Gear Books

Whether your own microclimate has bought into it or not, spring is here, which means that in theory publishers will be taking their annual 8-week hiatus from publishing slow-cooker cookbooks so they can concentrate on grill books.

I always wonder at the everlasting popularity of slow-cooker books.  I mean, slow cookers are so forgiving - you could be off by an hour or two and things will still be basically OK.  The sorts of things you make in them are forgiving too - you can substitute vegetables or herbs or spices or proteins and you'll still have a good hot supper.  You don't necessarily need the precise quantities or instructions of a good recipe.  I'm equally puzzled by the recent slew of cast-iron skillet cookbooks.  It's a skillet! You use it like...a skillet! (I'm sorry.  I don't mean to offend the 123 members who own this book.  It must be great - tell me why!)

Of course, not every gear book (you can find them all with the handy EYB filter for appliance-related cookbooks) is like that.  I can see strong arguments for getting book help using a pressure cooker, or a griller/smoker like Big Green Egg.  I've only just heard of the "halogen oven", but it sounds like something I'd want some advice for.  I can see arguments for ice cream maker, bread machine, panini press books, even though personally I think I'd be happy with just the manual.

The one technique where I'd spring for a helpful book right now is sous-vide. For Christmas I got a sous-vide controller device that turns my slow cooker into a sous-vide bath.  I've mostly been learning from the Modernist Cuisine at Home spiral-bound not-cookbook thing - I think they call it a "kitchen manual.  There's a small selection of sous-vide books out there already, among which I will search for something focused and authoritative.  I'll use it for a year, and then I'll probably be confident (or maybe overconfident) enough not to look at it much again.

What gear books do you gravitate toward, if any? 

12 Comments

  • ccav  on  3/25/2014 at 11:05 AM

    Great topic. Speaking for myself, I need a little "help" thinking of these appliances and what works in them. The cookbooks give me a good starting point, and when I find authors who consistently provide reliable, successful recipes, it really gets me going. Then it's easier to riff off of their recipes and be successful. I own a rice cooker, bread machine and slow cooker and use all of them quite often (at least once a week, often more in the case of the rice cooker). Favorite, reliable authors for these: Beth Hensperger (the best!) Judith Finlayson (also wonderful, and healthy options) Rick Rodgers (slow cooker book is excellent!) Kathy Hester

  • darcie_b  on  3/25/2014 at 12:02 PM

    I generally avoid the "gear" books because I think they tend to have contrived recipes - how many desserts do you really want to make with a slow cooker? And others focus more on convenience rather than great taste, IMHO. I usually adapt recipes I already like for a specific appliance (i.e. slow cooker, toaster oven). Like you, I recently got a sous vide device (Sansaire) and have been using the internet for recipes, although it would be nice to have a better reference. I suppose Under Pressure by Keller would be a good resource, but other than that & MCAH, I don't know what else is out there. Give it another year, and we'll have a slew of books - that niche will hurriedly be filled.

  • ellabee  on  3/25/2014 at 12:29 PM

    Re sous vide: There's an online "manual" by Doug Baldwin at http://www.douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html . His Sous Vide at Home is indexed in the EYB library, on 88 bookshelves. Have any of you used that book, or his (probably more skeletal) online info? A substantive review of Baldwin vs. Keller vs. MCAH vs. anything else available would be most welcome to the growing number of SVers and possibly-would-be SVers.

  • ellabee  on  3/25/2014 at 12:29 PM

    Re sous vide: There's an online "manual" by Doug Baldwin at http://www.douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html . His Sous Vide at Home is indexed in the EYB library, on 88 bookshelves. Have any of you used that book, or his (probably more skeletal) online info? A substantive review of Baldwin vs. Keller vs. MCAH vs. anything else available would be most welcome to the growing number of SVers and possibly-would-be SVers.

  • ellabee  on  3/25/2014 at 2:11 PM

    Slightly off-topic, but... The EYB book categories baffle me, or at least their inconsistent application does. If there's a specific 'Crockpot & slow cooker' category, why also categorize as 'Appliance'? Most 'Grills & BBQ' books don't also have the 'Appliance' tag. (Though Mario Batali's Italian Grill and a few others do.) Some of this I'm sure is decisions made over time, and a reluctance (understandable) to go back and adjust all the previously categorized books when there's more pressing work to be done.

  • Cubangirl  on  3/26/2014 at 1:34 AM

    Let me apologize from the start, this will be a stream of consciousness post as this board does not let you edit. First of all, unless you are planning on making restaurant meals, forget Keller. I got the book (ignoring Amy's advice) and quickly returned it. Not one recipe seemed adaptable for home use. Second, I see the sous vide easily replacing the slow cooker. We just had sous vide sirloin steaks that had been cooked a couple of days ago and refrigerated. They were as good as a New York for half the money. I also made sous vide carrots and sous vide pear. Both were past their prime and turned out delicious. Cooked them both (in separate bags) as the same temp and time. I have a couple of pdf small cookbooks that I got for free. For whatever reason Baldwin does not appeal to me at all (though good charts on pasteurization and the like). Jason Logsdon has a couple of sous vide books. I have not read them, but did get his book for the iSi whip for my iPad and really found it useful, for the techniques, ingredient explanations and the recipes. I bought a pressure cooker book (Sass) and would have returned if I could. You are much better off going to the various pc manufacturers sights and downloading their user manuals imho. I love my pressure cookers and adapt recipes for them all the time, e.g., last week I adapted CI's Vaca Frita and save over 1½ hours from the original. I think that a "blank appliance" for dummies would be great for new non-intuitive appliances. I would not want recipes, but templates for ingredients. I so agree with Darcie, why would I need a skillet book or a Dutch oven book? Do you ever see a 9" cake pan book? Darcie, do you have the big book? I find it so much more useful than the spiral bound one. In fact I like it so much, I got the version for the iPad too. The modernist cuisine website has recipes and explanations. There are several blogs on sous vide now as well, some by other circulator makers and some by individuals. Not sure if the link will work but [url=http://svkitchen.com/] here's one [/url], Chef's steps is a very helpful site as well. Modernist Cooking made easy is another. A random thought. Maybe those of use with Sansaires should start a sous vide group on Facebook. End of stream.

  • Cubangirl  on  3/26/2014 at 1:39 AM

    Sigh..Should be sites, not sights, saved not save, liked not like, us instead of us. Obviously attempt at link did not work, sorry.

  • volition  on  3/26/2014 at 4:07 AM

    Sous vide at home by Dale Prentice is ok

  • Cubangirl  on  3/26/2014 at 10:07 AM

    At Home with Sous Vide by Dale Prentice is not available in at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  3/26/2014 at 7:03 PM

    For me, I really appreciate a pressure cooker cookbook. they differ from all others because the timing is completely different. I do also have the occasional crush on slow cooker cookbooks, grill cookbooks, and cocktail shaker cookbooks.

  • eliza  on  3/27/2014 at 6:10 PM

    The only book I have of this type is a bread machine book by Lora Brody. It is excellent and I have made almost all the breads in it! Otherwise, I tend to take these out of the library and see how I like them. I would like to get into sous vide cooking at some point, but I'm not there yet.

  • PFP  on  3/30/2014 at 12:46 PM

    I do agree about the skillet and slow cooker books -- getting books so specifically geared to those utensils doesn't appeal to me. However, when I got my sous-vide circulator, I definitely wanted guidance because it is a very different technology and I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to do something that could breed bacteria in the vacuum sealed bags, resulting in me serving my guests heaping portions of salmonella, etc.! For this I have found two books especially useful: Modernist Cuisine (yes, the huge 5 volume set) which gives all sorts of background and guidance, and once I'd read those chapters, then Modernist Cuisine at Home. This is a really valuable book for sous vide and pressure cooker appliances -- along with many others. Once you have a sense of how to use your sous-vide machine, then you can feel free to experiment with seasonings, sauces and variations. But get the basics first. Also, if you have purchased a sous vide circulator by PolyScience (which I prefer to the Sous Vide Supreme because you can vary the size of the container depending upon how much you are cooking), they have a very good app which lets you plug in the cut of meat, fish, poultry, the weight and thickness, desired degree of "doneness" and it will tell you the temp and how long to cook it. A very helpful app.

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