Best General Cookbooks

Find our top nine picks for the best general cookbooks published in the United States since 1987.

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Cook with Jamie

5. Cook with Jamie

Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook
By Jamie Oliver, Hyperion, 2007. Hardcover.  $37.50, 448 pages

Really, does any food person transmit the joy of cooking and eating better than Jamie Oliver at his best? He is neither sloppy-silly nor puffed-up and overentangled in professional technique. Despite his successful restaurants, he comes off as a cook’s cook, not a chef. Oliver has suppressed his early laddishness to become the sort of cook we would all like to be: confident, precise in technique, casual in execution, open to shortcuts, and able to summon gestures and language that make you want to enjoy things the way he does. “Just letting it slowly blip away in the oven,” he writes about a stew, “with the sauce becoming more and more intense, is the nicest sort of cooking there is.” Lovely word, “blip.” About a potato salad: “If you ever get the chance to buy fresh horseradish at a farmers’ market you must give it a try—the heat is fantastic and goes right up your nose.”

Cook with Jamie is unabashedly British, and while this book journeys nicely through dishes (and requisite techniques) from appetizers to desserts and is subtitled “My Guide to Making You a Better Cook,” it is not for beginners who can’t figure out that beef shin is beef shank. The deliciously simple design, lovely photography, and recipes that make you smile and want to cook them now, such as “Real quick mussels spaghetti in a white wine and basil oil broth,” make this book stand out.

GIVE THIS TO: An accomplished cook still on the learning curve, wanting to try new things, willing to embrace Oliver’s perky Britishisms. —Scott Mowbray

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