10 Cooking Tomes to Read When You Can’t Sleep

published Jul 25, 2016
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It’s 1 a.m. You’ve been tossing and turning for the last two hours, unable to fall asleep. Maybe it’s that coffee you grabbed in the afternoon between marathon work meetings, or maybe you finished a thrilling TV series and now your mind is racing.

Enter: cooking tomes. You know, those massive books you proudly display on your bookshelf; the ones that sit up high, out of reach, because you never actually read them. Turns out, these weighty wonders come in handy when you’re battling a bout of insomnia. Dig into these books and you’ll either learn something new to up your cooking cred, or be lulled right to sleep — either way, it’s a win-win.

(Image credit: Geraldine Campbell)

Need some inspiration? I polled my fellow Kitchn editors to find out their favorites.

10 Cooking Tomes to Read When You Can’t Sleep

1. Larousse Gastronomique by Librairie Larousse, $64

Dubbed the “world’s greatest cooking encyclopedia,” Larousse Gastronomique is packed with information on cooking techniques, ingredients, recipes, equipment, and history. You’ll have no problem finding what you need here.

2. The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), $41

Essentially a textbook for chefs, this book gives an in-depth overview of cooking techniques and then provides recipes that illustrate them. If you’ve always wanted to go to culinary school from the comfort of your bed, this is how you do it.

3. The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser, $22

This cookbook features more than 1,000 recipes from the New York Times spanning 150 years. Tested and updated by Food52 co-founder and former New York Times food columnist Amanda Hesser, it’s a great slice of food history as well as a trusty resource.

4. The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt, $34

This cookbook from Serious Eats Chief Culinary Consultant, J. Kenji López-Alt, is for all the food nerds out there. Based on his column of the same name, The Food Lab turns to the science behind cooking to achieve the best results.

5. On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, $23

This kitchen classic, which delves into the science behind cooking in a fun, engaging way, paved the way for similar cookbooks like The Food Lab. If you want to learn a ton while being absolutely delighted, this is the book for you.

6. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, $23

This book strays from the prescriptive nature of some cookbooks and instead focuses on chefs’ instinct and intuition for making food taste delicious. If you’ve already got the basics down and want to capture the magic of restaurant food at home, this is a must-read.

7. Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet, $110

This stunning, 456-page cookbook is no joke. If you’re interesting in the science behind cooking, and are ready to take on more ambitious techniques like pressure cooking and sous-vide, the Modernist Cuisine team will not steer you wrong.

8. The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion by Ron Herbst and Sharon Herbst, $21

If you can quickly produce an answer when someone asks “What’s buerre blanc?” while you’re out to dinner, then you probably have this encyclopedic book. It features more than 7,200 entries on “good food and elegant dining.”

9. La Technique by Jacques Pépin, $39

This old-school book (from 1978!) is from one of our favorite French chefs, Jacques Pépin. Notorious for flawlessly elegant yet simple-to-execute food (See: 4 Things Jacques Pépin Taught Us About Eggs), you’ll find his signature style alongside illustrations in this paperback cookbook.

10. The Silver Spoon by The Silver Spoon Kitchen, $37

This “bible of authentic Italian home cooking” features over 2,000 recipes from acclaimed Italian chefs like Lydia Bastianich and Mario Carbone. If you want to have sweet dreams of a trip to Italy, this is your book.

Did we miss any? Share your favorites in the comments!

Note: All prices were accurate at time of posting.