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?

  • Why is this closed? This is bullocks, a cooking SE SHOULD have a cookbook recommendation section. Jul 1, 2012 at 22:45
  • Since this got bumped, for the record, this was closed because it did solicit polling - there are 86 answers! It should have been closed long before then, but we weren't vigilant enough. There are many closed programming book questions on StackOverflow, too; it's not like Seasoned Advice has done something weird here.
    – Cascabel
    Mar 28, 2013 at 19:54

85 Answers 85


Definitely the Joy of Cooking. It's not a convenience cookbook for people with busy schedules or low patience - the majority of recipes in there are geared toward flavour and not specialty diets or quick prep times - but at least 9 out of 10 recipes I try in there have near-perfect flavour and texture.

IMO, this should be in every cook's kitchen, even the ones that don't really use cookbooks. It has all the classic recipes, and you never know when somebody will ask you to make Chicken Kiev.

  • 2
    +1. It's a great staple of any kitchen. Tons of very basic instructions for when a more complicated recipe something like "blanched potatoes" and you've forgotten how to blanch a potato.
    – kubi
    Jul 18, 2010 at 15:24
  • 2
    I've actually found that the Joy of Cooking has led me astray more often than leading me to the right path. I leave it on the bookshelf and consult other texts. Sep 9, 2010 at 9:53
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    @Daniel: No book is for everyone, of course, but I'm curious to know some examples of this. The only recipes I tend to ignore in that book are the Asian ones; virtually everything else I've tried has been perfect (although I obviously haven't tried everything).
    – Aaronut
    Sep 9, 2010 at 14:20
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    I've tried a number of recipes from that book, and about the only one I found to be good was the alfredo one. Which I frequently modify to spruce up. All the others were bland and flavorless. Or just boring. Or plain didn't work. I just had bad experiences with that book, and eventually stopped using it. Sep 10, 2010 at 19:01
  • It's indispensable; it's like a dictionary. It's the one book you take if you're going off to live in the third world for a year. It tells you how to cook, clean and prepare anything and everything. But as a cookbook for great recipes? Eh, not so much. Sep 17, 2012 at 3:57

Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food If I'm going to be using a technique I'm not 100% familiar with.

  • This book totally changed how I cook. Jul 19, 2010 at 15:12

Bittman's "How to Cook Everything." It's really great - simple and easy - plus you can get the whole thing as an iphone app for $4.99.

  • I purchased this recently after a recommendation from a chef, and I'll say it's one heck of a tome, and contains a ton of recipes. Oct 5, 2010 at 10:43

I love working with dough and baking my own bread and pastry. So my bible is Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I use this book so often that I don't even bother to return it to my bookshelf anymore.

  • thats awesome. Will have to take a look as I also love cooking with bread / dough
    – lomaxx
    Jul 10, 2010 at 9:25
  • it also is the only book I store in my kitchen instead of my bookshelf
    – Recep
    Jul 15, 2010 at 9:27
  • I agree. This is an excellent book for baking bread. The explanation on the baking process is so well explained. The pictures are great too. =) Oct 5, 2010 at 10:40

Not a book, but Google is the one I use by far the most. I typically have a rough idea what to cook, do a google search to find recipes for inspiration and then make something with bits and pieces from various sources.


The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Just the right balance between recipes and discussion of technique. I always consult this book before cooking a new cut of meat for the first time.

  • The key between 'The Joy of Cooking' and 'The New best Recipe' is that every every recipe in both cookbooks work every time, however, the quality of the finished dishes from 'The New Best Recipe' always are much better than 'The Joy of Cooking'.
    – Adam S
    Jan 30, 2011 at 23:32

References I use:

Cookbooks I'm fond of:

  • Love Ratio. It's amazingly informative.
    – justkt
    Aug 16, 2010 at 15:23

I know it is a long list, but we cannot forget Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Full of techniques.


Madhur Jaffrey's "Indian Cookery" (a newer edition of this) and a Danish book called "Mad" (eng: Food) from 1939.

I also frequently use "Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Cookery" for all those techniques and methods that I only need once in a while, but when I need them, I need them desperately.

  • I found an old copy of Madhur Jaffrey's 1975 book "An Invitation To Indian Cooking" at a used book store, and it has nearly fallen apart from all the times I've been through it. I love her recipes.
    – Ryan Olson
    Jul 10, 2010 at 15:43
  • Love Madhur Jaffrey; such a good compromise between easy and authentic. Jul 16, 2010 at 20:13

Diet for a Small Planet

I disagree with a lot of their activism, but their dietary facts are spot on. If you want to know how to eat healthy as a vegetarian, start here. (We're not vegetarians, but some of our friends are and we like to entertain with full meals.)

When my spouse was young, their family couldn't afford meat very often. This and Joy of Cooking were my mother-in-law's bibles for how to feed the family healthily during some rough spots.


I usually recommend the more traditional Joy of Cooking. It was pretty much the american cookbook for about 50 years. It's decent, and it's got a recipe for pretty much everything.

A more modern choice would be Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Same principle, but a more modern take on it.

Both books have huge amounts of text dedicated to first principles. How to do this or that, what this or that meat is good for, what herbs go together, how to make the base sauces, etc, etc. If you're looking for reference rather than recipes, that's a good place to start.


I recently purchased The Professional Chef (Culinary Institute of America) as both a cookbook and a reference guide. Despite what the title suggests, it is filled with basic information about: identifying different vegetables, herbs, and fruits; explaining the cuts of meat, their purpose and origin; chapters on different basic cooking techniques such as grilling, roasting, baking, etc.

It has a wide variety of recipes and some excellent resources for someone learning to cook. The best part is that the book will continue to serve you well through more professional culinary endeavors such as starting a catering business, opening a restaurant, or just cooking a meal for family and friends.

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    I agree completely, this book is amazing, great information, clearly laid out and logically divided. I love just picking a section and reading through portions of it. Jul 18, 2010 at 4:09
  • I had precisely the opposite reaction to pro chef -- it felt exactly like what it is: a textbook, designed by a committee as an accompaniment to culinary arts classwork. I think that a culinary arts textbook is a good pick, but there are definitely better ones. The recipes I've had that came from it get the job done, but aren't knock-outs by any means.
    – BobMcGee
    Jun 19, 2011 at 6:44

Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health and Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective

  • 2
    I've never used these specific books, but every Moosewood book I own is frequently used and top-notch (I have 4 or 5 of them, all well worn. Particularly the original Moosewood cookbook and "Sundays at Moosewood").
    – TJ Ellis
    Sep 7, 2010 at 11:07
  • That was my second cookbook I owned after 'The Yan Can Cookbook.' Good choice!
    – Adam S
    Jan 30, 2011 at 23:34

1080 Recipes, by Simone Ortega.

This is a classic of Spanish cooking that almost every mother gives to their children when they leave home ;-)


  • definitely going to check this one out
    – lomaxx
    Jul 10, 2010 at 13:17

The River Cottage Meat Book

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    Got this on my amazon wishlist. I use the River Cottage Everyday book which is very good. Jul 16, 2010 at 21:22

Seconding the recommendations for How to Cook Everything and The New Best Recipe, and I have to add How to Cook by the writer and TV presenter who taught millions of Brits: Delia Smith. It's the third hefty, indispensable volume on my cookbook shelf.

But if I had to keep only one, it'd be How to Cook Everything — it's ridiculously exhaustive. Not just a recipe book (though it's certainly that, and in a big way), but an encyclopedia of practical cookery. It's been invaluable as I learn my way around the kitchen and the grocery aisles.


My favorites are:


The Good Housekeeping cook book is a classic. Has all the basics such as how to make sauces to roasting beef.

The copy I have is my aunties which was published in 1953 and it lives in my kitchen.

  • +1 - me, too! It's useful for generic information about cooking times and temperatures as well as specific recipes.
    – Vicky
    Jul 11, 2010 at 11:18

Slightly off topic as they don't really have many recipes in but I find the following three reference books really valuable...

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen - by Harold McGee

Really useful reference book about cooking processes and ingredients. Want to know why something is working or not working the way it is, or how to cook that mystery ingredient. McGee is your man.

The Oxford Companion to Food - Alan Davidson

An encyclopedia of food knowledge, ingredients and gastronomical history. Very down to earth and well written too.

Larousse Gastronomique

If you want to learn about classic European cooking this is the book to have. All of those classic techniques and gastronomy in one book. Lots of recipes as well.

  • When you have some ingredients in front of you and an ambitious plan and no actual recipe On Food and Cooking is a treasure. Aug 12, 2010 at 23:01
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    Although, often Larousse isn't practical if you aren't running an estate kitchen. Look at the recipes for Demi-glace, or even stock. ... Start with one cow, one goat, hindquarters of a deer, 2 pigeons, one incontinent, three legged chicken... Oct 12, 2010 at 13:51

Michael Ruhlman's Ratio is an excellent book detailing not just some recipes, but why recipes have what they have (and in the quantities they do). I found it's great to help free your mind from following recipes blindly and move to making your own (or improvising more).

Plus, some of the recipes in the book are quite good on their own. They also tend to be either simple enough to easily modify or have the simplified ratio detailed so that you know what's optional and what's mandatory.

His blog is also quite good a highlighting certain ratios and encouraging me to try new dishes.


I have found many great ideas and cooking techniques in these books:


I always end up referring back to the Larousse Gastronimique (I have several different editions), The Professional Chef (which is the Culinary Institute of America textbook), and Jacque Pepin's Complete Techniques. Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is a fantastic book, but I don't find myself referring to it much when I'm actually cooking something.


If I could have only one cookbook I'd choose The Cooking Book, by Victoria Blashford-Snell. It's an extremely well elaborate illustrated hardcover guide for everyday cooks. It doesn't only contain delicious and accessible recipes greatly categorized but step-by-step guidance for techniques and, last but not least, suggestions for serving and what to do with left-overs.

From appetizers to desserts, from lunch box to elaborated party dinners. A superb book!

  • What I especially like about this book is that (a) it has a very neat categorized index with photographs and (b) it isn't just packed with recipes -- it has all sorts of constructive suggestions to learn to cook. Aug 4, 2010 at 14:28

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.


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.

  • Out of print, but available on Google Books: books.google.com/… Aug 12, 2010 at 21:27
  • It's also the place to go for great-great-grandma's fruitcake, as well as no-fooling old timey pickle recipes. Cherry leaves instead of alum to keep the pickles crisp. Who'd have thought? I think my copy is early 1920's. May 2, 2011 at 3:00
  • I have a 1945 copy; it has sections on baby food & food for invalids. And it's not out of print -- it's actually out of copyright, so it's back in print again
    – Joe
    May 3, 2011 at 13:10

My all time favourite cook books are, in no particular order:

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine


French Provincial Cooking

  • You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it as much as I :)
    – Pulse
    Jul 21, 2010 at 3:54

Along the lines of The Joy of Cooking - you must have I Know How to Cook. It's originally in French, recently released in English.

If you can, get the older French editions before they've messed with all the recipes.

  • You mean, if you can speak French?
    – Vivi
    Jul 22, 2010 at 4:47
  • Correct, if you can find them and read them, they are the better option.
    – s_hewitt
    Jul 22, 2010 at 21:02

The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander is considered the Australian cookbook bible.


The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan (and her other books) are my bibles when I'm cooking Italian food.

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