The breakdown

This is an explanation of the format that I use in all my reviews. As well as looking at specific criteria, I use a series of scales to give you an idea of what is emphasized by the book and bolster it with some explanation. I also take a look at the author's other books or other media presence and what people have been saying about the book elsewhere on the internet. My overall recommendations are coloured by my personal preferences in food and books, but I try to craft thoughtful and thorough reviews so that others with different personal preferences may find something of value here.


I'm an artist at heart, and nothing will lure me in better than a beautiful book.  A well-designed book takes into account not only well-styled and appetizing photos, but also a seductive cover, good page layouts and a strong visual theme running from the table of contents to the end papers.


A clear table of contents, a well-stocked index and organized chapters or divisions make for an easy to reference book. Recipes themselves should be easy to follow, with potentially confusing steps and techniques clarified.


Recipes need to taste good and turn out well consistently! I almost didn't type out this line because of how stupid and obvious it sounded, but there it is.


Usable books includes things like providing alternatives or sources for harder to find ingredients, being able to lay the book flat for cooking, providing measurements in imperial and metric, appropriate serving sizes and scaling in recipes and reduction of specialized equipment in recipes that don't necessarily need it.


The way a book is accessible to its readers depends on its audience and its philosophy, but all books should invite readers into their pages to learn, enjoy and become inspired.


Essentially, does the book accomplish what it sets out to do? Does it really give you the quickest recipes under 500 calories? Does it show you how to make food that could come out of el Bulli?


At the end of each review, you'll find how the book rates on a couple of scales, giving you an idea of what sort of cookbook this is and if it's something you might be interested in. That way, you have a bit more information than what my overall recommendation and rating may show, as a book that works for me may not work for you!

accessible - inspirational

There are some cookbooks that aren't really meant to see the inside of a kitchen. And that's ok. These are what I like to refer to as inspirational (otherwise known as 'coffee table') books. A lot of these will be books that are more meant to evoke experiences or tell you the story of a particular restaurant or about the author's nostalgia about a certain type of cuisine.

On the other hand, accessible books strive to make themselves indispensable cooking buddies. They invite you to jump in, stoves on and spoons ready.

novice - seasoned

Cooks can encompass a very wide variety of skill levels, but its ok, because-- there's a cookbook for that! I find it helpful to know whether a book is targeting newer cooks, those who are a step away from opening a restaurant themselves or the unruly mass in between.

quick - slow

Some books are all about making food quick, like those targeted towards busy mothers, or those of us who need weeknight meal ideas. At the other end of the spectrum, there are books that are all about spending a day (or three) in the kitchen, crafting culinary masterpieces.

healthy - indulgent

There are a lot of books on the market these days that focus on healthy or clean eating, and there are even more for specific types of diets-- paleo, vegan, etc. There's also some that focus exclusively on comfort food-- those deep, luscious meals that involve lots of delicious, delicious butter (and I guess other stuff).

depth - breadth

Some books offer recipes that are very specific-- books about macarons or risotto for example. Others hope to provide a good variety or overview, such as a book about Indian food or a food magazine's collected recipes published as a book.

classic - revolutionary

There are some books you turn to because they have that perfect recipe for, say, Boeuf Bourgignon (that's you, Julia Child!), or that have good, basic recipes for good, basic food. And then there are those books where you don't know what half the ingredients are or a combination surprises, appeals and kind of disgusts you at the same time. Those books, my friends, are the ones that are asking us to learn about something new.

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