All purpose cookbooks are the workhorses in your cookbook library. They are general purpose books that serve as the foundation of your collection. These cookbooks cover a wide variety of cuisines, techniques, and skills. Every home cook should start their collection with several all purpose cookbooks.
Joy of Cooking – Irma Rombauer: I remember my mom’s copy of the Joy of Cooking. It was my first cookbook. It was our staple all purpose cookbook. The pancake recipe in Joy is the first recipe that I ever learned. This book is as important as flour, salt, and sugar. Every cook should have a copy of Joy. It will teach you the basics.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child: After the Joy of Cooking taught me the basics, Mastering the Art of French Cooking turned me into a cook. Julia taught me how to make stock. She also taught me how to roast a chicken. This book should be the second book that you buy after the Joy of Cooking.
The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook – Better Homes and Gardens: This was the first cookbook that I received as a gift. My aunt gave me a copy for Christmas sometime in the 80s. Unfortunately, I no longer have it. I’ve since purchased two older editions. However, recently I got the newly released 17th edition. It is filled with basic recipes as well as tips and tricks to make you a better cook.
The Betty Crocker Cookbook – Betty Crocker: The Betty Crocker Cookbook is a classic American cookbook that has been trusted for ages. There are tons of basic recipes as well as a few that will surprise you. I really like the fact that it is spiral bound because it lays flat while you are cooking.
The Martha Stewart Cookbook – Martha Stewart: In the late 80s & early 90s, I was obsessed with Martha Stewart. I watched her show religiously. Martha is the reason that I purchased my first KitchenAid mixer. I wanted to be like Martha Stewart. She is a great teacher and her cookbook is one of my favorites.
The Food Lab – J. Kenji Lopez-Alt: The author applies his knowledge of food science to a lot of traditional recipes. His techniques will elevate your skills in every aspect of cooking. This is currently one of my favorite cookbooks.
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook – America’s Test Kitchen: This book is updated every year with the recipes from each season. I buy them every 5 years. This book is great! It contains every single recipe that appeared on the show since 2001.
Cookwise – Shirley O. Corriher: This is the book that teaches you the “how” and the “why” of a recipe. This book is a great stepping stone after you’ve gotten your feet wet by a basic all-purpose cookbook. Once you learn the “why” of a recipe, you will be able to modify it and make it your own without ruining the results.
The Flavor Bible – Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg: This book will teach you how to build flavor profiles by using seasonings and flavors that enhance your ingredients. It will help you learn flavor combinations that will take your cooking to another level.
Ad Hoc At Home – Thomas Keller: This is the best of Thomas Keller served family style. This book is perfect for the experienced home cook who wants to create family style dishes. Thomas Keller is a master and has developed a series of six disciplines that will make you a successful cook.
Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making – James Patterson: If you want to learn to make sauces, this is the book to buy. This sauce book is one of the most influential cookbooks of our time. It covers both classic sauces as well as unique ones.
How to Cook without a Book – Pam Anderson: This is a great techniques book that helps you deviate from recipes to make dishes your own. It will teach you how to create variations and even your own recipes.