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The New Generation of How-to-Cook Books

Know a newbie cook? Help them master the basics with one of these essential tomes. There’s been a renaissance in recent years of how-to-cook primers, with a modern aesthetic and comprehensive scope. Think of them as this generation’s Joy of Cooking or How to Cook Everything. And though they’re aimed at beginners, seasoned cooks will still find much pleasure paging through them.

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    Small Victories

    Julia Turshen’s recipes, a pleasure to read, come with parenthetical asides that sound like advice from your more culinarily advanced best friend. Her “spin-offs,” a feature of every recipe, offer multiple ways to tweak a dish’s flavor, different ways to use the dish, or how to use the same basic technique with other ingredients. Beyond the straight-up recipes, a chapter called (appropriately) Seven Lists enumerates seven things to do with such ingredients as mussels, pizza dough, and leftover roast chicken, a great reference for home cooks.

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    Salt Fat Acid Heat

    Learning should be fun, right? Samin Nosrat must think so because her book, both informative and intimate, sciencey and slightly silly, makes it so. Here’s her thesis: Understand the four elements in her book’s title, and everything you cook will be delicious. The cooking teacher and former chef hasn't forgotten what it was like be a novice in the kitchen, which makes her tome super-approachable and engaging. Once you’ve read all about how acid works and how to balance salt, it’s on to her recipes, which make up about half of the book’s 462 pages and cover a lot of basics, deliciously.

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    Twelve Recipes

    The cookbook debut from Cal Peternell, chef at Chez Panisse, was inspired by his oldest son leaving for college. In a warm, friendly tone, Peternell aims to instill skills and confidence in the beginner cook, by way of a core repertoire of recipes. Though, as the title suggests, there are a dozen such core recipes, once you factor in the variations and riffs he suggests, it’s more like twelve hundred. The book is as much fun to read as it is to cook from. Four-color photos that look beautiful but also like real life and occasional illustrations, some by his wife and adult sons (all artists), add to the book’s friendly feel.

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    The Food Lab

    In his Food Lab blog, which you can find at Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt tackles all kinds of cooking conundrums-the best way to sear a steak, how to cook salmon so it doesn’t stink up the house, how to best cut an onion-often going against conventional kitchen wisdom in the process. Now he’s amassed his research and recipes in one giant book. Because López-Alt carries out his own experiments (with detailed explanations on how he goes about setting them up), he can tell funny anecdotes along the way, all while imparting the knowledge he’s gleaned from his “lab” (aka his kitchen).

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    Book Review: Food 52 Genius Recipes

    Here’s how Food 52's executive editor Kristen Miglore defines genius recipes: they’re handed down by “cooking luminaries,” make us “rethink cooking tropes,” and get folded into our repertoires to make us feel genius, too. What makes even the well-known recipes fun to read about is the illumination Miglore provides, whether it be about a unique technique— steaming ribs and then finishing them on high heat—or a surprise ingredient, like a little butter in deviled eggs. None of the recipes are overly “chefy,” which makes this book a great choice for beginner cooks, while those who’ve cooked some of these dishes before will still enjoy Miglore’s insights.

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Season 4 Extras

Livorno, Italy (511)

In the port city of Livorno, host Pete Evans is joined in Italy by two chef-authors with US roots: Bryan Voltaggio, who visits from Maryland, and Pamela Sheldon Johns, who…

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