A Gift-Buying Guide: The Best Books for Food Nerds
Shopping for a loved one who happens to be a food nerd? If so, I have some fantastic recommendations on the best books for food nerds! The following food nerd-friendly books are perfect for the inquisitive cook. And for those who have been diligently working on improving their kitchen game as a way to remain preoccupied (read:sane) during quarantine kitchen.
Below you’ll find a list of 5 of the best books for food nerds (IMHO). Why take my recommendation? Because I’m a self-professed food nerd who happens to own and love each of these tomes!
These reads go beyond your average cookbook in that they:
- Explain the science behind good cooking
- Provide tried and true genius cooking tips
- Examine food history
- Explore flavors and taste elements
- And so much more!
And yes, most of these books DO also provide recipes!
While the holidays may look different this year, gifting one of these books to the food nerd in your life is a thoughtful way to let him or her know you are thinking about them. And ordering online and shipping directly to your recipient is a safe way to ensure your gift is received safely.
All links are affiliate, for which I will get a small commission if you purchase. Monies earned will likely be used to add to my collection of food nerd-y books.
The Science of Good Cooking – Cook’s Illustrated
The Science of Good Cooking has long been a favorite of mine. Every recipe is introduced with a brief explanation of why the recipe works. The science is so gosh darn interesting! Whenever I close this book, the words “The more you know!” accompanied by a brilliant rainbow flashes through my mind. The content is interesting, easy to understand, and educational. And the recipes are always on point because they have been rigorously tested by the Cook’s Illustrated crew. How do I get that job? Like for real-real?
This book got me geeked out about making my own vinaigrettes and damn are they good.
Perfect for: the avid home cook interested in learning basic food science, but who isn’t interested in becoming a chemistry major
Recipes included? yes!
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat – Samin Nosrat
Balancing these four elements of good cooking – salt, fat, acid, heat – is key to great cuisine. Until coming across this book I never approached cooking with these elements in mind, but I have to say it makes a huge difference! Samin explains each taste element in detail, how to balance them effectively, and provides easy to follow recipes guaranteed to improve your cooking game. I also highly recommend watching the Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat series on Netflix.
A long-time lover and proponent of salt, the section on salt left me feeling smug. I have been forever saying that salt is the most important ingredient – it amplifies flavor. Otherwise why add it to cookies? Salt on!
Perfect for: those looking to achieve the perfectly balanced bite
Recipes included? yes!
The Food Lab – Kenji Lopez-Alt
I’ve long been a fan of culinary nerd Kenj Lopez’s Food Lab on Serious Eats. He thoroughly tests recipes and goes the extra mile to explain how to get the best results for everything from fried chicken to homemade mac ‘n cheese. He explains food science concepts with humor and personal anecdotes that makes his writing engaging and entertaining. This huge testament to years of food experimentation has been heralded as the modern Joy of Cooking. Seriously, this is a huge book, which is perfect for dedicating some of that spare time to.
The section on eggs was a game-changer. I love eggs but they are notoriously easy to f@^$ up. I still f@^$ them up from time to time, but at least now I’m woke.
Perfect for: those looking to learn more about food science and cooking in a fun, approachable way
Recipes included? yes!
The Flavor Bible – Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg
I would describe The Flavor Bible as a Thesaurus for food. It’s a handy reference guide where you look up a food and it provides a comprehensive list of other foods (including herbs and spices) that complement that food. This is perfect for those who want to expand their repertoire and enjoy creating or tweaking recipes. I use this book all the time when I’m creating recipes. Thoughts on flavor affinities and restaurant dishes are shared throughout the book from the many talented chefs who contributed to the book.
Perfect for: the creative home cook, recipe innovators, those who obsessively watch Chopped on FoodNetwork
Recipes included? no, but if you’re the creative type like me, you’ll be inspired to create your own recipes and emboldened to try new flavor profiles
On Food and Cooking – Harold McGee
If The Flavor Bible is like a Thesaurus, On Food and Cooking is like an Encyclopedia. On Food and Cooking is a classic, a MUST for a true food nerd. It’s a comprehensive read that delves into where foods come from, what they are made of, and how cooking transforms them. I cracked this bad boy open last night. My husband, curious what I was reading had a look and exclaimed “Custard Theory and Practice!? Oh my God you f@^$ing nerd!” (said lovingly of course 🙂 ). And that’s how I knew it had to be on this list.
Admittedly the prose can be a bit dry, but in a world where articles are often crafted exclusively from Twitter posts it’s kind of refreshing.
Perfect for: those looking to brush up on their food and cooking knowledge, you food scholar you
Recipes included? no, it focuses on cooking techniques and guidelines
What reads fall on your best books for food nerds that aren’t mentioned here? Please share them in the comments below :).