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Buying a Cookbook. Help With the Choice.

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I need a good cookbook. I have the standards (Betty Crocker, Better Homes & Gardens, a Book on Spices and Herbs, etc.) But these all leave a little to be desired. I need a book that discusses techniques and tips, tricks and other helpful hints for the kitchen. For example. I was reading a recipe at Food Network web site. The recipe says "1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan" What the heck does that mean? Another entry calls for half a turn of the pan. An example would be from one of my posts here recently where one of the responses talked about the glossy finish of an egg wash for breads. That simple little trick would have been nice to know from the many bread recipes I have, but not one has mentioned it. So I've read the cookbook reviews and I have searched Amazon but I would like some input from y'all.
I should've been a chef. Where else can you eat your work?
Searching for food nirvana!
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I should've been a chef. Where else can you eat your work?
Searching for food nirvana!
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post #2 of 12
I'd recommend the new Joy of Cooking as a basic in addition to any of Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything.. cookbooks. They are clear, easy to understand and offer lots of well tested, unique and interesting recipes with different variations without being too "cheffy".

Of course, there are always a few gaps in Bittman's "Everything" books, but overall they're great. I especially like his food processor pizza dough-it's easy and works every time.

www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #3 of 12
That "turn of the pan" instruction is a Rachael Ray thing--she just means to pour the oil in a steady stream one time around the pan's inner circumference. Does that make sense? If you watch a couple episodes of "30 minute meals", you'll see what she's talking about. Her whole point is that you don't need to get crazy about precise measurements.

But I'm guessing that "one turn of the pan" is equivalent to 2 or 3 tbsp of olive oil, while one-half turn is about half of that.

I do agree that both Joy of Cooking and Bittman's How to Cook Everything are good basic cookbooks. But neither of them have many pictures illustrating technique.

In particular, I have to credit Bittman's book for teaching me a lot about cooking: Because he always mentions so many variations in his recipes (e.g. "1 cup chicken stock, or canned chicken broth, or water, or white wine"), I began to get a sense of the essence of each recipe. It made me a lot more comfortable improvising in the kitchen. But I'm not sure I would have gotten this benefit if I were not the kind of person who reads cookbooks like novels...

I just ordered a book called The Cook's Book: Techniques and Tips from the World's Master Chefs, ed. by Jill Norman. I haven't gotten it yet, but it sounded so good that I ordered it sight-unseen. It supposedly has 1800 color photos, 650 recipes, and "illustrates 350 techniques, from essential basics to far-out flourishes." Maybe this is more what you're looking for?

Maybe Julia Child's The Way to Cook?
post #4 of 12
The Joy of Cooking is excellent. It also sounds like you would benefit from cookbooks published by Cook's Illustrated. Lots of explanation of how and why with tips too.

Amazon.com: Cook's Illustrated

for some examples of what they've published.

I can not recommned Bittman cookbooks. I can't stand his writing, his advice nor his recipes. But different strokes for different folks.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses. I like the sound of the Cook's Book. That is the kind of description I was looking for. Now I'll go to Amazon and check it out. I also want to thank you for the definition of the turn of the pan. It makes sense once you know what they are talking about. I don't ever watch TV. Maybe I'll have to start watching cooking programs. I just can't sit still for TV and the commercials that are all too much a part of it. 5 minutes of program and 8 of commercials! I did see a cooking program once and it was like this: Today we are going to make the perfect roast. Buy a roast and cook it. That's all the time we have for today. See you next time.

I do better reading.
I should've been a chef. Where else can you eat your work?
Searching for food nirvana!
Reply
I should've been a chef. Where else can you eat your work?
Searching for food nirvana!
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post #6 of 12
FWIW, "Professional Cooking" and "Professional Baking" by Wayne Gisslen have been industry standards for many years.
Just my opinion though....
post #7 of 12
older versions of Joy of Cooking....
I don't care for Bittman either, gave his book away
Do like Jacque Pepin's Technique with pix.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 12
Scott,

FWIW, I've been cooking for more than half a century, and I do watch cooking shows on TV. And I had absolutely no idea what "a turn of the pan" meant until Indigo-Swale explained it. I would venture to say that 80% of the folks on this forum didn't know it either. So don't feel bad about that one---Rachael Ray is known for making up her own cutsey terms, most of which nobody else pays any attention to.

You mentioned glazing bread. I would recommend two bread books as must-haves. The first is Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The second is Treuille & Ferringno's Ultimate Bread. In both cases, the techniques and general knowledge sections are, IMO, more valuable than the specific recipes.

One thing this does demonstrate, and it applies to all cookery stuff. There are recipes. And there are how-to instructions. Rarely do they come together, except in books. But I don't know any book in which they're all there together. Again, using bread as an example. I'd made bread, on & off for years by following recipes. But Peter Reinhart taught me how to bake bread.

I would bite the bullet and pay attention to some of the TV shows. What you want to do is watch the way the various chefs perform tasks, rather than what they are making. You can learn an awful lot that way. Even on Iron Chef, which is not a "this is the way to do it" show you can learn by watching the chefs at work and listenting to the commentary.

Learning techniques and the nomanclature of cookery is not a fast process. You'll be learning all your life. So don't get frustrated. Just absorb what you can, and ask questions if you don't know.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 12
I'd add, Scott, that RR began her career teaching how-to-cook classes to a whomever-shows-up crowd, so some of her cutesy terms are intended to make morons like me remember them. Some of them work, some don't. I have 2 different olive oil bottles on my work surface that pour at two entirely different rates, so the turn-of-the-pan thing doesn't do much for me.

I learned a lot by subscribing to Cook's Illustrated, where it seems their MO is to take a recipe into the test kitchen and figure out all the ways you could screw it up, then tell you how to avoid them. The mag is only every 2 months, which I find to be just enough for me to be sick of messing with the recipes and ready to read another one.
post #10 of 12
Which brings up another learning venue.

Scott, most of the kitchen-supply stores, like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, etc---and many markets conduct free demos and techniques classes. Williams-Sonoma, for instance, has scheduled several around the theme of turkey and holiday dishes. And Fresh Mart has such demos every week.

It might pay for you to get on their mailing lists, and attend some of them. Not only do you learn by watching, but both the chef and others in the audience are there to answer questions.

Another plus. Because like-minded people attend these things, you often develop a network of new friends all involved in cooking.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 12
The Best Recipe from the Cook's Illustrated gang.
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #12 of 12
A hearty second to CI's The Best Recipe. I also recommend an older version of Joy of Cooking. Mine dates from 1967, and is pretty tattered, but still a first-go-to book for me. Go to Amazon and order a vintage one- I've seen a lot of comments that the most recent editions do not match the older ones.

Finally, get a copy of James Beard's American Cookery. Like Joy, it covers everything.

All the above have excellent, exhaustive indexes and are easy to use.

Mike
travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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