The Ultimate Guide to James Peterson's Cookbooks

September 6, 2012 6:23 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
James Peterson
James Peterson (Photo: Google Image)

When it comes to being a home cook, we can't think of another person alive who's covered the basics with as much meticulous detail as James Peterson, who has won six James Beard awards (crazy!) for his culinary writing. Here's everything you need to know about his best books.

Cooking by James Peterson

Buy this if you're looking for a book that covers basic recipes in detail. It's an excellent first cookbook to buy, especially if you're a cook that's governed by the imagination. Here are all those kitchen staples, from pan-seared chicken to apple pie, for you to riff on in some seriously fun ways.

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Don't buy this if you have a basic cookbook that you like already, or you don't like to work from recipes. Unlike his other books, he doesn't offer you anything too new here that you haven't heard elsewhere.

Fish & Shellfish: The Cook's Indispensable Companion

Buy this if the fish section of your supermarket terrifies you, and question from the fishmonger give you hives. This book will tell you just about everything you need to know about our friends from the deep.

Don't buy this if you already have a working knowledge of fish, and you're just looking for some new recipes. Unlike Cooking, this focuses on technique and insight into fish rather than new ways to prepare them.

Splendid Soups: Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World's Best Soups

Buy this if you want to refine your understanding of flavor profiles. Seriously. I can't think of a food that's so aggressively about how something tastes, rather than its texture and mouthfeel (I don't mean to diminish its importance here, just that it's more subtle), than with soup. It's an indispensable guide to learning about your tongue and getting through the winter.

Don't buy this if you live somewhere hot. Though a lot of the recipes are cold, most are hot. And I don't care how strong you AC is, it's wrong to eat hot soup when it's hot out. It just is.

Meat: A Kitchen Education

Do buy this if you're looking to learn how to be able to prepare any kind of meat you can find from the butcher, just short of alligator and the like. Also, if words like deglaze and fatback throw you off, this'll demystify everything for you.

Don't buy this if you're looking for more than two recipes to cook a specific type of meat, or you're afraid of how hard he makes the work sound.

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making

Do buy this if you're looking to come off like you've been to cooking school for years and years.

Don't buy this if you're doing your thing and you never need to make a single sauce. We don't know how you can get around it, but if you like your food to speak for itself, then naturally this isn't for you.

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