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With so many new cookbooks being published every single day, there is hardly a shortage of books covering, new recipes, foods and techniques. Every time I walk into a book store I always have to check out the cooking section, and it amazes me that I never have to worry about finding a good book with recipes I want to try or being able to learn about some obscure “new” type of food. That being said, some books just seem to regurgitate the same information as all the others, and some really stand out above the rest, providing useful, and (sometimes) new and interesting recipes and information. Today I’m going to talk about my 5 all time favourite must have cookbooks and why I feel they all deserve a spot in your kitchen bookshelf and belong in any cooks repertoire of resources.
OnCooking is probably the #1 must have cookbook if you had to pick a single one book out of this list. Besides being a cookbook that features recipes and contributions from well-known and accomplished chefs from around the world and Canada, it also acts as a kind of encyclopaedia of cooking. With this cook/resource book you can very easily become skilled and acquainted with every basic skill a professional chef learns throughout his career. From knife skills to butchery and cooking various types of meats, to cold-kitchen and baking in the bakeshop. This extensive “cookbook” really does cover every basic category used in cooking these days. Besides breaking down the chapters based on meats, vegetables, soups/sauces, and desserts there are also chapters on food safety, basic skills needed to run a kitchen such as food costing, descriptions of various food items and seasonings, and how to successfully set up banquets and other large functions. I personally own the OnCooking 4th Edition as this was the “current” version while I was doing my culinary education at the Nova Scotia Community College. While it is not the “newest” edition out right now, it’s quite a bit cheaper than the latest 6th edition. I can only imagine what updated information, recipes, and techniques the new versions hold, though I still use my version of OnCooking on a regular basis. Whether I need to look up a basic ratio for making bread or cheesecake or am simply in need of ideas on what to make for dinner.
by Chef Michael Smith
While this is a true cookbook of recipes more than a resource like On Cooking, Chef Micheal Smith’s Kitchen: 100 Of My Favorite Easy Recipes is one of my personal favourite cookbooks when it comes to looking for new ideas on what to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Besides hailing from the Maritimes like myself, Chef Michael Smith is very obviously passionate about cooking and sharing that joy with others. The 100 recipes covered in this book range from Bacon Breakfast Tacos, and Shrimp Penne with a Chardonnay Cream Cheese sauce, to Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups which are better (and probably healthier!) than Reeses Pieces. Each Recipe in this awesome cookbook is accompanied by beautiful pictures, an easy to follow step by step recipe and a Kitchen Tip to help you perfect your recipe of choice. This cookbook is a must have if you love the Maritimes, good food, and easy to follow recipes. I can hardly wait to dig through some of these recipes for the upcoming summer! I’ll probably review one or two of them on the blog here!
by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.
Every home chef, apprentice and even accomplished cook should read this book at least once. While it does contain some great recipes and menu ideas, this book is really meant to help get your creative culinary juices flowing. The individual chapters give insight and explain why and how different ingredients might be chosen for a certain menu. My favourite aspect of this book is that besides explaining how different flavours and textures influence each other, the authors have created ingredient lists that show which flavours go particularly well together and which season they are associated with. So for example, if you are looking to create a spring dish with scallops, you can see which ingredients match particularly well with that item. Ingredients such as bacon, parsley and lemon, which are classic combinations are boldfaced to help you pick foolproof flavour combinations. While the book does not of course list every single ingredient known to man, you are pretty well covered when it comes to classic french cuisine. The authors also do a fantastic job of showcasing menus that have been successfully created and served by Chefs like Danial Boulud and Hubert Keller, inspiring you with new ideas and combinations you may not have thought of before! They also give a tidbit of information about the menu and who it was created for! Regardless of if you are just starting your culinary journey or have been cooking for years, Culinary Artistry is bound to open your mind to new ideas and possibilities, and for that reason is on my list of must have cookbooks.
by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
This fantastic recipe and resource book covers pretty much everything to do with..you guessed it… Charcuterie! Charcuterie is the art and skill of curing foods, mainly meats and seafood through natural methods to help extend their shelf life. This is traditionally why foods were smoked, salted and cured since once they are treated in this manner, they are less likely to support the growth of bacteria which in turn would make the food go bad. This skill can almost be considered an art form since, without the precise and correct combinations of seasonings and methods, you can create some horrible messes! That is where this book comes in. By explaining and walking you through the processes of making sausages, smoked foods, salt curing and even pates and terrines, you gain the knowledge and understanding of how each ingredient affects the final outcome. The Authors then go on to provide dozens of classic recipes. Ever wanted to make your own bacon at home!? This book will teach you how. Chorizo Sausage, Corned Beef and even recipes such as smoked jalapenos are covered and I am proud to say that I have tried my fair share of these recipes! (I once cured a whole pork belly in the backseat of my car due to lack of fridge space). A true must have, this is a comprehensive guide to the art of Charcuterie for cooks wanting to be able to take their cooking skills to the next level!
Preserve It! is again a kind of cross between a recipe book and a topical resource guide. As the title indicates, PreserveIt! covers pretty much everything when it comes to learning how to preserve food and increasing shelf life! Everything from bottling, freezing, making jams, curing meats, pickling vegetables and even home made drinks!! Before refrigerators were common in every household, people would use various methods to make their food last longer and prevent spoilage. Many of these skills such as Charcuterie (as I had mentioned above), pickling and preserving are not so common anymore. While your parents and grandparents probably still did this quite often, how many 20-year-olds do you know that can make pickles or jam on the weekend? While there are definitely those that still practice these skills I feel that it is slowly a skill set that is being forgotten by the general population. This is why I love this book! Since I myself do not pickle and preserve foods on a regular basis, when I do want to try a recipe this book is a wonderful reference to understanding the basic procedure and giving recipes that can easily be altered to accommodate whatever food you are planning on preserving! Filled with all kinds of delicious recipes and ideas, Preserve It! also explains the science behind how food is preserved using the various different methods showcased. While often giving multiple examples of how to make a certain “base recipe”(ie:. pickles/ pickling other vegetables) the authors DK really do a great job explaining how you can get the most out of your fruits, vegetables, and other foods! If you plan on having a garden and are not sure what you will do with all of your harvest Preserve It! is a must have cookbook which will provide you with plenty of ideas on how to preserve the fruits of you labour well into the fall and winter!
These are just a few of the cookbooks I use on a regular basis, and would highly recommend these to anyone who wants to further their cooking skill set or is simply interested in learning a little here and there! What are some of your favourite cookbooks!? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook or leave a comment below!
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