The Best Cookbooks of 2015

Nowadays, in the food world, you have to ask yourself: "Who doesn't have a cookbook?" With cookbook publishing going strong, where dozens of titles are released every week, culinary tomes are becoming more complex and aesthetically pleasing. But given that so many of us are spending less time in the kitchen preparing home-cooked meals, are more of us just placing them on the coffee table for the occasional glance or conversation starter? Maybe so, but that doesn't mean there aren't people who actually want to acquire advanced cooking skills – and for those who do, we've got the list right here. While this roundup of 2015's best cookbooks does include a handful of bestsellers, it also includes ones that inspired the writer of this column. 

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
J. Kenji López-Alt
W.W. Norton & Company

Sometimes we forget that behind all of the juicy morsels we consume on a daily basis is the scientific method. Cooking is a visceral amalgam of chemistry and physics. Written by Serious Eats' managing culinary director, J. Kenji López-Alt, this cookbook is a crash course in food science behind classic American dishes, using new and easier techniques. Of course, you can read up on the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules and its impact on your food, but López-Alt simplifies the science of these recipes through 1,000 pages of comprehensive headnotes, sidebars, backstories, chemical and biological explanations, and step-by-step photography.

Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons
Steven Satterfield

Harper Wave

Chef Steven Satterfield’s debut cookbook is not a compilation of his mouthwatering recipes from his award-winning restaurant in Atlanta, Miller Union. Instead, through the teachings of whole vegetable cooking, Satterfield invites readers to get acquainted with local farmers’ markets, foraging, and the home garden, unlocking a world of possibilities in the realm of vegetable dishes. Similar to chefs spearheading the nose-to-tail movement, Satterfield’s is a proponent of getting the most out of plants, using all edible parts, from root to leaf. Appealing to all types of eaters, the recipes found in this cookbook will allow each season’s greatest bounty to become the main feature of every meal.

NOPI: The Cookbook
YOTAM Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully
Ten Speed Press

If you’re familiar with Yotam Ottelenghi's work, you’ll know immediately that this is a restaurant cookbook, named after one of his iconic eateries in London, NOPI. And while Ottelenghi is best-known for his marrying of Middle Eastern with Mediterranean flavors, NOPI signifies a new venture in his repertoire. After all, the restaurant is where the Middle East meets the Far East, thanks to his collaboration with NOPI's Malaysian head chef, Ramael Scully. Although his restaurant cookbooks tend to have a reputation for being more difficult than others, don't let this one scare you. Different from his previous titles, which are much more welcoming to the novice in the kitchen, the average home cook can handle many of the recipes within. 

Thug Kitchen Party Grub: For Social Motherf*ckers
Thug Kitchen
Rodale Books

Thug Kitchen's second installment of branded cookbooks is not for the faint-hearted. If you find it hard to stick to your plant-based diet around your friends, then it's time to adopt the attitude of the makers of Thug Kitchen: f*ck it! Finally, your friends can stop giving you grief about your healthy habits with more than 100 recipes from Thug Kitchen Party Grub: For Social Motherf*ckers. And since Thug Kitchen won't stand for any excuses, they've created a dish for every occasion you can think of. Cocktail recipes are also included, because drinking doesn't always have to be unhealthy either.

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking
Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia's Zahav has unleashed a cookbook that not only proves why he has one of the best Israeli restaurants in the Western world but also shows how Israeli cooking, similar to the U.S., contains influences from across the world. With the use of local and seasonal ingredients, Zahav's interpretation of modern Israel cuisine comes from his personal experiences while living and traveling in the country throughout his youth, as described in the essays and headnotes that flood the book. And while the cookbook is filled with noteworthy recipes that can be found at the restaurant, the goal is of this book is to not show off but rather to explain how anyone can adapt this food to make it feel personal. 

The NoMad Cookbook
Daniel Humm and Will Guidara

Ten Speed Press

As one of the bestselling cookbooks this year, it's clear that Chef Daniel Humm and Restaurateur Will Guidara have incorporated the elements of their success into one manual. Responsible for some of NYC's most innovative restaurants, Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad (the restaurant this book is named for), the authors invite you behind-the-scenes of the food, cocktails, staff, and the setbacks they experienced along the way, that has made the part restaurant, part hotel, what it is today. What's particularly neat about this book is that it includes a hidden cocktail recipe book, stored in back half of the book's fake pages. 

Tacos: Recipes and Provocations 
Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

Clarkson Potter

Although they're simple, tacos are one of Mexico's most esteemed foods, and Chef Alex Stupak and food writer Jordana Rothman certainly make a case for learning this multi-layered craft in their first – but definitely not their last – collaboration. Recipes range from classic styles to ones that were specifically created for the book, presented in a step-by-step fashion of learning how to make fresh tortillas, salsas, and fillings, while also highlighting the regional differences of the ingredients used. Stupak and Rothman offer such an in-depth look into tacos that it can almost be construed as its own work of art.  

Cookie Love: More Than 60 Recipes and Techniques for Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary 
Mindy Segal and Kathy Leahy

Ten Speed Press

Just like her desserts, pastry chef Mindy Segal's first cookbook wowed her fans. Although Segal is a lover of all sweets, she spent ten years perfecting her cookie craft, showing readers how to turn an ordinary cookie into something extraordinary. Suitable for all levels of bakers, this book includes sixty recipes that modernize all types of cookies, signature techniques, and the essentials for a well-stocked pantry.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All
Richard Betts, Crystal English Sacca, and Wendy MacNaughton 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Now that whiskey has become the craft beer of spirits, with distilleries opening up across the nation in some of the most unusual places, rookies need help deciphering the nuances. From the best-selling authors who brought you The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, this twenty-page book breaks down the topic into three simple categories, and is mixed with witty banter and comical illustrations that prompt you to scratch and sniff to unlock your preferences for this classy libation. 

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life
Ruth Reichl 
Random House

Prominent food writer Ruth Reichl hit a wall in her career when Gourmet magazine was shut down in 2009. Unsure of what to do next, Reichl turned to the only thing that made sense at the time: cooking. Mirroring the change in seasons, Reichl spent a year sorting through her emotions, taking her time to cultivate recipes that are not only simple and delicious but also help her regain her identity. 
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Gillian Speiser
Contact: Gillian Speiser