Ryan Shepard
About Author
October 17, 2022

5 Must-Own Cookbooks For Your Kitchen

I love cooking (duh). It's one of my absolute favorite things to do. But, even I get burned out sometimes. Being the one who comes up with meals for my family 100% of the time, finding inspiration from my own tapped out mind isn't easy. When I'm tired of my go-to recipes, I pull out a few of my most used cookbooks to get inspired again. There are endless lists of the best cookbooks to own. So many different publications have published their "best-of" lists for every segment of the population from "best cookbooks for beginners" to "best cookbooks for air fryer recipes," this topic has been extensively covered.

The books I'm including here are the ones that have food splatters and oil spots on them because I reach for them so often. If you try any of my recipes, chances are they're a riff off of or were inspired by recipes in one of the books I'm going to list. My cooking philosophy in general is approachable but refined. I love recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients that are delicious, exciting and (while impressive looking) don't take an insane amount of effort to pull off. Each of these cookbooks hits the mark (except one).

If you're looking to up your at-home cooking game, personally, I think these are the best books to have.

+In Pursuit of Flavor: The Beloved Classic Cookbook from the Acclaimed Author of The Taste of Country Cooking

This acclaimed book by the legendary Edna Lewis deserves a spot on your bookshelves whether you can cook or not. It's literally art. So much of the way Lewis cooked her food is copied by lesser chefs today. The whole "farm-to-table" movement that has is so popular in elite circles of the culinary world, was first championed by folks like Edna Lewis, Black Southern Americans. This book breaks recipes up by seasons (as does another book in this list) and you really get to delve deep into recipes that you might otherwise feel too intimidated to cook. These dishes are straightforward, accessible and will transport you and your belly to a happy place.

Order it here.

+Mastering The Art of French Cooking

There was no way I would ever put together a list like this and not mention Julia Childs. First of all, she and I both attended Smith College, love a good drink, and adore our husbands. Additionally, she revolutionized cooking in American kitchen's in a way you can argue hasn't been seen since. The recipes in Mastering The Art of French Cooking aren't easy. I'd place them somewhere in the moderate to advance category. But, they are foolproof. There is a reason this book has been a best seller for decades, the recipes work. Her beef bourguignon recipe is basically the only one worth making in the whole wide world. Her quiche lorraine? A classic in my family that we enjoy on Christmas morning. This book will stay in your own family for generations. Could not recommend having a copy of this book enough.

Order the set of her two most popular books here.

+Dining In

Okay, I'll say it Alison Roman has created what I think is a classic with her first cookbook. Nothing Fancy is exactly what it purports to be, a gathering of simple, unfussy yet some how dynamic every day recipes for your home. More than almost any other cookbook I own, this is the one I hands down reach for the most. Her vinegar and turmeric roasted chicken recipe? Perfection. I love her tone, her casual approach to cooking and how she melds flavors and cooks pantry/leftover friendly meals. Love, love love this book.

Order it here.

+Saltwater Table

I discovered chef Whitney Otawka when I interviewed her for a piece I wrote when I was a reporter and immediately appreciated her culinary style. We're both California girls and love fresh produce. Her cookbook is full of opportunities to stretch your kitchen skills and tastebuds. She focuses pretty heavily on coastal southern cuisine (think grilled whole fish, shrimp boils and crunchy citrus salads) and, like Edna Lewis, divides her recipes by seasons.

Order it here.

+Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories

I'm not much of a baker. I don't really have a sweet tooth and in general, I prefer a cocktail to a slice of cake, but the desserts in Jocelyn Adams book are delicious enough to make me sift flour from time to time. Her red velvet cake is the only one I ever bake and it's truly a bouncy delight to eat. Almost all of her desserts remind me of being a little girl and buying decadent desserts from the church ladies after Sunday service. If that's a feeling you'd like back as well, order this book pronto.

Order it here.

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