The Best Cookbooks For New Home Cooks, According To 8 Professional Chefs
If you've been wanting to up your kitchen game this autumn, I've got the perfect books for you: Bustle asked eights chefs to pick their favorite cookbooks for new home cooks, and you can start building your kitchen library right now, based on their suggestions.
Being a home cook is a difficult, but rewarding job. Once the other people you live with figure out that you're willing and able to do most of the cooking, you get free rein to fix the meals you want to eat. That kind of freedom leads to a lot of experimentation in the kitchen, and you'll soon find that a lot of dishes you thought were fancy — I'm looking at you, chicken piccata! — are actually super easy to make.
Whether you're moving out on your own for the first time and want to be able to feed yourself, or you're finally taking the cohabitation leap to live with your significant other, brushing up on your cooking chops can't hurt. The sheer volume of cookbooks available today makes it difficult to just walk into your local library or bookstore and pick up what you need, which is why these home-cooking cookbook recommendations from chefs are here to make your life a little easier.
Cat Cora recommends Les Légumes: Vegetable Recipes from the Market Table by Pascale Beale
"I love eating healthy and delicious meals. It’s not easy to find a cookbook that makes vegetables the star of the show. Pascale Beale’s sublime, seasonally inspired vegetable cookbook, Les Légumes: Vegetable Recipes from the Market Table, is a compendium of more than one hundred, soul satisfying, plant-based dishes, packed with innovative ingredients and creative flavor combinations. She is a pro at making vegetables look irresistible. The exquisitely photographed recipes are easy to follow, transforming vegetable-centric dishes into the highlight of any meal."
Cat Cora's Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef's Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness and Pascale Beale's Les Légumes: Vegetable Recipes from the Market Table are available now.
Judy Joo recommends How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
"I’m a big fan of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It is just a great 101 book for every home cook without any pomp or circumstance. I really like Mark’s simple approach to cooking and he is such a passionate person as well."
Judy Joo's Korean Soul Food: Authentic Dishes and Modern Twists and Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything are available now.
Anita Lo recommends Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker
"One size fits all is a hard category to fill in this department as we are a diverse country of immigrants. I have yet to come across a basic cookbook that is truly multicultural but if pressed, I’d choose Joy Of Cooking, although it could represent more cuisines. But it does cover much of a narrow range of western basics from cocktails to a recipe for armadillo!"
Jenn Louis recommends Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater
"I am a big fan of vegetables and like to learn to cook each vegetable in several ways. My favorite vegetable book is Tender by Nigel Slater. This fat compendium tells stories, describes cooking methods, and generally teaches so much about varieties, seasons, and general how-to that it is the first resource I grab when I want to learn to cook a vegetable in a new way. Good for a novice, and a pro, this seasonal book includes many common vegetables and less popular, the book is published in the UK, vegetables. If you are a fruit aficionado, he wrote a book dedicated to fruit. It is called Ripe, appropriately."
Jenn Louis' The Book of Greens: A Cook's Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress, with More Than 175 Recipes and Nigel Slater's Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch are available now.
Sara Moulton recommends The Zuni Café Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant by Judy Rodgers
"The one cookbook I would recommend, even though some of it is a bit of a stretch for the home cook, is The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. The introduction alone, which covers essential topics such as: 'Deciding What to Cook,' 'The Habit of Tasting and Finding Flavor Balance,' 'The Practice of Salting Early,' is invaluable. If all the new cook did was read that first chapter they would learn so much. Judy Rodgers is a superb teacher with deep knowledge of the craft of cooking from years of experience in professional kitchens. Yet she’s able to lay out recipes in a way that is not remotely intimidating."
Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better and Judy Rodgers' The Zuni Café Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant are available now.
Niki Nakayama recommends Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji and Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker
"The Japanese cook book is a fantastic book for people just starting to learn Japanese cuisine. The information is in-depth and yet easy to understand and grasp. The Joy of Cooking is really great at providing basic knowledge and helps anyone navigate through common cooking methods and techniques without being overwhelming."
Rachael Ray recommends Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
"It’s cooking school in a book. It’s an essential, and it’s beautifully illustrated and fun to read. She makes it fun."
Rachael Ray's Rachael Ray 50: Memories and Meals from a Sweet and Savory Life and Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking are available now.
Aarti Sequeira recommends The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook's Illustrated
"When I was first starting to teach myself how to cook, I didn't just want recipes that told me what to do... I wanted to know WHY. I fell in love with the Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe cookbook because they do just that. The intrepid test kitchen cooks try every different way there is to make a classic dish, and then fiddle with it to provide you the best way to make that dish, along with an explanation of why! As I worked my way through the book (which is, admittedly, a little intimidating — it's about 4-inches thick!), I not only learned how to make dishes, but how to decide what technique to use in any given situation. That helped me to break free from following recipes... and cook on my own, a benchmark to which any new cook aspires! My first endeavor from that book? Chicken marsala. Still one of my favorites."
Aarti Sequeira's Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with Indian Soul and The Best New Recipe are available now.