How's your cooking game? Sure, your eating game is up to snuff, but food tastes even better when you know how it's made. The key to mastering the art of cooking at home is to become well-rounded, and that means tackling your weaknesses. In the words of Mr. Miyagi, "first learn stand, then learn fly."
With that in mind, we present some of our favorite accessible cookbooks that will fill the cracks in your cooking game. Go on Daniel-san, and become a cooking master.
1. Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter ($19.30 from Amazon.com)
To truly elevate your cooking game, you need to understand how cooking works. Ugh, sounds like science class, right? Not so much. Take the section on oven-overclocking, which shows you how to achieve a temperature of 1000° F by utilizing your oven's cleaning cycle and disabling the safety lock all in order to cook the perfect pizza. Maybe they should change the name of this book to "Cooking Like MacGyver."
2. Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller ($28.41, Amazon.com)
Thomas Keller is the master of restrained excess, on display at his $270 per person food mecca, the French Laundry, in Yountville, CA. He also happens to be equally skilled at the low-brow, slinging perfect fried chicken and mashed potatoes at Ad Hoc right down the street. The Ad Hoc cookbook is as approachable as can be, featuring abundant commentary and an expansive "Basics" section with simple sauces and garnishes so you can create your own mix-and-match meal. Start here, and in no time you'll be working your way up to the French Laundry book.
3. Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart ($17.04, Amazon.com)
Nothing impresses guests, and scares novice cooks, more than freshly baked bread. In this book, Peter designed recipes with the busy home cook in mind, breaking each down into "Do Ahead" and "On Baking Day." Most recipes simply require you to mix, leave to ferment overnight, and bake the next day, fitting perfectly into your work schedule and making the process idiot-proof. (No offense.)
4. Michael's Genuine Food by Michael Schwartz ($23.03, Amazon.com)
The moral of this story? Local ingredients prepared simply and creatively can result in something much more than the sum of its parts. Most Miamians know Michael's food: simple, honest, and comforting. His cookbook takes the same approach, featuring his personal commentary on each dish along with ingredient notes and sourcing tips. And if its Hedy's desserts you crave, the book contains 6 of her classics to tide you over until her own cookbook comes out next year. Consider this you training in the zen of food, grasshopper.
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5. The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco ($23.10, Amazon.com)
To a non-baker, desserts can the hardest skill to acquire. Baking relies on precise measurement; leave out some of the baking powder and you can turn your dessert from cake to brick. Elevating you cooking game requires you to be a well-rounded cook, however, so consider this your final test. Karen DeMasco, alumni of Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio's Craft restaurant empire, demystifies baking in this book. Featuring short-and-sweet recipes, Karen covers all the basics and even offers tips on varying most of her recipes to get the creative juices flowing.