Top 10 Tips On How To Buy Cookbooks Without Making Mistakes!

Written by Eydie Desser

I own over two-hundred cookbooks — and I love them all! I attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference a few years ago where there was a workshop called, “How to Create a Cookbook Library.” There were people there who owned over six-thousand cookbooks, making my measly two-hundred sound like nothing.

I started collecting after I married Ed. I love surprising him with unique recipes that will delight his senses! Sometimes, I give Ed a couple of cookbooks so that he can pick out recipes he’d like for me to make. It’s so much fun that way!

My library is filled with all types of cookbooks from various cuisines such as Italian, Persian, French, Moroccan, Arabic, Omani, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Spanish, Texas, and the Southwest…just to name a few! I also have many educational books on various cooking techniques:  grilling, all-about vegetables, bread-making, modernist cuisine, pressure-cooking, sous-vide cooking, sauce-making, baking science, and more. And I adore the many restaurant chefs’ cookbooks that I  purchased after tasting one of their delicious creations. You name it, I want it — as long as the cookbook is well thought-out, the recipes are tested, and I get inspiration and education from them.

Sadly, I’ve made many mistakes when purchasing cookbooks, like buying a cake-making book called Confetti Cakes, by Elisa Strauss. Not that the cookbook wasn’t amazing, because it is!  But,  I found out after perusing the cookbook, that it truly takes a pastry chef to make her spectacular creations.  I bought it to make a cake for Ed’s 50th birthday.  This particular cake looked like a wine bottle in a wooden box (all “EDible”).  Ed loves big California reds and I wanted to surprise him with this:

As you can see, this cake is gorgeous. All of Elisa’s cakes are beautiful and truly inspiring. I didn’t look at the recipes before buying it, which called for so much equipment that I didn’t own, as well as ingredients only cake-making stores supply. Needless to say, I had to hire a professional cake-maker to make this for me (ugh). I’m a savory cook, and sadly for Ed, not a pastry chef! 

So here are some suggestions on how to buy books you’ll love for a lifetime.

Top 10 tips on buying cookbooks you’ll love:

These tips will keep you from making mistakes and end up saving you money!  

  1. Check out the best-seller list: This will include the best cookbooks of the year. It is a good place to start, but read the reviews and follow the tips.

  2. Read Amazon reviews: A great way to see what purchasers think about the book. Reviewers will sometimes include recipe successes and failures as well.

  3. Read through the recipe index: If there are at least ten recipes you want to make, you will enjoy the cookbook.

  4. Does the cookbook include pictures? It is so helpful to see what the final dish will look like. It also makes it easy to find a dish you want to make and brings each recipe to life.

  5. Are the directions well-written? Look at a few of the recipes and see if they make sense so you can follow along easily. There is an art to writing recipes, which helps the cook understand exactly what is meant when making the dish. Make sure you understand the author’s descriptions as well.

  6. Do the recipes include special equipment or unusual, hard-to-find ingredients? Make sure there are plenty of recipes for which you won’t have to spend a fortune on new items you’ll only use once or twice, or ingredients you’ll never use again.

  7. Restaurant Chef’s Cookbooks: I love to buy cookbooks from fabulous restaurants I frequent. But make sure to check the book out first before purchasing. Many chefs’ recipes are meant to be cooked in a professional kitchen with a staff helping with all the prep. The recipes may be too involved and complicated for the home cook. Personally, the complicated, time-intensive recipes don’t bother me — I love being in the kitchen and creating. But this isn’t for everyone. The top five restaurant chefs’ cookbooks I’m telling you about today have recipes that are perfect for the home cook — I know you’ll enjoy them.

  8. Ethnic Cuisines: Do some homework on the author and find the best cookbook authors in that genre. I like to buy cookbooks from authors who have extensive knowledge on the subject, whose recipes get rave reviews…go to Amazon to compare. I made a mistake because I didn’t do this research. I bought a very well-known and popular Indian cookbook Author’s book, assuming the techniques would be well-explained, and the recipes would be delicious. Unfortunately, this very popular author’s recipes were a huge disappointment. Then, I went on Amazon to see which Indian cookbooks were the best and found that many reviewers felt the same way about this particular author. I learned about lesser-known Indian chefs with cookbooks that really teach the reader how to make the very intricate sauces that Indian cuisine is known for and how amazing those recipes turn out.

  9. Vegan Chefs’ Cookbooks: I just recently started purchasing vegan and plant-based cookbooks, and I’ve made many mistakes! Definitely look at the recipes and find reviews. Many of these cookbooks use a lot of oil and salt, as well as processed meat alternatives — items not found in Garden of Eydie! I will always get a few ideas, but I Iprefer recipes from amazing chefs and cookbook authors I’ve come to love and admire, and giving them the Garden of Eydie treatment to elevate the nutritional level and making them healthier.

  10. Eat Your Books! I love this website! First, you go to “Your Books”. Then click on “Upload to Library” where you’ll enter the name of your cookbooks, or the ISBN#. It’s very quick and easy. Once all of your cookbooks are entered, you can go to “Books” and search for whatever you want to cook. Say you want to cook something with cauliflower. In the search bar, simply type in “cauliflower” and all the recipes from all of your books that include cauliflower will pop up! Then you can pick out the recipe(s) that look good and pull from those cookbooks, and voila!!! You’ve found that perfect recipe you want without pulling out so many books or trying to remember which book you got that recipe from!

What are your favorite cookbooks?  

Have you made mistakes like me?

Are there any recipes from cookbooks you want Garden of Eydie to plant-base?

Let us know!

Wishing you happiness and success in the kitchen with your cookbooks.


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