From the classics (“The Joy of Cooking”) to the new ones (“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”) With that in mind, here is a list of 10 excellent cookbooks for beginning cookbooks, presented with the recognition that, regardless of their goals, every new or experienced cook wants a cookbook that offers the chance to have a happy ending. Some are recent, others are not; what they all have in common is that they offer, through an alchemy of recipes, voice and explanation of the methodology, access roads to the kitchen that are as welcoming as they are diverse. There's a reason why this glorious book is still in force 88 years after Irma Rombauer self-published her first incarnation. Revised this year by Rombauer's great-grandson, John Becker, and his wife Megan Scott, the book remains a masterclass for anyone who wants to learn the basics, all the basics.
It contains more than 4,500 recipes of all kinds, from popcorn to emu steaks, along with graphics, diagrams and a three-page spread on how to mix and match salad vegetables, enough, in other words, to qualify more or less like a cooking school with page numbers. Don't be frightened by the 958 pages of this book or the use of the word “science” in its title. His recipes are accessible, largely thanks to the care (and humor) that López-Alt uses to explain, yes, the science behind them. Even the seemingly simple act of boiling an egg has its merit, and six pages include a graphic that shows the boiling point versus altitude dedicated to it.
Basically, this is a nerd fantasy, which will probably appeal to both the most curious newbie and the one who simply wants a foolproof macaroni and cheese recipe. Sometimes, the best way to get into the kitchen easily is to learn how to prepare something that you really like to eat outside of it. If pastries are your thing, Simple Cake, with its list of 10 quick and simple cake recipes and 15 ingredients (and numerous suggestions for combining them), is the ideal gateway for both baking and cooking. Packed with practical advice, it presents cake as an achievable everyday pleasure and offers the peace of mind that, as Williams writes, whatever your experience as a baker, “you are more than qualified and, over time, your confidence will increase.