The best cookbooks to learn something new about cooking

Why am I passionate about this?

As the author of nine cookbooks, I strive to help readers master new skills and to become more comfortable in the kitchen. I’m constantly reading other cookbooks to keep my fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in the food world, as well as to improve my own culinary prowess. It’s been nearly 20 years since I graduated from culinary school, and I love that I can open a book to refresh a forgotten skill, learn a new one, or delve into the “why” behind cooking’s biggest questions. These books have kept me entertained and intrigued, not to mention well-fed. I hope they do the same for you! 

I wrote...

Homemade Condiments

By Jessica Harlan,

Book cover of Homemade Condiments

What is my book about?

Why reach for store-bought condiments when you can make your own? Learn how to use fresh, natural ingredients to make ketchups, sauces, relishes, jams, and flavored oils and vinegars. Homemade Condiments offers simple, tried-and-true recipes to make a wide range of delicious toppings and condiments that will take your cooking to the next level. Recipes range from quintessential preparations like Peanut Butter, Classic Vinaigrette, and Dill Pickles, to more unusual options, like Southwestern Tomatillo Ketchup, Avocado Goddess Dressing, and Tropical Pineapple-Cashew Compoete. With beautiful hand-drawn illustrations as well as inspiring photographs, this book is a lovely addition to any cookbook collection, or a welcome gift for any cook seeking to expand their culinary horizons. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

Jessica Harlan Why did I love this book?

This book was written by the former culinary director of the website Serious Eats, and it’s one of my most turned-to references on my cookbook shelf. A deep dive into the world of culinary science, I learn something new whenever I flip through its pages. I particularly love the informational photos, charts, and illustrations, based on painstaking experiments and tests. Take the section on boiled eggs: It was fascinating to see an illustration showing how eggs look at 30-second increments of cooking, and to read the explanation of what exactly is happening inside an egg as it heats up, which helped me fine-tune the cooking time for my idea of the perfect jammy egg. This book is full of similarly nerdy experiments and information, and useful tutorials on techniques both basic and advanced, like carving a chicken or turkey, making mayonnaise, and making homemade sausage. Read the book from cover to cover and you’ll be ready for just about any culinary challenge.

By J. Kenji Lopez-Alt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Food Lab as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt shows that cooks don't need a state-of-the-art kitchen to cook perfect meals. In a book centred on much-loved dishes, Kenji explores the science behind searing, baking, blanching and roasting. In hundreds of easy-to-make recipes with over 1,000 full-colour images illustrating step-by-step instructions, readers will find out how to make perfect roast turkey with crackling skin, how to make extra fluffy or creamy scrambled eggs and much more. Combining the unrelenting curiosity of a cheerful science geek with the expert knowledge of a practised chef, The Food Lab gives readers practical tools and new approaches to apply when…

Book cover of Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi

Jessica Harlan Why did I love this book?

A few years ago my family decided to cut back on our consumption of meat. One of the world’s most famous vegetarian chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi, came to my rescue in the form of this cookbook, which has truly expanded my ideas of how vegetables, grains, and other plant-based foods can be prepared. The chapters are organized by ingredient, which is handy if you shop your farmer’s market and need some ideas on how to prepare those gorgeous eggplants or the bumper crop of green beans you’ve brought home. The unexpected combinations and preparations have given me permission to be more creative with how I prepare vegetables. Some of the more unusual recipes that I’ve loved include Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce; Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup; and Broccoli and Gorgonzola Pie. 

By Yotam Ottolenghi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Plenty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The cookbook that launched Yotam Ottolenghi as an international food celebrity

If you are a fan of Plenty More, Forks Over Knives, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, or On Vegetables, you’ll love this Ottolenghi cookbook

A vegetarian cookbook from the author of Jerusalem A Cookbook  and other Ottolenghi cookbooks: A must-have collection of 120 vegetarian recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi featuring exciting flavors and fresh combinations that will become mainstays for readers and eaters looking for a brilliant take on vegetables.

Mastering the art of French cooking the Yotam Ottolenghi way: One of the most exciting talents in the cooking world, Yotam…

Book cover of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Jessica Harlan Why did I love this book?

I’ll admit I first picked up this book because it was adorable, with its cartoonish drawings. But after trying out a couple of recipes, I was hooked. The book’s title references the building blocks of any successful dish, and the theme throughout elaborates on these principles so that you’ll become a better cook with every section you read or recipe you prepare. The recipes don’t even begin til halfway through the book: The first part devotes a section each to the titular elements with instruction told through the filter of Nosrat’s life stories and experience—a treat for anyone who loves to sit with a cookbook and read it cover to cover. Then come the recipes, and these have a decidedly exotic twist thanks to Nosrat’s Iranian background and adventurous spirit. I haven’t prepared anything from this book that isn’t a flavor bomb, even something as simple as Persian-ish Rice or Finger-Lickin’ Pan-Fried Chicken. Plus, the humor Nosrat imbues into her writing keeps me smiling. 

By Samin Nosrat, Wendy Macnaughton (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major Netflix documentary
A Sunday Times Food Book of the Year and a New York Times bestseller
Winner of the Fortnum & Mason Best Debut Food Book 2018

While cooking at Chez Panisse at the start of her career, Samin Nosrat noticed that amid the chaos of the kitchen there were four key principles that her fellow chefs would always fall back on to make their food better: Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat.

By mastering these four variables, Samin found the confidence to trust her instincts in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients. And with…

Book cover of Cook's Illustrated Baking Book

Jessica Harlan Why did I love this book?

Most people identify either as cooks or bakers, and I can see why—it certainly takes a different mindset to bake bread or a cake. Baking is a far more precise science, which is one of the reasons I’m very picky about what baking recipes I trust. It’s one of the reasons I love having Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book in my arsenal. I have always been a big fan of the magazine, where the writers prepare countless versions of the same recipe, changing ingredients, methods, and other factors to arrive at the most perfect version. This cookbook follows the same format, covering savory recipes like tarts, quiches, pizzas, and rolls, in addition to every classic sweet recipe you could want. It was this book that ended my long search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie… the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie is a refinement of the classic Toll House Cookie. I’m glad they did this important work so I can reap the rewards of a flawless recipe!

By America's Test Kitchen (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cook's Illustrated Baking Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Baking demystified with 450 foolproof recipes from Cook's Illustrated, America's most trusted food magazine.

The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book has it all—definitive recipes for all your favorite cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, breads, pizza, and more, along with kitchen-tested techniques that will transform your baking. Recipes range from easy (drop cookies and no-knead bread) to more ambitious (authentic croissants and dacquoise) and the trademark test kitchen expertise shines through each one. Discover why spreading the dough and then sprinkling the berries leads to better Blueberry Scones, why cubed versus shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese makes all the difference in our irresistible Cheese…

Book cover of Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food

Jessica Harlan Why did I love this book?

A must-have for anyone with a passion for science, this book is a fun read, and I learn something new every time I leaf through it, whether it’s about how our senses of smell and taste work, or why weighing ingredients is superior to using measuring cups. Throughout the book are fun, informative interviews with experts on a wide variety of topics: Jeff Varasano discusses pizza, Herve This on molecular gastronomy, and Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) on scientific testing.

As a longtime cooking equipment writer, I particularly love how much detail he invests in kitchenware, explaining what’s necessary and what’s not. This isn’t the type of book you’ll turn to when you’re making a weeknight dinner, but certainly one where you can treat your kitchen like a science lab and spend an afternoon embarking on crazy (and delicious!) experiments. Case in point: a recipe for marshmallows that are firm when they’re hot, and melt when they cool. 

By Jeff Potter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cooking for Geeks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do we cook the way we do? Are you the innovative type, used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Do you want to learn to be a better cook or curious about the science behind what happens to food as it cooks? More than just a cookbook, Cooking for Geeks applies your curiosity to discovery, inspiration, and invention in the kitchen. Why do we bake some things at 350 F/175 C and others at 375 F/190 C? Why is medium-rare steak so popular? And just how quickly does a pizza cook if we overclock an oven…

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By Joylynn M Ross, Falessia Booker (editor),

Book cover of Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success

Joylynn M Ross

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What is my book about?

Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business is for anyone who wants to learn how to make money with their book and make a living as an author. Many authors dive into the literary industry without taking time to learn the business side of being an author, which can hinder book sales and the money that can be made as an author.

This resource serves as a guide to mastering the art of financial literary success and to help avoid the mistakes that many authors make while learning the ropes on their own. This book helps authors “think outside…

Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success

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What is this book about?

Do you want to make money with your book? Do you want to make a living as an author? There’s more to doing so than simply writing and publishing your book. Many authors dive into the literary industry without taking time to learn the business side of being an author. This could dramatically hinder your book sales and the money you can make as an author. Without a guide such as this, mastering the art of financial literary success can take you years, and you’ll be sure to make mistakes during the learning phase. Some mistakes could cost you money;…

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Interested in cooking, vegetables, and geeks?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cooking, vegetables, and geeks.

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