My 10 Favorite Cookbooks Plus an Exclusive Offer from Barnes & Noble

From the desk of Christopher Kimball

Dear Home Cook,

I am often asked about my Top Ten list of cookbooks and, until recently, I had never given this a lot of thought. Sure, I have plenty of go-to books that I use regularly, but since I have read so many cookbooks over the years, a Top Ten pick would have to be truly special. And we are not just talking recipes here. The book’s basic organizing idea, the writing style and quality, the personality of the author, the approach to food and cooking—all of these things have to be unique and enduring. So, with all of that in mind, I offer the following list. Some of my selections will be unexpected, even serendipitous, but they are the 10 works that have stood my test of time in the kitchen.

In addition, we have worked out a special deal with Barnes & Noble to offer these volumes to you. (No, I am not making any money off of this deal!) You can download a special coupon and take it to any Barnes & Noble store to receive an extra 15% off any one of the following titles. Or, you can visit their website, enter promo code T8Y9D4T at checkout, and receive the special discount (you’ll also find that many of these cookbooks are available on at up to 33% off and that they offer free shipping on orders greater than $25. The promo code entitles you to an additional 15% off one cookbook.) Hope you enjoy these works as much as I do.

French Cooking in Ten Minutes, Edouard de Pomaine
Any cookbook that begins, “First of all, let me tell you that this is a beautiful book” just has to be worth a peek. Written by a Frenchman of Polish extraction in 1930, it reflects de Pomaine’s unique ability to make cooking appear simple enough that any oaf could walk into a kitchen and produce good results. His advice is as breezy and useful today as it was 80 years ago. (His directive to compose menus with three items, one of which requires no last-minute preparation, is advice I still follow today.) I even find myself turning on the oven and heating up a big pot of water the minute I walk in the front door at night—words of eternal quick-cook wisdom.

The Breakfast Book, Marion Cunningham
I love this woman and I love this book. Marion did for breakfast what Julia did for French cooking—she made it both interesting and approachable. Her Dewey Buns, a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, are so good that one could build a franchise around them. The Zeppelin Pancakes, the Chewy Brown Sugar Muffins, the Raised Waffles, the Buttermilk Baked Egg are all part of my morning repertoire. She walks fresh culinary ground here and does it with energy and panache.

Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice L. Waters
This is a little gem of a book if you want to look at vegetable cookery in a whole new light. Yes, it does assume that you can get a wide assortment of tasty, local veggies (hey, we don’t all live in Berkeley!) and the directions are often on the sparse side (this book assumes you can cook). But it is beautifully produced and some of the taste combinations and cooking methods are more than worth the price and preparation time. I find myself going back to this volume time after time for inspiration as well as for recipes.

The Italian Country Table, Lynne Rosetto Kasper
Once in a great while, a cookbook author does original work using an original voice. Lynne Kasper, host of The Splendid Table public radio show, hit a home run with her second volume, The Italian Country Table. This is the real deal: Italian farmhouse cooking with big flavors and a fresh point of view. Espresso Ricotta Cream anyone? Iced Summer Peaches? And, as an added bonus, you’ll never make a boring pesto again.

The Union Square Café Cookbook, Danny Meyer and Michael Romano
I have loved this restaurant since I first visited it—and still do. It is consistent, the service is excellent, and the food is interesting without being silly. I am not often a fan of restaurant cookbooks, since the recipes rarely work well at home. But Danny Meyer and Michael Romano have produced recipes that do work if one is willing to put in the time and effort. Charred Tomatoes with Onions and Mint, a whole chapter on mashed potatoes, and Mocha Semifreddo are just a few of their superior offerings.

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duquid
Alford and Duquid have created one of the most gorgeous travel/cookbooks ever published, with stunning photos and well-researched recipes from Southeast Asia. Although this is not, for the most part, Tuesday-night supper material, not all of these dishes lie beyond the domain of the typical American home cook. Above all, this book displays the joy of creating something both beautiful and original—it’s not just another travel tome for the gift market.

Bistro Cooking at Home, Gordon Hamersley
The author, Gordon Hamersley, is a celebrated Boston chef and also a friend. I love his food because he obsesses over it and does not run around the world opening new restaurants—he is a one-trick pony in the style of the great French chefs. His cooking is both solid and eye-opening, seducing diners with quality and execution rather than flights of fancy. Locals who are familiar with Hamerlsey’s Bistro will recognize many of his signature dishes in this book, including variations on duck confit, his Wild Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Sandwich, and one of my favorite desserts, Gordon’s Souffléd Lemon Custard. This guy is a pro and so is his cookbook.

Epitaph for A Peach, David Masumoto
Masumoto is a writer as well as a farmer. This book is one of my favorite pieces of food writing because Masumoto brings to life his passion for the family farm and the heartbreak of trying to maintain an heirloom peach in a tough market. It all comes through in a mixture of poetry and philosophy. If you want to understand the life of a farmer, this is the book to read.

American Cookery, James Beard
Jim Beard was a walking encyclopedia of American cooking, and this is his flagship book. Part anthropology, part history, and part cookbook, Jim allows you to read between the lines, to get a sense of what he really thinks about a recipe. If I want a good starting point for any recipe in the American repertoire, I always turn to Beard and American Cookery.

The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, Jack Bishop
OK, Jack is a friend and colleague, as well as the Editorial Director of America’s Test Kitchen, but this book is a winner all on its own. I keep coming across folks who have discovered this unheralded classic because the recipes work, they are straightforward, and they use the big earthy flavors of Italy to transform what are too often lackluster vegetable preparations.

This exclusive Barnes & Noble coupon is only available through February 20, so if you’d like to order any of these cookbooks please don’t delay.


Christopher Kimball
Founder and Editor
America’s Test Kitchen


Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm  Comments (23)  

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great choices Chris – can’t argue against any of them. Our favorite cookbooks are so personal, dictated by our tastes, experiences, upbringing, cooking skills, etc. Even just looking at the best cookbooks of last year, when we amalgamated 109 different “best of 2010” lists, we found that more than half got just one vote, out of the almost 400 cookbooks listed.

    So I’d bet if you asked your readers/followers for their top 10 cookbooks there would be little consensus (though I’m sure some CI/ATK classics such as The New Best Recipe would get in an overall top 10).

  2. Fantastic list, Mr. Kimball. Thanks for the coupon.

  3. […] to be Cook’s Illustrated founder Christopher Kimball‘s blog, very to-the-pointly named Christopher Kimball Blog. And in a post earlier today, he put up a list of his favorite cookbooks, which you can get to by […]

  4. When I am asked for a recipe at a social gathering, the recipe is almost always from one of two places: Cook’s Illustrated or The Breakfast Book / The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham. The Marion Cunningham cookbooks were given to me on my wedding and Cook’s Illustrated was first given to me over 10 years ago by a dear friend. I owe my cooking expertise to both Cook’s Illustrated and Marion Cunningham. Fabulous list – I may be picking up a few more go to books.

  5. […] lists, cookbooks:  My 10 Favorite Cookbooks Plus an Exclusive Offer from Barnes & Noble « Christopher Kimball Blog. […]

  6. Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s name is spelled wrong. You need one more ‘s.’ (Please don’t hate me, I adore your shows and books!)

  7. What a treasure trove of resources! I’ve been a fan of your insights for years.

    And you’ve always managed to adhere to my Italian grandmother’s adage: “Good food, my dear, is made with love and butter.”


  8. When is Cooks Illustrated going to come out with a magazine or book about gluten-free baking? I have Celiac Disease and do my own baking at home (some prepared GF mixes are OK, but are expensive, and I like my own recipes better!). The problem is that you need to do a lot of experimenting with ingredients, etc to get things right. Seems like your test kitchens would be the perfect place to do R&D on this, and with the explosion in the number of cases of Celiac Disease diagnosed, I think you have a potentially huge market!!!

  9. Long time viewer, member, and subscriber. Thanks for the list of Books. Jack Bishop’s “Italian Vegetarian” is great. I’m not sufficiently motivated to find Mr. Bishop’s e-mail but thanks for putting his book in your list.

  10. I saw you on “Ask This Old House” and appreciated your comments on the kitchen blue print the architect and builders put together. My husband built our house and we are looking forward to remodeling it. I am at a loss at to the best layout for my main work areas. I am sure that you have designed many great kitchens and was wondering if you have any tips and/or layouts that you have done that I can look at to get some ideas for our new kitchen? Thank you for your time and consideration!


  11. Hi, nice blog, visit my blog also. 🙂

  12. I wish Chris Kimbell would read this. I am
    a fan and own your books, cds and magazines. However,I am totally frustrated with your website. It is very misleading. When you say at the end of your shows that we can access the recipes for that particular show, it is not true. Unless you fill in a form, order something,etc, you cannot access the recipe. This is the only food show that does this and I find it quite annoying. One should be able to have immediate access to the recipe without having to buy something or exchange information. You are not making fans operating thisway. PLEASE consider making a change.
    Nancy Young

    • I know it’s a little circuitous but you can eventually find “this Years” recipes by carefully selecting the named presenter of the program–atc, cc, cctv or…
      Then all they require is for you to sign in with your email address. You don’t have to pay for anything.
      Their charged for services are excellent, and necessary to keep them in business. If I were a more frequent cook I would subscribe so as to have all their excellent information readily at hand.

    • I agree with Nancy. It is fine if you want subscription to recipes on your site, but on your show you should definitely tell them that it is subscription.

  13. How do I purchase the maple syrup made on your farm which you mentioned a few months ago?

  14. How do I purchase the maple syrup made on your farm you mentioned earlier this year?

  15. Dear Christopher,

    Thanks for the list. I recently saw you make hamburgers on your show, and I’d very much like to know what kind of buns you used with the burgers. Is there a recipe you could send me? Or even better, you could present it on your show – I watch every Saturday!

    many thanks,

  16. First–I love your show for it’s liveliness, precise recipes, and the give-and-take of all your people. It’s made me enjoy cooking more than ever.
    However, one thing I will never try to do, and am still marveling at how you did it (time-warping I suppose) was on a recent episode here in New York. You made the crust for the Lemon Cheese cake in the springform pan WITHOUT the bottom at first. Then when it went in/came out of the oven, voila, black bottom in place!
    Superb sleight of hand, or just lucky?
    Or is that one of the new products you’ll critique shortly?
    Keep up your magical good work.

  17. Wonderful Article on discount cctv associated products. I personally am within the discount cctv market too.

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