Cookbook all-stars

cookbook collage

When there are tens of thousands of cookbooks available (the EYB Library currently has over 144,000 books), how can you possibly winnow down a list of favorites to less than a dozen? Epicurious decided to do just that with the ten cookbooks every home cook should own.

After starting with a long list of 50 cookbooksand soliciting contributions from readers to expand the list, the editors of Epicurious sat down to "commiserate, kvetch, argue, and barter" until they whittled the list to a final, definitive ten. In setting out the criteria they used to determine what being "the best" meant, the editors had some characteristics in mind. 

The noted that a great cookbook contains "delicious recipes that work, beautiful photography, writing that inspires and intrigues, and, most importantly, it covers a type of food that people are excited to eat. A truly amazing cookbook earns its stains through frequent use, and can almost become a family member as it reappears year after year at birthdays and holidays."

Instead of just choosing 10 cookbooks from the same genre, they selected the books "to function as a library, as a group: If you only own ten cookbooks, these are the ten you should own." The article further explains the shortcuts they had to take to come up with the list, including an American-centric focus and little attention to bread or cocktails.

So which books made the final cut? Some of them are obvious, like Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Plenty. Others may surprise you, like MomofukuBaking From My Home to Yours, and the Yankee Church Supper Cookbook. Rounding out the list are The Taste of Country Cooking, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and Mexico One Plate at a Time.

Do you agree with this list? What changes would you make?

7 Comments

  • Breadcrumbs  on  4/18/2015 at 7:32 PM

    Funny, unless I'm missing something, Baking From My Home to Yours didn't make the top 50 list but somehow made the Top 10. Any list that includes the horribly (if at all) edited Homesick Texan book is dubious IMHO. That is the only cookbook I've actually ever tossed in the recycling bin with so many failed and flawed recipes. Normally I'd donate an unwanted book to a Thrift Shop but in that case, I wouldn't have wished that book on anyone.

  • ellabee  on  4/18/2015 at 10:46 PM

    It's hard to understand why any home cook would *need* Momofuku, much less every home cook. I'd never heard of the Yankee Church Supper Cookbook until this post,, and have been a fairly active food and cooking reader for several decades. Apparently I'm not alone; it's on the shelves of fewer than 15 EYB members. So... clickbait.

  • ellabee  on  4/18/2015 at 11:56 PM

    Updating: On closer reading, the Yankee Church Supper Cookbook stands in for the community cookbook of your choice. I still disagree about Momofuku, but the list isn't as contrarian as I'd thought. It's impossible to make a top ten list for anyone without knowing what kind of cooking they're interested in: one or two encyclopedic general books (my two candidates would be Joy and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), and after that, __? cuisines, __? specialty (baking, grill, seafood, etc.).

  • Cubangirl  on  4/19/2015 at 12:53 AM

    Interesting list. While I wholeheartedly agree with these four: MTAOFC, JOC, Plenty, and the EOIC, I am amazed at the others. Momofuku? While I liked what I've made from Chang and Tosi, I can't imagine ever "needing it". I've heard good things about Rodgers and Edna Lewis but have never made their recipes. I have 2 other Greenspan books, though I've never actually made anything from them, I think either of the newer ones might be a better choice. I can't believe they passed Bittman, Pepin, and Ruhlman for the ones selected. And why Mexican food? I admire Rick Bayless, but why not Asian food. I'd much rather cook from any Asian country than Mexican food. Seems like weird choices for the non obvious ones. I own over 200 cookbooks, most of the ones in the 50 list, and don't think I am missing anything by not having the other six final choices.

  • Margaretsmall  on  4/20/2015 at 4:37 PM

    Actually, if you have Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion I doubt you need any others

  • Rinshin  on  4/21/2015 at 2:29 PM

    I can only pick Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French and Cooking, Essentials of Italian Cooking for European/American/Canadian/Austrialian/New Zealand audience. Others are based on your particular interest in cooking. as well as regional variations.

  • CCF4  on  4/21/2015 at 2:58 PM

    I can agree on several of these, but if you are talking "ESSENTIAL" cookbooks, then I would replace several with Jacques book (However, with Art of French already there, not sure you would include two French books). But my absolute go to books are from Shirley Corriher - Cookwise or Bakewise. Recipes that work and the explanations behind them. When I'm developing recipes, this is my reference for some starting points, but always troubleshooting....

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