as I believe it came out in 2017, but I'm so glad you've gotten a chance to cook through it. Hope you've enjoyed—it's a fabulous book.
 
SoInconvenient January 21, 2019
I am an evangelist for Ilene Rosen's Saladish. Every recipe is a homerun of flavors and textures, most a simple but not just toss with good olive oil, and the techniques and composition strategies can translate into your own kitchen practice. We've made almost every recipe in the book and its made a dinners and lunches happier, brighter, and a little crunchier.
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
We've loved this book, too, Solnconvenient. Not only are the recipes awesome, there are some seriously cool tips, tricks & tidbits. Pickled raisins, for example... https://food52.com/blog/21931-pickled-raisins

As I've mentioned above, there were soooo many good books out in 2018, it was super-hard to choose 16. I hope you find another cookbook gem you love as much as Saladish during this year's Piglet.
 
osucristina January 16, 2019
Just popped in to say that I am almost counting down the days until Bottom of the Pot! I can't get it at my library, so I am anxious to hear someone else's thoughts as they cook through it!
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
Cristina! Tournament starts in just a few weeks, so not much longer to count down.
 
Aimee E. January 12, 2019
I am always curious about what the Piglet picks and love getting greater insight into cookbooks before making purchases. I know every worthy 2018 release can't be included in a list of 16, but reading the problematic reviews (over recipe issues, not matters of taste) for the Superiority Burger Cookbook makes me wonder why that was chosen over Green Burgers: Creative Vegetarian Recipes for Burgers and Sides.

We're avid cooks and have made many drool-worthy burgers that I dream about from Green Burgers---and we're not even vegetarian. The guy is just a genius about flavor combos and every recipe is so darn satisfying (and clearly well-tested), I could imagine it pulling off an unlikely vegetarian cookbook win were it included in the Piglet. I guess I'll have to submit it to Community Picks and hope it helps this gem of a book get more attention.
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
Hi Aimee, so sorry for the delay here! We studied (and many times, cooked through) the books we ultimately picked for this year's tournament, and didn't actually encounter those recipe issues other folks experienced. But thanks so much for pointing it out!

As for Green Burgers, my colleague Emma LOVED that book, too, and wrote about it here: https://food52.com/blog/21782-the-greenest-veggie-burger . Can't wait to get my hands on it and try out some dishes—clearly it's gotten some high praise from your household and from Emma.
 
Aimee E. March 22, 2019
Thank you for reassuring me the cookbooks were all tested ahead of the tournament. That is great to know. It must be a hard job to choose which books are ultimately included with so many wonderful cookbooks being released each year. I sure love the Piglet!
 
Kathryn January 10, 2019
I remain surprised that Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi and Tara Wigley did not make the final Piglet list this year- it's on the community pick list but not in the tournament. I am glad to see At My Table (Nigella) and How to eat a peach (Diana Henry) got a good showing though. I absolutely love the Noma Guide to Fermentation but I wonder whether it will get a fair go considering most of the recipes take at least a week and require a whole boatload of technical gadgetry. I have never had better Kombucha or lacto pickle in my life than using the Noma methods - this book is a gem but I predict it will not fit in well with the tournament.
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. February 22, 2019
Hi Kathryn, there were SO many good books out in 2018, it was super hard to choose. But that's why we have Community Picks, as you say!

Very interesting point about the Noma Guide to Fermentation. I've just been keeping in mind that Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts did win some Piglets ago, so to me, could be anyone's game. Glad you're liking the book, though—can't wait to try out the kombucha recipes, myself.
 
Joan O. December 10, 2018
Always look forward to the piglet. Happy to see community picks back. I nominated 3. I only have one of the piglet nominees this year, Nigella's At My Table, love it. Four more on my wish list Soul, Coconuts and Collards, Between Harlem and Heaven , and Shaya. Checked out Shaya from my library and want to explore it more.
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. January 15, 2019
Thanks so much for reading, Joan! Let me know if you end up checking out any of the other Piglet books—would love to hear what you think of them.
 
txchick57 December 7, 2018
winner of the contest will be: Season (Sharma). The same type of book wins over and over. I have 9 of the 16 books (not that one, could not be less interested)
 
Karen G. December 4, 2018
I Am a Filipino: And This Is What We Eat is not the correct name of the book according to the cover in the photo. Maybe an edit is in order?
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. December 4, 2018
Thank you so much, Karen—it's been updated.
 
Rose L. December 3, 2018
Thrilled to have my new book "Rose's Baking Basics" on the list and toward the top no less! thank you dear Food52 and all those who voted!
 
cookinginvictoria December 3, 2018
Yay for the return of community picks!
 
Courtney R. December 3, 2018
I've been loving Gaby Dalkin's cookbook that shares the same name as her blog - What's Gaby Cooking. There's a photograph for EVERY recipe and it's beautifully shot. I have a habit of buying cookbooks only to let them sit forgotten on my shelf but I've made numerous recipes from this one
 
Nicole W. December 3, 2018
I was thinking about this one for community pics! I agree, it was one of my favs from this year. The taco skillet bake is an all time favorite!
 
Author Comment
Brinda A. December 5, 2018
So great to hear, both! I hope you've added it as a Community Picks contender!