What We Love About These Best-Selling Cookbooks

In her recipe for beef stroganoff, Bracken instructs chefs to ‘add flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms and let it cook for five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.’

Bookstore shelves are packed with cookbooks suited for every occasion, so what is going to make yours stand out from the crowd? Is it a great design? Innovative structure? Funny narrative weaved throughout? Whichever route you choose to go down, it’s important to have a touch of pizzazz to make bookshop dwellers reach for yours over another. We pulled a few of our favourites from the shelf to work out what it is about these best-sellers that bumps them to the top of everyone’s list.



The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer 

There’s a reason that Irma Rombauer’s classic cookbook has experienced an uninterrupted print run since 1936. What’s not to love about a collection of recipes that evoke a sense of nostalgia that only home cooking can? Rombauer’s collection includes over 45,000 classic recipes that cater for novices to self-proclaimed experts, and even the pros themselves. Chef and culinary personality, Julia Child, dubbed it the “fundamental resource for any American Cook”. What we love about this cookbook is its simplicity as a guide to learning the basic principles of cooking.



The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander

Stephanie Alexander’s best-seller is what you could only call a fixture in many Australian kitchens. Selling over half a million copies since its publication in 1966, it’s a one-stop shop for being at one with ingredients, kitchen utensils and learning a new cooking technique with every culinary attempt. What we love about this cookbook is its handy structure that divides recipes into main ingredients for those times when you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes or a lifetime supply of mushrooms and not a clue what to do with them. Just flip through and let Stephanie give you the answers.



The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken

This may seem like an odd choice if you judge by titles, but hear us out - a cookbook with a strong character and a touch of cheeky humour goes a long way. Peg Bracken’s irreverent cookbook has a clear target market (those who would rather ‘wrap their hands around a dry martini instead of a wet flounder come the end of a long day) and gives clear instructions to those in the market for a quick and easy meal (in her recipe for beef stroganoff, Bracken instructs chefs to ‘add flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms and let it cook for five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.’ Aside from the fact that the recipes are clear and simple, there are instructions and culinary experiences that you’ll likely not soon forget.



A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

Walk into any library and you’ll find an abundance of history books, and in any bookshop, a huge selection of cookbooks. However, rarely do the two combine, so when William Sitwell used history as his criteria for his selection of recipes when curating his cookbook, it made for an interesting concept. What we love about this cookbook is the purpose and strong narrative weaved throughout that gives each recipe a reason to be there. It answers questions and triggers thoughts, like where did the recipes that we reach for every day come from? Who invented or popularised them? How did the humble cupcake come onto the scene and who thought it was a good idea to pair apple sauce with roast pork? While not everyone may want to recreate a trifle recipe reminiscent of that made in 1596, and not all recipes are well suited for a modern-day kitchen, you get the picture - having a narrative or overarching theme does wonders for a cookbook’s longevity and enduring relevance. 



The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

There is certainly a science to cooking. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s cookbook, The Food Lab takes technical expertise out of the equation by going beyond experience and looking towards the science that makes a recipe perfect. Covering qualms like keeping a roast turkey moist while cooking it thoroughly to perfectly cooking a steak medium-rare, or producing the most flavoursome dishes from healthier ingredient alternatives, Lopez-Alt uses science to improve popular American recipes. The 2016 International Associational of Culinary Professionals’ Cookbook of the Year is one that even the most experienced and old-school chefs can learn a thing or two from. What we love about this cookbook is that it is foolproof and uses extensive research to show just how simple it can be to create something truly delicious over and over again.


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Flavours of Tasmania published by Smudge Publishing

Tasmania is well known among Australian states as an up and coming staple in any food trail. This Smudge book is ahead of the game, capturing the stories of top Tasmanian restaurants, the journeys of their leading chefs and of course, a taste of the action with a recipe from each venue. The experience of dining at a restaurant is so much more rewarding when you’re educated about the history of the venue, who is cooking for you and what has inspired the dishes. Flavours of Tasmania does it all and more in one stunning compilation.

Written by Lucy Miller. 


Katie Wilton