The most helpful cookbook I ever owned was Dad’s Own Cookbook, by Bob Sloan, which combined a completely male-centric approach to the kitchen with considerable humor. I was thumbing through the first edition of it in the bookstore years ago, considering whether to buy it, when I ran into Sloan’s description of his recipe for meatballs: “These are the Titleists of meatballs,” he proclaimed. I busted out laughing right there in the aisle and bought the book immediately. Later, I found out that Sloan was full of common sense as well as wit. The copy of his book to which I’ve linked is the original blue-covered paperback, but I’m pleased to see that Sloan published a second edition in 2007. It’s a fine guide for amateur cooks, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Now, today, I offer you Joanna Pearlstein’s well-written review of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt. It’s a big book, but both Lopez-Alt and Pearlstein’s review explain why you absolutely should do certain things if you want your recipes to turn out right: why, for instance, you need to add baking soda to that pancake batter, or why you, honestly and truly, ought to let the steak you just took off the grill rest a bit before you cut into it. You could, of course, just re-watch all those episodes you DVR’d of Good Eats from the Food Network and learn the same things but, really: who has time for that much Alton Brown?