I need a cookbook

Joined Feb 27, 2011
I am an at home chef that is always looking for the best tips and tricks.  I want to know about different types of meats and whats the best type for certain dishes, the how toos for cooking and baking.I am not worried about prices.  Please give your best advice for what books to buy.  I guess I want a cookbook that has everything a cook needs to know. Thanks



Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Any competent cookbook will indicate the cut of meat appropriate for the dish.  But there's a lot of bad cookbooks and recipes out there.

It seems you're looking for more than recipes and trying to learn the hows and whys of cooking.

First up, this is about technique: Knife skills, saute, braise,sear, grill and so on.

Jaques Pepin's Complete Techniques is good. Also James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking. Many of Petersons other books are good but very specific to technique and you would benefit from some broader exposure before the depth of those other books.

Secondly, you would benefit from some of the explanation of what's going on in the recipe.

Cook's Illustrated magazine and their various books are good about this. I don't think their dishes are the pinnacle they portray them as but you can learn a lot from their work.

On more detailed level, Shirley Corriher's Bakewise and Cookwise discuss specific recipes and what's going on in  them to help you overcome common problems. Most of the recipes didn't please me at all, but they are educational.

Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is an excellent treatise about the science of food.

And Kuan's recommendation of Joy of Cooking is a good one as well. The cut information and technique information is there, but often terse and not explained with the deeper supporting information. However, once you've been learned the basics and the science, JoC is a fantastic broad reference. If you''re looking for ideas or a baseline of a recipe and the required ingredients and techniques, JoC has been a jumping off point to many fine dishes and meals.

Please apprise us of your selections and how they work for you. 


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
I thought of some things I would add to this discussion, particularly about matching meat to the right kind of technique for it. This can be inferred from most cookbooks but I thought I'd talk about how that inferring can be done and how to learn from a recipe.

How to learn from a recipe:

Read the entire recipe. Recipes tend to follow a certain format, but there are variations.
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The title usually follows one of three concepts.
  1. It can reference the classic dish of a particular cuisine. If it says Lasagna, you should have a pretty clear idea of what you're going to get. This actually gives you some useful information. It can indicate a particular style of cuisine, perhaps a technique classically associated with the dish, or even a specific town or regional variation of the dish.
  2. It can reference a cutesy name or made up name for the dish. Death by Burger for example. These are usually not so helpful to understanding the recipe.
  3. It can be descriptive such as Linguini with Grilled Shimp in Alfredo sauce. This is probably the most common and useful to cooks.
Not all recipes have this but it's often useful and entertaining if it does.

This often indicates details about ethnicity, origin of the dish and how the dish was developed for this recipe. This aspect of the Cook's Illustrated recipes is usually longer than the recipe itself but quite informative. Look for information about the cuts of meat recommended and technique discussion You'll want to associate the particular cut of meat with the technique used in the recipe. This starts teaching you about that cut of meat can be used and the types of results you can expect.
This is the actual steps of the recipe. As you read through, identify the technique(s) of the dish if not explicitly stated anywhere. Often, dishes combine techniques. For example a steak may be started searing in a pan on the stove, but finish in the oven. As a whole, even that combined technique is a classic example of how the pros pan sear a steak, even though it spends more time in the oven than on the stove.
Notes usually provide alternatives to some ingredients, steps or techniques in the dish. These too are often education in expanding your understanding of how the techniques and ingredients in the recipe can be altered in successful ways.
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So now you've read the recipe once. Read it again, paying attention to ingredients, equipment and techniques to verify you can actually make the recipe. Technique wise, look for terms like sear, saute, sweat, boil, simmer, fry and so on. 

You'll need to know you have the all ingredients or why even start. You need to know that if it calls for grilling something, can you  succeed with just broiling the item because you don't have a grill.

If you have everything, read it once more looking for timing cues. This can certainly be combined with the previous steps but for a beginner, this is something worth paying attention to all by itself.  Look for ingredients that have to be prepared  in some way before they're used in the dish. Look for places where other ingredients can be prepped while some are cooking.

For beginners, it's often best to prepare each ingredient before starting the whole recipe. That way you don't get caught in the middle of a recipe without something you need. This is a good practice in general and essential for professional cooking and is known as mise en place, In the home, you'll learn where you can include prep steps while something else is coming to the boil or whatever.

It's being able to associate disparate instructions to specific techniques.

Dice an onion. This means you need to know some knife skills and techniques to prepare that ingredient to certain shape. You need a knife, a cutting board, a trash can for the waste. None of that is really spelled out in the recipe, nor should it be, but you need to understand that Dicing an onion has implications on time, equipment and space.

Sear the steak in a medium pan. What's a medium pan? Which cut of steak, what's the heat setting.

Yes, it all sounds so obvious but you the knowledge you seek is in most recipes, just between the lines and in some assumptions. You can reverse engineer the basics of cooking out of a set of recipes and that's what experience in cooking is really all about.
Joined Mar 3, 2011
I have a number of good cookbooks and some not so good. I would like to recommend "Cavemen in the Kitchen" by Ron DesMarais. He has a great approach and a lot of bullet proof recipes.
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