10 Superb Cookbooks for Beginners

Food by Nick Nguyen
Food by Nick Nguyen

Choosing the right cookbook as a beginner can seem intimidating. But there are plenty of good ones out there! Don’t be afraid to spend some time in the book store or at your local library flipping through those you’re considering. As a beginner you’ll want one with an explanatory guide, basic recipes, lots of photos and plenty of tips along the way. To help narrow down your selection process, check out these ten great options.

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1. America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen

Available at Indigo.ca for $25.70

Americas Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
 Healthy Family Cookbook

It’s great to see a cookbook that really lays out in detail what has been done to a recipe to make it healthier. As a beginner, it will help you get a better sense of how you can make recipes in other cookbooks healthier as well. With over 800 recipes to choose from you will surely find at least a few that appeal to you. It also offers some great advice on what to look for when shopping for ingredients and kitchen tools. It can be a little wordy at times but you’ll benefit from its weightiness in the long run.

2. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Available at Indigo.ca for $29.00

The Art of Simple Food
The Art of Simple Food

If you’re going to start learning how to cook, you want to learn correctly right from the start. And Waters helps you do that by teaching you how to choose your ingredients wisely and then using them effectively. She believes in using simple, natural ingredients in order to achieve the best possible dishes. There is a lot of philosophy in this book which is great for beginners. If you do have some experience in the kitchen though you may just skim through those sections and focus in on the cooking. Either way, there’s something for everyone!

3. Slim & Scrumptious by Joy Bauer

Available at Indigo.ca for $21.77

Slim and Scrumptious
Slim & Scrumptious

Unlike many recipe books that claim to be healthy but do very little to actually improve the nutrition levels of your meals, every single recipe in Bauer’s cookbook is loaded with good-for-you ingredients. It proves that even favorites such as chicken fingers and pancakes can be made in healthy ways. The recipes are quite simple to do and photos are provided for many of them. The only down side is there are less recipes than some other cookbooks. So your best option may be to borrow it from your local library rather than to buy it outright.

4. Best Recipes Ever by Canadian Living and CBC

Available at Indigo.ca for $19.76

Best Recipes Ever
Best Recipes Ever

Probably the best cookbook to come out of Canada, Best Recipes Ever is the literature you should get if you get nothing else. The recipes are all “tested ’til perfect” which means you can be sure nothing gets in there that isn’t worth your while. There is also detailed nutritional information provided for every recipe as well as unique cooking notes on how recipes can be improves on every page. The advice provided along the way is invaluable and the colourful photos help you easily flick through until you see something you like. The glossy pages and small print can make it difficult to read certain sections but it’s certainly worth the effort! You can also check out the show that inspired the book. It’s hosted by Kary Osmond every weekday at 3 p.m. on CBC.

5. The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

Softcover available at Indigo.ca for $16.49 or get the hardcover for $23.75

The Kind Diet
The Kind Diet

If you’re up for the challenge of not just learning to cook, but also learning to cook vegan foods, then this is the book for you. Unlike other extremely intense and all-or-nothing vegan books, Silverstone has a much more balanced approach. She encourages readers to work towards making healthier, animal-free choices bit by bit and assures it’s okay to go off course. It is half guide and half recipes so you will likely need another vegan/vegetarian cookbook to go along with it in order to flush out your recipe repertoire. But it will certainly get you thinking and give you a good place to start your journey in vegan cooking. Check out this video for a sneak peak at Silverstone’s thoughts on the book.

6. How to Boil Water by Food Network Kitchens

Available at Indigo.ca for $19.79

How To Boil Water
How To Boil Water

If you are true novice to cooking you won’t want to start without this book on your shelf. It will teach you all those little skills you feel to silly to ask about. You don’t need to be embarrassed at not knowing the difference between broil and bake or being unsure of how to chop different vegetables with the help of this book. It also provides you with some simple recipes to start testing your skills. You will, however, undoubtedly need some follow-up recipe books once you’ve mastered the basic skills.

7. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Available at Indigo.ca for $25.74

How To Cook Everything
How To Cook Everything

If you have ever had a question about how to cook something, chances are the question will be answered in Mark Bittman’s book. And if by some chance the answer isn’t in this one it will almost certainly be in another book from his collection. Bittman isn’t just a cook, he’s also a great teacher and you will definitely learn a great deal from his writings. It’s also a great reference point no matter how advanced of a cook you become so you might as well work with it from the start!

8. How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson

Available at Indigo.ca for $22.44

How to Cook Without a Book
How to Cook Without a Book

Learning how to follow a recipe is great. But this book takes basic cooking skills to a new level by teaching you how to take a basic recipe and then add or substitute based on your own preferences. So the next time you don’t have a certain spice or want to experiment with a unique vegetable you’ll know how. The recipes are very simple so they aren’t necessarily ideal on their own if you’re looking to create something over-the-top for guests. But they do provide a great jumping off point for your culinary experience. And with the knowledge gained on how to alter recipes off the top of your head you’ll be dressing them up appropriately in no time.

9. Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

Available at Indigo.ca for $33.00

Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook
Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Truth be told, baking is a whole new beast of a skill than your usual cooking. So it makes sense that you’ll want to track down a cookbook dedicated to the subject. Some of Stewart’s recipes can be a bit more on the challenging side so if you’re a beginner, make sure you’ve read through all the tips and thoroughly understand the directions before you begin. Fortunately, there are step-by-step photos and equipment glossaries so baking can become less of a mystery. For a special peek at what’s in the book, check out Martha Stewart making banana cream pie on her show.

10. I’m Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown

Available at Indigo.ca for $45.95

Im Just Here For The Food
I’m Just Here For The Food

Alton Brown’s book is a great way to get started because he explains the different forms of cooking such as boiling, grilling, frying, roasting, etc. and elaborate on when and why each of them should be used. It’s especially great if you’re a science lover because he goes into how and why food cooks the way it does. For many, looking at cooking from this perspective can take away a lot of the intimidating mystery of the process. Although around 60 recipes are provided, the book is primarily focused on how to cook than what to cook so you will likely want another recipe book to go along with it. On the plus side, this means it’s a book you can enjoy as not only a guide, but also a fun and stimulating read.

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