How to Build Your Cookbook Library

Since I began SMAK in the spring of 2012, cookbooks have become my kryptonite. Part of it is that I love collecting things. Part of it is the photography. And then obviously, I love looking through the cookbooks, trying out new recipes, and gaining inspirations for my own recipes.


If you are just starting to build your cookbook library, don't just jump right into it. Do your research. Here are a few key factors to consider when looking to buy cookbooks:

  1. Don't rush into a purchase: This is something that I am guilty of at times. Sometimes I find myself buying a cookbook simply because of the pictures on its pages. That being said, be sure that you go online and look at reviews of the cookbooks on websites like Barnes & Noble or Amazon. This will give you an idea on how relatable and user-friendly the cookbooks really are.
  2. Find ones that are specific: Finding cookbooks that cover specific topics is an absolute must. This is how you will gain your experience and techniques in certain aspects of the culinary world - grilling, baking, how to butcher, How to Master the Art of French Cooking, etc.
  3. Look for cookbooks by well-known or renowned chefs: These people are proven chefs, many of whom have a long history behind them that have allowed them to earn the respect from the culinary world. They are famous because the recipes work.
  4. Look for cookbooks produced by cooking emporiums: Books from companies like Williams Sonoma tend to be highly reliable with a proven track record. These emporiums also offer a wide variety of types of cookbooks from the basics, baking, cooking around the work, etc.

Here are a few of my general cookbook favorites (Don't worry, we'll continue with more specific cookbooks in a later post.):

How to Cook Everything The Basics

How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything series has been around for the past 15 years providing guidance to popular ways of cooking. This cookbook, released in 2012, is a fundamental cookbook for any chef. From dicing ingredients to creating meals around certain ingredients, the book provides cooks with key techniques and recipes necessary for success in the kitchen.

The Sweet Life

The Sweet Life by Sam Talbot

I owe a lot to this cookbook. In fact, Sam Talbot was one of the main reasons that I began this food blog. SMAK's first entry, Coconut Açaí Granola, came from the pages of this book. Having a mother who is diabetic like Sam, I have been able to related to what he talks about in his book. Not only do his recipes help lead a healthy lifestyle, for diabetics and non-diabetics alike, but they are delicious - some of my favorite recipes have come from this book!

Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook by Rick & Michael Mast

This is a recent purchase of mine. Yes, I did purchase it in large part due to the amazing photographs scattered throughout the book. Guilty as charged. But as I've scanned through its pages and read reviews online, I am confident that this will be a go-to dessert cookbook. Though I do have to admit, I did not go into this purchase completely blindly. The Mast brothers make their chocolates in Brooklyn, NY. So while I lived in Manhattan during 2012, I had the opportunity to taste their chocolates on multiple occasion. They are to die for.

What suggestions do you guys have when looking to build your personal cookbook library? Any favorite or go-to cookbooks that you can't live without?