There are so many cookbooks out there and the odds are you have at least six you’ve never used and that is being nice. Cookbooks are a great resource for home cooks and professional chefs, but we do not need to buy them all. These days you can find just about any recipe you want online so I am going to let you know which books are actually worth paying for to help you improve your skills and knowledge in the kitchen.
In this post I am going to go over five books you need to buy and their best features. I will also highlight some key points in each book that you should look at upon purchase.
The Professional Chef Ninth Edition, The Culinary Institute of America
First up is the old reliable, The Professional Chef. This book covers all the bases. If you can only have one book in your kitchen it should be this one. It is like having google for cooks in one book.
- Master Recipe List
- Appendix for Conversions
- Recipe Index
- Recipe Glossary
- Subject Index
- Food Terms Definitions
- Additional Food and Beverage Reading Resources
Stocks, Sauces, and Soups page 239
This section of the book is an excellent starting point because mastering stocks, sauces, and soups is going to start all your dishes with a full-flavored base. Also check out this post to get a rundown of the five mother sauces you need to know.
Grilling, Boiling, and Roasting page 423
Chapter 17 grilling, boiling, and roasting is going to give you a general and probably better understanding than you have right now of these basic cooking techniques.
Sauteing, Pan Frying, and Deep Frying page 487
Chapter 18 is also crucial for the same reasons chapter 17 is. You NEED to know how to do these things and how to do them well.
Yeast Breads page 1025
Learning to make bread is not the easiest skill to master but it is rewarding. This section of the pro chef will help you get going on your way to making dinner party worthy loaves.
On Food And Cooking, Harold McGee
Why do you need this book? You need it for the why. On Food and Cooking will answer any questions you have about why we cook something the way we do. This is the science and reasoning behind cooking. This is a must have because as cooks we need to know what the hell we are talking about. Anyone can roast chicken, except maybe my Aunt Tara. Can you give me any insight on Maillard reaction though? Do a little digging into this book and you are going to know the why on everything you might make in your kitchen.
- Visuals including tables, chart, and help graphics
- Subject Index
- Definitions throughout
Chapter 3 Meat page 118
The Meat potion of this book explains the point of cooking temperatures on meat and why it effects flavor. Visiting this section will aid in mastering meat cookery.
Chapter 14 Cooking Methods and Utensil Materials page 777
If you ever wonder which methods of cooking work well with which ingredients chapter 14 is going to be worth your time. Another noteworthy part of this chapter is the information covering cookware materials. It is important to know how certain materials react to heat and acid because this will impact the flavor of your dish as well as toxicity of your ingredients.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child
If you do not already own Mastering the Art of French Cooking, what are you doing with your life? Seriously?
This book transformed the American home cook in the 1970’s. It gave hope that anyone can cook because anyone can with the help of this book. I recommend utilizing this book in conjunction with Julia Child’s cooking show, The French Chef. Following the guidelines of the recipes in the book with a visual aid will give you a leg up when it comes to mastering French cuisine.
- Cutting Guide
Wines page 31
Julia Child gives an approachable lesson of pairing a serving wine with food. If you do not know the first thing about wine, then trying to pair it with food will be daunting. Read this section of Master the Art of French Cooking to get starting wine pairing with food in a fun way.
Chapter Five Fish page 207
The way fish cookery is approached in this book is refreshing and easy to follow. Fish cooked properly is such a delight and everyone who likes to cook should know how to do it. If you read this chapter, you will be a master at cooking fish in no time.
Chapter 10 Desserts and Cakes page 579
French desserts are unmatched and with Julia’s help you can indulge in your own homemade French sweets whenever your heart desires. This reward does come with a lot of practice, and you will need a helping hand or book for this journey. This chapter is going to give you the fundamentals for mastering French desserts.
The New Food Lover’s Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst
The title says it all. If you love food this book is going to be your best friend. It is the food dictionary of your dreams. This is the google for food definitions and if you do not know what an ingredient is in one of your recipes this book has your back! Wondering what okara is? Buy this book and find out what that means along with any other food terminology.
- Alphabetical Terminology
- British to American Food Terms Appendix
- Conversion Chart
- Retail Cut of Meat and Poultry Chart
- Consumer Information Resources
- Pronunciation for terms
Pronunciation Guide page xi
Take a look at the pronunciation guide before you look up any terms to better understand how the letters are being used phonetically. This will help you with difficult French terms and let’s be honest some tough English words.
Appendix page 690
The appendix of The New Food Lover’s Companion is a hidden gem. It is packed full of helpful charts, terms, and techniques. This book is the most compact of the books on this list so you can bring it with you anywhere and you will want to just for the appendix.
Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, Larousse
You have your culinary dictionary already now you just need this culinary encyclopedia to complete your food book collection. Larousse Gastronomique is the stuck French version of Food Lover’s Companion and I promise you are going to love it. Not only does this book have the what, how, and why of all cookery things it also has simple recipes and techniques.
Invest in this book and be prepared to impress all your dinner party guests with your elite food knowledge. It will be unmatched.
- Useful Information Introduction
- Recipe Index
Useful Information page viii
Useful is the correct word for the information provided at the beginning of the book. Cooking temperatures, weights, and spoon measurements provided here are going to help to execute the recipes in the book with precision.
Recipe Index page 1278
The recipe index is going to be your point of reference anytime you are looking for a specific recipe and not just a term definition. Utilizing this section of the book will save you a lot of time and help you find the concise recipe you might be looking for.
If you add any of the books from this list to your collection of cookbooks, you are going to be advancing your food knowledge to new levels. These resources are not going to give you a recipe you make one time, they will give you a deep understanding of the fundamentals of professional cooking.