Chris Cooks

10 Essential Cookbooks (Chris’s Favorites)

January 30, 2022

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Chris reads cookbooks like most people would read a novel. His library of culinary tomes have a handsome home in our new kitchen, and I asked him to recommend his 10 favorites for the food lovers in our following. – Julia

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1. The Science of Cooking by Dr. Stuart Farrimond

What I love about this book is that is it teaches the fundamentals of the RIGHT way to do things — searing, sautéing, boiling, frying. You can take these fundamentals and apply them to anything you want.

2. The Minimalist Kitchen by Melissa Coleman

I became disillusioned with cooking for a few years because it turned into this exclusive club in which the more picky you were about food, the more of an authority on food you were. I didn’t like that. It felt like food and cooking needed to be more and more advanced. I bought this book because I was looking for a way to simplify and enjoy food for what it already is and to do as little to it as possible. It’s not about going back to basics — it’s about honing in on essentials.

3. Herbs and Spices: The Cook’s Reference by Jill Norman

This book breaks down details on just about every herb and spice that you can imagine: when to use them, what they pair with, the health benefits, and types of cuisine they go with. Whenever I feel like trying something new, or I buy a random herb at the farmer’s market, I look it up in here, and it gives me a guide for how I should treat it.

4. Sourdough by Sarah Owens

In my opinion, this is the greatest book on baking your own bread that exists. I am not a baker, but I recognized that bread from the grocery store made me feel gross. In looking for a better solution, I bought this book and learned exactly how to make the best bread I’ve ever had, with four ingredients. I fell in love with the process.

5. The Food Lab by Kenji López-Alt

This one is just a really fun read. It has beautifully imagery, it’s very educational, and it helps springboard a lot of ideas that I put into my own food. This one has a James Beard Award (the Oscars in the food world), and it’s just wonderfully nerdy and cool.

6. Ottolenghi Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi

I watched a course on MasterClass from this guy, and his approach to food was so sensible. There were no extremes, it was very simple, and he focused on the unique qualities of each food. The book is exactly the same. All of the recipes are plant/produce-based, and they’re outstanding.

7. Franklin Barbecue by Aaron Franklin

I watched a course from Aaron Franklin on MasterClass, as well. It was actually after Jules gifted me this book. Franklin owns the most famous barbecue restaurant in the country, and he’s the winner of every barbecue award that exists. His cookbook is an amazing guide and reference for cooking on a grill, smoking, and it’s made a huge difference in my outdoor cookery. This book is an education.

8. The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright

I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I recognize our tendency to lean too much on animal proteins, and not enough on fresh fruits and vegetables. This book has helped me to be more excited about vegetables and embracing them for each of their unique flavors and textures. I think has really helped me shift my cooking to a more well-rounded and healthy place.

9. Vegetables Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen

Like The First Mess, I use this a lot to gain inspiration when cooking with vegetables (especially for my kids, who can be pretty particular). This book contains more than 30 ways to cook broccoli! No matter if you’re a seasoned cook, looking to shake things up, or if you’re just trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, this book is incredibly inspirational. It’s also beautiful imagery and watercolor illustrations.

10. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page

This is, by far — hands-down — the book I use the most. I reference it every day. I cross-reference it with other books. It teaches how to pair thousands of ingredients with other flavors, and is a great catalyst for creativity. Go crazy on combinations — this book will show you how.

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What do you think?

  1. KT says:

    Love this roundup, adding a few to my cart!

    By chance do you have the link to the actual tagine? Thanks so much <3

  2. Cris S. says:

    If both the process behind cooking and ways to approach it that are both inclusive and educational are your thing while also loving reading them like a novel, then try tracking down a copy of Eat Me by Kenny Shopsin, a NYC corner store owner who segued into running a restaurant in the store space and whose cranky quirky ways were made famous by writer Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker. It is irreverent and pragmatic and just plain enjoyable, but definitely not high brow. My favourite part of Christmas dinner is making Shopsin’s steak sandwiches the next day. And whenever I get bored with cooking I return to this book for inspiration.

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you so, SO much for featuring my cookbook here! I’m so grateful and flattered by this.

  4. K says:

    This is so helpful. I am in a rut and one or two of these books may be just the push I need to get back on planning & cooking simple healthy dinners for our family. Thank you, Chris!

  5. Annette says:

    Love this! Do you have a link please to the oil/vinegar set – looks like marble/stoneware sitting on a small tray?

  6. Linda says:

    I read cookbooks for fun also. I expected to recognize more of these, but there are some real surprises! I’m sure I’ll be reading many of these soon. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Debbie V. says:

    I just ordered the Sourdough cookbook. Looking forward to baking some bread!

  8. Lynne says:

    Hi Chris, I’m more of a baking cookbook lover, but I wanted to recommend Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat! She also has a Netflix show that’s fantastic! Thanks for your list! I’d love to see more of the cookbooks you love! Can you add to this list someday?!!!

  9. Linda says:

    I loved this entire newsletter, and particularly this one. I have a huge collection of cookbooks just because I love looking at them and learning scientific reasons behind techniques. It really improves your cooking style.

  10. Callie Seaman says:

    The Minimalist Kitchen is SO good! And approachable

  11. Chris says:

    Fantastic list and commentary. I never heard of any of them AND I didn’t realize there were MasterClasses on cooking. I have “learn to really cool and have small dinner parties” in my 2022 list, so these will be helpful. Thank you!!

  12. Sw says:

    Great recommendations, esp the ones for veggies. Always end up doing them the same way, so those two books will be helpful. Why are the numbers in the graphic different than in the text? Seemed more logical to keep them in the same order.

  13. Chris, you are missing a cookbook from Ina Garten, the barefoot contessa. They are wonderful recipes snd every professional chef I know says her cookbooks are excellent. The first in the series is always a winner as is The Barefoot Contessa at Home. I have them all. Not a dud recipe in the bunch! Enjoy your posts!!!

  14. I have been waiting so long for this post!! Thank you so much for sharing Chris!

  15. Valerie McGlynn says:

    Have you discovered Boulted Bread in Raleigh? Great bread and pastry. Across the street is Dix park so you can walk it off. Unfortunately not GF but worth the occasional splurge. Morning buns are amazing as well as all their breads.

  16. Tina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  17. Angela says:

    I always tried to sneak peeks of Chris’ cookbooks every time there was a picture of the kitchen lol! Was very excited to see this thank you!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

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