I love cookbooks. I probably have more than 100 cookbooks in my house, some of which I’ve cooked from extensively, some of which I’ve only used once. I have cookbooks that are almost 100 years old to some that came out this year. I love the knowledge, technique and ideas that are in every single one.
Whenever I end up in a bookstore, I gravitate to the cooking section. The only physical book I’ve bought in the last ten years is a cookbook. Going through my extensive library and years of cooking from some of these books, I’ve found five that I think should be on the shelf of every home chef.
First on the list for a reason; Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the book that kicked things off for me. I’ve loved every recipe I’ve made from this book. I love French food (how could you not?!) and making these great recipes at home is a lot of fun. There are no high resolution, glossy photos in this book with a story to go with each recipe. Instead, this is a tome of cooking knowledge. This book is nearly half a century old, so some of the recipes are a bit dated, but things like boeuf Bourgogne, onion soup and potatoes dauphine, never go out of style. Every home cook should have this book on their shelf.
I own several books by Thomas Keller (he is probably the most influential American chef), and his restaurants are at the top of the list of places I want to visit. But you can get a little bit of his restaurants at home with his books. Ad Hoc at Home one is great for the home chef. There are fantastic recipes like buttermilk fried chicken in here that will teach you so many techniques but still be able to make it at home.
How To Cook Everything has gone through several iterations, editions and modifications, but I still have my first edition in bright yellow (it is falling apart though because I use it so much). As you can guess from the title, this book has a lot of recipes. There is nothing particularly fancy in this book, but a good basic recipe for almost anything you can think of. People call it the new Joy of Cooking, and I believe it is essential for any home cook to have this in their library.
Modernist Cuisine At Home is the home version (or the lighter version) of one of the most influential and popular cookbooks of the last 10 – 15 years, Modernist Cuisine. The scientists and researchers behind Modernist Cuisine culled their 6 volume, 2500 page masterpiece down to the essentials for the home cook. This book delves into a lot of more complex and modern techniques, (such as sous-vide and pressuring cooking) and ingredients (like xantham gum). It breaks things down from a scientific perspective and teaches you a whole new approach to food. It is one of my favourite go-to cookbooks.
The Marcella Hazan classic is a new addition to my library, but I don’t understand why it took me so long to get it. If you own one book on Italian cooking, this should be it. It’s got all the classics done correctly. It has expensive guides on fresh pasta, risotto, polenta and every classic Italian dish you can think of. If you buy it for only one thing, the tomato sauce (which has only three ingredients) is a must make for any home chef.
Milk Bar was a last minute addition to this list, and I’m not sure if it will stay, but recently I have loved this cookbook. I’ve recently started baking, and this book takes one of the most popular dessert restaurants and shows you how to make their fantastic sweets. I’ve made the Birthday cake and gotten great reviews, the cookies and a variety of others. These are great desserts for those that have a sweet tooth