Where would we be as cooks without cookbooks? Dating back as far as the fifth century, cookbooks have served as a collection of instructions for creating edible and, in most cases, delicious foods. Without cookbooks, or the passing along of recipes, we may never have known the impact that open flames and heat could have on food, how different flavors are created from things grown in the earth, and how adding water to certain ingredients can transform them into something edible. Cookbooks not only transcend time, but they transcend cultures and regions of our world as well — because of cookbooks we’re able to cook authentic Moroccan food right out of a New York City apartment or make traditional Southern fried chicken in a flat in London.
The impact of cookbooks on the culinary society cannot be disputed, and because they are of such importance and are so popular, there’s often an abundance of them to choose from. These days, pretty much anyone who has ever held a knife in the kitchen thinks that they should write a cookbook, and we’re left with shelves of books filled with recipes ranging from basic cooking and baking to international foods and special dietary trends (to name just a few subjects). Don’t get us wrong, the influx of cookbooks to choose from is certainly a good thing — as Cook editors of The Daily Meal we love any and all recipes, but there has to a be a way to separate the new from the tired and the tasty from the bland.
So to give you a snapshot of what cookbooks should be on your bookshelves from the past year, we compiled a list of our favorite 25. To curate our list, we scoured our own collection of cookbooks, along with those of other culinary publications, and compiled a list of about 50 cookbooks based on either their reputation or the fact that, on impulse, whether because of the author or the subject, we would buy that cookbook.
From there, we gave each book a score of one to five in three different areas: originality, design, and the recipes. While originality wasn’t the top priority of our list, we think it adds some luster to a cookbook, and so we wanted to give inspired cookbooks credit where it was deserved. For design, we considered the layout of the cookbook and the recipes, as well as the quality of photographs and the recipe-to-photograph ratio. Last but certainly not least (it was actually the most important part) were the recipes. Were the headnotes intriguing? Did we get through the list of ingredients without furrowing our brow? And finally, could we imagine ourselves making this recipe in the kitchen before even putting on our aprons?
To come up with the scores, we started at five and subtracted points for every negative thing we saw in each category, and then tallied up the points to rank the top 25. Whenever there were ties (which there were many of because we scored each cookbook entirely separately from each other), we ranked each book against the others in their score bracket based on their "must-have" appeal. Through our scoring system, we examined some of the best cookbooks published this year to create a comprehensive list of the ones that you should consider for your home collection.
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce