Are there any cookbooks that get more difficult with each recipe?
August 11, 2015 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to learn how to cook and I'm wondering if there are any good cookbooks that I can buy to follow along with? They might not exist, but are there cookbooks that start out with something so basic as how to boil and egg and end up getting more complex as they go along? If not, what cookbooks would the best for a new cook to check out?
posted by modesty.blaise to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's been a while since I read it, but I believe Cooking for Dummies might be worth checking out.
posted by bunderful at 8:28 PM on August 11, 2015

I've been using a Good Housekeeping cookbook for years. It has everything in it. Start off with a few basic things and then, for added skill level, create your own recipes. I like to google and find 5 different ways to make one thing, take the best elements from the various recipes, and create something new.
posted by myselfasme at 8:28 PM on August 11, 2015

Best answer: This isn't an ultimate beginners cookbook, but Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman does something similar: they take a recipe and teach you how to do it four ways, ranging from the simplest style for the basic weeknight meal to the Very Special Recipe you might make for a dinner party you spend two days cooking for.

At the time of this book, Mark Bittman was writing The Minimalist column for the New York Times. You might want to go back and look at those recipes online; they're generally great. As are his books How To Cook Everything and How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. And while finding those links just now I saw that he has a newer book that sounds right up your alley: How To Cook Everything: The Basics. Bittman is a great communicator, and great for beginners and non-pros.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:56 PM on August 11, 2015 [12 favorites]

Seconding Bittman. I've been teaching myself to cook for some time now, and he is a great first resource--clear, simple, and builds on basics to more advance techniques. The "How to Cook..." are excellent places to start.
posted by librosegretti at 9:03 PM on August 11, 2015

This may not be what you're looking for, but the Josey Baker bread book recipes get more difficult as they go; I have not made it very far yet but the first couple of breads I made from it were DELICIOUS!
posted by bookworm4125 at 9:21 PM on August 11, 2015

Best answer: Cook's Illustrated Science of Good Cooking might be what you're looking for.
posted by smartyboots at 10:06 PM on August 11, 2015

Best answer: I came in here to recommend Bittman's book, How to Cook Everything: The Basics. When I was learning how to cook, I found a lot of cookbooks difficult to use, because there was so much stuff they just assumed I knew, and I didn't know any of it. Bittman works really hard in that cookbook to explain all of that implicit knowledge. He uses pictures to show you what the food looks like when you're halfway through the dish (instead of just the finished result), he has pictures of what meat looks like in varying states of doneness, he shows you pictures of what a rolling boil looks like with water, etc. He also starts with easy stuff and gradually gets more complex (he starts with breakfast foods, because there are a bunch of breakfasts that aren't too hard). I would absolutely recommend it to you as a good place to start.
posted by colfax at 12:57 AM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lots of anthology cook books, like Cook's Illustrated, are structured in a way so it starts each section with the basic take of that type of food (like a simple loaf of bread, or cooking a chicken), and then the following recipes in the sections are more complicated.

I've heard good things about the America's Test Kitchen cook books.
posted by troytroy at 2:50 AM on August 12, 2015

Best answer: Delia Smith's 3 How To Cook books are excellent. I'm pretty sure each recipe has a colour photo and her instructions plus notes for each chapter are some of the best I've seen. They're turn of the century but solid and the recipes still look good.

Ditto for her Complete Cookery course from the 90s but I like that much less because its huge & has not many pictures.

What you'll learn with all of these books is how & why, which will make it easier for you to move on to more complicated things once you're confident with the basics.

Complicated really just means being so familiar with how ingredients plus techniques work together that you can make something that requires knowledge of several combinations of these things.
posted by stellathon at 4:24 AM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came here to recommend Bittman's books and see I'm joining a crowd - I like how straightforward they are and they'll teach you methods not just recipes so you'll be able to build on it.
posted by leslies at 5:07 AM on August 12, 2015

Mastering the Art of French Cooking does this ... you can read it through like a textbook and it starts with very basic preparations of eggs and works up to elaborate souffles, for example.

There were a number of things I was not actually interest in cooking in it, but the explanations of the techniques are thorough, clear, readable, and clearly build from one to the next in complexity, so it was worth READING even if I didn't want to cook every possible variation of vegetables cooked in butter. (I DID cook a lot of the egg dishes, and chicken dishes. I did not cook any aspics at all. Sauces chapter is invaluable.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:43 AM on August 12, 2015

Came in here to say Delia as well - how millions of UK people learnt to cook. She has accompanying videos on YouTube (or had, anyway).
posted by tinkletown at 10:08 AM on August 12, 2015

Best answer: Mad Delicious does this.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2015

Best answer: All Cakes Considered, by Melissa Gray, starts with a roughly six-page explanation of a baking a basic cake, including multiple paragraphs about creaming the butter and adding the sugar, and then adds new skills (egg whites! icings!) in later chapters. The recipes are delicious.

Jaques Pepin's La Technique is much more technique than recipe oriented, but goes from easier to harder.
posted by JawnBigboote at 10:21 AM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you're looking for Marion Cunningham's book, "Learning to Cook." She also had one for kids, "Cooking with Children: 15 Lessons for Children, Age 7 and Up, Who Really Want to Learn to Cook."
posted by bentley at 12:17 PM on August 12, 2015

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