How to Choose the Best Cookbook

October is National Cookbook Month, making now the perfect time to add to your collection. But with more than 24,000 new cookbooks published each year, how do you choose the absolutely best cookbook for you?

homestyle favorites made meatless1. Does the cookbook meet your needs?

New or busy cooks should look for:

  • Family-friendly dishes
  • An easy-to-follow format
  • Look for key works in the title like basic, simple, busy, or quick.

Experienced cooks might be looking for more creative recipes:

  • Maybe a specialty book on pasta
  • Or Chinese cooking
  • Or vegetarian dishes

Ready to whip up a gourmet meal?

  • Choose a glossy chef-authored book.


2. Is the recipe arrangement logical?

Are the recipes in defined sections and arranged according to:

  • The main ingredient, (chicken, pasta)
  • Or cooking method (grilled, baked, one-pot)
  • Or type of dishes (entrees, salads, soups)

A book of 800 consecutive recipes may seem like a great deal, but excitement can quickly turn to frustration when the recipe that piqued your interest is hidden somewhere in the middle of a never ending tome.


3. Are the directions easy-to-follow?

Most of us prefer easy-to-follow numbered directions written in chronological order.

  • Avoid cookbooks whose directions are in a narrative format
  • Avoid cookbooks whose directions are continued on a non-facing page.


4. Is there any bonus information?

Good cookbooks show:

  • The preparation time
  • Number of servings for each recipe

Really good cookbooks also give you:

  • Cooking tips
  • Serve-with suggestions
  • Unusual ingredient definitions
  • Recipe history and/or nutrition information


5. Is the author knowledgeable?

Does the author have education or experience in:

  • Home Economics/Family and Consumer Sciences or
  • Culinary arts or
  • Cooking for friends and family with rave reviews

Anyone can develop a recipe, but knowledgeable cookbook authors also test their recipes and have an understanding of how to combine flavors and textures for an enhanced dish.


6. Is there an extensive index?

Cookbook indexes should list recipes:

  • By name
  • And by main ingredients

Want to make Florentine rice? You should be able to find it under “F” for Florentine, “R” for rice and “S” for spinach. A good index makes the cookbook one you’ll use again and again.


7. Does the cookbook provide inspiration?

A cookbook should inspire you to go beyond the written recipe and experiment on your own. Some books do this by:

  • Suggesting alternative ingredients
  • Others by the shear creativity of the recipes

Cooking is a creative endeavor and the best cookbooks will serve as a jumping off point to your own unique dishes.


Follow these tips and soon you will have a personal selection of your very best cookbooks!


by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

October 3, 2015

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