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Like me, there are probably a lot people on here that have a lot of cookbooks, but I find I keep coming back to the same 1 or 2 books to give me the basis of most of the stuff I cook.

For me, I find myself coming back to the Jamie At Home book and Jamies Italy but I'm interested to see what other cookbooks others have as their "go to" cookbooks?

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85 Answers

References I use:

Cookbooks I'm fond of:

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For vegetarians, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is an excellent all-around book I always come back to

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For Italian food my Italian copy of Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well is my first port of call; the Granddaddy of Italian cuisine.

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The one we always come back to is a (german) baking book:

  • Roland Gööcks großes Backbuch

It's a hardback issue from 1976, has been out of print for a long time, and by now it's so worn-out that we've got to get another one.

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I have found that my new favorite "Go to" cookbook is"

The Complete Book of Gluten-Free Cooking.

We are not gluten intolerant, but it has some of the tastiest recipes in it that I have made in a long time!

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Have to agree with @Fredrik about Google. I would add YouTube for technique, especially when you are trying something totally new. Seeing a video of someone doing it is worth 1000 recipes.

Now for books, aside from the already mentioned reference books like Joy of Cooking, The Art of French Cooking, The Silver Spoon (I use the Italian version!), and Boston Cooking-School Cookbook I would throw in a couple of non-reference books that continually draw me back.

The The Greens Cookbook, really way ahead of it's time and a perfect balance of complimentary flavors in every recipe. Deborah Madison is a true master who understands food on a very deep level. Many of my favorite recipes come from this book and I have been using it for over 20 years.

Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant because it's like travelling around the world from your kitchen. Recipes from the heritage of many of the cooks at Moosewoods Restaurant. Actually learned to cook several new cuisines from this gem. Even wowed my Ethiopian friends. Another heavily bookmarked recipe book.

Ignore the fact that they are both vegetarian cookbooks. They are great cookbooks in their own right.

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Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater.

It has a great section on building a pantry of items that will let you make a variety of quick, delicious meals. Then, of course, it goes on to give you recipes for some such things. I've given this one as a present multiple times.

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The "ginger tea series" by James Barber:

These are three tiny cookbooks of simple, throw-it-together with what you have, recipes. Each recipe is illustrated in a one-page hand-drawn comic and they include entertaining and helpful tips (like which parts of the recipe you can go take a bath during). They consistently make yummy, fuss-free meals.

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The Way to Cook by Julia Child is a great basic reference, and I use it all the time for that "how do I make a..." question. I don't use it much for recipes anymore, but when I can't remember the proportions for flour and fat in a roux, I go here first.

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I can't believe no one has mentioned either of these: (my kids and I are suckers for pictures)

I inherited a Betty Crocker preference from a really old book given to me by my grandma, bless her soul. And, Better is a great little variety book, perhaps targeted more for beginners; the kids love looking through this one in the afternoon now and again, to help decide that great age-old question: "What's for dinner?"

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These books will convince anyone that cooking without meat, dairy, or eggs can be incredibly delicious!

  • Veganomicon
  • Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
  • Vegan Brunch
  • Viva Vegan
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The cookbook I use more than any other is The Cook's Companion, which is a distinctly Australian book (covers ingredients found and grown here, etc) but there's no reason why it wouldn't be useful elsewhere in the world.

As far as baking biscuits and cakes goes, there's no way I can go past the Country Women's Association (CWA) cookbook. Again an Australian creation, and it can't be found on Amazon, but it's the tome of English-style baking in Australia.

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I love Antonio Carluccio's Italian cookbooks. By my opinion, he is the best source for genuine Italian recipes.

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Bill Granger's series of books are great, in my opinion. His recipes are easy, fresh and tasty.

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I agree with a number of the suggestions here, but I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Starting With Ingredients yet - it's a wonderful book for folks like me who find something particularly interesting at market, take it home, and then try and decide what to do with it. And while it's not a cookbook, I'm a big fan of The Flavor Bible as both sanity check and inspiration for various bits of improvisation ('hmmm, I'm going to be doing something with this. What are the core flavors to go with? Oooh, that'll work...')

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Like other folks have mentioned multiple times, I'm partial to The Joy of Cooking.

I've also had good success using cookbooks from the Silver Palate:

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I'm showing my roots here, but the cookbook I refer to the most is Az Ínyesmester Nagy Szakacskönyve by Magyar Elek. Horváth Ilona: Szakácskönyv is a close second.

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I have many favorites, but the Victory Garden Cookbook is among those I use most often. It has chapters for each of the most commonly grown vegetables, with tips on storage and preparation, and a variety of recipes.

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Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I use this book so often, the pages are coming loose from the binding. (What ever happened to lay-flat bindings, anyway?)

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Due to my roots I keep coming back to the Cape Malay Cookery Book. It was at one point the most shoplifted book in South Africa. It contains most of the dishes my mother used to make for me when I was young and now I want to create them for myself.

White Heat (Marco Pierre White) is half autobiography and half recipie book which keeps me coming back.

Gorgeous Desserts by Annie Bell is my goto book for when Im entertaining and need a dessert - the pictures alone are wonderful.

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Molto Italiano by Mario Batali is the one I keep coming back to. It's recipes are easy to follow and are relatively basic, but if you find decent to good ingredients, the food turns out great. I have loved just about every recipe I have tried in the book, although the baked ziti and the fettuccine Alfredo were probably the best tasting.

For South-East Asian food, Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland, is best book out there. It has a description of all the non-traditional ingredients, including tips on how to find them in the US. He even includes the Thai name for Pandan leaves, since they tend to be easier to find frozen, from a Thai manufacturer. The beef rendang recipe is amazingly close the versions I've had in Jakarta.

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The Guardian just put out a list of the "top 50 best cookbooks of all time". They'll soon add the final 10, but the first 40 are there now.

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The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

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This is by far our favorite cookbook. Not only do they try dozens of variations of every recipe to find the best, they explain why it is the best. They have tons of advice on what can and can't be substituted, why ingredients are the most important, and have prepare ahead instructions. this is a great cookbook and we have bout it for many friends. –  mohlsen Aug 16 '10 at 15:04
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My favorite reference cookbook is the unfortunately out-of-print The Settlement Cookbook. It's old fashioned and many of the recipes are under-spiced, but it's my go-to book for basics like how long to cook baked potatoes.

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Alton Brown's "I'm just here for the food" is a great go-to if you need to look up a technique.

As far as recipes go, I've loved everything I've cooked out of two Jamie Oliver books. "The Naked Chef" and "Food Revolution". Both contain simple recipes that use fresh ingredients.

You also can't really go wrong with any book authored by Julia Child.

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My preference is On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. Understanding the basics behind how things cook helps with making substitutions or alterations in recipes.

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Favorite? Probably not, but if I had to limit it to one cookbook, I'd use The Best Recipe. It's a 1000 page tome with most everything you want to know how to cook. The reason I love the book though, is their approach. For each recipe, they gather a bunch of different recipes and then make them all, figure out what they like and don't, change the recipes, make them again, etc. until they find the "best" recipe. The fascinating thing about the book is that they document all this along with the recipe, so you can figure out not just how to make a dish, but why you're doing it a certain way. That knowledge, gleaned mostly from this book, is what allowed me to step beyond following a recipe and actually start to cook and be creative in the kitchen.

Also, I would NOT get The French Laundry book. That is not a Tuesday night, throw something together kind of a book. If you want a Keller book, get Ad Hoc at Home. It is by far his most accessible book. But even that wouldn't qualify as a bible for your kitchen. Note: I'm not saying The French Laundry book isn't good, just that it doesn't meet the standard of the question.

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