The Joy of Cooking is my favorite American cookbook. It’s just so versatile. Any dish you can think of probably has a recipe listing in the Joy of Cooking. There’s cocktail recipes too, so if you need to mix an Old Fashioned or a Mint Julep and don’t have a recipe in your head, then JoC is the place to look.
I have had a lot of recipe books, ones I’ve bought for myself and many more I’ve been given as gifts. Some are just beautiful, with wonderful illustrations. It isn’t packed with illustrations, but that’s a plus for me, You get more recipes for your money and whatever your dish looks like when you’ve finished, you can declare it perfect – there’s no professionally produced photograph mocking your attempt.
The Joy of Cooking passes the practical cooking test. Most of the recipe books that I’ve owned ended up at goodwill. I’ve found a little inspiration, but I don’t go back for more, or absurdly complicated recipes with impossible to find ingredients, or recipes that have clearly never been tested in an actual kitchen by actual humans. The recipes in The Joy of Cooking work, and they’re largely affordable, scale-able family friendly.
The Joy of Cooking makes a great jumping off point. There’s plenty of starter recipes for cookies, cakes, soups, quiches and sauces, all of which you can mix up to your own taste. The book gives you a few warnings of what to watch out for and common disasters to avoid, but encourages you to get stuck in and have a go.
If you’re looking for a perfect gift for yourself, someone setting up home, or starting to cook, the Joy of Cooking is a great choice. It’ll still be in day to day use years after the latest celebrity chef books have been remaindered.