post #21 of 21
The America's Test Kitchen books are written by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. They have another series of books called "The Best" Recipes. The absolutely hands down best cookbook in my kitchen is their "New Best Recipes" cookbook. Like Bittman's book (I have and love his books, as well, however I go to the New Best REcipes twice as often), it has everything you can imagine or want to cook...but unlike Bittman--and this is what makes it a better book for people who have never cooked before--they write up a page before the recipe of what they tried to GET to that perfect version (and they are always perfect!) of whatever it is that you are cooking. They tell you about the science behind what it is you are trying to cook, and WHY some ingredients work better than others in this specific situation. You can take that information with you to a similar recipe that you try that is NOT from that book, and improve upon the recipe you are using. My husband couldn't cook worth a whit when we got married. I bought him "The New Best Recipes" along with Polly Clingerman's "The Kitchen Companion" (which tells you what it means to saute, how to store meat, and what a proper table setting looks like, among a million other things you wouldn't know if you didn't have a great cook teaching you the basics), and he is now one of the best cooks of the husbands of my group of friends (the one who is better than he is a professional chef...but I still like a lot of my hubby's stuff better!).

Absolutely positively this is the cookbook I give to people who are looking for a good resource, whether they are seasoned cooks or just starting out! It doesn't just say, "Saute the food in the pan," for instance...instead, the instructions will read, "Over medium high heat, saute until the edges of the vegetables are golden brown, approximately six to eight minutes". This helps a beginner to be more successful, and a more seasoned cook to better manage the cooking of the other food on the stove, if there is any there!

I know it's probably too late for the OP's friend, but really, this is a great book!