12 Cookbooks Every Aspiring Home Chef Should Have in Their Household

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chrissy teigen garlic bread
Photo: Courtesy of Clarkson Potter

For the past several years, a movement has been mounting that places increased focus on high-end cuisine cooked by non-professionals. Home chefs, a rapidly growing sector of the global population, are spurned on by competitive cooking shows like MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay and The Great British Baking Show with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. However, while these shows might inspire a dish or two, the ability of adventurous home chefs to pursue new techniques and inventive recipes is boundless.

With fresh ingredients and a few good cookbooks, you can explore hundreds of culinary traditions from the comfort of your own home. Not only can you expand your horizons this way, but you can also protect your waistline. When you cook at home, you know exactly what’s going into your meal and can make healthy adjustments accordingly. While there are many wonderful contemporary cookbooks to choose from, there are also some classics that will help you transition from novice to expert in no time. Find the best of both worlds in our edit below.

1

The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Classic

This book by Claudia Roden was originally published in 1972 and hailed as “a landmark in the field of cookery”. The new version represents the accumulation of the author’s 30 years of further travel throughout the ever-changing landscape of the Middle East, gathering recipes and stories. The tone is really nice, too, as the author never seems like she’s talking down to you, even when explaining complicated cooking techniques. Learn about the evolving tapestry of Middle East cuisine and how to cook some of its most delicious dishes in this wonderful and gracious guide.

Buy it here.

2

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Classic

Julia Child, arguably the world’s most groundbreaking female chef, captured the je ne sais quoi of French cuisine in this weighty two-volume set. It’s so famous and respected in the culinary world that many of today’s modern French chefs owe their aprons to it. It also inspired a blogger to cook her way through every recipe over the course of one year. Her experiences were later turned into a film called Julie & Julia starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

Buy it here.

mastering the art of french cooking book
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon UK
3

Baking: From My Home to Yours

Classic

When your sweet tooth strikes, reach for this classic baking book by Dorie Greenspan, which also happens to be a favorite of some of the world’s foremost chefs. Baking removes the mystery from this hard-to-master category of cooking, one that demands scientific precision and technique. Armed with this insightful cookbook, your cakes will never fall flat again.

Buy it here.

4

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Classic

Where would we be without pasta? Probably ten pounds lighter, to be totally honest. As one of the world’s most satisfying comfort foods, fresh pasta is something we usually leave to the professionals. However, this brilliant book by Marcella Hazan comes highly recommended by accomplished Italian chefs like Mario Batali, and removes the mystery of how to make all manner of dishes, from marinated fish to gnocchi.

Buy it here.

5

James Beard's American Cookery

Classic

When your professional career is so astonishing that it literally spawns one of the highest cooking awards in the world, your name must be James BeardThe New York Times hails Beard as the “dean of American cooking” and this fascinating book not only defines what American cuisine is, but also gives the best examples of how to execute it in your own kitchen.

Buy it here.

James Beard's American Cookery
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon
6

The Joy of Cooking

Classic

Of all the books on our list and the hundreds of others that aren’t, this one is probably the most essential. The Joy of Cooking is a classic in every sense of the word, but it’s still popular enough to be regularly revised and republished. It’s great because it offers a huge range of recipes, is broad in scope but narrow when it comes to technique, and is a fantastic way to learn the basics.

Buy it here.

7

It's All Good

Contemporary

After struggling with health problems, Gwyneth Paltrow was recommended the elimination diet to help her find the foods that her body is incompatible with. Armed with that knowledge and a commitment to clean eating, Paltrow and her tremendously talented chef Julia Turshen devised a brilliant book that focuses on simple but extremely delicious recipes. Out of the wholesome line-up available in the book, our favorites are the colorful salads, nourishing soups, and gluten-free desserts.

Buy it here.

its all easy cookbook gwyneth paltrow
Photo: Courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow
8

Cravings

Contemporary

On the opposite end from Paltrow’s “clean eating” cookbook is Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings that, as the name suggests, focuses exclusively on the best of the “bad for you” foods. This brilliant, self-deprecating, and hilarious cookbook doesn’t contain a single bad recipe. In fact, it’s safe to say they’re all delicious, but a little indulgence goes a long way. The crowd-pleasers at our table have been the ‘Thai Pounded Papaya Salad’, ‘Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe’, and ‘John’s Crispy Roasted Potatoes’.

Buy it here.

Cravings cookbook chrissy teigen
Photo: Courtesy of Clarkson Potter
9

Momofuku

Contemporary

Innovation, thy name is David Chang. As the culinary mind behind massively successful restaurants like Momofuku and Milk Bar, Chang is easily one of the world’s most celebrated and innovative chefs – he literally has a laboratory where he devises new and brilliant ways of delivering delicious food. If you want to recreate his brave approach, the Momofuku  cookbook is indispensable. Plus, you’ll gain some pretty professional culinary techniques by following the recipes to the letter.

Buy it here.

10

Nadiya's Kitchen

Contemporary

The Great British Baking Show is something of a phenomenon in the entertainment world as it is a competitive cooking show without the bad scripts and unnecessary pitting of people against each other (see: America’s version of MasterChef). Instead, it’s mild and even a little cheesy, but the creations that come out of that kitchen are genius. In one of the most emotional seasons to date – spoilers ahead – Arab home baker Nadiya Hussain shocked everyone by winning it all. She became an overnight sensation, and Nadiya’s Kitchen is one of the two versatile cookbooks that she released last year.

Buy it here.

11

Small Victories

Contemporary

Julia Turshen has deservedly ended up on this list twice, first as a companion to Gwyneth Paltrow in It’s All Good, and again with her solo cookbook Small Victories. The book has been praised far and wide for making even the most difficult recipes accessible – even a novice with zero formal training can become an expert over time by following Turshen’s clear guidance.

Buy it here.

12

The Food Lab

Contemporary

The Food Lab, a weighty tome by one of the modern era’s most respected and brilliant culinary minds, J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, clocks in at nearly 1,000 pages and is hands down the most exhaustive cookbook that we’ve ever laid eyes on. While it may be large in scope and dense in detail, the book also offers an easy-to-grasp breakdown of the science behind cooking, which also makes it a fascinating read.

Buy it here.

the food lab cookbook
Photo: Courtesy of The New York Times
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