6 Cookbooks to Read Cover to Cover

May 24, 2022

When you’re thinking about your next read, you probably don’t immediately imagine curling up with a good cookbook. But hear me out: These 6 books are more than just recipe references, and you will definitely want to read each of these cookbooks cover to cover.

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Every time I buy a new cookbook, I sit down and read it: the introduction pages, the recipe headers, even some of the tips and tricks. It’s not usually a big lift, but it gets me familiar with the newest recipes in my collection. Sometimes, however, a cookbook provides so much background info, science, and technique that it’s like reading a novel. These choices fall into that category.

Pick up any one of these, and trust me, you will learn something. They range from entree basics to the stories behind baked goods, full of techniques and inspiration. Choose your favorite, or devour them all! And don’t forget to check out the honorable mentions at the end. I just couldn’t resist!

Learn How Food Works

The Book: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Why You’ll Love It

Samin’s explanations of the four basic elements of cooking are accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, which not only add character but also a visual element to help you connect. Nothing feels dumbed down, and it’s all completely accessible, building upon itself.

This book is split into two parts, with the first half focusing entirely on breaking down how salt, fat, acid, and heat work to create better food. But even the second half, which contains recipes, is full of diagrams, guidance, and technique that will improve your skills.

You Have to Try

  • Cherry Tomato Confit (p. 256)
  • Silky Sweet Corn Soup (p. 276)
  • Persian Herb and Greens Frittata (p. 306)
  • Almond and Cardamom Tea Cake (p. 414)

Understand How to Cook

The Book: The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why You’ll Love It

Kenji may not take himself too seriously, but he does follow the scientific method when it comes to his food. The word “lab” in the title is more than just catchy; there are explanations of kitchen experiments throughout the book, including some with instructions to try on your own.

This book is more meat-heavy than most of my collection, but it covers all the basics.  It’s separated into chapters that include both recipes and the science behind different types of food, from dairy and eggs to ground meat to batter and frying.

You Have to Try

  • Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (p. 155)
  • Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin (p. 469)
  • Fresh Pasta with Pork and Tomato Ragu (p. 732)
  • Thin and Crispy French Fries (p. 910)

Discover the Secrets of Flavor

The Book: The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma

Why You’ll Love It

Nik’s writing is relatable and a little bit goofy. You’ll learn tidbits about his family peppered among the six elements that create flavor. The artsy take on food photography combined with the fun and informative content made this one of my favorite cookbooks to read.

The book is divided into sections based on the anatomy of flavor, such as brightness, savoriness, fieriness, and richness. Each includes plenty of background info, tons of quick tips, and relevant recipes for incorporating ingredients dominated by the flavors.

You Have to Try

  • Pomegranate and Poppy Seed Wings (p. 95)
  • Masala Cheddar Cornbread (p. 183)
  • Gingerbread Cake with Date Syrup Bourbon Sauce (p. 268)
  • Burrata with Chili Oil and Thai Basil (p. 283)

Weekend plans: grab a cocktail and curl up with a good cookbook! These 6 are perfect to read cover-to-cover.

Dig Deep Into Vegetables

The Book: Ottolenghi Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi

Why You’ll Love It

Yotam leaves no detail uncovered when it comes to the techniques for creating these perfect vegetarian and plant-based dishes. It’s a love letter to vegetables, focusing on how they can be transformed into incredible dishes without needing any meat to fall back on.

The book is divided into large chapters on Process, Pairing, and Produce with smaller sections within those for specifics. Each chapter includes a detailed explanation which is followed by recipes that show you how it all comes together. The flavor bombs section at the end is especially intriguing.

You Have to Try

  • Curried Carrot Mash with Brown Butter (p. 67)
  • Coconut and Turmeric Omelette Feast (p. 145)
  • Tomato and Plum Salad with Nori and Sesame (p. 267)
  • Crepes with Roasted Bananas and Barbados Cream (p. 290)

Master Basic Baking Techniques

The Book: The Fearless Baker by Erin Jeanne McDowell

Why You’ll Love It

Erin is the one is turn to when I need to bake something completely new, so of course her book on baking is essentially my go-to dessert guide. She not only explains everything in detail, but goes into the “why” behind the baking science, without getting too textbook.

The book is divided into chapters by the type of treat, with sections for cookies and bars, cakes, pies and tarts, pastries, & custard and creams. At the beginning of each you’ll get tons of background info so you never feel lost, like adjusting cake recipes to an available pan size and understanding how butter affects your pie crust.

You Have to Try

  • Raspberry Ripple Crunch Bars (p. 72)
  • Rose Petits Fours (p. 127)
  • Five-Spice Pumpkin Pie (p. 218)
  • Figgy Pull-Apart Bread (p. 291)

Uncover Stories of Your Favorite Treats

The Book: Bravetart by Stella Parks

Why You’ll Love It

Stella did the research so you don’t have to. Before each recipe, she explains not only the cultural significance and history of everyone’s nostalgic faves, but also breaks down her own decisions when it came to developing these at-home versions.

The book is divided into three sections on classic American desserts, brands, and ice cream. For each recipe, you’ll find an in-depth story of the history and evolution, to better understand how each dessert got to where it is today. Plus, there are some fun vintage ads throughout!

You Have to Try

  • Chocolate Covered S’Mores (p. 63)
  • Red (Wine) Velvet Cake (p. 130)
  • Homemade Lofthouse Style Cookies (p. 251)
  • Malted Butterscotch Sauce (p. 352)

Honorable Mentions

Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren Angelucci McDuffie

Black Food by Bryant Terry

The Flavor Matrix by James Briscione

Read this book and you’ll be transported on a journey through the culture and history of Appalachia. Feel right at home with Lauren’s narrative writing style and comforting recipes, not to mention the absolutely stunning photos of the food and the land.

This is one on my personal wish list, but from what I have seen it will definitely be worth the read. The book includes stunning art, impactful stories, and of course delicious and culturally-significant recipes from the Black community.

For the true chemistry nerds out there, dig deep into flavor on a molecular level with this pick. You’ll unlock a new way to visualize food combinations, and start to think in science terms. After reading, definitely keep this one around as a reference.

More Cookbooks to Love

If these nine aren’t enough to fill your shelves, I have plenty more suggestions!


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