Homemade food is often cheaper, healthier, and even tastier than eating out or buying pre-prepared foods at the grocery store. But if you never learned to do anything more complicated than heating up a frozen pizza, cooking from scratch can seem pretty intimidating. Luckily, there are a bunch of great cookbooks that were written with total beginners in mind. Here are 10 cookbooks that will teach you how to cook, even if you don’t know how to boil water:
1. Bittman, Mark – How To Cook Everything: The Basics
Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything is a modern classic that makes a perfect gift for advanced beginners who want to expand their repertoire of recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques. It assumes a basic level of cooking knowledge, however, so for total beginners, Bittman prepared this cookbook, which includes a smaller selection of recipes, but has simplified, step-by-step instructions and 1,000 photos to help you visualize what each dish should look like at different stages of preparation and cooking.
2. Johnson, Hilah – Learn To Cook: A Down and Dirty Guide to Cooking (For People Who Never Learned How)
A comprehensive but entertaining guide for beginning cooks that covers everything from what basic equipment you’ll need and how to read a recipe, to how to properly cut up a chicken and pull off a dinner party.
3. Smith, Delia – How To Cook
British cook Delia Smith’s books and television programs for beginning cooks are highly regarded across the pond and are also earning a growing reputation in America for high quality instruction in basic cooking skills and recipes, starting with the simple and versatile egg.
4. Mills, Nancy and Kevin – Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions
A popular starter cookbook with lots of helpful “Mom Tips.”
5. Kamberg, Mary-Lane – The “I Don’t Know How to Cook” Book: 300 Great Recipes You Can’t Mess Up!
This cookbook offers a good variety of easy and delicious recipes, with lots of tips for beginners.
6. Hall, Ded – The Starving Students’ Cookbook
If you want to do more cooking but live in a dorm or other place with limited access to kitchen equipment and cookware, this book can help. It’s full of cheap, delicious, and easy recipes that use minimal ingredients and equipment.
7. Seinfeld, Jessica – The Can’t Cook Book: 100+ Recipes For the Absolutely Terrified
Jerry Seinfeld’s wife made a name for herself in the cookbook world with Deceptively Delicious, and with this cookbook, she hopes to extend her passion for healthy but quick and delicious cooking to beginning cooks.
8. Potter, Jeff – Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food
If you love science and want to learn the how and why of cooking from a scientific perspective, you’ll love this book! Why do so many things need to be baked at 350°F? Why does carmelizing stuff make it taste so good? In addition to the healthy dose of science education, Potter also includes tons of tips and hacks to make cooking easier and more delicious for novice and expert chefs alike.
The Next Steps
Once you’ve successfully mastered the basics of cooking, you may want to start learning more advanced skills. These books are good starting points to more advanced cooking techniques:
9. Anderson, Pam – How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart
If you’d like to learn how to whip up a delicious meal without relying on recipes, this book is an excellent guide. It emphasizes learning basic techniques and recipes, and then expanding them with different variations. For example, once you can cook a basic frittata, you can also cook any of a hundred different variations: frittata with sausage and spinach, frittata with tomatoes and goat cheese, frittata with asparagus and ham, frittata with peppers and onions…
10. Page, Karen and Andrew Dornenburg – The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs
If you’d like to start inventing your own recipes, this cook can give you a huge head start. It offers a detailed discussion of the elements that make food delicious, and extensive charts of flavors that blend well together. The charts include not just familiar combinations but also unique and unusual ones that even experienced cooks may never have considered. Almost everybody knows basil+tomato+mozzarella=YUM! but who would have guessed that basil+lemon+vanilla is good as well?
What are your favorite cookbooks for beginners?
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