The best cookbooks for novice and experienced chefs

Who am I?

I’ve loved cooking and baking since I was a little girl. I attempted to bake a chocolate cake when I was nine without a recipe and put the resulting glop in a plastic bowl in the oven. Luckily, I forgot to turn the oven on and my mother discovered it later, no harm done. I was always a foodie but also a tremendous reader with a great love for the English language, so food writing marries my two passions. My published works include The New York Times bestselling The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (over a million copies sold), and I write a food column for a women’s magazine.


I wrote...

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

By Dinah Bucholz,

Book cover of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

What is my book about?

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook makes dining à la Hogwarts as easy as Banoffi Pie! With over 150 recipes and a guide to where the foods can be found in the series, you can create perfect Potter meals drawn straight from the pages of your favorite stories. With a dash of mystery and a dollop of creativity, you’ll conjure up the entrées, desserts, snacks, and drinks you need to transform ordinary meals into culinary masterpieces sure to make even Mrs. Weasley proud.

The books I picked & why

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The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: Featuring More Than 1,200 Kitchen-Tested Recipes

By America's Test Kitchen,

Book cover of The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: Featuring More Than 1,200 Kitchen-Tested Recipes

Why this book?

If you are starting out in life and can only get one cookbook, get this one. It contains recipes for the classics as well as the familiar, basic dishes you must have in your repertoire—and the recipes are foolproof. Because the recipes are thoroughly tested, you can hardly go wrong if you follow the detailed instructions.


The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book: The Only Baking Book You'll Ever Need

By America's Test Kitchen,

Book cover of The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book: The Only Baking Book You'll Ever Need

Why this book?

I know, I know. America’s Test Kitchen again. But seriously, these are the two most used cookbooks in my house, and their tattered condition testifies to that. Nearly everything I have tried from the Baking book has turned out delicious, and I have enough confidence in these recipes to try something new even for company.


Pillsbury's Best 1000 Recipes: Best of the Bake-Off Collection

By Ann Pillsbury,

Book cover of Pillsbury's Best 1000 Recipes: Best of the Bake-Off Collection

Why this book?

This was my favorite childhood cookbook (my mom wanted it back recently but I begged). As a kid, I made quite a few dishes from that book for my family and was even allowed to make the Butter Cream Orange Cups for my brother’s bar mitzvah. I got loads of compliments for them and walked around in a happy glow for the rest of the day. The cookbook is chock full of unusual recipes, so I love revisiting them for inspiration for my food columns. Though out of print, it’s worth a search on eBay or used book stores.


Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion

By Marcel Desaulniers,

Book cover of Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion

Why this book?

This is the kind of cookbook that is so beautiful that it can serve as a decorative item to keep on your coffee table. The downside is that it can set unrealistic expectations in the minds of your guests. Or give them crazy chocolate cravings. (I am actually eating chocolate as I write these words.) The book is filled with whimsical and fanciful recipe titles, like “Chocolate Phantasmagoria” and, of course, the star of the show, “Death by Chocolate.”


Chocolate and Confections at Home with the Culinary Institute of America

By The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Peter P. Greweling,

Book cover of Chocolate and Confections at Home with the Culinary Institute of America

Why this book?

I’m a confirmed chocoholic, so I can’t help it that this is the second chocolate cookbook on the list. This cookbook is great for chocolate lovers who want to learn how to make handmade chocolates at home. The skills needed for some of these recipes take time to develop, so if you are new to the art, arm yourself with patience and a sense of adventure before rolling up your sleeves and melting the chocolate. The time invested is well worth the effort.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in food, American cuisine, and cooking?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about food, American cuisine, and cooking.

Food Explore 43 books about food
American Cuisine Explore 11 books about American cuisine
Cooking Explore 61 books about cooking

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Food in the Civil War Era, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, and Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection: 100+ Recipes to Take Your Sweet Treats to the Next Level if you like this list.