Our Favorite Cookbooks For Food Newbies and Beginner Cooks

Here at the Riot, we’re eaters first and cooks/bakers/whatever second, which means we collectively have tons of cookbooks for beginners and folks who are strangers in their kitchens. They’re handy for when you just can’t remember the difference between braising and basting, or for when you can’t remember if you’re supposed to roast a chicken at 350 or 400F. I went into the Riot internal social media board and asked for our contributors’ favorite cookbooks for beginners, and here’s what they recommend:

the joy of cooking cover

better homes and garden cookbook cover

Jo: I still keep two old standbys on my shelves: The Joy of Cooking and the old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with the red and white tablecloth-bookcover that for some reason flips me into cooking mode.


i'm just here for the food coverruhlman's twenty cover

Reese: Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for The Food. He has called it an “ode to heat”, and it’s great starting point. Another one is Ruhlman’s Twenty – it covers twenty basic concepts/methods in the kitchen and has great recipes to boot.

how to cook everything cover

Jill: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (I have the vegetarian one) is really good, I think. Written well; explains lots of stuff clearly without talking down to you.


the pioneer woman cooks cover

Nikki S: I think the Pioneer Woman’s first cookbook is like the ultimate training wheels for cooking. All of the photos and easy approachable food.


scratch and sniff wine guide


cooking at home

Amanda: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert helps you identify the characteristics of wine that you will like, and tells you what wine will give you those. Very helpful and accessible (and scratch and sniff, so). Cooking At Home from the Culinary Institute of America is all about the basic skills and equipment you need to cook well.


craft of cocktail cover

Shannon: Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, with 500 Recipes” is the best. It covers all the basics, including how to set up your bar, what tools you should buy, and simple techniques. It’s not pretentious; it’s incredibly simple and accessible, which I love.

cook cover

Cate: Jamie Oliver’s COOK is a fantastic primer, and well-used in my kitchen! Pages all stained with one thing or another.

garden of vegan cover

Colleen: The Garden of Vegan (Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer) taught me how to cook and cook vegan simultaneously. I still had to google things like “zucchini” and “ginger” before going to the grocery store though. :/

mini minimalist

Caitlin: Jumping on the Bittman wagon, the Mini Minimalist collection is good for suuuuuuper beginners.


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  • Wini Moranville

    Ah! How it warms my heart to see the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book on this list! I worked as a contributing editor on the last three issues of this tome. It’s a great book; the meat IDs and cooking charts are especially helpful–they’ll tell you how to cook any cut of meat, and they’ve never led me astray.

  • Amanda

    Pioneer Woman? Really? My heart is breaking.