October 4, 2023

Cookbooks make great gifts — after all, there’s a cookbook to fit just about every interest and skill level out there. But also: There’s a cookbook to fit just about every interest and skill level out there, making it hard to sort through which ones are worth the paper they’re printed on!

To bring you this guide to the most giftable cookbooks, we surveyed cookbook authors, reviewers and chefs. Whether you want to give the recent college graduate in your life one perfect cookbook that will teach them steaming, pan-roasting, sautéing and everything in between or you’re looking for an offbeat choice for the quirkiest home cooks in your life, there’s something for everyone.

“Looking for a present for someone trying to give up Uber Eats?” Christine Sismondo, a health columnist, drinks historian and co-author of ‘Cocktails, A Still Life,’ has the perfect cookbook for the budding home chef. “‘Don’t Worry, Just Cook: Delicious, Timeless Recipes for Comfort and Connection’ by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert is a lovely book that covers all the basics for beginners. Thanks to Stern, who’s a pro teacher in the kitchen, it’s easy to finally master this essential life skill.” 

An absolutely essential cookbook for the novice, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” truly will teach you how to cook everything. Don’t miss his yogurt biscuit recipe, which I started making in the previous century and which is still one of my go-tos.

“Jody Williams is an amazing chef with almost perfect cooking skills,” says “Iron Chef” winner and “Chopped” host Geoffrey Zakarian. “She is a cook’s cook, and this cookbook is so divine, inspirational and very well curated.”

Katherine Spiers, a food historian and Los Angeles-based restaurant critic, says of this cookbook for those who are new to baking, “The focus on fruit in this mostly dessert cookbook makes it more interesting than a lot of similar manuals, but the recipes are pretty straightforward, so it’s great for people who believe baking is scary. Also, Rucker’s key lime pie recipe is the best on the planet.”

“Yossy Arefi reminds us how glorious stripped-down, simple cakes can be,” Mandelker says. “I have never plunged so hard into a cookbook the way I did for ‘Snacking Cakes,’ and I have yet to resurface. I like to say ‘Snacking Cakes’ is a lifestyle, not a cookbook.”

“Savannah-based baker Cheryl Day takes readers on an extensive tour of Southern baking, offering richly detailed and clear instructions for her heritage recipes,” Mandelker says. “The prose is warm and inviting, and her Chocolate Church Cake is quite simply the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted.”

“It’s pretty standard in the US for home bakers to master British, French and German techniques,” Spiers says. “So if someone wants to step it up and truly be the best baker on the block, they need to add some of Cho’s Chinese recipes to their repertoire.”

For vegetarians and lovers of vegetables, Mandelker chose “Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables” by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. “While not strictly a vegetarian cookbook, ‘Six Seasons’ puts vegetables front and center for a seemingly endless parade of beautiful and inspirational recipes. Literally every dish — and I’ve made many — has been a knockout.”

“I love gifting Andrea Gentl’s ‘Cooking With Mushrooms’ to all the vegetarians in my life,” Sismondo says, “because it’s absolutely gorgeous, super informative and an invaluable way to up your mushroom game. Since mushrooms are having a moment but few of us know how to make them the focus of the meal, it’s timely and would be good for anyone looking to up their plant game.”

Pat LaFrieda is a master butcher, and in ‘Meat: Everything You Need to Know,’ he shares his knowledge of the best and most flavorful cuts of meat, meticulous techniques and 75 recipes, including some from New York City’s most well-known restaurants.

The bacon lover in your life will treasure this collection of more than 200 bacon recipes from steakhouse classics like the BLT and the wedge salad to an entire chapter on bacon-inspired cocktails. 

In addition to more than 100 recipes, ‘Project Fire’ offers novice and experienced grillers tips on grilling techniques and a detailed breakdown of different types of grills.

“‘Treasures of the Mexican Table’ is perfect for anyone looking to explore beyond Mexico’s greatest hits (although, the book has those too),” Mandelker says. “A sensational adobo-roasted pork butt and a wide variety of punchy, flavor-bomb salsas are among the recipes that populate television host Pati Jinich’s tome of Mexican cookery.”

“‘Top Chef’ finalist and Maui-based chef Sheldon Simeon gives his take on local Hawaiian cooking,” Mandelker says, “the kind he grew up on and continues to feed his family. Full of Filipino and Japanese influences, Simeon’s recipes are thankfully straightforward and ‘un-chef-y,’ yielding dishes that explode with flavor. Don’t skip his excellent Pan Sushi Dynamite or Fried Garlic Noodles.”

Spiers calls this cookbook “a perfect celebration of Southern California culture and the food that is created there. This book is equally edifying for people who want to understand what makes Los Angeles tick (maybe someone moving there!) and for those interested in fusion food — real fusion food.”

“If you long for truly delicious and unusual flavors,” Zakarian says, “Yotam Ottelenghi will fill your every food desire. His unique take on family style mixes Mediterranean and Middle East in the most delightful way.”

“Who says you can’t win friends with salad?” Sismondo says. “Certainly not Jess Damuck, author of ‘Salad Freak: Recipes to Feed a Healthy Obsession,’ who has written an entire book about how you can make tasty salads for any time of day — even breakfast. We love the section about Setting Yourself Up for Salad Success, which makes it a perfect (and beautiful) gift for that person in your life who wants to eat more greens but never has enough time.”

The fitness enthusiast in your life will love this cookbook that focuses on food as fuel for an active and healthy lifestyle.

“Learning to cook as a team is important,” Spiers says. “Naturally, you don’t have to be a newlywed to use and enjoy this book — anyone looking for food-based group activities will find it helpful.”

“It’s hard to recommend your own book on a list,” Sismondo admits (even though we told her to go for it!), “but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway, since the real star of the show in ‘Cocktails, A Still Life’ are Todd M. Casey’s stunning drinks paintings. One of the five sections is drinks for special occasions, which makes this smart book with smart cocktails an ideal book to gift at any holiday — Fourth of July, Halloween, New Year’s, you name it.”

“It’s easy to find reproductions of the original 1950 edition of this classic,” Spiers says, “and with its emphasis on cookies, cakes and bountiful dinners, it ends up being a perfect guide to the holidays. It’s also an occasionally astonishing look at midcentury mainstream.”

“In their newest cookbook,” Zakarian says, “Rosanna and Elaina Scotto have written the absolute playbook on family dining.”

“OK, this isn’t a cookbook, really; it’s a recipe book,” Spiers says, “but given how complicated tiki drinks can get, I think it counts. The drinks are delicious and the book includes a pretty comprehensive history of tiki’s cultural importance. Cocktail party inspiration and conversation inspiration in one!”

Some might argue “The Sopranos” is one of the best shows of all time, so could this be one of the best cookbooks of all time? Anyone who loves “The Sopranos” will cherish this show-inspired cookbook, but don’t feel limited to giving it to fans of the show: It’s a surprisingly great cookbook for Italian American cuisine!

Amy Sedaris’ hilarious guide to entertaining provides loads of recipes as well as tips for hosts and guests alike, including a section called “Be Prepared” that provides pointers on what to stash in your medicine cabinet in the event of a guest (or hostess!) emergency.


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