Cookbooks come in all different types, genres, dietary needs, cooking time frames, methods, brands, and more. They are varied and endless and the cookbooks you choose will determine the level of success you attain in the kitchen. That is why it is best to begin with reliable and trusted sources.
Once again, the best place to determine what you need from a cookbook is to browse the selection at the library. When you have explored the options then you can pinpoint one or two books that you feel suit your kitchen needs to purchase.
What you require from a cookbook is up to you alone but choose wisely. If you’re a vegetarian, obviously you want a vegetarian cookbook. If you only have thirty minutes in which to cook, you want a cookbook in which every recipe can be completed in under thirty minutes. If you only want to cook in slow-cooker, you can get a slow-cooker cookbook. If you are new to cooking, you can buy a cookbook of recipes which are introductory and on par with your level of skill.
I specifically only get cookbooks which contain healthy variety of low-calorie meals with photos, large portion sizes, and clear nutritional breakdowns to every recipe. If they don’t contain any of these features, I refuse to buy them.
When I began cooking I was even more picky than that. I started with cookbooks which defined the servings and calories to every recipe, contained minimal ingredient amounts, used prepared and processed grocery items, and could be completed within half-an-hour time frame.
In efforts to save money I recommend sticking with one or two cookbooks only. A cookbook is personal to what each individual needs, wants to try, and what they can manage in the kitchen. Beginning with only one or two will typically provide more than enough recipes and opportunities. There’s zero benefit to the cookbooks we all have gathering dust on the shelf. (For these reasons do not make gifts of cookbooks, they just end up joining the dust pile.)
Through my own experiences, I started gradually from Hungry Girl for quick, easy recipes containing minimal ingredients. From there I moved onto different sources such as Vegetarian Times, Cooking Light, Clean Eating, Whole Living, and EatingWell because they all provide nutritional information. I have found that the Hungry Girl and Clean Eating recipes typically require doctoring with additional herbs and spices, and Vegetarian Times can sometimes contain unnecessary amounts of ingredients and instructions. While EatingWell is a little more middle of the road in terms of recipe variety, they produce solid, reliable meals and occasionally have a knockout recipe I can’t get anywhere else. Overall, Cooking Light and EatingWell are the most reliable for me in terms of serving sizes, cooking times, and calorie amounts as well as best for flavor results according to the recipes.
For beginners to home cooking, I recommend Hungry Girl as well as the Fresh Food Fast series from Cooking Light. My own favorite books which I cannot do without are the Cooking Light Way to Cook series, Cooking Light Comfort Foods, EatingWell’s The Simple Art of Eating Well, and two out-of-print books from the editors of Health Magazine: Easy, Delicious Diabetic Recipes: A Cookbook for a Healthy Life and Healthy Heart Cookbook: Easy, Delicious Recipes for Preventing and Managing Heart Disease. I do adore for The Daily Soup Cookbook too; it lacks of pictures and nutrition breakdowns but I love soups and every recipe I’ve prepared from it has turned out beyond incredible.
As an aside, magazines and blogs also provide plenty of recipes but it remains important to take care with what sources you choose. I especially do not find blogs to be very reliable in providing low-calorie foods, calorie amounts, or even serving sizes. I avoid cooking from them unless I have some idea of what the results will be in taste and calories based on past experience with trusted sources.