What Makes A Good Cookbook?

Although there are a few good cookbooks out there with no photography, most people think they are important. A cookbook without photographs is best appreciated by the master cook. Photographs serve two purposes. The first is to catch your eye and draw you in. A cookbook with quality glossy photos beckons you to try something new. That is what we want a cookbook to do for us. The second purpose of photographs in a cookbook is to show the end result, the goal of the chef, what the recipe expects you to be able to create. Most cooks need an accurate visual representation of the final product.

Everyone mentions clear instructions as one of the most important criteria. Instructions must be neither too long nor too short. They must be easily understood the first time read. If unusual cooking terms are used, their should be a glossary. Instructions must be complete enough to allow any cook to reproduce the results of the recipe author.

People are divided on how much personality a cookbook should have. Some think of their cookbooks like old friends, and they want friends with personality that shines throughout. These people want to get to know the author somewhat and find something to which they can personally relate. They want the cookbook to be engaging, with a unique reading style. They want to get lost in the pages to surface with a mouth-watering recipe chosen for the next meal, and they want to have enjoyed the journey.

Others view cookbooks as merely instruction manuals and prefer the author’s personality not come into play. They want the recipes, the whole recipes, and nothing but the recipes. They don’t like variations suggested for them, as they prefer to discover their own. These are the same people who do not care for too many photographs.

People are divided as to the importance of a theme. Some prefer the cookbook contain recipes for only one type of regional cuisine, while others want their cookbooks focused only on recipes that work regardless of area of origin. A few like cookbooks based on a favorite cooking tool, such as a crock pot or a food processor. Some are happy with just a collection of recipes not joined together in any type of unifying theme, as long as the recipes work.

Everyone wants a cookbook full of tested recipes that work. Well, naturally.

As far as favorite methods for choosing a cookbook, each person has their preferred method for choosing a cookbook to buy. If the person needs a cookbook that resembles a novel, then the photographs and writing style are of utmost importance. These people expect an interesting table of contents with witty chapter titles, a hefty author biography, and more side comments than actual recipe space.

For the people who see cookbooks as instruction manuals, there is a pragmatic approach to their cookbook choosing method. First, the index must be at least five times longer than the table of contents. Secondly, there must be more recipes and instructions than author biography or side notes. Thirdly, the cookbook must pass their personal recipe test. If you have a favorite chicken recipe, for example, then you will look for that recipe or a similar one and judge the cookbook on that recipe. Are the ingredients at least as interesting as your own recipe? Does the cookbook have a unique ingredient that would enhance the recipe? Does it appear that the author really knows the recipe and can be trusted to offer quality recipes? These questions must all be answered in the affirmative before the pragmatist will purchase the cookbook.

Which type of cookbook reader are you, novel or instruction manual?

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About The Author, Barbara Gardner
The author is webmaster of Book Brigade, where you can buy discount cookbooks online.