This post is part of our community-driven book tournament, The Big Community Book-Off. With your help, we're finding the best books across categories (from bread to pasta, one-bowl to weeknight-friendly, and cake to cookies, to name a few), and putting them through a series of rigorous reviews—considered, tested, and written by none other than you.
Each month, Food52 community members cook their way through five cookbooks around one subject (vegan food! cookies! the Instant Pot!) and dub a winner. Our reviewers have baked bread and cakes, and eaten plenty of vegetables, too.
This month, we’re tackling one-pot books—that means a full meal comes together in just one skillet, pot, casserole dish, or sheet pan (what a dream!). These are the five cookbooks our community couldn’t wait to review when it comes to minimizing dishes.
1. One Pan, Whole Family: More than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals by Carla Snyder
With each recipe in One Pan, Whole Family comes the promise of a four-servings meal in under an hour. The recipes in this book also won’t call for extra kitchen equipment, like food processors or stand mixers, and each chapter is divided into categories around the main ingredient or cooking style, like vegetarian, poultry, meat, and fish. Snyder notes that most of the cooking can be done in a 12-inch lidded skillet, but she’s also included recipes employing a 4-quart saucepan for soups and stews, and a rimmed sheet pan for roasting.
2. From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves by Diana Henry
"If you’re a throw-it-in-the-oven kind of cook, whether by necessity or desire, then this is the book for you," writes Henry in From the Oven to the Table’s introduction. Though some of the recipes require a bit more work than others (a side starch cooked separately, heating an ingredient on the stove before putting it in the roasting pan), the book promises the quality and depth of flavor that always comes with Henry’s recipes, with an air of simplicity. It’s perhaps clear from the title, but this book focuses on dishes cooked in the oven: Henry recommends a few roasting pans (heavy enough to be used on the stovetop and oven), rimmed sheet pans, and a shallow sturdy casserole or braiser.
3. The Complete One Pot by The Editors of America’s Test Kitchen
The title says it all: This is a complete guide to cooking with one pot or pan. Clearly designed to be a one-stop shop for all your one-pot (or pan, or skillet, or multi-cooker) needs, America’s Test Kitchen applies their incredible attention to detail to yet another subject. To use the book to its fullest, you’ll need a Dutch oven, a rimmed sheet pan, a 13x9-inch casserole dish, a 12-inch oven-safe skillet, as well as a slow-cooker and an electric pressure cooker (or a multi-cooker, like an Instant Pot).
4. Dinner's in the Oven: Simple One-Pan Meals by Rukmini Iyer
"The nicest thing about oven-made meals is that they are both versatile and forgiving," notes Iyer in the book’s introduction. Recipes are organized in each chapter by the time in which they can be prepared, and most serve four. For the sake of saving time, some recipes will suggest an option for cooking a grain on the side, as opposed to within the one baking dish. Iyer also notes flexibility to the actual dishes you can use: roasting pans, glass or ceramic baking dishes, or shallow casserole pans will all do, so if you have one, there’s no need to buy new equipment.
5. Sheet Pan Chicken: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner by Cathy Erway
When you crave something hearty and simple, maybe you turn to that one sheet pan chicken dinner you know always works; Erway’s book will give you 50 to choose from. If it weren’t clear from the title, every main recipe in this book is made on a sheet pan and involves chicken, from super-quick dinners for busy nights to "worth the wait" recipes that are great for lazy afternoons, as well as recipes for sides and sauces that are made off the pan. Some of the recipes are classics translated to the sheet pan; others are totally unique. If you don’t already own a true 18x13-inch half sheet pan, now is the time.
Michelle: "If there's one one-pan book that I'm most excited for above all the rest, it has to be Rukmini Iyer's Dinner's in the Oven. This cookbook is divided into several sections: Fish, Chicken, Vegetables, Rice and Pasta, Cakes and Oat Bars, and more. The book is also packed with colorful photographs by David Loftus, who has previously worked with Jamie Oliver, Rachel Khoo, and others. With such a hefty selection of delectable meals and thrilling imagery, it will be hard to choose a meager three recipes to dive in to for the coming weeks. I'm ready to cook and eat as much as possible!"
Judith: "I nominated From the Oven to the Table. Diana Henry holds a special place in my kitchen, and many of her recipes are already in my cooking repertoire. This new book brings her even more into my weeknight routine, with recipes that are not only accessible but just as flavorful as her more complex ones. Diana Henry is a genius when it comes to flavor combinations, and these recipes are no exception. Some favorites include Roasted Radishes With Honey, Mint & Preserved Lemon and Chicken With Prunes, Potatoes, Cauliflower & Harissa (chicken gets a lot of attention in this book)."
Jo-Anne: "I am especially drawn to recipes where I can do most of the prep work ahead of time, allowing me to visit with dinner guests when they arrive. As a result, one-pot or one-pan meals are my go-to dishes, and I am always looking for new ones to try. The book that I am most eager to cook from is Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table. I believe that Diana Henry is a kindred spirit. Not only is she my age and loves to cook a wide variety of foods, her cookbook collection is vast and fabulous—although with more than 4,000 cookbooks on her shelves, I have a bit of catching up to do. But, like her, I have a connection to almost all of my cookbooks. Diana's passion for cookbooks no doubt influences her writing and provides inspiration for her own recipes. I am excited to get to know her better through her food, and her writing."
To produce the most comprehensive reviews, Michelle, Judith, and Jo-Anne put together these guidelines:
Each reviewer will make the same recipe (a chicken dish) from each cookbook, as well as two additional ones (we'll all make something different). This will ensure we test at least seven recipes from each cookbook.
We will judge reviews based on the following:
Presentation. Is the book well organized and edited? What do the index and table of contents look like?
Teachable moments. Did the author make assumptions about what we knew, and do they offer tips and strategies when needed?
Voice. Does the book have a clear authorial voice? Is it well written and researched? Does it display knowledge of the topic, tell a story, and reach its targeted audience?
Appearance. Is the overall look visually appealing? We'll take into account the book's images, design, and cover.
Flexibility. We are all single cooks; and with the pandemic, many people are cooking for themselves and not hosting dinner parties. Are the recipes adaptable to smaller serving sizes?
Recipes. Are recipes well written and edited? Are the directions easy to follow? Do they call for accessible ingredients, tools, and equipment? Are they tasty and enticing dishes?