Race relations, religion, the New South versus the Old: These are just a smattering of the heavy issues Rien Fertel writes about through the lens of—well—smoked meat, in this new book. And, while you might be thinking, "Oh, man, another book about barbecue?", this one stands out from the crowd thanks to Fertel's superb writing and storytelling skills. In a book that's part culinary history, part personal narrative, and part tale of an American road trip, Fertel travels throughout the South, documenting the men who have long stood behind the fires practicing the time-consuming pursuit of whole hog barbecue—the ones who have been keeping alive the embers of what once seemed like a dying art, and the ones who are inspiring a new generation of pitmasters today.
A good wooden spoon is a must for any kitchen. This one, from Le Creuset, is top notch. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.
A good steak knife should cut steak well, and it should look good while doing it. French-made Laguiole knives are the gold standard in performance, with extra-sharp edges for easy cutting, a long life, and gorgeous handles. (Beware inexpensive knockoffs!)
We like to keep this solid slab of steel permanently atop one of the burners of our stove. One side has a pebbled surface—ideal for getting extra-crisp, better-than-a-baking-stone crust on homemade pizzas. And, unlike a baking stone, this thing is going to last forever. The griddle arrives as shiny steel, but with just a few uses, it seasons up into a dark, slick nonstick surface that can be used for everything from pancakes to eggs to hamburgers to grilled cheese.
We tested dozens of stovetop pressure cookers before settling on Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic. It has a heavy sandwiched-aluminum-and-steel base that gives you even heat, and a pressure gauge that makes telling exactly how much pressure has built up inside visual and intuitive.
Backyard-pizza enthusiasts who enjoy working with live fire, including all the joys and headaches involved, will be rewarded with truly wood-fired Neapolitan pizza.
Fuchsia is a scholar of the highest order, and her recipes are packed with interesting cultural and historical lessons and observations. She's also a technician, which means that you're going to be getting a lesson in the 23 distinct flavors of Sichuan cuisine (no, it's not all ma and la), as well as the 56 (56!) different cooking methods employed by Sichuan chefs. On top of that, her recipes truly work.
The slope-sided skillet, like this one from All-Clad, is a chef's best friend and one of the most versatile pans in the kitchen, whether you're sautéing vegetables, searing meat, or cooking one of our dozens of one-pan meals. The best have solid stainless steel construction, with an aluminum core for even heat distribution.
Rather than focusing on the cuisine of a specific country, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid trace the connections between flavors and cultures along the Mekong river. The book starts in Southern China and follows their travels through Burma, into Laos and Thailand, and finally down into Vietnam. With gorgeous photography and compelling essays, Alford and Duguid capture a version of Southeast Asia that is at once peaceful, dynamic, and captivating. Never has a book caused us to want to book a plane ticket so quickly, though this urge was matched by an even stronger desire to jump into the kitchen.
The five-piece Norpro Grip Ez Stainless Steel Measuring Cups took the top spot in our tests for accuracy, and it wasn't even close. Not only that, the bowls are securely joined to the comfortable nonslip handles, and manufactured to tight tolerances, which helps with level sweeping. The unique oval cup shape comes to a narrow end, acting like a shovel to dig into compacted ingredients, like brown sugar.
Mark Kurlansky's Cod is part history, part biography (fishy biography, that is), part ecological allegory, part cookbook, and all-around great storytelling. It opens with the tale of a waning fishing village in Newfoundland in 1992, at what Kurlansky refers to as "the wrong end of a 1,000 fishing spree." Over the next 200 pages or so, he tells the fascinating story of how a single fish shaped the course of history.
Even if you've never heard of Joyce Chen, even if you never pick up a copy of her outdated, out-of-print cookbook, even if you aren't a big fan of Northern Chinese cuisine, we can flat out guarantee that Joyce Chen has changed the way you eat or cook. Maybe you own a company that sells chafing dishes, or perhaps you're the landlord of a suburban strip mall. Well, Joyce Chen invented the Chinese lunch buffets that are the bread and butter of your business. Perhaps you're one of those unfortunate souls who doesn't have a wok range at home and instead resorts to stir-frying in a flat-bottomed wok. Guess what? Joyce Chen is the original patent-owner for that flat-bottomed wok.
The food you'll make out of this book is undeniably healthy. It's full of vegetables, whole grains, pickles, miso and other fermented foods, and lean protein. Much of it is also the kind of food that works equally well served hot, at room temperature, or straight out of the fridge the next day. It's convenient when you're cooking out of a book primarily for flavor, but health and easy-to-use leftovers tag along for the ride as well.
In this book, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that shows not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach your favorite barbecue lover the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving them the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get us hooked.
While we don't believe that a roasting pan is generally the best tool for large roasts—a wire rack set in a sheet pan often works better—there are times when a roasting pan with a rack is ideal. Cuisinart offers one of the best values in roasting pans on the market, and it can handle any job just as well as its more expensive competitors.
While an immersion circulator can be used with any old pot, we strongly suggest using a Cambro container, small or large (or both) depending on what recipes you have your eye on to start with. Pots aren't as ideal for sous vide as Cambros, as plastic is a better insulator.
Not all food storage containers are built the same. OXO's Pop Containers stack neatly in the cabinet, make it easy to see exactly what's inside, and have a neat push-button top that forms a perfectly airtight seal, keeping your dry pantry goods fresher for longer.
Despite its fast pace, self-deprecating style of humor, and easy readability, there's an insane amount of usable information packed into every paragraph of The Man Who Ate Everything, and what's more, you find yourself actually remembering the stuff. Not everything he writes about is immediately useful in the kitchen, but you are guaranteed to be successful at cocktail parties and Jeopardy! tournaments alike.
Proper seasoning is one of the most important parts of cooking, and if you're still using plain table salt from (heaven forbid!) a saltshaker, you're shooting yourself in the food. Using kosher salt from a salt cellar lets you feel exactly how much salt is getting into your food, whether it's a tiny pinch or a big ol' wallop.
What makes it worth reading? Turns out that the usefulness is hidden in its prose. It's Hugh's geeky but down-to-earth fascination with raising and foraging your own food that will either fascinate or bore you. Each of the four chapters—Garden, Livestock, Fish, and Hedgerow—starts with a lengthy study of not just how to grow and harvest vegetables, livestock, seafood, and wild plants, but also what has the best flavor when, and the environmental impacts of the various choices you can make.
The Cadillac of kitchen thermometers is indispensable when you're roasting meat, cooking steaks, making candy, deep-frying, or carrying out any other task where precise temperature control is needed. It's got a big display and a blazing-fast measuring time of under two seconds.
What's the point of perfectly roasting that turkey or prime rib if you don't have a pretty surface to carve it on? We love this teak cutting board because it's large enough for major projects, but lighter than thicker boards, making it easy to move from the kitchen to the dining room. It's made from scraps of larger teak products, making this cutting board a good environmental choice as well.
Make your own seltzer water at home with this easy-to-use unit. It comes equipped with LED indicators displaying three levels of carbonation and a BPA-free bottle that locks into the unit with no twisting, and it requires no batteries or electricity to operate. This model fits 14.5-ounce and three-ounce CO2 cylinders, which can be traded in for just the cost of the gas at your local hardware or home-goods store.
Michael Solomonov's Israeli cookbook has changed the way we cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. We've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow full recipes from the book.
Fresh pasta is incredible, but unless your rolling pin skills are in the 99th percentile, there's no real way to get pasta dough thin enough without a pasta machine. We own and occasionally use a KitchenAid stand mixer attachment, but we find a clamp-on manual countertop model to be almost as easy to use (and far cheaper).
Forget those puny kitchen torches designed to make crème brûlée for ants. If you want some serious torching power in the kitchen, for putting the final touch on fancy desserts or for finishing off a sous vide steak, you want a high-output torch like this one. You'll get a deeper char than you'll ever be able to get from using a skillet alone.
When it comes to portioning pizza, a knife simply won't cut it. At least, not if you don't want to drag cheese and toppings all over the place. For our money, nothing beats a traditional pizza wheel.
A pressure cooker is a cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. A countertop electric model gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. Breville's Fast Slow Pro Cooker gives you complete control over your pressure cooking but also works as a slow cooker and a rice cooker.
Bayless's skills as a recipe writer are exemplary. As is true of any good recipe writer, his recipes are meticulously tested and designed with the constraints and knowledge of the home cook in mind. There are only a few photographs, interleaved on glossy inserts, but the printed pages of the book are sprinkled with clear illustrations that demonstrate unfamiliar techniques, such as how to tuck banana leaves around chicken for pollo pibil (the original pit barbecue from the Yucatán) or how to fillet whole fish for pescado a la veracruzana (poached fish topped with tomatoes, capers, and olives).
The great thing about buying a meat grinder attachment is that you already know that the hardest-working part of your grinder—the motor—is going to be a workhorse that can power through even the toughest grinding projects. Stand mixer attachments are a great option if you make a lot of sausage. You can grind the meat directly into the processor bowl, then attach the bowl to the machine and immediately start mixing it with the paddle to develop protein. It's a real time-saver.
Wooden pizza peels are too thick to easily slide under a pie once it's hit the oven. For that, you'll want a thin-bladed metal peel. Basic models made of thin-gauge aluminum, like this Kitchen Supply peel, are just fine for the occasional baker, but they'll bend and warp eventually. If you're going to be making pizza multiple times a year for many years to come, you might want to spring for something a little more heavy-duty. We recommend the KettlePizza Pro Peel, which has a thick-gauge aluminum body that extends fully past the solid teakwood handle.
Jacques Pépin has more than 20 cookbooks to his name, but this one might be the most universally useful to home cooks. Clear photos and descriptions walk newbies thought holding a knife properly, then using it to slice and dice an onion and debone a chicken. But there are also an endless number of little tricks, like why your salad greens should be bone dry before dressing them, that will up your kitchen IQ.
When fall and winter roll around, we start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that these stoneware baking dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.
Interested in sous vide cooking? You're going to want this. And it's handy for way more than just sous vide cooking. A vacuum sealer makes it really easy to save meats or other foods in the freezer, and it keeps air (read: freezer burn) off it all. The Oliso sealer uses a unique resealable-bag system, which means far less wasted plastic than a conventional cut-and-seal vacuum sealer.
What we find really great about both books in this series is their episodic, casual nature. Have a few spare minutes? Just flip to a page and find out what bones contribute to a good stock (collagen, baby!), or what freezer burn actually is (and find out that airtight plastic wrap isn't actually so airtight after all).
If you're tired of pancakes that fall flat, if you're sick of roast chicken that looks lovely on the outside but is dry and stringy inside, if you get paralyzed by choosing between the dozens of banana bread recipes a quick Google search turns up, if you've never made a meatloaf in your life and want to make sure it comes out right the very first time, The New Best Recipe is an invaluable resource that you'll turn to again and again.
The Whirley Pop is the fastest, most convenient way to make popcorn, popping out cups of the stuff in under a minute, with virtually no un-popped kernels. It also produces fluffier popcorn than any other stovetop method (air poppers might have it beat in that department), and it's excellent for distributing toppings.
Parsons's book doesn't try to be everything to everyone, and it doesn't pretend to be an encyclopedia of food science. Instead, it's a well-curated package of only the most useful and interesting scientific tidbits, with a straightforward, "just the facts, ma'am" approach. Each of the six chapters is about a single basic concept of food science: how frying works, how vegetables ripen, how beans and pasta soften, how meat reacts to heat, how eggs are the most useful culinary tool on the planet, and how fat, flour, and water come together to form pastries and cookies.
Sous vide cooking—cooking foods in vacuum-sealed pouches in precisely controlled water baths—is no longer the exclusive preserve of fancy restaurant kitchens. The Anova Precision Cooker is one of the best home water bath controllers on the market, with an easy-to-use interface, Bluetooth support, rock-solid construction, a sleek look, and an affordable price tag to boot.
Old cast iron has a perfectly smooth nonstick surface that's surprisingly easy to maintain. You can sear, bake, roast, braise, stew, and deep-fry in it, and there's nothing more thoughtful than a gift that you have to expend a bit of effort to find (check out eBay, yard sales, and flea markets). These modern Lodge pans will do in a pinch if vintage isn't in the cards.
Microplanes do fine grating work way better than those tiny, raspy holes on a box grater. Whether you're quickly grating fresh nutmeg or cinnamon, taking the zest off a lemon, or turning a clove of garlic into a fine purée, the Microplane is the tool to reach for.
When we're cooking with garlic, we're pulling out the press nine times out of 10, because, even with the slightly fussy cleaning, it's still faster and easier than chopping fresh garlic on a board.
In the inexpensive-thermometer department, the ThermoPop comes in an impressive package. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button, so you don't have to twist your head to read it. It takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than its big brother, the Thermapen, but it's every bit as accurate.
The Instant Pot Duo60 is a fantastic value and performed almost as well as the top pick among countertop pressure cookers we tested. It's easy to use, the company has a reputation for great customer service, and there's an avid and helpful community of users online to boot.
The ChefSteps Joule is the smallest circulator on the market. It's sleek, compact design fits in a drawer and it heats quickly and accurately. It has the advantage of the ChefSteps community and legacy content built into its app, though its one downside is that it requires a smartphone or tablet along with a registered account to operate.
The books are set up in a question-and-answer format that really appeals to us. Best of all, these are questions that people really ask. "Does blowing on hot food cool it?" "When I cook with wine or beer, does all the alcohol burn off, or does some remain?" "I know that a calorie is a unit of heat, but why does eating heat make me fat? What if I only ate cold foods?" And so on. Each question is answered in a manner that's personable and relatable, but also authoritative.
Orwell's accounts of working as a plongeur—a dishwasher—under an abusive chef in a bug-infested basement in Paris are a remarkable look at what restaurants were like in the early 20th century. It's Kitchen Confidential before Kitchen Confidential and, unlike that great work, contains very little in the way of BS. This book is short, easy to read, and packed with firsthand insight. Required reading for anyone who wants to know what being truly destitute means.
Who should read this book? Folks who are in the Venn diagram intersection of "loves cooking," "loves survival horror," and "loves rockumentaries."
In this book, the writer, a food critic turned stay-at-home dad and a serious lover of dad jokes and dry humor, talks about his experiences raising his young daughter Iris, and how he dealt with her ever-changing tastes in food. The book is an easy, fun, and hilarious read, even for folks who don't have children.
Unlike crackable baking stones, the Baking Steel is a solid sheet of steel. Not only will it last forever, but, with superior thermal properties, it produces the best pizza crusts we've ever seen in a home oven.
A large mortar and pestle is one of the most underutilized kitchen tools. Not only is it faster than a spice grinder for small amounts of dry spices (particularly when it comes to cleaning), it draws out more flavor by crushing rather than shearing. It's also the perfect tool for making pastes out of moist ingredients, like herbs, garlic, and shallots.
Manual grinders are the cheapest way to get good-quality freshly ground meat at home, and are a great choice if you don't own a stand mixer. Our favorite is this suction-mounted grinder from Gideon. The suction cup provides as firm a base as bolt-mounted models we've owned, and it does such an excellent job grinding meat that we often reach for it instead of our stand mixer attachment.
Wooden peels absorb excess moisture and have a rougher surface than metal, which means that your stretched and topped pizza dough will remain loose and easy to launch far longer, saving you from potential pizza-spilled-all-over-the-oven accidents. Though there are cheaper options around, the Perfect Peel Baker's Board is handcrafted to last a lifetime from gorgeous solid cherrywood. They'll even put initials or a logo on it if you'd like!
Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. But in this book, Serious Eater Denise D'silva Sankhé breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India, focusing on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries. We're also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.