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How to Find a Good Cookbook

A Basic Cookbook is a Valuable Kitchen Resource

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Five Roses Cookbook

Five Roses A Guide to Good Cooking

Photo © Mifflin
Although you can find just about any recipe on the internet, including those from About Cooks, a good cookbook remains a valuable kitchen essential for learning all the basics of cooking and baking. Remember your mother's cookbook that she referred to for decades for anything from making bread to simple supper meals? They're still around and just as practical as they were years ago.

My basic cookbook for years has been this worn Five Roses® A Guide to Good Cooking. It's compact but loaded with basic cooking information and although it has very few pictures, it remains my go-to recipe book for some age-old favorites. It's certainly not the only cookbook I use, but the default when it comes to the basics.
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Your home cookbook collection will most likely include many specialty editions such as grilling, slowcooking, breadmaking, international dishes, desserts and more, but it should also include one basic cookbook that provides general knowledge for even making the simplest of food items, as well as practical and convenience tips or guides.

Since every home can benefit from a basic cooking manual, a basic cookbook makes a great wedding or shower gift. It is also a helpful resource for those just setting up a home.

A Basic Cookbook Might Include:
  • Table of kitchen measures - such as how many teaspoons are in a cup or a tablespoon.
  • Table of food equivalents - valuable when you must use a substitute and still want to achieve good results.
  • Explanation of cooking terms - such as what it is to knead or saute.
  • Oven adjustments to use for high altitude baking.
  • Oven temperature guides - such as what degree range is a moderate oven.
  • General food tips - such as how to make milk sour for certain baking recipes.
  • Recommendations for food storage - such as how to store brown sugar and flour.
  • The basics of making bread and pastry dough.
  • Guides for defrosting foods and freezer storage time recommendations.
  • How to use candy or meat thermometers.
How to Choose a Basic Cookbook:

Besides looking for some of the above items to be included in your basic cookbook, take time to review the general recipe contents to make sure it covers a wide variety of meals, breads, pastry and desserts. What else to check for:
  • That measurements are the standard you are used to, whether imperial or metric. Cookbooks that have both can be confusing. Note that if you order a European or Canadian published cookbook, it might have measurements in metric or both.
  • A good cookbook should have lots of recipe images. Although a recipe may not always turn out looking the same as the picture, you at least have something to aim for or know what it could look like at its best.
  • Instructions or steps can make a recipe successful.
  • A coil or spring bound manual is much easier to keep open while cooking.
  • A hard cover will help retain your basic cookbook's shape and look.
  • Easy-to-read text and instructions.
  • A visual inspection/review before you buy is a good idea to make sure it covers the basics you need.
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More Tips About Cooking & Baking:

Cookware Resources
Bundt Basics
Tips for Pastry Problems
Silicone Bakeware Basics
Canning and Preserving at Home
Caring for Wooden Rolling Pins
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