Best Books In Cooking: 14 Top Titles For Inspiration

Posted on Jul 20, 2023

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Written by Sarah Rexford

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Discovering a few of the best books in cooking can take your meals to an entirely new level of deliciousness, but they can also act as the frosting for your next writing project. Do you resonate with any of the following? You love:

  • A good, home cooked meal
  • Plating a tender steak
  • The art a bit of garnish can add to the final dish

If any of the above piqued your interest (or made you a little hungry) you may want to try your hand at writing a cookbook. In this article, I discuss the best books in cooking, their unique qualities, and the key features your readers expect to find in your book. 

Who knows, if you’re both a writer and a foodie, your book has the potential of one day joining the list of best books in cooking. And what’s better than combining the art of writing with the art of a tantalizing meal? Speaking of art, let’s dive into the unique cookbook qualities. 

What Unique Qualities Make For The Best Books In Cooking?

Pictures play a tremendous role in quality cookbooks and provide a frame of reference for how your meal will ideally turn out. Many of the best books in cooking boast not just amazing recipes, but artfully designed dishes that make each meal look as good as the next. 

Additionally, when writers focus on a specific cuisine, they provide a more in-depth guide for specific dishes. Imagine opening a cookbook and finding recipes from burgers to tandoori to pozole. While some cookbooks offer a variety of dishes, if you want to join the ranks of the best books in cooking, you may want to dive deep into one cuisine. 

Finally, the best books in cooking are often not simply a collection of recipes but rather talented food writing that invites the reader (or cook) into the middle of a story. That American burger isn’t just a burger after all. It’s a memory, a moment, a lead-in to a conversation with friends. 

Now that you have a brief overview of a few qualities that contribute to the best books in cooking, it’s time to look into the various features you will likely want to include. 

Key Features Your Readers Expect To Find 

Writing a cookbook is more than just collecting recipes, pasting them into a Word document, and printing it off. The best books in cooking are storybooks, and storybooks are known for key aspects. 

#1 – More Than The Recipe 

If you’re like me and you wander into the kitchen around dinnertime on a random week-night with no dinner plan, you quickly open Pinterest for inspiration on what to cook. Have you noticed how many of the pins don’t simply jump right into the action of cooking but instead, invite you into a story? 

This is a great way to create your recipe book. Readers want to feel like they are part of the experience. Inviting them into a story helps engage them. If you want to write a book that may join the best books in cooking one day, start by including stories about your recipe. 

#2 – Concise Instructions, With Alternatives 

Of course, wading through stories without a concise recipe will frustrate readers. Make sure you include your recipe in one location, and don’t forget to:

  • Be clear in measurements 
  • Provide both metric and imperial options 
  • Include substitutes for various dietary needs 

These few additions will help your cookbook effectively reach a wider audience. The easier your cookbook is to use, as well as the more inclusive it is to various dietary needs, the more likely your recipes will become classics in your audiences’ homes. 

#3 – An Appeal To The Senses 

Taste and smell are two of the five senses that writers often forget to include. For cookbooks, they are arguably two of the most important. Yes, what a dish looks like is crucial, but if it doesn’t smell or taste appetizing, you won’t have a repeat customer.

Purposefully include description of the cleansing aroma of mint, the cozy smell of thick stew, and the delicate whiff of honey on those fresh rolls. 

#4 – Aesthetic Design 

As mentioned above, if the final dish doesn’t look appealing, the cooks who use your recipe will lack the confidence necessary to present their final product. One way to help alleviate this stress is by including illustrations. For instance, include professional, high quality images of the meal at its various stages: 

  • Wet ingredients 
  • Dry ingredients 
  • Combined ingredients 
  • Halfway cooked
  • Plated dish 

This will help instill confidence in your audience that they are appropriately following the recipe, as well as benefit visual learners. 

Your List Of The Best Books In Cooking

This post wouldn’t be complete without a list of the best books in cooking. Take a look at the below titles, note the ones you have heard of, used, or hope to cook from one day. While you’re at it, you may want to choose one new cookbook to purchase and add to your cooking repertoire. 

  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain
  • Professional Cooking, Wayne Gisslen
  • On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen, Harold McGee
  • The Flavor Bible, Karen Page and Andrew Domenburg
  • In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean
  • New Professional Chef, The Culinary Institute of America
  • The Professional Chef, The Culinary Institute of America
  • The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen
  • Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen, Yasmin Khan
  • Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals, Karen E. Drummond and Lisa M. Brefere
  • Essential Tools, Tips & Techniques for the Home Cook: A Professional Chef Reveals the Secrets to Better Cooking, Michelle Doll
  • Introduction to Japanese Cuisine, Japanese Culinary Academy, Masashi Kuma, Shuichi Yamagata, Haruo Nakano
  • Foolproof Fish, America’s Test Kitchen
  • Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook, Nick DiGiovanni and Gordon Ramsay

Now that your mouth is officially watering, let’s finish up with a few concise, tasty next steps. Learning about the best books in cooking is helpful, but without execution, your newfound knowledge will go to waste. 

Add Your Project To The Best Books In Cooking

If you love cookbooks and want to create one with a good chance of joining the list of best books in cooking, it’s time to get started. 

First, consider your cooking niché. Is there a specific cuisine that you grew up with or cook the most? Second, start collecting your favorite recipes. 

Finally, begin drafting the stories that you will combine with your recipes. What was your first experience cooking your favorite dish? What’s a funny story about that appetizer that didn’t turn out for the holiday? 

Bonus: If you feel confident with a camera or want to make the most out of your smartphone, try your hand at capturing your final, plated meals. If your images turn out, you may want to consider including them in your cookbook. 

If these steps feel overwhelming, simply choose one and work on it until you feel confident. Then add another step. Writing, even when it comes to cookbooks, is a privilege, so enjoy the process and have fun with it! 

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