There are so many options when it comes to choosing a cook book, from diet-specific selections to cook books about baking. The best cook books are easy to follow, include helpful pictures and tips, and are written by someone with culinary skills and knowledge. Whether you’re an aspiring baker or just want to eat healthier, check out our list of top picks for the best cook books to add to your kitchen.
- BEST OVERALL: Joy of Cooking
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: The Ultimate Instant Pot cookbook
- BEST CLASSIC: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)
- BEST VEGETARIAN: Love Real Food: More Than 100 Feel-Good Vegetarian
- BEST HEALTHY: The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
- BEST WHOLESOME: Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
- BEST BASIC INGREDIENTS: 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook
- BEST FOR BAKING: Mary Berry’s Baking Bible: Over 250 Classic Recipes
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cook Books
Finding the perfect cook book for your kitchen isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, there are several shopping considerations to think about when shopping for cook books, from your culinary experience level to the specific cooking subject you’re interested in learning about. Read on for tips on how to find the best cook book.
Some cook books require a more advanced level of skill than others. For example, a beginner’s cook book typically doesn’t require as much kitchen knowledge as cook books that focus on a specific subject, such as French or Mediterranean cooking.
Considering your level of experience is important, especially when it comes to cooking. For example, beginner cooks who purchase an advanced cook book may become discouraged and decide that the cook book simply wasn’t worth purchasing. By picking the best cook books based on your experience level, you can gain valuable cooking experience and enjoy new recipes.
Most cook books stick to a certain theme or topic. Cook book topics could include:
- Culture or geography, such as French cooking or Latin American cuisine
- Cooking appliances, such as cook books exclusively designed for slow cookers
- Types of food, such as sweets, vegetables, or meats
- Specific meals, such as breakfast, dinner, or dessert
- Dietary restrictions and preferences, such as gluten-free, paleo, or keto
- Cook books designed for certain intentions, such as losing weight or heart health
- Dishes created by famous chefs or celebrity home cooks
Choosing the right cook book will depend on what’s most relevant for you as a cook or what interests you, whether you’re learning how to cook sous vide or using a deep fryer.
Cook books typically have recipes arranged in a particular manner, such as by type of dish (intended for breakfast, dinner, or dessert), main ingredient (vegetables, meat, or fish), and the cooking method (roasting, steaming, or baking). For cook books that include more than one type of cuisine, the recipes may be arranged by cuisine types, such as Asian food, Italian food, or Mexican food.
The number of recipes in your cook book may also be important. While the average number of recipes is around 100, some have thousands. Your choice really depends on how often you’ll be using your cook book and how many recipes you’d like to enjoy.
The author’s knowledge and experience is another essential consideration to think about when shopping for a cook book. Most cook books are written by those who have many years of experience in creating well-loved recipes, including celebrity chefs, restaurant owners, registered dietitians, and even well-known food bloggers.
Celebrity chefs typically have training and education that they gained from prestigious cooking schools, apprenticeships with other famous chefs or restaurants, teaching experience, and creating signature dishes of their own. Restaurant owners, on the other hand, may or may not have an education in the culinary arts. Food bloggers may or may not have a culinary education, but they may have many years of experience in the kitchen.
While not every cook book contains an index, indexes can be very helpful for finding specific recipes, especially if you’re in a hurry. An index can save time and frustration, so if you’re considering purchasing a cook book that has hundreds or thousands of recipes, you might want to choose one with an index.
Indexes can be organized in different ways, including alphabetically or by chapter, a key phrase, recipe title, or recipe type. If you have a preference for how the index is organized, be sure to check the product details before making a purchase.
Our Top Picks
The top picks for the best cook books have made it to this list due to their ease of use, value, and the name behind the cover. Whether you’re seeking healthy options, books created for specific diets, or comfort food, read on to discover some of the best cook books available online.
Joy of Cooking features more than 4,000 recipes. Originally written and self-published by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931, this 2019 version has been improved by her family, including her grandson Ethan Becker, who studied at Cordon Bleu in Paris. The revamped version includes gram weights for better accuracy, more plant-based recipes, and a new chapter on how to avoid waste when cooking.
This cook book is the best overall top pick due to its comprehensive recipes (everything from Banana Bread Cockaigne to Beef Rendang to vegan and vegetarian recipes such as Spicy Chickpea Soup and Roasted Mushroom Burgers), affordability, and tried-and-true advice for home cooks.
With recipes for both beginners and advanced cookers, The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook features over 800 recipes exclusively for Instant Pot owners. This cook book is organized by category, including pasta and rice dishes, fish and seafood dishes, vegetarian recipes, snacks, desserts, and vegetables.
While it does have an index, it’s alphabetized by the recipe name and not by the recipe’s ingredients, which can make using it challenging for some. However, for the variety of recipes, cooking skills, and price, this cook book is a consideration for anyone with an Instant Pot, especially those who are new to using one.
This cook book set includes Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which has 524 recipes) and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two (which features an additional 257 recipes). With helpful illustrations, step-by-step instructions, and secrets of Cordon Bleu chefs, these cook books by Julia Child have been beloved in American kitchens since their publication.
These cook books are for those with advanced cooking skills, and the recipes can be time-consuming to make. The index is organized by the type of food and not the recipe name. With many types of recipes and a fun-to-read tone, these cook books are a classic addition to any kitchen.
With more than 100 recipes, Love Real Food was created by Kathryne Taylor, author of Cookie + Kate, America’s most popular vegetarian food blog. With exclusively vegetarian recipes, this book also contains substitution suggestions for those on gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free diets as well. For both beginners and those with established cooking skills, Kate’s recipes contain easy-to-find ingredients with simple instructions.
From breakfast foods to salads, soups, desserts, and even pizza and nachos, this cook book contains a range of recipes to create and enjoy. With helpful tips, menu suggestions for events, and an index that makes it easy to navigate and use, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike rave about this cook book.
Annually renowned as the healthiest diet on the planet, the Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, fish, legumes, and healthy fats. This Mediterranean diet cook book features 101 recipes and was developed by registered dietitian Serena Ball, M.S., R.D. Every recipe takes just 30 minutes or less to make.
Organized into sections by meal type including breakfast; snacks; salads and soups; sandwiches; beans and grains; pizza and pasta; and seafood, chicken, meat, and vegetables, this cook book has a lot to offer. The recipes are easy to follow, but it lacks an index for quickly finding certain recipes. However, the detailed table of contents helps make up for it.
Featuring 85 recipes by Ina Garten, host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa, this cook book features a modern twist on comfort food such as grilled cheese, hash browns, Boston cream pie, and even grilled oysters.
With easy-to-follow recipes and pictures for each dish (or drink), Garten’s cook book also contains helpful side notes to make preparing food and cocktails even easier. There’s also a helpful index so you can locate recipes in a snap.
There’s even a section for ingredients to keep on hand to make creating these modern comfort foods a breeze. One downside is that there’s not an abundance of vegetarian recipes or plant-based meals.
This collection of 130 recipes with just five ingredients is written by Jamie Oliver, one of the world’s best-selling cook book authors. Oliver has worked with world-renowned chefs in his career, including Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo.
This book is great for beginners because the ingredients are mostly easy to find and the recipes are simple to follow. There’s even a decent selection of plant-based recipes for vegans and vegetarians.
The book also has a handy index organized by food category, making it easy to find the right recipe in a pinch. While this book may not be for those looking to advance their cooking skills, it’s a worthy consideration for those who want to keep cooking simple.
Written by Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., CDN, this cook book makes eating healthy simple with over 150 recipes that have just five ingredients each. Most of the recipes take only one pot or pan and can be ready in 30 minutes or less.
The recipes are also labeled for specific dietary restrictions and preferences, including gluten-free, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, and vegetarian. In addition, Amidor includes a list of seven items that most of the recipes contain to make getting started easier.
There’s also a helpful list of what foods are in season and when. For those who want to eat healthy and are just getting started in the kitchen, this book is our top pick for beginners.
With over 250 recipes and helpful tips, illustrations, and photographs, Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is a kitchen staple for those who love to bake. Mary Berry studied at Cordon Bleu in Paris and was a judge on The Great British Bake Off for six years.
The recipes are easy to follow, but they will require conversions for those using American measurements (for example, cups versus pints). However, the book does include a conversion table. It also has an index that’s alphabetized to make finding recipes easier.
Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is full of easy-to-follow instructions and tips, making this cook book a worthy option for beginners and advanced bakers alike.
FAQs About Cook Books
Still have questions about how to find the best cook books? Here are a few commonly asked questions and their answers to help you out.
Q. What is the best basic cook book?
A basic cook book should be easy to read and include simple-to-make recipes and easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions for each recipe. Among the best basic cook book options on this list are The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook and Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food.
Q. How long should a cook book be?
This depends on whether or not each recipe contains a story (such as how the recipe was developed), whether there’s an introduction, helpful guides, or other material. Most cook books are a few hundred pages long.
Q. How many recipes should be in a cook book?
Recipes in cook books can vary from fewer than 100 recipes to over 1,000. There’s no definite number for how many recipes should be in a cook book.