Happy 2017! I hope you all enjoyed 2016. Whether you had an amazing year or a poor one, 2017 is a chance for change. Have you made a 2017 resolution? Has it been to cook more, or read more? Maybe you just want to learn how to cook amazing dishes in general?
If you are trying to do any of these, then I have compiled a great 2017 reading list. It is filled with cookbooks for beginners and talented chefs. All of these books are great in the way they walk through dishes and recipes and can help anybody conquer their kitchen. This list ranges from cookbooks to text books, comic books to kid 1-2-3 recipes(that was a favorite part of my childhood). All of which, make great teaching tools for cooks of all ages!
Happy reading in 2017! I hope you find a great book below, if you know of a good book that isn’t listed, please feel free to let me know!
If you are a home cook, looking to find techniques and recipes that fit into your daily life, Alton Brown has got you covered. This book is great because it not only goes over basic recipes, but it also covers all the tools you should have in your kitchen, basic pantry essentials, etc. From there it does a great job going over basic techniques and really good recipes that all cooks of any skill level should know.
Do you want to know how to make Pho? He goes over that! Grits! Nitrous Pancakes, goes over that as well. The recipes in the cookbook are easy to follow and fun. Not only that, but the way he goes over these recipes should make it easy for you to modify the recipe to your own liking(which I find very important).
I think the picture says it all for this book. This book makes cooking easy.
When it comes down to cooking, there are a lot of very important techniques that every cook should know. You should know how to break down a chicken, dice an onion(properly), and make a solid dessert (like creme brûlée). There is one technique that can bring all of the previous together, that is sauce making. A sauce often brings all the flavors of a dish together. It moistens, acts as a conduit of flavor and brings dishes to life. Every cook should know how to make one pan sauce, a reduction, a vinaigrette and a coulis. More importantly, you (as a cook) need to be able to take these base sauces and create totally new flavors. This book works amazing when you read it in unison with the Flavor Bible. Combining both books allows you to understand food much faster, because you are learning both solid technique and flavor combinations at the same time.
From there, making your own dishes that taste good will become easier and easier. You can trying making reductions, gastriques, and vinaigrette and mixing in combinations of herbs, spices, etc. Give it a go!
This is a fun cookbook. It is written by Chef Lauren Thompson of Cafe Juanita. Besides being an amazing chef, she also was a culinary instructor and has experience teaching novices how to wield a knife. Her new book, Cooking Comics! Simple Skills, Fantastic Food, does a great job of showcasing her time as an instructor. Novice cooks don’t have to fear the kitchen, or as Seattle Met put it, “tremble”. Cooking Comics is filled with great recipes, and amazing pictures drawn by Tsukuru Anderson. The whole book is an example of what a chef cookbook should be. Not some over the top, persnickety combination of recipes that no one can replicate without $1000 dollars worth of equipment, but honest recipes. Recipes that any cook can follow, not just a line cook with 5 years of experience.
This actually isn’t her first cookbook Project. She also worked to help John Sundstrom write “Lark: Against the Grain” (sadly I haven’t read that…maybe my 2017 good book??). So Lauren isn’t new to the experience of writing cookƒbooks and the quality of the is book shows it.
Sometimes the best way to learn, is opening up a text book. I know some people hate text books. I get it, they are not exactly exciting. However, if you are thinking of becoming a chef, then this book is great. It not only goes over classic recipes, techniques, equipment, etc. The Professional Chef also goes over menu development, food cost, how to maintain knives, etc. Really, this is a fat cookbook of knowledge. It also goes over cuts of meat, fish, vegetables, and obscure kitchen equipment.
What I find this book best for is a person who isn’t looking for a specific technique like sausage making or bread baking. Instead, this book is for those who want to have a better understanding of cooking as a whole. Thus, I find this book best suited for culinary students, up-and-coming chefs, etc. However, if you already own a culinary textbook, don’t bother buying this one. Most culinary textbooks do a good job of being about the same. So if you own a different version, or a culinary textbook from another company, there is no need to buy a new one.
Is anyone laughing at this recommendation? Ok, there is a real soft spot in my heart for this book in particular. If you have kids 3-10 that want to learn to cook, this book is a stunner. My mother and I used this cookbook a lot when I was a kid. I remember making the cream puffs, and chocolate truffles a hundred times (not actually a hundred). They were just so simple and the pictures made the whole experience seem so easy (and it really is). You are not going to learn any fancy techniques here, just a few basics. Personally, this book is more about the time spent with your kids vs. what you will learn from it.
It doesn’t have anything too difficult or unsafe and it offers great exposure to any young and budding chef.
There are several reasons I love Cook’s Illustrated. First, their recipes are tested, tried and true. You know they are going to work. Their test kitchen puts out great work and you know you can rely on what they write. More importantly, I love the style which they order their recipes. They will start with something plain and boring like deviled eggs, they will give you the basic recipe, then, the next recipe following will be a kicked up version. They don’t do it with every recipe, but I love it when they do. It is quietly teaching you how to improve your cooking. You might not even notice it if you are not paying attention, but suddenly, you will think of flavor combinations that just make sense. I don’t know when that gear starts moving for some people, but it is pretty cool.
The Silver Spoon New Edition Some books are more about recipes and less about technique. Both the Silver Spoon and Better Homes and Gardens provide readers with thousands of recipes combined. You could spend nearly a decade trying to cook one of these recipes a day(from both books, about 3,200 recipes..ok more like 8.5 years). If you are just trying to to cook as many different recipes as possible, both of these books work great. Their recipes are reliable(thank goodness) and have been tried and tested.
I have mentioned several cook books that were just a huge part of my childhood. That includes the Better Homes Cook Book. My family owned the ring bound version (it is cheaper). When I first got really into cooking and upgraded from my kid cook book. For some reason, this was the next cook book I picked up. Maybe it is because I saw my parents use it, or because of its strange pattern on the front. Whatever the reason, I recall cooking a few of the recipes out of this book. Again, reliable, and tasty. You’re not going to find earth shattering recipes in here. However, if you are just trying to make good food for your family, I don’t think you have to! Nope, just focus on making tasty food. It is super simple and these recipes show it. No need to try to buy the Mugaritz and pull off those crazy recipes. It takes way too much time and it is a bummer when the recipes don’t come out right. If you are looking for a book just to stare at(it has great pictures), sure, Mugaritz may be the right book for you. If you are looking for new recipes to make for your family in 2017, these are easy recipes that can help you out big time!
Let’s say you are not trying to become a world-class chef. Maybe you just want to learn how to make a lot of good recipes for your friends and family. Nothing fancy, no weird meats or vegetables just easy and fast dishes. Then Dinner Made Simple is a good book for you. This is a book from my much younger years. Back when I really knew very little about food and I thought roasted carrot soup was the coolest thing in the world(it does taste amazing!). This book is great for people on the go, and people who have busy family lives. If you have several kids and just want to give them something tasty with very few ingredients, Dinner Made Simple is a great cookbook. Again, nothing fancy here. You won’t learn how to be a cook, or a chef. However, you will make your family happy!
The Basics. The most important concept in any field. It’s not about the fancy back-flip to header that scores a goal, it is about how you dribble. Forget about the fancy molecular gastronomy techniques until you can master the basic recipes in some of these books! You will be an amazing chef or cook in time, but it takes practice. Each new recipe, technique and new bit of knowledge will get you that much closer, but don’t get discouraged when your shuffle falls, or your turkey is dry. Keep it up!
Thanks for reading part one of my 2017 book list for people who want to learn how to cook. I hope you learn how to cook amazing food this year. Good luck.
All of the links to products are Amazon Affiliate links. I would like to be candid that I do receive a percentage of the purchase price. That being said, all the products I reference I have either used or own. I want to help people looking for products anyway! I don’t want people buying things that won’t benefit them.
Tags:CookBooks; 2017 Best Cook Books; New Years Resolution; Read More; Beginner Cook Books