essential cookbooks?

In reading the recent foodie threads, I noticed a lot of food authors I’d never heard of or read before. It got me thinking; what authors or cookbooks do I consult often for recipes/techniques? What authors do you consider essential to understanding food and how to cook? I confess, unless it’s a pretty straight forward cookbook, I probably haven’t read it. No food critics, food philosophers, etc… . I’d like some recommendations there.
But as for my most used/recommended cookbooks I humbly submit:
The Joy of Cooking- Rombauer/Becker; simply my bible. Perhaps a bit dated, but has so many basic recipes and information it’s irreplacable.
Readers Digest Quick, Thrifty Cooking- Readers Digest; yep, that’s right. this cookbook taught me how to cook cheap stuff with few ingredients and make it taste good. It’s got very basic recipes and has a great table of substitutions for common ingredients that are terrific for someone with a limited kitchen.
Indian Cooking- Madhur Jaffrey; very accessible book on Indian cuisine.
China Moon Cookbook- Barbara Tropp; eclectic asian, but very instructive for some basic techniques.
Pink Adobe Cookbook- Rosalea Murphy; perhaps not the best Southwestern cuisine cookbook, but I have a few go-to recipes from it that are simple, flavorful and lend themselves to endless variation.

As a recent addition, I do like Cradle of Flavor, by James Oseland. Indonesian, Malay and singaporean cuisine. Well written and user friendly.

So, what are your cooking bibles for general reference, and for particular cuisines?

Cutting Up In The Kitchen by Merle Ellis. Not so much a cookbook, but a cook’s guide to meat. He shows how to disassemble a chicken, or a big hunk of pork or beef to save big bucks. He explains how to make your own stock that will make you swear off the canned stuff. How to decipher the myriad names for parts of a cow, so you can get great steaks without having to pay a lot. Chicken soup to make a man get down on his knees and thank the Lawd. :eek: Woo. I’m getting carried away.

Joy of Cooking - NOT the most recent edition, which blows. I think mine is the 1973 version.

Betty Crocker Cookbook - Good for a wide variety of dishes and techniques

After that they get specialized. I have bookshelves full of cookbooks, for all sorts of cuisines. Probably the most prevelant are BBQ cookbooks. My new favorite there is The Big Book of Barbeque Sides - Rick Browne.

I’d also like to recomend Alton Brown’s two books, “I’m just here for the food and I’m just here for more food” Both are very good for the Whys of how things work. Some of the recipes are very good as well, but I enjoy them more for technique than anything.

I have the Joy of Cooking but never got into it much. To me, the recipes are bland and boring. I like it as a reference guide sometimes, though.

Most of the time that I’m looking for a good recipe, I go to some form of Cook’s Illustrated. Either the magazines, or one of their cookbooks, or their web site. With the caveat that they’re a little stingy with the spices sometimes, most of their recipes work and are do-able in a standard kitchen with standard ingredients.

For high-falutin’ food I go for one of the Thomas Keller books. But that’s not very common. I don’t usually have the time to chase down the ingredients and spend 3 days cooking. But when I do, it turns out great, and it’s fun!

**How to Cook Everything ** by Mark Bittman. It doesn’t assume you know anything so it includes basic instructions on…everything!

Oh, and I rely on the **Better Homes and Gardens ** cookbook.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is probably the best book I own. I love books and authors that break down a particular style (Bayless, Prudhomme, Jaffrey, Peacock, etc.), and I’ve also been a big fan of Alton Brown’s stuff. While I own many books that are a collection of recipes, I could do without any of them.

Also, anything by Beard and Harold McGhee.

The Basics
Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. For the basics. No fancy recipes, but if you want to know how long to cook a 12-pound turkey, this is the guide.
The Kitchen Answer Book: 5,000 Answers to All of Your Kitchen and Cooking Questions by Hank Rubin. – Just got this one for Christmas; it’s filled with terrific suggestions and hints on cooking just about anything. I used their suggestions for hamburgers (poke a hole in the middle) and they were the best I’ve made at home on in a pan – cooked through but still juicy. Even if you’re an accomplished cook, you’ll learn something from this.
The 1973 Joy of Cooking. Beware the updates.
The James Beard Cookbook – especially for meats

I learned to cook in my 20s as a vegetarian, so I find “Joy” invaluable – it goes into such excruciating detail about cooking meat, which I still find somewhat mysterious. I’m not sure which edition I own, but it’s not the old one that has excellent details in the “Game” chapter on where to find the good meat on a squirrel. That may be some of the the least-used cookbook information of all time. I imagine most of the people who are eating possum and bear are improvising.

I like Julie Sahni’s “Classic Indian Cooking” and “Classic Indian Vegetable and Grain Cooking.” I still haven’t found a Chinese cookbook that really does everything I want.

“Laurel’s Kitchen” is a great book to give a vegetarian who eats nothing but pizza and veggie burgers. A lot of the recipies err on the dull side, but it opens up a whole new world. Go to your local hippie store and say “quinoa” with confidence.

“Sundays at Moosewood” might be my most-used cookbook, and I’m not even a vegetarian anymore. Could never get their injera recipie to work, though; I use Jeff Smith’s.

“Border Cooking” (my copy of which has wandered away) is a great selection of Mexican and American food.

For the basics I have Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping (looking at getting a copy of Joy). I also have a copy of Michael Smith’s Chef at Home – Cooking With and Without a Recipe which I have been working my way through as pretty much everything he does looks (and tastes!) good. He’s really good about giving tips and ideas on substitutions and encouraging experimentation.

For my desserts I generally use various church cookbooks that I’ve picked up (where better to get dessert recipes than from church bakers?) and Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens which every woman in my family has a copy of. It also has the added bonus of reading some of the history of the area and the most interesting section on tonics and cures…

*Appetite * and *Real Food * - both by Nigel Slater. These are real gems that offer some of the best food writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He forgoes strict adherence to a rigid recipe and encourages a more casual, confident approach. It’s a warm and welcoming style that makes you want to cosy up to the pictures in the books and eat everything on the page.

I can’t really do justice to him in these few short words, buy I’d heartily recommend you get these.

silenus, I think the most recent edition of Joy of Cooking harkens back to the 1973 edition. I was reading an article about this very thing, essential cookbooks, and they said the most recent edition is more useful, like '70s versions.

I use Better Homes and Gardens for basic things. It’s got the best oatmeal cookie recipe I have found!

I can’t add anything that hasn’t been listed already. However, I have heard wonderful things about Edna Staebler’s “Food that Really Shmecks”, and her follow-up, “More Food that Really Shmecks”, but I am unable to find them here. I suppose I’ll have to order them.

A former roommate who was a cooking student left me a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, which has become the most valuable reference tool for the kitchen that I’ve ever owned. I also like Joy of Cooking, and my 30 year old copy of Fanny Farmer still gets used a lot. One of my all-time favorites is Recipes From the Red River Valley, a collection of recipes by local cooks from East Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

My apologies, that’s “schmecks”. What do I know about Mennonite German?

Basic Cooking is the best cookbook I own.

How to Grill by Steven Raichlen is essential for the outdoor cook. It shows you in great detail (with pictures) how to grill just about any cut of meat in any configuration, and while it may only give one recipe for each configuration, it isn’t hard to adapt.

Like Athena, I use Cook’s Illustrated as my all-purpose go-to source.

That’s WAY too sweeping a statement to make about that book. Sure, there are probably hundreds of bland and boring recipes in there. . . there are probably just as many recipes that are overly rich and complicated. I don’t think “bland and boring” captues the essence of that book at all.

My big books. . .

Joy of Cooking
Italian Classics by Cook’s Illustrated"
The Barbeque Bible by Stephen Raichlen
Bold American Food by Bobby Flay.

Although, I’d say that nowadays, I’m mostly inspired by seeing a recipe on TV, or on the 'net. I get Cook’s Illustrated, and every now and then I buy a *Gourmet *or a Bon Appetit if I see a good tease on the cover.

A schtickle?