Help me pick cookbooks for a gift
May 2, 2020 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I expect that we will give my sister-in-law one or two cookbooks for her birthday in a few weeks. I have some in mind, and would like to hear what you think.

I am considering the following:
* Cook's Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking
* The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
* Ratio
* Ruhman's Twennty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, a Cook's Manifesto
* Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

A couple of years ago, we gave her the Flavor Bible, and How to Cook Without a Book. She said she really liked them. She is a lab tech and really thorough in various activities. She likes to cook, and nutritious foods are important to her.

Do you have recommendations about any of the above, or something else similar?
posted by NotLost to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: On the technical side: Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:15 PM on May 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ha! I was about to recommend the two books you had already gifted, until I read all the way through.

I have a soft sport for - Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by Shirley O. Corriher. It was a resource when I was working on editing recipes in what seems like a million years ago. In searching to make sure I spelled her name correctly I see that she has a new book coming out in November (well, at least scheduled for then) called Kitchenwise, might be worth a look for next year.

Of the books your listed I am familiar with Cook's Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and would recommend any of them. Another one that I would consider to part of this genre would be How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.
posted by dawg-proud at 4:19 PM on May 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is pretty damn good. It doesn't really cover everything, but nothing does.

Of course, the Joy of Cooking every cook should own.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:25 PM on May 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yes, Bittman's How to Cook Everything is comprehensive and teaches you how to apply principles of cooking to many different ingredients. He just updated it this year, too.
posted by parkerposey at 4:43 PM on May 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If she’s a vegetable lover who’s not vegetarian, Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden is my favorite produce-centric omnivore cookbook! And yes, everything Samin Nosrat does is brilliant.
posted by centrifugal at 5:56 PM on May 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and The Food Lab are both excellent choices. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is especially good for learning principles that will help all cooking (mostly add more acid).

I also really like Dinner by Melissa Clark. It's a bunch of recipes that are meant to be a dinner, maybe with adding rice, bread or a side salad. I heard about it from a friend, who learned about it from her sister and now my sister has it too. So the people I know seem to really like it once they see it!
posted by carolr at 6:34 PM on May 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'll nth Dinner by Melissa Clark. I think her recipes are consistently good, not overly complicated, but still special.

You might also think about getting her a subscription to I get a lot of use out of that site.
posted by brookeb at 7:14 PM on May 2, 2020

The Food Lab is great and will probably be well received if she loved The Flavour Bible! Those are two of my favourite cookbooks!

I also really love Modernist Cuisine at Home (though it's very expensive and you can't possibly make all the recipes without acquiring some very specialized ingredients and equipment.)

and Genius Recipes is also great and interesting!
posted by euphoria066 at 8:19 PM on May 2, 2020

If she's into baking/treats then I highlight recommend Bravetart by Stella Parls
posted by mhaw at 8:23 PM on May 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Food Lab by Kenji is a great recommendation, if she's interested in the science behind things he's really informative. Also he's very through and could be a great fit.
posted by Carillon at 10:18 PM on May 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Food Lab and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat are the ones at the top of my wishlist. If I don't get them for my birthday, I will buy.
posted by mumimor at 10:56 PM on May 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been part of a cookbook club for a few years now and collect cookbooks. The cookbook that I use the most personally and was the biggest hit with our club is Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:52 AM on May 3, 2020

Best answer: Weighing in on existing suggestions, in case it helps your decision process: My own feeling about How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is that it should be retitled Nope, Not Quite How to Cook Any of These Things. Perhaps the newer edition is more in line with its title, but it would have to have involved some very extensive updating. There are some people who write consistently well tested, iron clad, smart recipes that you can trust will work (Dorie Greenspan, for example) and people who have a solid instinct for what steps and methods can be streamlined without compromising the final product, and then there is Mark Bittman, who is very good at, in my experience, supplying B- recipes/techniques that look appealingly simple but need to be revised and un-simplified if you want them to be really good.

The Food Lab and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat are both excellent and have very different styles, so they make nice complements to one another. I also agree that Genius Recipes is fun and interesting, and features a number of genuinely surprising and exciting new ideas.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:36 AM on May 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Big fan of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and the Food Lab. I, too, was underwhelmed by How to Cook Everything. Might also suggest, if you're into the Cooks Illustrated folks, Christopher Kimball's The Kitchen Detectives. Kind of older at this point but basically does a deep dive into some classic American recipes and very readable and interesting and I still use its risotto recipe to this day.
posted by jessamyn at 8:38 AM on May 3, 2020

Best answer: I suggest TFL and SFAH also. How To Cook Everything is great for a NEW cook, someone moving out for the first time or the like. And I still use some specific recipes from there, but it isn't a good book for someone who is already a good cook.

If she's into bread, I recommend The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. (Her various X bible books are amazing in general, though I have not read The Baking Bible, which has breads and cakes and pies etc, as I already have Bread/Pie/Cake separately.)
posted by jeather at 10:16 AM on May 3, 2020

Yotam Ottolenghi is a master of vegetarian cookery. He has a ton of books on different topics, they're probably all good.
posted by kolendra at 10:25 AM on May 3, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers. We decided to go with "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat."

"Six Seasons" is a possibility for the future.
posted by NotLost at 8:08 PM on May 3, 2020

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