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I'm looking for the ultimate cookbook for busy people with little cooking experience.

  • ~30min per recipe (for someone who has barely cooked before, not for a professional chef).
  • Alternatives for all ingredients: Use chili - don't have chili?, use paprika - don't have paprika?, use ...
  • All recipes must be cookable in a poorly equipped kitchen.
  • (Fast food like dishes preferred, but not a must).

I'm desperately looking for a cookbook that suits my needs for a long time. I have a poorly equipped kitchen and I don't have much time to buy ingredients or to cook. I don't want to be taught fishing, I just want to be given a fish.

I'm aware of Need suggestions for ABSOLUTE beginner's cookbook, but most of the recipes in the suggested books weren't easy enough for me.

The closest I got to my dream book was Real Simple Best Recipes: Easy, Delicious Meals, but it didn't provide any alternatives for ingredients, which prohibited me to cook many of the recipes. Also, the instructions were a little sparse.

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closed as too broad by rumtscho Jun 3 at 17:31

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

As much as I comment about how 30min meals is a bit much when you're cooking for yourself ... 15min is really short ... a poor stove might not even bring water to a boil in 15 min ... so no rice, pasta, etc. I have a load of recipes for 15 min of effort, but they often take more than 15min from start to finish due to unattended cooking time. – Joe Aug 18 '11 at 22:33
15 minutes? For an inexperienced cook I think that's barely enough time for a fried egg or frozen hamburgers or simple pasta with canned sauce. You've gotta make more time than that. If you can't or won't, then you don't need a cookbook, you need a cook. – Aaronut Aug 18 '11 at 22:38
Agreed. Inexperienced cooks don't have time for 15 minute meals. They need a bit more time to practice. I can barely cook a complete meal in 15 minutes, and I know what I'm doing most of the time. – jcolebrand Aug 18 '11 at 22:45
These are some brutal criteria; if your kitchen is poorly-equipped, poorly-organized (or you're just substituting everything), and you've only got 15 minutes... Something's gonna give. Might I recommend a nice fridge-cleaning sandwich? – Shog9 Aug 18 '11 at 22:46
Can you maybe be more specific as to what difficulties you had with the types of recipes you found in the linked question and similar questions? I could be wrong but I don't recall many of them calling for a lot of special equipment or experience or time. Keep in mind that this is primarily a site for enthusiasts, and although we have some beginners and don't mind at all to help them, it's difficult if not impossible to do that if we don't know where you're falling down. There are lots of cookbooks mentioned in the linked question that should be doable in < 30 minutes with basic equipment. – Aaronut Aug 18 '11 at 23:24

Stonesoup Free e-coobook - [5 ingredients | 10 minutes] + how minimalist home cooking can help you

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Thank you for the link. Finally a true minimalist cookbook. I'll try out 2-3 recipes tomorrow :-) – David Aug 20 '11 at 0:30
This would be my suggestion as well. Jules's food science background means she pulls out amazing things out of 5 ingredients in 10 minutes and it never ceases to amaze me, even though I usually cook from recipes that take an hour plus. – justkt Aug 21 '11 at 22:14

I would recommend 'I'm Just Here for the Food' by Alton Brown. Not all the recipes are 30 minutes or less, but he is good at providing alternate ingredients, and telling the reader WHY they shouldn't switch out certain ingredients. I like the teaching attitude of the book - he breaks everything down and explains why a dish or cooking technique works, and how to take those skills into other techniques and dishes. He's also good at finding multitasking tools, which it sounds like your kitchen requires. My only complaint with the book is that the pages are very thin and get dirty quickly in a cooking setting.

Here is an amazon link:

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Unfortunately you can only view the introduction+appendix in the "look inside" feature which only contain theory. Maybe I'll be able to grab a copy at my local library. The points you list sound promising. – David Aug 20 '11 at 0:37
Yeah, I noticed that too. Bummer. Hopefully you can find a copy to see if it would be helpful. – Katey HW Aug 21 '11 at 6:59

buy bread and cold cuts. Some mayo, mustard, oil and vinegar and it takes about 2 minutes to prepare a sandwich. If you have enough cash, buy some spices or toppings. I had replicated some of Chipotle's Burrito Bowls at home, but its costly for a single person and takes a lot of time. But you can make enough for a week. Batch cooking is also an alternative if you think you can spare some extra time one night a week.

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+1 for batch cooking. – Peter Taylor Aug 21 '11 at 12:41

Cookbook? You don't need no stinkin' cookbook!... you have Google at your finger tips, or Bing,, You ( found this site) have access to the internet, what do you want a cookbook for?

30 minutes is more than enough time to watch an episode of Rachel, Alton, Bobby or even the new "Sandwich King". There are great resources out there that aren't in a book. The great advantage to these TV shows and the internet (both the text and video) is that they don't limit you to a written recitation but offer demonstrations of techniques with greater range of commentary than a book. A video with a demonstration alongside a recipe with a world of reader's comments will teach you more, faster than any 'cookbook'.

As has been duly noted by others you will need time and some equipment (estate sales are a great way to find good equipment, reasonably priced)

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Unfortunately I didn't have as much luck with google. I find it pretty hard to find good recipes. But thanks for mentioning some Cooks that are worth checking out. Besides that, are there any shows/podcasts/sites you watch regularly that you can recommend? – David Aug 20 '11 at 0:33
The problem with Google is that you have to already know something about cooking to filter through the recipes. My mother who has a whole life of cooking behind her does an amazing job of using Google as a resource. Myself? I find I need to stick to known sources of "works right the first time and all the time" recipes since I only have six or so years of cooking under my belt to give me an idea of whether or not a recipe looks right. – justkt Aug 21 '11 at 22:15
Google was one choice as an alternative to 'cook books', there are a whole range of options from other general search engines to specific sites like "" etc. My point is that the internet can provide (even a beginner) with a variety of of recipe sources. – Cos Callis Aug 21 '11 at 22:21

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