How to Judge a Cookbook? Use It!!

Two cookbook classics...Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.
Two cookbook classics…Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.

Cookbook reviews can be a funny thing. Even if you aren’t a professional food writer, how do you judge a cookbook? By the cover? By the photos? Or, by the recipe?

I have lots of cookbooks in my collection. Many are new. Others are tried and true favorites that were published thirty years ago. Without a doubt, I think the best way to judge a cookbook is to COOK from it firsthand. This was my philosophy when I was charged with the task of writing a cookbook review for The Wall Street Journal many years ago. When I started the process, it was a no brainer that I would have to get the books and then cook from them in order to judge them. No one told me this, I just knew it intuitively.

This seemingly sensible approach has guided me ever since. Let’s be realistic, here. How can someone judge a cookbook simply by flipping the pages and spouting their opinions? I suppose they can, but does that review provide a real public service to trusting cooks? I don’t think so.

So, like I said, how do you judge a cookbook? By the photos? The writing? The fancy byline? Or by the success of the recipe??

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