Are You a Terrible Cook? 6 Cookbooks With Recipes Anyone Can Make
Everyone needs to learn how to cook, even single guys. While there may have been a time when most men didn’t have to learn their way around a kitchen, that era is long gone (and good riddance, we say). Cooking is a basic life skill, and it’s one that everyone should master. That doesn’t mean you need to become a five-star chef, but it does mean learning how to feed yourself tasty, healthy food that doesn’t come out of a box.
Basic home cooking doesn’t have to be hard, but it can be a bit baffling for a beginner. What’s the difference between stir-frying and sautéing? What does it mean to mince something (and how is that different from plain old chopping)? Can baking powder be substituted for baking soda? You can always consult Google for the answers, but sometimes it’s just easier to grab a trusty reference and look it up.
Investing in one or two easy-to-understand cookbooks, reading them, and trying out their various recipes is one of the best ways to teach yourself how to cook. While there are hundreds of titles out there that offer lessons to clueless would-be chefs, not all are worth the paper they’re printed on. We’ve put together a list of six essential titles for the man who needs to learn cooking 101.
1. How to Cook Everything: The Basics
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a justifiably popular general purpose cookbook, but if you’re a true novice in the kitchen, you’ll want to start with his follow-up tome, 2012’s How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Bittman walks you through cooking 101, from the essential ingredients you should stock in your pantry and the tools you need in your cabinets to the ins and outs of different cooking techniques.
Full-color photos make it easy to follow along with the instructions, and each recipe aims to teach you a different skill, so you can gradually learn how cooking actually works. “How To Cook Everything: The Basics is the best possible cookbook to give to recent graduates, kids heading off to college, teenagers interested in cooking, and the occasional young couple getting married,” said Kate Thornberry in her review for the Austin Chronicle.
2. I’m Just Here for the Food
Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food approaches cooking like a science. Rather than just telling you to sear this or simmer that, he explains why you do those things. The result is a “cookbook for people who would rather understand their food than follow a recipe.”
Chapters cover techniques like grilling, frying, and braising. There are sections on making sauces, cooking eggs, and how to use your microwave, plus a selection of recipes you can follow to practice each technique. “[T]his is a solid volume presented in a lively, fun manner guaranteed to put cooking in the reach of just about anyone,” said Publisher’s Weekly in its review of the book’s first edition.
3. Man Made Meals
Steven Raichlen is a barbecue master, but Man Made Meals covers far more than just how to turn out the perfect rack of ribs. The book is “a crash course for guys cooking indoors,” Raichlen told the Denver Post. An introductory section covers kitchen techniques and tools, but the bulk of the book is dedicated to man-friendly recipes that don’t assume you know what you’re doing in the kitchen (but do assume you’d like to play with cool tools like a blowtorch).
You’ll also find visual guides to basic tasks, such as cracking and separating an egg, helpful essays on different types of cheese, and interviews with “food dudes” chef Thomas Keller. “I’ve tried to make the recipes super easy to use, outlining what you need to buy, what tools you need, what you need to know and how long it will take you,” Raichlen told the Deseret News.
4. The Single Guy Cookbook
In his new book, chef Avi Shemtov (he runs a Boston food truck called the Chubby Chickpea) shows that solo guys don’t need to subsist on a diet of ramen and takeout. The book features instructions for “no stress” and “hassle-free” dishes such as Chinese sausage lo mein and a hard cider pork chop.
Recipes are written with a single guy’s appetite and convenience in mind — serving sizes are generous, the instructions are straightforward, and you won’t have to do any math to figure out how to make a meal for just one person. Special sections focus on game-day recipes and dishes that will impress your date. The Single Guy Cookbook is “an enticing collection of so-very-guy-friendly comfort food designed for the solo fellow willing to put a little effort into what he eats,” said the San Francisco Chronicle. Oh, and it’s also a great for ladies just getting in the kitchen as well.
5. The Joy of Cooking
Your mom or grandmother probably has a copy of this classic cookbook, which was first published in 1936 and has been updated and revised numerous times since. Clocking in at more than 1,000 pages, the Joy of Cooking is both a cookbook and a reference manual, with instructions on everything from how to make your own mayonnaise to how to fillet a fish.
It may not be the most glamorous cookbook out there, but it’s certainly a useful one. You can still buy the old-fashioned hardcover edition, but today’s cooks can also download the Joy of Cooking app, which features everything in the book plus full-color pictures, built-in timers for recipes, and more. “There’s a reason this book has been around for more than seven decades and is usually one of the most dog-eared and tattered tomes in any home cook’s collection,” wrote Aida Mollenkamp at Chowhound.
6. Eat Like a Man
Once you’ve mastered the basics covered in the books above, you can move on to Eat Like a Man. The team at Esquire put together this collection of 75 guy-friendly recipes from chefs including Tom Colicchio, Mario Batali, and Daniel Boulud.
Recipes are ranked by difficulty (“easy,” “reasonable,” or “worth the effort”) and range from basics like banana bread French toast to somewhat more complicated dishes like butter-poached bone-in top loin. “It’s not cooking school,” editor Ryan D’Agostino told the New York Daily News. “It’s cooking for fun and enjoyment and to feed who you love … I think the approach we take is not to treat men like they don’t know what they’re doing or that they don’t belong in the kitchen.”
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