I have a confession to make. I’m a big food nerd.
I love cooking. I love eating. I love recipes.
Some guys try to stay as far away from the kitchen as they can. But if you think of cooking as “unmanly,” then I think you’re crazy.
When you make food for someone, you are truly putting yourself in that provider role—which is a position of strength and leadership.
As Steven Raichlen told me, “If you can feed the tribe, you can lead the tribe.”
And if you’ve ever had a chance to prepare a meal for a special lady friend—whether you’re dating, in a relationship, or married—you know just how powerful it can be to know your way around the kitchen.
Beyond that, I personally find cooking to be one of the best stress-relievers, and—without sound cheesy—one of the best healthy lifestyle choices you can make on a regular basis.
In this post, I share 7 cookbooks that I own and love, and that I think every guy should own.
7 Great Cookbooks for Beginners…And Experienced Home Cooks
Watch the video below, or continue reading.
1. How to Cook Everything
What I love is just how simple the recipes are—and how it has such a no-nonsense writing style. The best thing is that Bittman does a great job of showing you basic recipes and techniques, and then showing you how to embellish them.
How to Cook Everything is the book that helped me learn how to roast and carve a chicken. And then learn how to make different variations of sauces and seasonings to make it even better.
It’s also the cookbook that got me hooked on making frittatas, which if you’re not familiar, is sort of like a baked omelet.
Even though a frittata may not sound manly, it’s pretty impressive when you bust one of these puppies out.
It also happens to be a perfect way to get rid of random scraps of food in your fridge. If you have half an onion, a random tomato, some deli meat…Anything you can think of.
Anyway, I could go on about frittatas, but I’m going to stop before it gets weird…
2. The Joy of Cooking
The Joy of Cooking is a great reference book for random recipes like, how to make gravy, or how to make a basic bread pudding. It also gives you tips on things like how to roast a duck, and basic menu planning and entertaining.
It may be a little older, but many of these recipes and techniques are timeless. When I’m trying to learn a new recipe or a new cooking technique, I’ll often look at this book alongside How to Cook Everything. And between the two, I feel like I get a good idea of how to attack the recipe.
3. The Barbecue! Bible
This should probably be required reading for anyone who has a Y chromosome. I say this not because men are naturally good at grilling and barbecue. But because we think we are, and we actually aren’t.
Guys, I have news for you: being a man does not make you good at grilling.
You actually need to learn how to grill. And The Barbecue! Bible is a great place to start.
This book is a great crash course in grilling and barbecue, and it has a ton of recipes—over 500, actually.
Also, this book gives you a true appreciation for the international aspect of grilling. Sometimes here in the US, we almost act like we invented grilling and barbecue. Like the Weber grill was the first grill ever.
But the author, Steven Raichlen, has a deep respect and curiosity for travel and for different cuisines. Not only does this book include a ton of recipes from different cultures, it also includes explanations of different grilling techniques that are used throughout the world.
4. The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue
This book doesn’t have much in the way of fancy pictures—it’s just simple line art illustrations. But one thing I love about Cook’s Illustrated—they have a magazine as well—is that they’re all about objectively testing their recipes.
They like to challenge assumptions about tried-and-true dishes. And they actually run experiments to see how different ingredients, techniques, and tools affect the final product.
For instance, most of us don’t think twice about a basic burger recipe. But in this book, they go into depth about experiments they did making burgers using different cuts of beef.
After spending some time with The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue, you definitely feel like you have a better idea of the “why,” not just the how. It’s not just about executing a recipe. You walk away knowing more about the techniques for making great food and why they work.
5. Man Made Meals
Another great book Steven Raichlen, but this one is a bit different from The Barbecue! Bible. Most guys don’t hesitate to hop up to the grill. But when it comes to cooking in a kitchen, some guys feel a little less comfortable.
With this book, Steven lays out some of the fundamentals of cooking beyond the grill—or what he calls basic “culinary literacy for men.”
What’s refreshing about this book is that, even though the title is Man Made Meals, he doesn’t overplay the “man food” angle. He even says in the book that he’s not going to “tell you how to cook a pot roast on your car engine or poach a whole salmon in your dishwasher.”
At the same time, he does a great job of mixing the fundamentals with a tiny bit of that showmanship that all of us guys love in the kitchen—with unique dishes like “Blow-Torch Oatmeal” or his recipe for a Smoked Bloody Mary.
I also appreciated the section on “flavor boosters”—unique pantry items ranging from anchovies to nutmeg to Yuzu—which you can pull out whenever you need to kick things up in the flavor department.
Honestly, if I was going to write a cookbook, this is the kind of book I would aspire to write.
I had a chance to interview Steven on my podcast recently, and it was a really fascinating conversation. I definitely recommend you check it out.
6. EveryDay Cook
Alton Brown is another one of my culinary heroes. I’ve been enjoying his unique take on food since his show Good Eats came out on the Food Network several years ago.
If you never saw it, it was like some weird cross between Julia Child and Peewee Herman—at times bizarre, but always entertaining and informative.
Like the Cook’s Illustrated team, Alton also does a great job of challenging assumptions about different recipes and techniques. So you always feel like you get a better sense of how and why a recipe works—not just basic instructions on how to make it.
His book I’m Just Here for The Food is also a bonus recommendation. It includes a lot of the science behind cooking techniques and explaining different gear—definitely worth checking out.
But what I like about his new book, Everyday Cook, is that it’s almost like “Alton unplugged.” Totally stripped down and basic. It includes the foods and recipes he actually eats on a daily basis. As he says on the cover, “This time it’s personal.” And that vibe is further reinforced because all the pictures in the book—and there are a lot—were apparently shot on an iPhone.
But you still get that classic Alton sense of humor with quirky recipes like his take on smoked meatloaf, which he calls “Smoky the Meat Loaf” or his recipe for “Breakfast Carbonara.” Haven’t tried that one yet, but it sounds oddly mouthwatering.
7. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
I bought this book about 7 or 8 years ago, and it got me hooked on making fresh bread. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day helps demystify the process of making bread, and the recipes they use don’t require kneading or any complicated techniques. I swear, it is ridiculously easy.
After playing around with bread-making, I realized it reminds of one of the things I liked about making beer. It’s a similar sort of alchemical process in the sense that you are working with yeast, which is this living thing that “wakes up” when you manipulate it.
And let me tell you, if you show up to a gathering with a few loaves of freshly baked bread, you become an instant hero. Mark my words.
If you’re at all interested in cooking, you really can’t go wrong with any of these cookbooks.
Again, they’re all good cookbooks for beginners—since they teach you technique, not just recipes. And they’re easy to follow. Yet they’re also extremely helpful reference books for the more seasoned home chef as well.
What other cookbooks do you think every man should own? Leave your suggestion in the comments below.