If you’re a beginner cook, choosing a cookbook can be hard. Because just as there are many cookbooks out there, there are also many types of beginners.
So let’s boil it down to one inescapable fact: there is no best cookbook for beginners. Each newbie cook will begin at a different place and with a different goal. Luckily, there are all kinds of cookbooks so it’s not difficult to find the best one for your needs.
There are cookbooks for those with a technical bent. These books explain the culinary science behind making your favorite dish. Some of these will be written in accessible prose; some will be in jargon.
But there are also beginner cookbooks for the practical cook. These are perfect for those who don’t need an extensive explanation, just an assurance that the recipes will work and the food taste as flavorful as it looks in pictures.
Others will prefer quick recipes which emphasize common pantry items. This is ideal for cooks who don’t want to spend too much time prepping and cooking.
Whatever your needs, there are certain basic things that one should look out for in a good cookbook. First, it’s gotta have photos. And lots of them. Seeing how good a dish looks will not only help you understand how to make the dish, but will also motivate you to do it.
It should also be user-friendly. This means that the layout is accessible, the fonts are clear, the measurements are exact, and it uses the imperial system.
Finally, it should be well-made. Whether the book is in paperback or hardcover, the binding should be durable and secure. It should be able to withstand countless use in the kitchen.
In this list, I’ve gathered the best cookbooks that will help the newbie cook. They vary in content and approach but all of them are well written. They also provide lots of info, so that even intermediate or professional cooks will be able to get something new out of them.
Best of all, these books make cooking engaging and familiar. Which is what this type of cookbook should be all about. Here are my top 10 best cookbooks for beginners.
Best Cookbooks For Beginners
- How to Cook Everything The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food–With 1,000 Photos
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking Hardcover
- Minute Cookbook for Beginners: 100+ Recipes for the Time-Pressed Cook Paperback
- Joy of Cooking: 2019 Edition Fully Revised and Updated
- Gordon Ramsay's Home Cooking: Everything You Need to Know to Make Fabulous Food Hardcover
- Super Easy Cookbook for Beginners: 5-Ingredient Recipes and Essential Techniques to Get You Started in the Kitchen Paperback
- 5-Ingredient Clean Eating Cookbook: 125 Simple Recipes to Nourish and Inspire Paperback
- Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple Hardcover – Illustrated
- The I Don't Know How To Cook Book: 300 Great Recipes You Can't Mess Up! Hardcover
- How to Cook for Beginners: An Easy Cookbook for Learning the Basics Paperback
1. How to Cook Everything The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food–With 1,000 Photos
This is a modern classic that’s been updated to include more photos, along with practical tips and variation ideas. There are 185 recipes, each of which is accompanied not by one photo but several smaller pictures that show different stages of food preparation so that the reader has a better idea of what he’s doing.
This book is a comprehensive reference for anyone who wants to cook. Not only does it provide you with starter recipes but it also gives you helpful advice on how to stock the kitchen with ingredients and tools. It also offers useful details on basic cooking techniques and identifying and preparing foods.
At 500 pages, it’s written in a simple, straightforward manner. It doesn’t make any assumptions on the cooking level of the reader and so it details every step and visual cue clearly. This cookbook will not intimidate but encourage the newbie cook.
2. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking Hardcover
More of a cooking book rather than a cookbook, this bestseller avoids reliance on recipes and, instead, teaches the reader how to build flavor from scratch and instinct. This is not to say, there are no recipes here. This book has a canon of 100 essential recipes—and dozens of variations—but they’re there so that the lessons of using salt, fat, acid, and heat are put into practice.
This cookbook will teach you the secret to a great dish by using 4 elements: Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food.
Written in an easy and light-hearted style, this book features 150 illustrated walkthroughs and infographics that reveal a wide world of flavor. It teaches methods and how-to techniques and then provides the recipes that illustrate the lessons. If you like your cookbooks to be more than just a collection of recipes, this book will appeal to you.
3. 30-Minute Cookbook for Beginners: 100+ Recipes for the Time-Pressed Cook Paperback
This cookbook is perfect for beginners looking for quick recipes. It features 100+ classic recipes, all of which only take 30 minutes to cook, more or less.
The directions are easy to follow and the ingredients listed are easy to find. Each recipe has a quick-look label that indicates if the dish can be made with just 5 ingredients, cooked in one pot, or is gluten-free or vegetarian.
There is also a section on preparing the kitchen so that one can easily cook in 30 minutes. It includes tips on how to practice food safety, shop efficiently, and shorten the time for meal prepping. There’s also a conversion chart conveniently placed at the back of the book.
4. Joy of Cooking: 2019 Edition Fully Revised and Updated
This is an update of beloved old classic cookbook by the great grandson of the author Irma Rombauer. There are more than 600 new recipes in this edition and every chapter has been updated to reflect the latest ingredients and cooking techniques.
Celebrity and professional chefs have long recognized this book as an essential foundational tome in their culinary journey. This new edition continues that mission by combining Irma’s legacy recipes with new ones that have become mainstream food. It also includes comprehensive information on the variety of ingredients now available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores.
Among the new chapters include a section on streamlining cooking so that you save time and money while avoiding food waste. There’s also a section on microwave recipes and another for vegan dishes.
5. Gordon Ramsay's Home Cooking: Everything You Need to Know to Make Fabulous Food
This cookbook draws its recipes from Gordon Ramsay’s culinary travels all over the world. It features easy to make and accessible dishes that are flavorful and fabulous.
Each chapter highlights a specific culinary technique. Newbies will appreciate the classics and learn the secrets of cooking with chili and spice through roasting and baking. There’s also a section on cooking good food for less and another for cooking for a crowd.
The steps are detailed and easy to follow. The ingredients are also easy to source. And all throughout the book is Ramsay’s trademark cheeky wit offering lessons and tips in an accessible manner.
This cookbook will appeal to anyone looking for world cuisine-inspired recipes that use common pantry staples.
6. Super Easy Cookbook for Beginners: 5-Ingredient Recipes and Essential Techniques to Get You Started in the Kitchen Paperback
This cookbook features 120 recipes that use 5 commonly found ingredients for easy cooking. It’s written for beginners who are looking for everyday home-style dishes using familiar staples in the pantry.
From prepping ingredients to cooking the meal, this cookbook will guide you step by step. It has sections on basic cooking skills and kitchen techniques. It also outlines the essential appliances one must have in a kitchen, along with the staples a home pantry must have. There’s even a tip for learning how to use kitchen knife.
Readers like this book because the directions are so easy to follow that even children can use them without difficulty. One reader liked it because it explains culinary terminology in an easy and accessible manner. This is an ideal introduction for anyone who’s afraid to cook.
7. 5-Ingredient Clean Eating Cookbook: 125 Simple Recipes to Nourish and Inspire Paperback
This is a cookbook written for those looking to eat healthily. It has a good mix of vegan, grain free, dairy free and soy free recipes but also includes meat and seafood dishes. The ingredients are easily available and simple with seasonal/regional substitutions
The book swaps white flour foods with whole wheat and healthy grains like quinoa and buckwheat. One can remix traditional recipes with the suggestions in this 5-ingredient clean eating cookbook.
It also features sections on how to stock and clean the pantry and refrigerator as well as tips and suggestion on when you should invest in organic produce.
8. Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple Hardcover – Illustrated
This is an updated version of master chef Jacques Pépin's classic “The Short Cut Cook” from 1990. There are 250 recipes, some of them new, the rest updated. It’s written for the beginner that wants to learn how to cook polished meals with minimal prep and clean-up.
This edition includes more photos to accompany the sections on homemade staples and different meal courses. It also has tips for kitchen tools and equipment and pantry staple must-haves. It will also teach you techniques on how to simplify and improve every dish you cook.
9. The I Don't Know How To Cook Book: 300 Great Recipes You Can't Mess Up!
This is a basic starter cookbook written for people who’ve never cooked before. It’s a crash course in cooking basics with lessons on how to create anything from classic entrees to luxurious desserts. This the third edition of the book and it adds 60 brand-new recipes into the collection.
The recipes are rated as easy, medium or hard. But most of these are rated easy. It’s written with clear and easy to follow steps and uses ready-made ingredients like commercial spaghetti sauce or refrigerated biscuits. There’s also a glossary of cooking terms.
Some samples of the featured recipes include Shepherd's Pie, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, French Toast, Eggplant Parmigiana, and Pecan Pie. Like a reader once said, this book won’t make you a gourmet chef but it’ll certainly get you fed.
10. How to Cook for Beginners: An Easy Cookbook for Learning the Basics Paperback
This cookbook covers the basics of cooking for newbies. It only has 30 regular recipes but it builds your skills in steps, from learning how to mix a simple seasoning to roasting a whole chicken.
The book starts with guides to getting the essential kitchen equipment and pantry staples. Then it teaches you basic techniques like dicing, pan cooking, and broiling. After each skill is presented, 2 to 4 recipes are provided so that you can apply what you’ve learned.
There are sections on how to prep your work station, care for your knives and store your food properly. The regular recipe section, meanwhile, lists the tools you’ll need for each dish and adds some ideas to customize the flavors. This is the ideal cookbook for a beginner before moving on to an intermediate level cookbook.
SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT by Samin Nosrat
You know that saying about teaching a man how to fish so that he can fish for a lifetime? This is that kind of book. If you know how to apply the 4 elements into your cooking, you can make great food out of lackluster ingredients or make simple food taste great. And you won't even need to use a cookbook.
Nosrat easily explains the hows and whys of good cooking with her engaging prose. And her content is accompanied with beautiful watercolor illustrations that give the book additional charm. It’s a great read, even if you’re not in the mood for recipes.
It’s also an ideal book for newbie cooks who need to see how something works before they understand it. Part One of the book delves into an explanation of how the 4 cooking elements affect food texture and flavor. Part Two then contains the recipes and recommendations which allow you to apply the lessons learned in the previous half of the book.
You won’t find a comprehensive collection of recipes here. But trust me, once you’ve learned the lessons in this book and used them on its recipes, following any other cookbook in the future will be a walk in the park.