Over the years, I have come across TONS of cooking books. They range from recipe books all the way to chef biographies. I have a whole shelf on my bookshelf dedicated to just cooking books. If you want to build your confidence in the kitchen, you need to read and you need to read A LOT! Everyone has great ideas out there and you can glean from everyone’s published ideas to develop your own style and form of cooking!
I was cooking alongside one of my chef mentors one day during an event he was cooking for and he once told me “Marlee, the minute you begin to think you know how to make something, is the moment you don’t know how to do it.” Everyone has their own style of making bread, or gnocchi, or searing fish; whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to experiment and try new methods. My goal is to help expose new techniques that I’ve learned over the years. By doing so, I want to share with you some the best reference books I’ve come across and that I swear by!
The first book I want to highlight is
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs
by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
This book is AHmazing! I love it so much! I believe anyone who wants to get better at cooking needs to buy this book and take a look-see! It lists every kind of food you can imagine along with the seasons (ya know spring, summer, fall, and winter) and what foods are found in each; this book also has quotes and selected menu items from renowned chefs all over the world that highlight some foods! These two authors did amazing at compiling this extensive listing of foods and suggested flavor profiles and pairings to other foods (also, the pictures in here are so beautiful!) This book NEEDS to be on your bookshelf or better yet, right on the counter next to your stove!!! Please please please, get this book!
Next book I would like to give a shout out to is
The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Ha! I promise, I don’t have a thing with books named “blah blah blah Bible…” but this bread book is a staple for me! I will say this for the record, I hate baking! Hate hate hate it BUT I looooooooooooove making bread so very much! There is just something about the smell of yeast combined with flour and the whole process of making bread. Rose is such a wonderful author in that she approaches recipes like I do; she tested these recipes over and over and over again with different sets of variables to make sure that she was producing the best recipe she could and can give you the reasons why she sifts her four before mixing it or why she uses a specific flour for her breads! This woman gives it her all when she develops her recipes and this is why I consider this book a MUST have! She also has another book out that I have on my shelf called The Cake Bible (I know I know), it is a great reference for those of you who love to make cakes! Same approach but with frosting! And if you end up making one of her cakes, invite me over and we can have cake together!
My third reference book I could not cook without is called
The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler and Ron Herbst
My, oh my! This book is in a bit of a league of its own. This book is full of any food you can think of (much like The Flavor Bible) but it gives you a background of the foods, cooking equipment, cuisines, and the list goes on and on! Whenever I stumble upon something I don’t know or need to answer a specific question that my husband has, I whip out this book and find my answer!! This is just a good book to have to answer any question you might ever conceive of! Highly, highly recommended!
These are my three staples! However, there are a few that are worthy mentions in case you ever find the need for them!
- Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman
This one is great for those like me who just need to have a basic foundation to work off without being confined to too many recipe restrictions! I used this book a lot when I was training to go to a competition in Austria. Highly recommended!
- The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery published by Crown Publishers
Auguste Escoffier is THE godfather of the culinary world as we know it! He was the one who came up with the “brigade “system that most modern kitchens operate under today. He also was the one that refined French cooking into what it now is! His recipes are suuuuuuper old school (you won’t find any canned products in these recipes) and full of jaw-dropping technique, at least for us kitchen folk. Reading through this book will make you all realize why we cooks and chefs all say “Hail, Escoffier!”
- The Professional Chef published by the Culinary Institute of America
Two things: First, CIA (the Culinary Institute of America) is THE best cooking school in the country! Numerous award winning chefs attended school there. So when they come out with something, watch out! Second, this book is pretty much the intro to cooking book that every student at CIA gets when attending. It is a beast! It goes through all the basics we learn in culinary school from how to correctly make scrambled eggs, to the 5 Mother Sauces (all Hail, Escoffier!), to some elementary baking principles! Just a heads up though, the yields on these recipes are meant for bulk production (feeding like 25+ people); so if you are interested in playing around with these recipes, just do some math so you don’t stock your fridge full of risotto!
So there ya have it. Please check out these books and add them to your culinary library. Let me know how you like them and how they’ve helped. Happy reading.