Best Books on Cooking Techniques


A plate of food

Do you know your braising from your broiling? Could you confit a duck leg or cook a fish sous vide? Sometimes it can seem like recipes are written in a different language, full of strange technical terms that most of us don’t entirely understand. But in truth, cooking techniques are pretty simple if they’re properly explained, so having a good book to explain the basics can really help when you’re first starting out in the kitchen.

We’ve made a list of the very best cookbooks for explaining cooking techniques, translating technical terms, and generally demystifying the cooking process. We’ve included some old favourites and some instant classics, and there are some familiar faces to help you along the way.

How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food

A man standing next to a plane

Mark Bittman’s encyclopedic guide to home cooking has been a go-to for home cooks since it was first published in 1998. With practical instructions and diagrams rather than glossy photographs, everything about this book is geared towards making things as clear as possible for the reader.

Each chapter starts with a few ‘essential recipes’ – simple dishes to teach you techniques you can build on with more complex recipes. The tenth anniversary edition has been revised and expanded to incorporate new recipes and up-to-date information.

Joy of Cooking

A true classic, Joy of Cooking has been defining American home cooking for almost a century. It has been named one of the most influential books of the twentieth century, and is on the James Beard Foundation’s 20 Essential Cookbooks list. Originally self-published by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931, there are now more than 2 million copies in print, with several revised versions released over the years. 

The current 2019 edition maintains the book’s core of legacy recipes, but has been expanded to include new techniques such as sous vide cooking, fermentation, and cooking with both traditional and electric pressure cookers. There are also new recipes to reflect modern dietary requirements, with a larger selection of vegetarian and vegan options available.

Homestyle Cooking From Scratch

Written by home cook S.L Watson, this book teaches simple, everyday cooking methods, with a particular focus on Southern recipes. There are hints and tips for making spice rubs, sauces, marinades and pastry, plus a useful section on freezer cooking at the end. If you’re looking for modern techniques like oil specification and sous vide, this is not the book for you, but it offers a fairly comprehensive guide to more traditional methods.

Kitchn Cookbook

Written by Sarah Kate Gillingham and Kate Durand for popular cooking website The Kitchn, this book features the same practical, approachable advice you’d expect from the website, with essential cooking lessons, kitchen tool reviews, and even tips on how to organise your kitchen.

Ottolenghi Simple

An entry-level guide to the Middle-Eastern inspired dishes of Yotam Ottolenghi, this book offers recipes that are simple in at least one way, whether they’re made in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients, in a single pot, using pantry staples, or prepared ahead of time. Less a resource book and more for people who like to learn on the go.

Cook Like a Pro

Written by home-cooking icon Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, this book is full of the simple, elegant dishes for which Garten is famous, and it’s also packed with tips, techniques and practical cooking advice to answer all your cooking queries.

These are the best cooking technique books to buy.

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