I am a total cookbook junkie. I'll flip through a cookbook as if it was a magazine, reference one like an encyclopedia and sometimes even read another like a novel. I'm obsessed.
I firmly believe that a good cookbook is meant to be cooked from - not to just sit on the shelf. The best ones have worn pages, oil splatters, smears of batter and markings in the margins. Sure, many are designed beautifully and chock-full of incredible photography (which I love), but even these cookbooks are only as good as their recipes.
This list definitely includes cookbooks beautiful enough to simply look through, but trust me, you'll want to cook from them, too. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I'm sure I'll have to do a Part Two of this post eventually - I had trouble narrowing my list down to these ten! There's quite a variety here, so I tried to categorize them and include specific recipes or features that I loved about each one.
Are you a cookbook collector? Which ones would you add to this list?
Back to Basics
1. Betty Crocker's Cookbook by Betty Crocker (General Mills)
For old-school, family-style cooking, you can't go wrong with Betty Crocker. There is an updated version, but to be honest, I can only speak to the version published in 1972. My mom used this cookbook regularly growing up, and many of the recipes in it bring back special childhood memories. My copy includes my mom's adjustments penciled in, so all the dishes she made taste even better. Whether it's this or another classic, the point here is to get your hands on a well-used, loved, splattered on and marked up hand-me-down cookbook with recipes that will be passed along for generations.
Made it, love it: Traditional Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Waikiki Meatballs, Lasagne, Italian Spaghetti, Oven-Fried Chicken
2. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
This is one of those cookbooks that I use like an encyclopedia. True to its title, it includes recipes and tips for cooking pretty much everything. Bittman provides many base recipes and offers suggestions for how to make changes, so it's a great resources if you're wanting to experiment in the kitchen. He teaches you about the best cooking methods for certain foods and how to buy and store specific ingredients. There's also a helpful glossary provided in the back. It's a must-have for the home cook who wants to improve their food knowledge and culinary prowess.
She deserves her own category. If you don't already own an Ina cookbook, you need to. The recipes in these cookbooks are entertaining-worthy, but many of them are simple enough to make on an average weeknight.
3. How Easy is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips by Ina Garten
The title says is all. These recipes are pretty easy. I will say that in my experience, Ina's dishes don't involve a ton of ingredients, which is great. However, the recipe will only be as good as the ingredients, so it's worth buying the best quality that you can afford.
Made it, love it: Watermelon & Arugula Salad, Lemon Chicken Breasts, Jeffrey's Roast Chicken, Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs, Roasted Butternut Squash, Homemade Chicken Stock
4. Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
When I first bought this, the title sort of threw me off. I was thinking it meant, "Make it ahead and put it in the freezer to eat a month from now." Instead, the recipes are more of a "prep or assemble a day or two in advance and then cook the day-of." Although different from what I expected, I still very highly recommend this cookbook. Every recipe I've made from it has been outstanding and the "make it ahead" concept is helpful, especially when you're entertaining.
Made it, love it: Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork, Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles, Ginger Shortbread, Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup
Health + Special Interest
Both cookbooks that I recommend in this category are Paleo/Whole30 cookbooks, so I realize that my recommendations don't cover many aspects of health-conscious eating. As I said in the beginning, I'll likely be doing a Part Two of this post, so if you have gluten-free, nose to tail, vegan, farm to table or other health and special interest cookbooks, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
This one got me through my first Whole30 last summer. My husband did the Whole30 with me this year, and thanks to this cookbook, he was pleasantly surprised at how good clean eating could taste.
Made it, love it: Cinnamon Beef Stew, The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat, Moroccan Meatballs, Chocolate Chili, Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork), BBQ Pork Fried Rice, Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata, Cauliflower Rice Pilaf
6. The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig
I did the Whole30 challenge for the second time this past June, and this book made it a whole lot easier. It provides all the information you need to do a Whole30 as well as great recipes you'll want in your repertoire (even if you're not doing a Whole30).
Made it, love it: Spinach Frittata, Stuffed Peppers, Melissa's Chicken Hash, Grilled Coconut Curry Chicken, Banger Sausage Patties with Sweet Potato Mash and Caramelized Onions, Walnut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Root Vegetables in Curry Sauce, No-Fuss Salmon Cakes
Baking + Desserts
When it comes to anything baking, you can't go wrong with Joy The Baker. I have both of her cookbooks and they're my go-to when it comes to decadent recipes. Yes, I know that having both clean eating and indulgent cookbooks may be contradictory, but in my opinion, there's a time for both.
7. Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson
Made it, love it: Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones, Single Lady Pancakes, S'mores Brownies, Mommom's Chocolate Bourbon-Spiked Banana Bread
Made it, love it: Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies, Lemon Honey Brown Butter Cupcakes, Under-Baked Chocolate Chip Skillet Cake
I wasn't sure what category to put these cookbooks in. They're sort of special occasion, yet many recipes can be made on a weeknight. The common theme, though, is that I go to these when I'm looking for a little something extra or different. They're ones that inspire me creatively and stretch me a bit in the kitchen.
9. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
I have yet to come across a recipe in here that wasn't absolutely outstanding. Not only that, but Deb's funny and endearing writing style will make you want to read this one cover to cover (you can also follow her blog).
Made it, love it: Eggplant and Three Cheese Calzone, Balsamic and Beer-Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Puree, Brownie Roll-Out Cookies, White Chocolate Pudding with Blackberry Curd
10. Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
I have to admit that I haven't cooked from this one all that much, but I can't wait to dig in more. The dishes are incredibly creative, the photography is inspiring and the recipes require me to step outside my culinary comfort zone. It'll also really make you want to eat your vegetables.
Made it, love it: Yogurt Flatbreads with Barley and Mushrooms, Crunchy Pappardelle