Basic Learn to Cook Cookbook You Would Recommend

Updated on January 10, 2019
M.G. asks from Portland, ME
15 answers

Does anyone know/recommend a good basic learn to cook cookbook?

I can make a few dishes, but am not a good cook. I tried pinterest but got bogged down in pins and not my thing. Youtube, not my thing.

I have a BetterHomesAndGardens cookbook I was given from the 80's but so outdated ...

We're talking basics.

I don't enjoy cooking. I can bake. Just not cook.


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So What Happened?

You guys are the best!!!

I absolutely love your suggestions.

I am intimidated - from techniques, to timing, to recipes ... to even knowing what kind of pan to use. I love the suggestions. Thank you for getting what I was getting at :)

Will check out the books and shows too. Excellent!

We have the best members!

I do have help at home with cooking (I think otherwise they'd starve).

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answers from Denver on

I highly recommend Mark Bittman's books, especially "How to Cook Everything: The Basics". The layout is clear and the instructions are clear, also.

Some books call themselves "basic cookbooks" and then the table of contents lists things like French souffles and exotic fishes and ingredients that you certainly won't find at Walmart or the local grocery store.

Not Mr. Bittman. He talks about simple salads, salad dressings like a basic vinaigrette (with some options), how to make a meat loaf, how to cook a chicken breast, how to make spaghetti sauce, how to cook vegetables, etc. Although his recipes are basic, they aren't cheat recipes (throw a can of cream of something in, dump a packet of salad dressing mix in, etc). He teaches how to make real food.

I am a good cook and I don't use recipes very much. However, my young adult daughter is not at all comfortable cooking, and on the occasions when she makes something, she wants a simple straightforward recipe to follow, and she relies on Mark Bittman's book. She follows his recipe for pancake batter when she wants a pancake. The book doesn't frustrate her, nor does it "dumb down" anything.

8 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

My most basic one is a Betty Crocker, red/white plaid type binder that is very basic.

I do enjoy They have step by step and you can modify the servings which I have to do cooking for just me.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is often updated. I see the most recent one was released in September of last year and is on Amazon for only $16, so that's a good place to start.
All Recipes is also a good site, and America's Test Kitchen (the show, website and periodic magazine) is a very thorough and informative way to learn. As is watching shows on Food Network and Cooking Channel. My personal favorites are The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) and Pioneer Woman (Ree Drumond.) Po & Co on Netflix is great too.
Honestly cooking well comes with time and experience and a lot of mistakes and adjustments along the way. It takes patience and creativity, and a genuine interest. Hopefully you will learn to enjoy it at some point!
ETA: some community centers offer coking classes, ours offers holiday baking and some specialty classes, like Greek or Thai cooking. The community college's culinary department offers cooking classes as well.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

My mother and grandmother were The Settlement Cookbook people, and I still refer to it sometimes. I mostly had to teach myself to cook, however, because I stopped eating meat in college and my mother's cooking style was pretty meat-centered. So I want to reassure you that you CAN learn how to cook in a different style as an adult. For me, the key has been learning which ingredients I needed to stock in the house so I was ready to make something with minimum runs to the store. As Diane B suggested, frozen vegetables can be your best friend; canned diced tomatoes with no added salt are up there too for me. You also can buy containers of chopped onions, peppers, and other commonly-used vegetables in the produce section, if you want to focus first on learning how to prepare foods and only worry about chopping skills later. Perhaps you would enjoy cooking with friends? If you have some nice people who make food you enjoy eating, you might benefit from a couple weekend afternoons with them?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I have a cookbook that I used so much it fell apart and I had to buy another copy, Its called 'the culinary arts institute encyclopedic cookbook' and it has everything you need. There's basics on the temps and how long to cook different meats (I use that part all the time) and has a ton of different things to make for every occasion. I have several shelves of cookbooks but that's the one I grab 9 times out of 10.

Edited to add that the book is from the 40's but the basics are still the same. The sides, soups, stews, etc are excellent

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Cooking for Dummies
Cooking with Children also is good. Even though it's written for children, it has simple recipes for real food, not just cupcakes and cookies.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

When I met my now-husband, he had 2 kids, so suddenly I was thrust into the "weekend cooking but make it kid-friendly" world.

I started with a basic "cooking for 1 or 2" cookbook for college kids - and doubled everything. Most were 5 ingredients or less and didn't require a lot of fancy equipment.

Now there are "5 ingredients or less" books with pictures, and 30 minute meals. Try Rachael Ray to start. You can also look at Jessica Seinfeld's 2 books on healthy food for kids - also simple to do. If I were you, I'd go to the library and look for a few of those, borrow them, and try a few things before committing to purchasing a cookbook. Get one of those book racks at your local bookstore so you can prop the book up - and start with one with a lot of photos. Don't be embarrassed to look for a book that defines terms and explains what different methods are used for.

I agree that All Recipes and all those sites have great recipes - but it's hard to search for things and then prop the computer up in the kitchen (LOL) or print out a bunch of things you don't even know if you like yet. Once you get this down to a science, you can start a binder or recipes you either printed out or pulled out of a magazine.

Decide what equipment you want to use too. If you're cooking for a big family and you're at work all day, you'll look at a crockpot and casserole dishes, if people like those things (soups, stews, casseroles). If you want chicken & rice & a veggie (3 separate foods rather than a stew), you want a baking sheet, sauce pan and a smaller pan with a veggie steamer. So before you invest in a lot of equipment, start with what you have.

Remember also that a lot of vegetables are available in the frozen section - you don't have to start with a lot of chopping and peeling if you don't feel confident. They don't work for everything, but they do for many. And they are much, much better than canned vegetables and often have more nutrients than fresh foods that have sat in the store or in a warehouse for a while.

If you can bake, you might look at things like quiches and frittatas, which are basically mixing ingredients, pouring them into a pie pan, and putting them in the oven. You might also look at the local Y or community center to see if they have mini-courses.

Look for tutorials on youtube also - watching someone do it makes all the difference. And you can stop the video while you duplicate the first steps, then start it up again.

Good hints are to get all your ingredients ready and even measured out into little bowls or whatever, before you start. Look at the item that takes the longest, and start with that. While it's cooking/roasting, do the next thing. For example, I start the brown rice which takes 45 minutes, then start frying up a little hamburger meat or chicken strips, then making enchiladas with tortillas, drained canned beans, some frozen peas or corn (don't even defrost them - the oven will), some diced green peppers, and some grated cheese. That takes 20-25 minutes, and the finished enchiladas go in the oven to finish at the exact same time as the rice. Do that for everything else you make.

Feel free to message me with preferences for what you think people like and what your cooking schedule is (make ahead, whip up after work, etc.) and any allergies. I'll send you a few things you can try.

Good for you for trying to master a new skill! I did!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Honestly, I use the internet. Just type in what you want in Google & pick the
easiest recipe. Lifesaver. is pretty good.

Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals!

Watch the cooking shows then google the recipe if you can't remember how they made it!

Betty Crocker (red & white checked cover) is great to have around the house
for old classics.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

All has every recipe you will ever need - from basic to complicated and everything in between and it won't take up space on a book shelf.
Just search for something that you feel like eating - like pick a vegetable - and pick a recipe that looks good to you.
The site lets you save recipes that you like so you can find them easily and make them again.

Many soups, stews and chilis are easy and can be made in a crock pot.
Many salads, casseroles, and sandwiches are also easy.
Look for recipes that don't have a long list of ingredients - it's a good place to start.

Cooking is such a wide topic.
Are you looking for recipes to please yourself or are you cooking for other family members?
If you don't enjoy it, perhaps other family members should step up and take on more of the cooking in your home.
I've known some people who just don't cook - they do take out and/or delivery and it works for them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I have the Betty Crocker one also (red and white plaid cover). It really does have all the basics. Besides that, this might sound silly but I have a kids' cookbook. I got it when I was a kid and I still use it! The recipes are fast, easy, with simple ingredients and written in a way that doesn't assume a ton of prior knowledge of cooking skills.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Bittman's "How to Cook Everything"

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I, also, recommend Betty Crocker's basic cookbook. It has information about tools, ingredients and methods as well as easy to follow recipes.

Find the basic hardcover book. It may be available in soft cover now. Know that Betty Crocker also has individual books for specific recipes such as one for vegetables or meats, desserts. You want the original book that includes basic information and recipes.

I've seen the basic book in loose leaf form that has 3 rings as in a notebook. You can take pages out to use pages separate from the whole book. I found this awkward with difficulty getting pages back into book, still clean and unwrinkled.

I have found the basic book in resale stores such as Powell's in Portland, Oregon. I think they have an online site in which you can order used books. I'm sure other sites, such as Barnes and Noble also have this book. I buy many of my books from Amazon site.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I love my Betty Crocker Cookbook - yeah - it's older - but it's still good!! - this is an on-line site for you to look up meals.

this one might work for you

I love to cook - I would NOT consider myself a "CHEF" but I can definitely cook some good stuff! Send me a message - I'll be more than happy to help!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Fannie Farmer makes several editions of a classic cookbook also.



answers from Boston on

I just got the Whole30 book and it surprised me by being not only chock-full of really good recipes, but there is also an entire section on how to cook the basics. I'm an experienced cook, but I found this section to be really informative and helpful too. The thinking is that a lot of people coming to the Whole30 diet might be eating a lot of processed, pre-packaged or take-out foods and might not be comfortable in the kitchen, so it removes that barrier by getting to the basics of food prep and cooking techniques. In addition, the recipes are super-healthy and are really, really yummy.

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