Best Cookbooks of All Time

The internet certainly did give cookbook popularity a hard knock. Many cooks, chefs, parents, and families prefer to simply whip out a phone to browse an exciting recipe rather than page through an old book for some tasty ideas.

But the good news is that cookbooks are now making a huge comeback.  With the ease of browsing recipes comes the ease of creating them.

Just about anyone can go online and post a new recipe on their blog and share these recipes on social media or other social sites.  The real question remains; just how many of these people can really cook?

We all understand the frustration of trying a new recipe and ending up with a disaster at hand when the recipe wasn’t pre-tested or when these recipes didn’t include all the needed steps.

These scenarios can be quite frustrating, especially if you were trying to entertain a few guests at your home.  In the end, you have far less money in your bank account, a dirty kitchen and food that end up in the bin.

Traditional cookbooks are making a comeback because they contain authentic materials and many of these cookbooks are loaded with meal ideas suited to fit your specific diet.

The only issue now remains, how do you identify the best cookbooks of all time from those not-so-great cookbooks and how do you find a cookbook that suits your specific need?

What exactly is a cookbook?

You are probably all too familiar with cookbooks already.  We don’t use them quite as often today but they were essential components in the kitchens of our parents and grandparents. 

These books usually contain a variety of recipes and instructions that guide you while you are preparing specific foods.

Cookbooks can be written by individual authors and most of these authors are highly experienced in the kitchen.  They can be chefs, cooking teachers, food writers or even simply people like me and you who have a knack for baking and cooking.

Cookbooks also come in all shapes and sizes.  You can buy small compact cookbooks, large vivid cookbooks, hard or softcover cookbooks or you can even get a digital cookbook on your phone.

Cookbooks can greatly vary in recipe and cooking style.  There are huge varieties of cooking techniques, kitchen equipment, and food types. Today there is also a huge variety of diet-specific cookbooks. 

The history of the cookbook

Cookbooks go back quite a long way.  Ancient Mesopotamians wrote recipes on Akkadian tables around 1700BC.  The earliest collection of recipes that survived in Europe was the book De Re Coquinaria and was written in Latin in the 1st century. 

The same cookbook probably won’t stay in print for over 10 years.  This is because modern kitchen techniques and cookbook writing styles keep advancing and many older recipes might no longer apply to modern cooking methods. 

A good example of changing cooking methods is the way chicken broth used to be made compared to how it is made today. Back in the day, cooks had no problem including the skin and fats.  Today, people are much more aware of the health implications of consuming fatty foods and many chefs prefer to leave chicken skin and fats out of the meal and mainly focus on chicken breast for these meals. 

Cooking methods will always change and as a result, there will always be a need to adapt cookbooks and recipes to suit our modern lifestyles.

Types of cookbooks

Modern cookbooks vary quite a lot because so many of them are drafted to suit a specific lifestyle or diet.  Here is a quick look at the most common cookbook types found on our modern shelves;

  • International and ethnic cookbooks

These cookbooks can vary quite a lot since there is such a huge difference in cultures, religion and languages.  For the most part, these recipe books usually contain a collection of foreign recipes.

These cookbooks can offer a vast range of recipes from other countries or they can focus on a specific country and their culture and cooking methods.  A good example of this is the way Chinese recipes vary from Indian recipes.  In Indian foods, most of the dishes are rich in spices and aromas where Chinese food recipes can be quite limited when it comes to these ingredients.

  • Professional cookbooks

These cookbooks are designed for working chefs and culinary students.  The books often don’t just include cooking techniques and recipes.

These books can include kitchen workflow matters as well as information on the best way to cook for the masses in as little time as possible.  Professional cookbooks can be challenging to understand if you are not in the culinary industry since these cookbooks often don’t include as many detailed instructions since chefs are already profoundly good at cooking.

  • Single-subject cookbooks

Single-subject cookbooks are usually created for a specific intent.  Here is a few examples of different types of single-subject cookbooks;

Age group – A good example is cookbooks for children compared to those for adults.

Budget range – Budget cookbooks include affordable recipes where luxury cookbooks can include lots of exotic ingredients. 

Environment types – These cookbooks are designed to suit certain environments like barbecue areas, camping grounds, open fire cooking and much more.

Dish specific books – These books usually include foods in a certain food category.  A good example is cake cookbooks, pastry cookbooks, dinner cookbooks, dessert cookbooks, and beverage cookbooks.

Health specific books – Some cookbooks are designed to accommodate certain diseases.  Some examples are cookbooks for diabetics or gluten-free recipe books.

Diet specific books – Today there are many different types of diets.  Some cookbooks offer a variety of meal plans that focus on foods that suit a specific diet. Good examples are keto-diet cookbooks or low carb cookbooks where calorie figures are given for each meal included in the book.

  • Community cookbooks

These cookbooks are usually created for a fund-raising, charity or regional purpose.  The books can include all the best recipes of local people.  These cookbooks are often loved because they offer valuable insight into the cooking methods of specific cultures or communities.

  • Chef cookbooks

Some cookbooks are created to document the recipes of a specific chef or cooking show or restaurant.

These cookbooks can also be created by celebrities looking to expand their brand.  All the most popular recipes are included in these cookbooks and the popularity of the chef or celebrity figure is usually leveraged to market these books.

Why you need to avoid online recipes

avoid online recipes

Free online recipes can seem interesting and we are all tempted to try these recipes.  But in the long run, it is much better to stick to a trusted recipe book instead of trying those free online recipes.  Here is why;

These recipes are often drafted by people who don’t know how to cook

The recipes are not tried and tested

They can contain ingredients that are not best suited for your health, especially if you are following a specific diet

You could end up wasting lots of food when the recipe doesn’t add up

Trying recipes that don’t work can discourage you from cooking

Essential elements of the best cookbooks of all time

Not all cookbooks are created alike.  The best cookbooks have a few essential elements that put them above all the rest.

Here are a few of the most important factors that great cookbooks will offer you;

  • Tried and tested recipes

With great cookbooks, you don’t have to struggle with recipes that just don’t add up.  All of the recipes included in these cookbooks have been perfected.  These recipe writers or chefs usually invested a lot of hard work into developing these recipes and they had to endure lots of criticism on their way to preparing the perfect dish.

  • Beautiful photographs

A recipe often has the strangest names.  Take ratatouille for an example.  This recipe contains mostly a variety of healthy veggies and has absolutely nothing to do with rats.  Beautiful photographs are essential in cookbooks.  These photos show the reader exactly what the food is and photos usually offer some inspiration for a few final touches to the foods to enhance the visual appeal of your meals.

  • Structure

Good cookbooks are easy to read.  You can tell exactly what ingredients you will need and how long the food will take to complete by simply scanning over the page.  In most good recipe books, everything is structured and organized.

You can easily see what the prep time of the food is, the total time it takes to prepare the meal, you have a clear view on all of the ingredients and the instructions are laid out clearly.

  • Proper instructions

Good quality recipe books offer detailed instructions because many readers are not too great at cooking at all.  With clear and proper instructions, even those who never cooked before can create delicious meals.

  • Organized

Good cookbooks are usually organized.  The recipes are filed in their correct category.  There are usually sections for each type of food such as desserts, cakes, lunch, dinner, meats, beverages and more.  These structures do of course exclude recipe books designed for a specific intent such as dessert recipe books.

  • Easy ingredients

One of the most critical components of a great recipe book is that it contains ingredients that are easy to find.  It is frustrating to get all fired up over a meal you want to make only to find that a certain ingredient isn’t produced in your region or is too hard to find.

  • Affordable ingredients

This is another important factor when it comes to finding the best recipe books.  People usually follow cookbooks to save money on buying foods, to entertain friends and to enhance their cooking skills.  If recipes contain plenty of expensive ingredients then you might as well skip the effort and go visit a restaurant instead.  Good cookbooks use ingredients that are affordable so you can prepare meals on your tight budget.

  • Easy to prepare recipes

Some foods are a lot harder to prepare than others.  No one is going to enjoy cooking if it ends up being a lot of hard work and no one wants to spend hours on end sweating in a hot kitchen.   The recipes of good cookbooks are easy to make and usually don’t take up too much time.

  • Practical

Good recipe books are also practical.  They include a vast range of recipes that you want to eat, that are easy to prepare with foods and ingredients that are likely in your kitchen pantry already.

How to find the best cookbooks

There are a vast number of cookbooks available in online stores and you can also find collections of cookbooks in various libraries.  If you are looking to add a great cookbook to your kitchen then it is best to keep your own personal intent in mind before you buy. 

Cookbooks vary so much and it can be so easy to invest in a book that is packed with recipes that you will never prepare in your own home.  Here is a quick guide on the best way to identify the best cookbooks.

  • Invest in famous cookbooks

If you are a cookbook collector or prefer popular cookbooks then it is always best to choose the most famous cookbooks of all time.  Many cookbooks enjoyed tremendous publishing success over the past few centuries.  Here is a quick look at some famous cookbooks you can choose to buy if you are a collector;

De re coquinaria (The Art of Cooking) by Apicius – Late 4th / 5th century

Kitab al Tabikh (The book of Dishes) by Apicius – 10th century

The Good Housewives Jewell by Thomas Dawson – 1585

American Cookery by Amelia Simons – 1796

When buying these older cookbooks you should keep in mind that the cooking techniques of those times differ greatly from modern cooking methods.  The culture surrounding these cookbooks is also very different from modern cultures.  A good example is The Good Housewives Jewell by Thomas Dawson.  In our modern-day this book can almost seem offensive since it indicates that only good housewives can cook well.  In our modern times, many men enjoy cooking for their own families just as much as the modern working woman does.

  • Invest in popular cookbooks

It can be hard to cook from old famous cookbooks when our modern cooking methods are so different.

The chances of you using these old cookbooks in a modern kitchen aren’t very likely at all. 

The best way to choose the best modern cookbook is by focusing on cookbooks that are very popular at the moment.  These are usually cookbooks with high ranks and lots of popular reviews that are sold on popular online stores like Amazon. 

These books are usually a good and secure investment because so many readers invested in these books and gave their honest opinion on the functionality of these books.  With thousands of opinions to scan through, you can easily tell if a cookbook is worth its salt or not.

Choose cookbooks that suit your lifestyle

One of the most important factors to keep in mind when you are looking for the best cookbook is your lifestyle and lifestyle choices. After all, what does the most popular barbecue cookbook help you if you are a vegan?  How does a popular pastry cookbook help you if you can only eat gluten-free foods?

Or how can a popular Indian cookbook help you if you cannot stand consuming spicy foods?

Here are a few lifestyle elements to keep in mind when you are choosing the best cookbook;

  • Consider your diet

If you are following a strict diet then it is always best to look for the most popular cookbook for that specific diet.  Today there are cookbooks for just about any diet.  You can shop gluten-free cookbooks, vegan cookbooks, keto-diet cookbooks, low-carb cookbooks and so much more.  These types of cookbooks are not just great for preparing tasty meals, they are also invaluable for helping you stick to your specific diet.

  • Consider your health

It is, of course, also important to consider your health when you are choosing a cookbook.  Those struggling with kidney disease, diabetes, gluten sensitivities or lots of allergies cannot consume all foods that is found in average recipe books and they are much better off choosing a cookbook with their health issues in mind.

  • Consider your budget

If you are mostly cooking on a tight budget then it is best to avoid cookbooks with lots of fancy and foreign recipes.  The cookbook that suits your budget is the one you are most likely to use and these cookbooks can help you stay within your dining budget every month.

  • Consider the food types you want to make

There are lots of subject-specific cookbooks available on the market.  Consider the type of foods you want to make and eat.  For some, a cookbook that contains a vast range of food recipe types is a worthy investment.  Others prefer food-specific cookbooks like cake cookbooks or dessert cookbooks so they can cook for catering purposes.  Others want to try out foreign foods and choose to buy cookbooks that offer many recipes from a specific country.  Others prefer to invest in a cookbook that contains tried and trusted recipes for foods they eat every day.

For whom are you buying the cookbook

Cookbooks are often drafted for specific groups of people.  If you are shopping for a child’s gift ten be sure to get a cookbook with lots of kid-safe recipes.  Men often prefer barbecue and grill cookbooks over pastry cookbooks.  A new mom might prefer a cookbook that contains lots of baby food recipes.  A working mother might prefer a cookbook that contains a vast range of recipes that are super quick to put together. 

  • Consider your skill level

Some cookbooks are drafted with more detailed instructions than others.  Cookbooks for beginner cooks might include lots of cooking tips and hints as well as very detailed instructions.  Cookbooks for advanced chefs might not be as detailed because chefs are already comfortable in the kitchen and they have a vast knowledge of different cooking techniques. 

Here it is also important to choose a cookbook with the type of recipes you can pull off.  Some foods require a lot more fineness than others to make.  Consider for example the difficulty difference between baking a multi-layer wedding cake compared to baking a few simple muffins.  If the cookbook's recipes are all very hard to make, you probably won’t enjoy your cooking sessions.  Recipe books that have very plain and simple recipes might also bore you and deprive you of the challenge of creating fine tasting foods.

  • Consider your day routine

Your lifestyle can also affect the type of book you should buy.  Those with busy routines often prefer recipes that are very quick and easy to prepare.  Families tend to lean towards hearty and filling meals so youngsters won’t come back complaining about hunger cravings too soon.  Stay-at-home moms might prefer to make more challenging foods and they can make foods that take a lot longer to prepare such as stews. 

Consider reviews

Another good way to find the best cookbook to suit your needs is by checking out lots of product reviews on these cookbooks.  In cookbook product reviews, the author usually compares many of the best and most popular cookbooks.  These comparisons usually offer all the pros and cons of each cookbook so you can find one that suits your need for perfection.

Hunting for the perfect cookbook can seem like a daunting task but finding the perfect book is worth the extra time and effort you spend.  With the right cookbook, you can transform the way you and your family eat, you can stay within budget or you can stick to your specific diet with ease.  These kitchen references are also superb for teaching new cooks how to make scrumptious meals without messing up all the ingredients. 

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