It’s National Cookbook Month!

If you like to eat good food (and really, who doesn’t?) you can never have too many cookbooks.  I personally own so many cookbooks that they have overtaken the kitchen and are spilling into the living room, family room, etc. In fact, I had to start writing cookbooks to support my little cookbook “habit” – purchasing a new cookbook is now “research”! While it’s easy to be seduced by a flashy cookbook cover, how do you know if the cookbook is actually useful? I wrote the following article a few years ago to answer that very question, and it is the most popular article I have ever written. So celebrate National Cookbook Month with a new cookbook! (You can find my cookbooks on our web site or check them out on Amazon).

Choosing a User-Friendly Cookbook: 7 Tips

October is National Cookbook Month, making now the perfect time to add to your collection. But with more than 24,000 new cookbooks published each year, how do you choose one that doesn’t just sit on the shelf gathering dust?

  1. The cookbook works for you. New or busy cooks will be happy with a variety of family-friendly dishes presented in an easy-to-follow format. Look for key works in the title like basic, simple, busy, or quick. Experienced cooks might be looking for more creative recipes, maybe a specialty book on pasta, or Chinese cooking, or vegetarian dishes. Ready to whip up a gourmet meal? Choose a glossy chef-authored book.
  2. Recipes arrangement is logical. Are the recipes in defined sections and arranged according to the main ingredient, (chicken, pasta) or cooking method (grilled, baked, one-pot) or type of dishes (entrees, salads, soups)? A book of 800 consecutive recipes may seem like a great deal, but excitement can quickly turn to frustration when the recipe that piqued your interest the other day is hidden somewhere in the middle of a never ending tome.
  3. Easy-to-follow directions. Most of us prefer easy-to-follow numbered directions written in chronological order. Avoid cookbooks whose directions are in a narrative format or that are continued on a non-facing page. Any interruption makes it too easy to miss an important preparation or cooking step.
  4. Bonus information. Good cookbooks show the preparation time and number of servings for each recipe. Really good cookbooks also give you bonus information; cooking tips, suggestions of what to serve with each dish, definitions of unusual ingredients, recipe history, and/or nutrition information.
  5. The book lays flat. Is there is anything more annoying than trying to follow a recipe when the book keeps slapping shut? A user-friendly cookbook has a plastic comb, wire coil, or lay-flat binding. How can you tell if the binding is lay-flat? Hold the book open with both hands and look at the spine. If the cover is attached to the end pages, but not attached to the spine, the binding is lay flat. Force the pages open by running your hand down the length of the open book. You will not damage the binding.
  6. An extensive index. Cookbook indexes should list recipes both by name and main ingredients. Want to make Florentine rice? You should be able to find it under “F” for Florentine, “R” for rice and  “S” for spinach. A good index makes the cookbook one you’ll use again and again.
  7. Provide inspiration. A cookbook should inspire you to go beyond the written recipe and experiment on your own. Some books do this by suggesting alternative ingredients, others by the shear creativity of the recipes. Cooking is a creative endeavor and the best cookbooks will serve as a jumping off point to your own unique dishes.

Follow these tips and soon you will have a shelf of dust free cookbooks!

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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