The 25 Best Cookbooks from 2012

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The 25 Best Cookbooks from 2012
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The 25 Best Cookbooks from 2012

Check out some of the best cookbooks published this year to create a comprehensive list of the ones that you should consider for your home collection.

#25 - ‘Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats’

Just because you have a food allergy doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the holiday’s right – with desserts. This new baking book by baking expert Jeanne Sauvage makes it easy for everyone to enjoy classic holiday treats with 60 recipes that range from party snacks and dinner rolls to classic holiday cookie recipes. We chose this book to be a part of our list because of its timely publication right before baking season. Beautiful photos and clearly laid out recipes made it an easy pick for our top 25. (Chronicle Books)

Originality: 1

Design: 3

Recipe: 3

Credit: Jane Bruce


#24 - 'Flavors Exposed'

OK, so we know it’s just another cookbook from another well-known and celebrated TV chef, but Angelo Sosa’s Flavors Exposed sets itself apart from the rest with a very clear focus behind the often played-out Latin-, Southeast Asian-, and Indian-inspired recipes: the flavor trinity. In each recipe (which are incredibly easy to follow and accessible), Sosa explains the reasoning behind each of the flavors so that you learn about more than just a new dish; you understand how the flavors work together so that you can apply this to other dishes you create. (Kyle Books)

Originality: 3

Design: 2

Recipes: 2

Credit: William Brinsim


#23 - 'Slow Fire: The Beginner's Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue'

Slow Fire is a beginner's guide to everything barbecue, broken down and illustrated by the king himself, Ray Lampe, otherwise known as "Dr. BBQ." It doesn’t set itself apart from the many other cookbooks we’ve seen, and we weren’t crazy about the design, but the unique and well-thought-out recipes found in the book earned it a score high enough to just make our list. (Chronicle Books)

Originality: 1

Design: 4

Recipes: 4

Click here to see our review of Slow Fire

Credit: Leigh Beisch


#22 - 'Roots'

We loved this book initially because it was such a beautiful and thoughtful presentation of a topic in cooking that can sometimes be a bit of a yawn: root vegetables. In it, author Diane Morgan, clearly defines all there is to know about root vegetables in a way that will intrigue you and have you itching to get into the kitchen. Each recipe shows a new and creative way to look at the vegetables, and the beautiful photography is nothing short of inspiring. Despite its bulkiness, the book gives you easy-to-follow recipes that are dictated by clear and numbered steps, and we especially loved the informative headnotes that went along with each one. (Chronicle Books)

Originality: 3

Design: 2

Recipes: 4

Credit: Jane Bruce


#21 - 'Morocco'

Moroccan food is filled with all kinds of mysterious and exotic twists that often make it difficult to master for new home cooks. In his book Morocco, Jeff Koehler de-mystifies the cuisine by explaining the true science behind the many different components of the fascinating food. While it’s not the first Moroccan cookbook we’ve seen, his beautiful photographs and simplified recipes make it a top pick on our list this year. (Chronicle Books)

Originality: 2

Design: 4

Recipes: 4

Credit: Jeff Koehler


#20 - 'SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine'


If you love Italian food and you’ve been to San Francisco, you’re most likely familiar with the award-winning restaurants A16 and SPQR. This cookbook is from co-owner of both operations Shelley Lindgren and her executive chef of SPQR Matthew Accarrino and author Kate Leahy. The book celebrates regional Italian food and the wine that goes along with it through beautiful and mouthwatering photographs and well-written recipes. We love how each one represents a true and authentic side of Italy, but we wish they were a little bit more approachable for the home cook. Regardless, if you’re a fan of the restaurants or just authentic Italian food in general, the book makes a perfect addition to your collection because of its stunning presentation and its buzzy appeal. (Ten Speed Press)

Originality: 4

Design: 4

Recipes: 2

Credit: Shelley Lindgren


#19 - 'Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day' — Rodale Books

We often see cookbooks that try to educate us on the important of grains and explain why we should be eating them, but Grain Mains, by celebrated food writers Bruce Weinstein and Marc Scarbrough takes it to a whole new level by putting grains in the spotlight. Rather than lecturing us on why we should be eating grains, they demonstrate how to eat grains so that they’re not only healthy for us but delicious, too. More than 100 recipes will educate you on all of the grains there are to enjoy beyond rice and quinoa, and they’ll also show you new and easy techniques for infusing even more flavor into the basic ones you already know well. The recipes often are too wordy, but the beautiful photography and original concept behind them earned this book enough points to make our top 25. (Rodale Books)

Originality: 4

Design: 4

Recipes: 2

Credit: Tina Rupp


#18 - 'Modern Sauces: More Than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day'


In our opinion, sauces are the one thing missing from every home cook’s repertoire, which is why we love this cookbook by Martha Holmberg that provides more than 150 recipes for whipping up any dressing that one’s heart desires. The book covers all of the essentials, from vinaigrettes to tomato sauces, and everything in between. The well-written recipes cover every scope of sauce, but unfortunately are not accompanied by enough pictures, which cost it some points in the design department. (Chronicle Books)

Originality: 2

Design: 3

Recipes: 5

Credit: Jane Bruce


#17 'The Country Cooking of Greece'

This beautiful cookbook was written by renowned culinary authoritarian Diane Kochilas, known for her devotion to promoting healthy and delicious styles of Greek cooking. Kochilas captures every corner of Greece through more than 250 recipes and 150 beautiful photographs. The book lost some points in originality and design (we’d love a more practical size for a cookbook that we plan on using so much), but her recipes are so well-written and perfectly thought out that we awarded the book a perfect score in that department. (Chronicle Books)

Originality: 3

Design: 3

Recipes: 5

Credit: Jane Bruce


#16 - 'Japanese Farm Food'

When Nancy Singleton Hachisu set out to write a cookbook, she wanted to show a side of Japanese cooking that many are not familiar with: countryside cooking. Hachisu illustrates a unique farm-to-table concept of Japanese cooking, which makes it one of the more original Japanese cookbooks we’ve seen. The book's 135 recipes make authentic Japanese cooking approachable for anyone, although some require ingredients that may not be readily available at your local supermarket. While the photos were beautiful, we would’ve liked to have seen more of the food and less of the Japanese countryside. (Andrews McNeel Publishing)

Orignality: 5

Design: 3

Recipes: 3

Credit: Kenji Miura


#15 - 'Nick Malgieri’s Bread'

Baking doesn’t have to be such an elaborate process, and in Nick Malgieri’s new cookbook Bread, readers areprovided with beginner tips and instructions that will help first-timers nail the process and seasoned bakers improve. The book contains more than 60 basic baking recipes, along with delicious additional ones that will put all that kneading to good work. While it’s not the first baking cookbook we’ve ever seen, we love how Malgieri applied his recipes to actual dishes that you could make as a meal. (Kyle Books)

Originality: 4

Design: 4

Recipes: 3

Credit: Jane Bruce


#14 - 'The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook'

Are you ever overwhelmed by the amount of recipes that are available to you? Deb Perelman was, and so when she began writing her blog The Smitten Kitchen, she searched for recipes that were not only easy and reliable, but ones that were convenient for the home cook (especially the ones who cooked out of a tiny apartment like hers in Manhattan). Several awards later, Perelman has put her work into print with her first-ever, long-awaited cookbook The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The book features 150 approachable recipes, all beautifully illustrated by Perelman’s talented photography. (Knopf)

Originality: 3

Design: 4

Recipes: 2

Credit: Deb Perelman


#13 - 'Modernist Cuisine at Home'

Nathan Myhrvold and The Modernist Cuisine team are known for revolutionizing the culinary industry by defining superior and advanced cooking techniques in their six-volume set of cookbooks Modernist Cuisine, and they’re now making a move toward the home kitchen with their newly released cookbook Modernist Cuisine at Home. The book includes basic and advanced recipes with beautiful illustrations that will help home cooks familiarize themselves with the most modern of cooking practices. The book lost a few points because while beautiful, the photographs don’t exactly elicit hunger, and the recipes are a bit daunting for the most novice home cooks. That being said, if you’re looking to stretch your culinary legs and read a whole new take on learning how to cook, Modernist Cuisine at Home is a good pick. (The Cooking Lab)

Originality: 5

Design: 3

Recipes: 3

Credit: Melissa Lehuta


#12 - 'Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust'

So many people love Ina Garten’s recipes because they’re simple to make yet have that sophisticated quality, resulting in dishes that demonstrate both grace and class. In her eighth cookbook, Garten goes beyond the usual reliability of her work and presents recipes that are "foolproof," ones with helpful tips and instructions that will help people put together a seamless meal successfully. (Clarkson Potter)

Originality: 2

Design: 5

Recipes: 4

Credit: Ina Garten


#11 - 'Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants'

Co-authors Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy wanted to illustrate their experience in professional kitchens with an entirely new concept for a cookbook, and when they brainstormed ideas, their minds kept going back to the staff meals served at the restaurants they worked at. Their first-ever cookbook focuses on those family meals that only a culinary professional would be familiar with, spanning the globe and featuring award-winning chefs' recipes that were created not for the customers, but for the staff. The bulky presentation and limited photographs knocked off a few points from design, and it lost points in recipes because some of them were not simplified enough for the home cook, but overall the book was intriguing and informative. (Running Press)

Originality: 5

Design: 3

Recipes: 3

Credit: Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy



#10 - 'Dirt Candy: A Cookbook'

For those of you who live in the New York City area, you’ll recognize the name of this cookbook because it’s the name of a popular and award-winning restaurant that specializes in just what the title suggests: food that grows from the dirt (aka vegetarian food). The first-ever cookbook from chef Amanda Cohen, the book is one of a kind for its completely new comic-book style, which earned it a perfect score in originality. While the comic book concept was intriguing, sometimes we got a hankering to see a picture of the real dish, and while the recipes illustrated vegetarian food beautifully, they required a lot of back and forth between them (i.e. many recipes required other recipes in the book to make them). (Clarkson Potter)

Originality: 5

Design: 4

Recipes: 3

Credit: Amanda Cohen


#9 - 'Canal House Cooks Every Day'

Award-winning authors Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton have long been praised for their culinary work that is compiled into their self-published Canal House cookbook series, and their latest work is a continuation of their talent. Inspired by their daily blog, the beautiful cookbook includes nearly 250 seasonal recipes that are beautifully illustrated with mouthwatering photographs. While gorgeous, we weren’t thrilled by the design because of its cloth cover, one we deemed impractical for the amount of use it’ll get in the kitchen. Beyond that, though, the recipes are nothing short of perfect, with detailed and informative headnotes that lead into clear and concise instructions. (Andrews McNeel Publishing)

Originality: 3

Design: 4

Recipes: 5

Credit: Jane Bruce


#8 - 'Great Meat Cookbook'

No one can doubt renowned chef Bruce Aidells' skills in the butchery department, which is why his Great Meat Cookbook, released this past fall, was a must on our list. The book goes into detail about each and every type of meat there is to buy and matches them with delicious and authentic recipes from Aidells himself. While not his first (and not the first book that’s all about meats), the book still kept some points for originality because Aidells focuses on a popular trend we see more and more these days, differentiating between "certified organic" and "humanely raised." Hundreds and hundreds of recipes neatly laid out with concise headnotes and clear instructions earn it a perfect score for recipes, while the bulkiness of the book cost it a point in the design department. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Originality: 3

Design: 4

Recipes: 5

Credit: Jane Bruce


#7 - 'Food & Wine: Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes'

As we didn’t release a best 25 cookbooks list last year, we’re letting Food & Wine do the work for us by selecting their Best of the Best cookbook to be in our top 25. The book, which is hand-edited by Dana Cowin, compiles recipes from their selection of the 25 best cookbooks from 2011. Seeing as it’s not exactly a novel idea (the book is their 15th volume), we knocked a point off for originality, but otherwise the idea is as good as it gets. We can’t get enough of Food & Wine’s photography, which is why we wish we saw more of it illustrating the recipes in the book, but their trusty recipe writing and presentation came through to earn them a perfect score in that category. (American Express Publishing)

Originality: 4

Design: 3

Recipe: 5

Credit: Jane Bruce



#6 - 'The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love'

Anyone who knows their barbecue will be thrilled to know that the legendary barbecue spot The Salt Lick from Driftwood, Texas, is releasing their first-ever cookbook next month. Because The Daily Meal was able to get a sneak preview, we can tell you to expect a mouthwatering, beautifully designed cookbook filled with favorites from their menu, as well as traditional family recipes from owner Scott Roberts. We deducted one point from the recipes category because some called for ingredients not readily available to cooks across the country, and it received a few points off on originality because a barbecue restaurant’s cookbook is not an entirely new idea. (Salt Lick Restaurant)

Originality: 3

Design: 5

Recipes: 4

Credit: Scott Roberts


#5 - 'The Homemade Pantry'

We’ve always been fans of making things at home, which is why this cookbook climbed to the top of our lists when gathering the best of the best. The book, which contains 101 recipes for creating staple pantry items, is author Alana Chernila’s debut piece of work, and speaks to the budget-conscious, do-it-yourself cook. We deducted a couple of points for design and recipes because we would’ve liked to see less scenic shots and more of the food, and the recipe headnotes were a bit heavy. Beyond that, the concept of the recipes and the book as a whole earned it a perfect score in originality. (Clarkson Potter)

Originality: 5

Design: 3

Recipes: 4

Credit: Alana Chernila


#4 - 'Bouchon Bakery'

Who better to publish a collection of baking recipes than Thomas Keller of the famed Bouchon Bakery? Created with his executive pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, the cookbook offers American and French recipes that range from new and creative to traditional and hallmark. Its beautiful photographs, neat print, and layout gave it a perfect score for design, and while it’s not the first time we’ve seen such a concept, we graded the book with a near perfect score for originality because it represents both old and new baking methods. Recipes lost a point for the ingredients reading from right to left (how American of us), but otherwise they were straightforward and infused with professional anecdotes throughout that will help any home cook master the art of baking. (Artisan Publishers)

Originality: 4

Design: 4

Recipes: 4

Credit: Sebastien Rouxel


#3 - 'Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen'

Co-authors Annette Ramke and Kendall Scott used their diet to take control when they were diagnosed with cancer, and they tell their story in their first-ever cookbook, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen: The Girlfriend's Cookbook and Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer. In the book they explain how they used nutrition to fight the disease through guides, personal stories, and more than 100 recipes that will help you kick cancer. They scored perfectly in the originality and recipe categories for their concept because not only do the recipes include ingredients that are great for fighting cancer (which they go into detail about), but they’re paired with other helpful guides and tips that will help anyone who’s battling cancer before, during, and after their treatments. We subtracted one point from design because their book was a little word-heavy for a standard cookbook. (Running Press Publishers)

Originality: 5

Design: 4

Recipes: 5

Credit: Frances J. Soo Ping Chow


#2 - 'The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2: Seasonal Recipes From Our Kitchen to Yours'

When award-winning food writers Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs started their blog Food52 in order to create the first-ever crowd-sourced cookbook, they couldn’t have anticipated the amount of feedback they would receive. Now, two years later, they've just published their second collection of recipes submitted from their devoted and loving base of fans. This volume is smaller and more succinct (with 75 recipes instead of 140), but still carries with it a unique concept and outstanding recipes that earned it a perfect score in both originality and recipes. That one point we took off for design? We’d like to see even more of the beautiful pictures illustrating the recipes. (HarperCollins)

Originality: 5

Design: 4

Recipes: 5

Credit: Jane Bruce



#1 - 'Secrets of the Best Chefs'

What would you do if you were able to join every one of your favorite chefs in the kitchen and cook with them? Adam Roberts, of the blog The Amateur Gourmet, wrote a cookbook after he did just that, and in it he shares his interactions with chefs such as Alice Waters and Sara Moulton through a collection of 150 recipes adapted from the chefs. We would’ve liked to have seen a few more photos in the book, but other than that, the book received an almost perfect score. (Artisan Publishing)

Originality: 5

Design: 4

Recipes: 5

Credit: Adam Roberts


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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.

Click here to see the 25 Best Cookbooks of 2012

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.

Check out the slideshow above to find the top 25 cookbooks!

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