What's your kitchen Bible?

The Joy of Cooking is mine. Whenever I buy a cut of meat I’ve never purchased before, I consult the Joy of Cooking. Whenever I want to try a homemade cake, I use it. I use its banana bread, pancakes and shortbread recipes all the time. I use its recipes for pot roast, chicken and dumplings and baked ribs, too. I have to admit I’m not thrilled with their recipe for dumplings although my hubby LOVES them.

I used to have a cookbook for vegetables. It was an oversized paperback titled The Vegetarians A-Z Guide to Vegetables or something close to that. That book was awesome! It had sketches for each veggie, at LEAST three ways to cook it/them, what to look for when shopping for it/them and how to store it/them. I lost it in one of the moves and really miss it.

So what’s your kitchen Bible?

My collection of Cook’s Illustrated magazines. I can always trust that their recipes will work.

Also THE COOK’S BIBLE, by Christopher Kimball, the editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Handier than digging through all the issues.

When I’m interested in making a rice-and-bean dish, or a chowder, or baked beans, or a chili, or a BBQ thing I’ve never tried before, I’ll go to John Thorne’s SERIOUS PIG and read through the definitive essays. I go back to his OUTLAW COOK and SIMPLE COOKING for other dishes…potato or garlic soup, for example.

JOY OF COOKING is an excellent reference, but one book can’t be all things to all people. I’ll never forgive it for all the years I put sugar in my cornbread. Nowadays I’d be just as likely to reach for Mark Bittman’s HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING, which would be more likely to suggest a goulash recipe that would be recognizable to a Hungarian, or a pasta dish that’d be familiar in Tuscany.

Nigel Slater’s Real Food and Appetite. The latter is more of a philosophy-of-food book, with few recipes but lots of cooking techniques. Can’t recommend them highly enough.

Well, I pretty much stick with the basics so I’ve found The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Cook Book to be quite useful. I also dig out Justin Wilson’s Cookin Cajun from time to time.

In defense of Joy, my copy has two basic recipes for cornbread. The Northern recipe doesn’t call for sugar whereas the Southern one does.

For old fashioned–or well-tested–basic recipes (breads, sauces, & the like) I always reach for Fannie Farmer. Kickin’ it old school.

And God brought forth the biscuits, and they were fluffy and golden, and God saw that it was good.

The New Testament in my house consists of the Moosewood cookbooks.

Blessed are the cheesegraters, for they shall be called sons of God.

Sacrilege! Speaking as a lifelong South Carolinian, sugar in cornbread is an abomination in my sight. Point me to someone who advocates sugar in “Southern” cornbread and he shall snuff it.


Now, more on topic, I find Fannie Farmer and Good Housekeeping both useful. Also, there are some nifty web sites:

are three which come to mind.

I use the Joy of Cooking for the basics, too. Mostly for sauce bases, although I cheat a bit because I have a “connection” for all types of stocks (veal, duck, beef, chicken, lobster, vegetable) with about a days notice.

A lot of the actual recipes are a bit old fashoined, but the basics always help.

Grrr - I had a long rambling post about how much I loved “Joy”, but it timed out. Don’t feel like typing it again. So I love Joy of Cooking, ok?

The Today’s English Version translation, also known as The Good News Bible. Of course, that’s also my living room Bible and my bedroom Bible, and pretty much my Bible for any room of the house I’m in.


I like Joy of Cooking and always refer to it when I have a question about how a basic item is cooked. Lately, I usually also refer to the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe cookbook to see if they mention whatever it is. Their whole wheat bread recipe is fantastic; ditto their instructions for roast beef.

Lately I’ve also been referring a lot to How to Cook Everything, which was previously mentioned, I think. Bittman does a great job of explaining cooking techniques in plain language, and offers an unbelievable variety of recipes. I especially like the quesadilla recipe. Simple and yet delicious.

Joy of Cooking, of course, but Paul Prudhomme’s Fork in the Road comes a close second.

Nobody has mentioned Zenster’s Ultimate Recipe Thread!

The index is here:


Another vote for Joy and How to Cook Everything. I prefer the layout and type in the latter though. By comparing and glomming together the recipes in both, I can usually come up with something good and interesting.

I think that might be the one my wife wants. I’m a Scofield NIV man, myself. (I like the notes.)
Back onto the cooking thing, what is so great about The Joy of Cooking? Do I need to go get a copy pronto? (Sorry if this makes you regret your timeout, MachV.)


I gotta admit, the NIV translation does have the distinct advantage of being in the Public Domain.

Riv, (you don’t mind if I call you Riv, do you?) the Joy of Cooking has a recipe for almost everything imaginable. It’s kind of like Cooking for Dummies or Cooking 101. It’s not a specialty cookbook and it doesn’t assume you already know how to cook.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II are the books I refer to most often. Picked 'em up at a yard sale many years ago. I also have an old food-spattered copy of a companion cookbook to a forgotten 70’s cooking show, The Romagnolis’ Table, which is chock-full of great simple family Italian recipes. This is the book that taught me how to make homemade pasta when Mario Batali was still in middle school.

Mmmmm - homemade pasta.

Oops, I should have remembered to note that the French cookbooks were by Julia Child and Simone Beck, all praise to them.