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25 Essential Cookbooks for the Home Kitchen

End your kitchen nightmare and learn to cook with these 25 books.


Cooking is one of life’s pleasures: it’s therapy after a day at work, it’s rewarding to provide for friends and family, and it’s just plain enjoyable to create something delicious. And short of attending cooking school, books are still the best way to learn. We consider these 25 to be classics, essentials for the library of aspiring home cooks. In general, we’ve avoided restaurant cookbooks in favor of books that help build a foundation of skills; they reflect our preferences at GP (hence the emphasis on French cuisine) as well as those of the culinary professionals we come into contact with over the course of writing and photographing food. Get them and get cooking.

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White Heat
Marco Pierre White
If you’ve ever wondered where Gordon Ramsay got his temper, you’ll be interested in this book by Marco Pierre White. Aside from being Ramsay’s mentor (now estranged, naturally), White is best known for earning three Michelin stars at the young age of 33 and for unleashing vitriol on cooks and customers alike. This book is an essential collection of White’s recipes and a nice look into the world of one of the original celebrity chefs. $28

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient
Jennifer McLagan
James Beard Award-winning author Jennifer McLagan has taken on a variety of unpopular ingredients in her books: Bones, Odd Bits and Bitter. But it’s Fat that we like most, with its detailed history of the war against fat, an explanation of why fat is important (and delicious) and 100 recipes for everything from homemade butter to duck confit. $25

The Baking Bible
Rose Levy Beranbaum
Cooking a quality dinner is impressive, but never forget the dessert. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s detailed recipes for cakes, pies, tarts, cookies and more are thorough without being overwhelming, and she furnishes the reader with the “golden rules” of baking (like “designate equipment to use only for baking”), so you can go from novice to bread pudding pro rather quickly. $23

Tartine Bread
Chad Robertson
Times have been tough for bread and the protein that gives it its chewy texture, gluten. But for those of us who still carry the gourmand flag, there’s no better accompaniment to a meal. This book from San Francisco bakery Tartine is the hard copy of everything co-owner Chad Robertson learned while studying with some of the best bakers in the US and France. $25

The Art of Fermentation
Sandor Ellix Katz
Whether you’re into fermentation for the health benefits, the kimchi or the alcoholic beverages, Sandor Ellix Katz’s 528-page book is the one resource you need to understand why it’s important and how to do it at home. $23

Ruhlman’s Twenty
Michael Ruhlman
Michael Ruhlman’s approach to cookbooks is more cerebral than your average recipe book. In Twenty, he explores 20 cooking techniques that he thinks are the most important and have the widest application. He demonstrates the techniques through 100 recipes and 300 photographs. Ruhlman’s deep dive into eggs in Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient is also among our favorites. $26

How to Cook Everything Fast
Mark Bittman
Author and journalist Mark Bittman’s approach to food is informed by his craft: he takes recipes and techniques that could otherwise be complex and makes them easy to understand. In this book, he makes 2,000 recipes easy and fast, while also providing process-oriented instruction on becoming a more efficient cook. $21

The Art of Simple Food
Alice Waters
The farm-to-table movement has its roots at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, where Alice Waters was cooking with — and emphasizing the importance of — locally sourced ingredients beginning in 1971. While her restaurant cookbooks are filled with superb recipes, this book is a more important resource for home cooks, with information about everything from stocking your kitchen to cooking with seasonal ingredients. $23

Simple French Food
Richard Olney
This unassuming title belies the contents of Richard Olney’s masterpiece on French cooking. While the recipes for things like herb omelets and lamb shanks with garlic are straightforward, the techniques he describes create superior food and provide a foundation in French cooking. $18

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Marcella Hazan
It’s now possible to find countless cookbooks that focus on traditional Italian cuisine, but the one that introduced it to America was The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazan, the Emilia-Romagna-born author and teacher. This book combines the original volume with her second book, More Classic Italian Cooking, creating an essential resource on the culinary traditions of Italy and how to emulate them at home. $20

Nourishing Traditions
Sally Fallon
Before kimchi was trendy and the government realized sugar isn’t actually healthy, Sally Fallon’s cookbook advocated for diets that included good, honest whole foods like animal fats, fermented condiments and sprouted grains. This book is part manifesto for healthy eating and part resource for home cooks who care about what they’re feeding the family. $19

Cooking by Hand
Paul Bertolli
Paul Bertolli cut his teeth at Chez Panisse before opening his own restaurant, Oliveto, in Oakland. This book includes Bertolli’s recipes and essays and it’s ideal for anyone who wants to learn to cook and enjoy Italian food in a deeper way. It’s also an essential for those who like meat: Bertolli is a master of cured meats, from charcuterie to terrines to bacon. $29

The Complete Nose to Tail
Fergus Henderson
Cooking “nose to tail” means using every part of the animal rather than just the expensive prime cuts. One of the biggest proponents of this style of preparation is Fergus Henderson, chef at St. John in London, a destination for adventurous diners and celebrity food personalities like Anthony Bourdain. This book teaches one how to eat pig trotters and bone marrow at home. $36

Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire
Georges August Escoffier
If Olney’s Simple French Food is the brilliant introduction to French cuisine, then Georges Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 classic is the honors seminar with the zero-bullshit professor. With more than 5,000 recipes and a series of forwards for context, this book is the ultimate education in French cooking. $48

Larousse Gastronomique
Prosper Montagne
A contemporary of Escoffier, Prosper Montagne edited Larousse Gastronomique, which came out 35 years later. Unless you’re an unapologetic francophile you probably don’t need both, but this revised and updated version of Larousse is organized encyclopedia-style for easy reference, includes hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos from world-class restaurants and contains information about modern cooking techniques like sous-vide. Coupled with the book’s history, these updates make it a worthwhile investment. $52

Grand Livre de Cuisine
Alain Ducasse
If Olney and Escoffier don’t sate your desire for French cuisine (we can understand that) and you’ve disposable income to burn, Alain Ducasse’s encyclopedia provides further education. Where this book is different is that it comes with the authority of a guy who’s widely considered one of the greatest chefs of the past half-century and includes recipes (700), ingredients (100) and cooking styles (10), plus 1,000 photos and drawings to bring it all to life. $750

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
Harold McGee
Armed with degrees from Cal Tech and Yale, Harold McGee is the chemistry whiz of the culinary world. Since the book’s first publish date in 1990, it’s been an essential resource on the science and history behind foods and their preparation. Plus, it’s the only book that makes reading about browning reactions and emulsification enjoyable. $26

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide
Thomas Keller
In the canon of books about food and technology, Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure is right there in the top five. This book focuses specifically on cooking sous vide, a technique that’s easy to do at home and can produce food cooked to its optimal doneness every time. As food tech books go, this one is ranks very high in the usefulness category — plus the images are fantastic. $51

Heston Blumenthal at Home
Heston Blumenthal
If you’d rather take your instruction about the role of technology in food from a chef (with three Michelin stars) rather than a scientist, this book is for you. Heston Blumenthal is the chef and proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, England, where dinner more closely approximates a conceptual art opening than a weeknight supper. This book is meant to help you understand how we experience food better, then give you the tools to make esoteric dishes like “Green Tea and Lime Palate Cleanser” and crowd pleasers like Scotch eggs. $41

Modernist Cuisine at Home
Nathan Myhrvold
Résumé-wise, Nathan Myhrvold one-ups even Harold McGee in the science department with a doctorate in theoretical and mathematical physics and a masters in geophysics and space physics. He was also the chief technology officer at Microsoft. All of that learning went into the five-volume, 2,438-page Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, a groundbreaking and visually arresting series of books that helped characterize and explain the role of technology and food science in cooking. This version is intended for the home cook — and it costs about $400 less than the original. $118

Yotam Ottolenghi
Jerusalem-born and Britain-based Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian book Plenty changed the way we think about vegetables, but it’s this book that we consider essential. Ottolenghi co-wrote it with Sami Tamimi, who also grew up in Jerusalem — on the Arab side of the city. Together they’ve created a book with some of the most vibrant, flavorful dishes we’ve ever cooked and introduced the food of the Middle East to thousands of American kitchens. $20

Cradle of Flavor
James Oseland
James Oseland is the former Editor-in-Chief of Saveur, and during his tenure the magazine produced award-winning stories that explored very specific regional foodways around the world. Oseland’s area of expertise is the Spice Islands. In this book, his first, he presents the food of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia with accessible recipes he picked up from home cooks during his travels. $26

Classic Indian Cooking
Julie Sahni
What you get at your local Indian take-out restaurant represents just a fraction of the country’s cuisine — and the best way to eat your way through more of it is to cook at home. Julie Sahni’s book is arguably the best introduction to understanding and cooking Indian food, complete with recipes and comparisons to Western foods that help overcome the initial intimidation of cooking in unfamiliar territory. $23

Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
Eileen Yin-Fei Lo
A native of Canton, China, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo is a chef, educator and the author of 11 cookbooks. This is her latest, an introduction to cooking authentic Chinese dishes, complete with more than 100 recipes. It also comes with equal measures of information about technique, ingredients and kitchen gear. $35

How to Cook a Wolf
M. F. K. Fisher
Though not well-known outside of the culinary world, M.F.K. Fisher was one of the most influential American food writers, and no list of books about food, cooking or otherwise, is complete without her. How to Cook a Wolf, a collection of essays and recipes, was published in 1942 with the intention of inspiring readers to cook well despite wartime rationing. In a time of relative plenty, it’s still an essential read. $13
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