Back in the kitchen, what do I do now?
May 19, 2008 6:34 PM   Subscribe

CookingFilter: Recipes, books, and blogs dedicated to recipes to beginner cooks or cooks on a budget?

I learned how to do basic cooking in college. So, I can chop veggies, cook chicken, make an omelette, etc.

I've gotten away from cooking in recent years. Recently, I've gotten the jones for cooking again. Up until now, I've been living on Morningstar Farms food and Jello pudding.

I'm looking to ease back into it, and I've found that cookbooks and recipes geared towards new cooks the best way to do so. I'd also like suggestions on sites that are geared toward budget cooking or sites that can tell me what I can substitute for more exotic/expensive ingredients.

I've tried Googling for beginner recipes and the amount of results have been overwhelming. I've also checked the old AskMe's, but a lot of those have advice mixed in with suggestions for cookbooks/sites. I'd really just like to know about which books/sites I can go to for easy and hopefully healthy recipes.

I've gotten a few 'college cookbooks'. While these have decent recipes, most are uninspired. I'm looking for good food that I make on a weeknight.

So, I ask you: Where are such recipes to be found?

posted by reenum to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Bonus points for sites or cookbooks that have visual step by step guides.
posted by reenum at 6:37 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: This is one of my favorite sites - well illustrated AND interactive!
posted by puckish at 6:37 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

My favorite cooking blogs:
The Amateur Gourmet
101 Cookbooks
Delicious Days
Chocolate and Zucchini
One Hot Stove
The Kitchn
Kalyn's Kitchen
None of these is especially for beginners but I found them a great source of inspiration when I started cooking regularly.
For recipes, you can't do better than You'll also find great tutorials and food discussions at
posted by peacheater at 6:49 PM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

Go old school: Get thee a subscription to "Cook's Illustrated" - plain ol' paper version preferred. The writing is great, no ads, and the articles generally explain what's going on in any particular recipe. They also tend to have a technique-related piece in each issue. They eschew "fusion" and other esoteric styles; their recipes are incredibly reliable. I've subscribed to it since their charter issue and I still look forward to the new one in the mail. Well worth the cash to subscribe IMHO.

Once you get past the bowtie, you'll see he know's what he's talking about.

From time to time, Costco carries their hardbound cookbooks at a hefty discount, which are great references to have in your kitchen library.
posted by webhund at 6:52 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

The recipes are pretty simple and straightforward and Bittman includes explanations of the basics along with some how's and why's for ingredients, preparations, and techniques.

And if your brain is structured like mine, the Cooking for Engineers blog is great. Step-by-step photos and his cool way of diagramming the cooking steps makes me wonder why no one else has adapted it.
posted by junesix at 7:24 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

For budget cooking, have a look at the Cheap Healthy Good blog. They are cheap and healthy meals.. and usually not too complicated either.
posted by AnnaRat at 7:52 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

Be sure to check out this previous thread: Anyone CAN Cook-- 101 incredibly simple 10-minute recipes from Mark Bittman.
posted by ericb at 9:16 PM on May 19, 2008

Get thee a subscription to "Cook's Illustrated"

...which is published by the folks behind America's Test Kitchen here in Boston.

Also -- check out Donna Hay and her books
posted by ericb at 9:27 PM on May 19, 2008

If I might be so bold as to channel Julia Child... hang on, I've got Carnac the Magnificent's hat around here someplace...okay, here we go:

The way to cook quickly and efficiently is to get good at basic techniques that are essentially the same regardless of recipe. For example, good basic knifework is a skill that will cut preparation time dramatically for many, many dishes. Browning meats in a pan is basically the same for every dish (get the oil hot enough to shimmer, add the meat, don't crowd the pan, et cetera), egg whites are always done the same way, and on and on and on.

The way to cook and eat well on a small budget is to get good with simple ingredients that you tend to find around the perimeter of the grocery store: Unprocessed vegetables, dairy, meats, and so on. It's all the boxed and canned stuff that tends to cost a lot. There are exceptions, of course, such as that fact that frozen peas are the best way to buy them.

Collecting recipes is good and essential, but it's also important to learn why you're doing what you're doing and how to do it efficiently. As a random example, a recipe might call for baking powder. Okay, but what's it there for? The answer is that it released gas when it gets wet and hot - it's what makes your pancakes fluffy. The better cookbooks will explain stuff like that.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:25 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For the Food, which has very very few recipes, but is mostly about techniques and why different methods work (or don't).

For recipes, I second Bitteman's book and CI, and would add that Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is full of amazing, easy, recipes.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:09 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

(Despite being a corporate entity)We like Kraft's Food and Family magazine. You can sign up and they'll send you the magazine quarterly for free. We've found some winners in there. There are a lot of no-nonsense family type foods and things that are interesting for the kids.
End advertisement. *Goes to shower*
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:09 AM on May 20, 2008

To add on to peacheater's great list: Orangette. Check out her recipe index.
posted by farishta at 5:26 AM on May 20, 2008

The Pioneer Woman Cooks! (Very visual and step-by-step).

I also subscribe to Food and Family and 2nd that suggestion. **also goes to shower**
posted by Otis at 6:47 AM on May 20, 2008

Following up on webhund's answer, the Cook's Illustrated web content is well worth the subscription fee. I like being able to search for stuff -- "I bought some esoteric ingredient because it caught my eye at the store, now what?" Special techniques are usually well explained too.

I have several of their cookbooks and buy the magazine once in a while, but I rely on the website more just because search is that darn handy. Not bad at all for what, $2 a month?
posted by liet at 10:47 PM on June 14, 2008

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