Books That Are Actually Culinary School Courses

Many of us learn to cook in a catch-as-catch-can way, by making recipes we find in cookbooks or online. If you decide to get serious about your kitchen skills, turn to these Chowhound-endorsed resources. They're not recipe collections; they're illustrated guides to proper cooking technique, from cutting vegetables to butchering meat and preparing sauces.

Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques combines two earlier books, La Technique and La Methode. "It is very direct and has a lot of step-by-step illustrations which are rather small, but when you read the accompanying text it is easy to appreciate what is being depicted," says greygarious.

awm922 uses On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. "Each chapter has techniques, information, then a few recipes that utilize the techniques for that chapter," he says. "Nothing fancy, just the facts."

Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food is a great resource, says GardenFresh, who adds that it "doesn't have many of the more complex, fancier (i.e., chefier) techniques, but rather sticks to the basics that home cooks really should have down pat."

James Peterson's Cooking "will teach you how to handle every situation you'll likely encounter in a home kitchen, and many more," says MyNameIsTerry. "It was one of the first cookbooks I ever bought and continues to be one of my most heavily used," says BigE.

When they want to go beyond the hows of cooking, hounds look to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. It's "invaluable in terms of teaching the reasoning for various techniques," says greygarious. Whats_For_Dinner concurs, saying, "When I need to know WHY to do something some particular way, it's always McGee."

Discuss: Best technique cookbook?

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