Is it time to elevate your cooking game?

Last December, I did a series of gift guides for cooks and bakers. One of the guides was tailored to books that ranged from new to advanced cooks - the Cookbook Gift Guide for New to Advanced Cooks. This morning one of the members of The Cookbook Junkies asked for recommendations of cookbooks that are geared to improving skill levels. I have updated my guide to include new titles that have been released since that December post and I would appreciate your input as well. Remember, we are looking for titles that push the envelope on skills.

Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto: The Ideas and Techniques That Will Make You a Better Cook by Michael Ruhlman reveals how a cook's success boils down to the same twenty concepts. Ruhlman illuminates the hows and whys of each concept and reinforces those discoveries through 100 recipes for everything from soups to desserts, all detailed in over 300 photographs. Cooks of all levels will appreciate this title. Another Ruhlman title, Ratio The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, dives into the truth of cooking: basic preparations that teach us how the fundamental ingredients of the kitchen work. For example, biscuit dough is 3:1:2 or 3 parts flour, 1 part fat, and 2 parts liquid. This ratio is the beginning of many variations, and because the biscuit takes sweet and savory flavors with equal grace, you can top it with whipped cream and strawberries or sausage gravy. One can't go wrong with a Ruhlman title.


Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
 by Samin Nosrat is a master class in cooking that condenses decades of professional experience into just four simple elements - salt, fat, acid and heat. This indispensable tome delivers 100 essential recipes - and dozens of variations - to take the author's lessons and put them into use to make bright, balanced vinaigrettes, perfectly caramelized roast vegetables, tender braised meats, and light, flaky pastry doughs. All of this information is packaged with 150 illustrations and infographics that will help us understand the world of flavor. You can learn more about this book in our review and be sure to enter our contest.

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt is the must have book for every kitchen, for every level of cook. The Managing Culinary Director of the Serious Eats website (which recipes are indexed for our members) has delivered a comprehensive 950-page guide devoted to the art and science of food preparation. There are over 1,000 color photographs, including many step-by-step photos to help explain technique. The book covers knife skills, foundation recipes, and almost every culinary topic imaginable. López-Alt's recipes always work.


Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking
 by Naomi Pomeroy is, in my estimation, the equivalent of an at-home culinary course in nearly 400 pages. Those pages contain 140 recipes, beautiful photographs and the chef's vast culinary knowledge that began at the age of seven when her mother taught her how to make a soufflé. The book is simply brilliant. Details on every aspect of cooking: from ingredients, equipment, teaching the building block fundamentals of techniques and understanding balance of flavors are set out to ensure our success in recreating these dishes and honing our skills. Pomeroy taught herself to cook by working her way through the classics and knows that the best recipes make us better cooks. I firmly believe that anyone who wants to learn to cook, loves to cook or wants to perfect their skills should work their way through this title. In that regard, I have started a group to cook our way through this book - come join us. More information can be found on my review post.

Cooking School: Mastering Classic and Modern French Cuisine by Alain Ducasse delivers 190 classic and modern recipes that include regional French cuisine, everyday family meals, patisserie, confections and so much more. The nearly 600 page book contains thousands of step-by-step process photos and tips from chefs that will expand your knowledge and skill in the kitchen. Beautiful photographs are plentiful throughout the title and recipes that range from Brownies to a stunning Raspberry Charlotte. For the serious cook that wishes to level up, this is the book for them. 

École Ritz Escoffier, Paris: 100 Step-by-Step Recipes from the Ritz Paris Culinary School includes 100 recipes for meat, fish, vegetables, foie gras, pasta and rice, international dishes, hors d'oeuvres, and desserts. Each recipe is illustrated and includes clear explanations and a step-by-step guide. An homage to the prestigious school, which is still in its original home at the Ritz Hotel on the Place Vendôme, Paris, this beautiful book is more than a reference; it offers the savoir-faire and secrets of a gourmet chef who has inspired cooks for more than 150 years. This book is another title for the serious cook.

Institut Paul Bocuse Gastronomique: The definitive step-by-step guide to culinary excellence by Institut Paul Bocuse is perfect for professional chefs in training and aspiring amateurs. This is a comprehensive step-by-step manual covering all aspects of preparing, cooking and serving delicious, high-end food. First the book sets forth 250 core techniques in photographs then those techniques are put into practice in 70 classic and contemporary recipes. Over 1,800 photographs fill this essential guide for any serious cook who wants to tighten their game.


Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food
 by Ali Bouzari is a reference book highlighting each of the fundamental building blocks of food are fully explored to allow cooks a way to visualize and respond to what's really happening in the pan. An ingredient is a tomato, a tortilla, or some tarragon. An Ingredient (with a capital "I") is a recurring theme (or fundamental building block) that works behind the scenes in everything we cook. This is not a cookbook but a book that every cook should read. More information on Ingredient can be found in my review article.

Any good cook needs to learn the fine art of spice, The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices is that book - a stunning title with hundreds of fresh ideas and tips for using pantry spices, 102 never-before-published recipes for spice blends, gorgeous photography, and botanical illustrations. Lior Lev Sercarz founded his New York City spice shop in 2006 and has become the go-to source for fresh and unusual spices as well as small-batch custom blends for renowned chefs around the world. Understanding spices and how they complement ingredients and each other is an important component in a cook's arsenal. This beautiful book is a wonderful place to expand our knowledge of spices to add flavor and vibrancy to our meals. Lior holds spice classes at his shop in New York City.

For baking there are plenty of classics, but Stella Parks' BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts is spectacular. It is is the book the whole baking world has been awaiting for what seems like forever. Stella is the pastry genius at Serious Eats and this book is epic - it is all about recipes that are perfected and updated for all our favorite classics. Approachable and a must have for any level baker. If Alton Brown and J. Kenji López-Alt had a cookbook child, it would be Stella. This book rocks.


Last but not least, once you start creating those beautiful new challenging dishes, you will want to photograph them - Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flanagan's The Food Stylist's Handbook: Hundreds of Tips, Tricks, and Secrets for Chefs, Artists, Bloggers, and Food Lovers is the book you will need. Magazine ready shots will be yours with these two pros' tips. Have you uploaded any of your own photos yet to EYB? Learn more!

1 Comment

  • ellabee  on  7/14/2017 at 1:35 PM

    This is an excellent roundup, Jenny; thanks. I'm particularly interested in Taste & Technique and the Samin Nusrat book (originally conceived as having no recipes ;>).

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