5 New Cookbooks for the Smartest Cook in Your Life

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

There are many kinds of cooks in the world. Some — perhaps even ones that are on your gift list this year — enjoy the exhaustive research that goes into finding the best recipe or the most effective method. Such cooks like to make their own versions of things others would just purchase, and keep extensive libraries of slightly obscure (but still relevant and interesting) cookery titles from far and wide.

If this creative and experimental cook is on your holiday gift list, here are a few new books that will make them very happy.

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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

These books could be considered essential to the kind of cook who likes to deeply understand the hows and whys of cooking and baking.

  1. What Good Cooks Know by America’s Test Kitchen, $30: This book’s subtitle sums it up neatly: 20 Years of Test Kitchen Expertise in One Essential Handbook. Here you will find the best intel on things like measuring spoons or how to use an instant-read thermometer, a breakdown of all the different sweeteners and their properties, and why everyone should use two leavening agents in buttermilk biscuits. What’s the difference between cake flour and AP flour and how will it affect cakes? What’s the best peeler? What does it mean to “season” food? The list, and the usefulness of this volume, is endless.
  2. EveryDayCook by Alton Brown, $35: Alton Brown is famous for exploring the science behind cooking and he’s been doing it for more than 20 years. So when he shares the recipes that he actually cooks at home, you know they’re going to be the best, tried-and-true versions. This book includes classic, playful recipes and methods, such as his favorite way to roast a turkey, chocolate mousse made in a whipped cream siphon, and scrambled eggs v3.0. This book is a little less science-y than many of his others, but it’s still packed full of useful, sometimes innovative, information.
  3. How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman, $35: Mark Bittman’s doorstopper-sized How To Everything series always reassures us that we are at the final word on the subject. Exhaustive and well-researched, there’s thankfully a comprehensive index for the 2,000-plus recipes in this 700-page volume. With this book, the DIY baker can learn how to make their own puff pastry, tortillas, bagels, croissants, crackers, phyllo, and strudel doughs. Plus bars, cakes, cookies, and tarts. Everything. And what respectable DIY-er doesn’t want to have a comprehensive source for everything?
  4. Herbarium by Caz Hildebrand, $30: Gone are the days when a good cook only needed salt, pepper, and a dusty jar of Mixed Italian Herbs in her cupboard. Today’s cook has a whole range of herbs to explore, some tried-and-true, some more obscure. The Herbarium takes a close look at more than 100 herbs listed by both their common and botanical names, exploring their history, associations, and uses, both traditional and new. There’s also information on how to grow and store herbs, how to pair them with foods, and their medicinal qualities.
  5. Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan, $35: OK, this list now has two baking books, but it’s not like we could leave an all-cookie cookbook off this list — especially when it’s from Dorie Greenspan and has more than 170 recipes. That’s right, more than 170 brownies, bars, biscotti, savory, traditional, holiday, and everything-else-under-the-sun cookie recipes. Not to mention extra recipes for icings and fillings and lots of great tips for making ahead, storage, equipment, cookie basics, etc. This is the cookie cookbook and it’s a stunner.
(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)