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What makes a good cookbook

There are some key things to look out for.


What makes a good cookbook? We’re sure the answer is different for everyone, but in our opinion, there are a few things that should always be included.

While we know cookbooks come in all shapes and sizes, we like them to be informative, easy to use and jam-packed full of delicious recipes. Read on to find out exactly what we think makes a good cookbook.

Step-by-step photographs

When you’re following a recipe that calls for a new technique, a description isn’t always enough to help you figure out exactly what to do. Step-by-step photographs are always a good addition to a recipe as they really help you to understand what you’re doing. Neven Maguire’s newest book Home Economics for Life makes great use of photographs to show the reader basic skills, right down to how you should chop an onion, which really helps to you to follow along with what you’re doing.


Cookbooks, particularly American ones, often include a myriad of random measurements that we don’t understand here in Ireland, like a stick or cup of butter. While cup measurements can be handy enough to use with dry ingredients, they can vary from person to person, resulting in an inconsistent finished product. If cup measurements suit you, then go ahead and use them, but I’d much rather that cookbooks include metric measurements too so I can make everything as precise as possible.

Explain terms and don’t skip steps

Is there anything more annoying than a cookbook that assumes you know exactly what they’re talking about? Most people use cookbooks to try out a new recipe or technique, so it’s really important that each step is included in the method and properly described. Good cookbooks will also include easy-to-understand descriptions of unfamiliar terms, like sous vide or chiffonade, so that you don’t end up having to Google them to find out what you have to do!

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Just trying to decide what to make for dinner, is all. Stay tuned.

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Equipment lists

There is nothing more annoying than starting a recipe and realising halfway through that you actually need a random piece of equipment that you don’t have lying around your kitchen already, like a high-powered blender or a vacuum-sealer. If a recipe requires something specific, it should definitely be listed beside the ingredients so that you know exactly what you need to recreate the final product.

How to plate

There’s nothing like a photo of a perfectly plated dish to inspire you to get cooking, but sometimes recipes don’t include instructions on how to properly recreate the plating in the photograph. While you can definitely figure it out on your own sometimes, with more complicated dishes it’s good to have some guidelines to let you know what to do.

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“In this unsettled time, in limbo between what was lost and a return to personal involvement with food and farming, fear of the unknown now rules the day. Questions like “How do you make a hamburger?” and “Why are you short of eggs in November?” require coaching. The compounded and profound food and farm ignorance most Americans now face leads to food fears. What to eat, how to cook, and where to buy creates tension and turmoil in families and workplace potlucks. . When the distrust of the food conglomerate orthodoxy and frustration of not knowing anything reach the stomach-turning point, literally, here comes Jill Winger, hand-holder and cheerleader for personal responsibility and home-centricity […] . The Prairie Homestead Cookbook might be the best friend and coach for a fearful pilgrim into the lost arts of home and hearth […] Written in a welcoming and nonjudgemental style, this is far more than a cookbook; it’s a callback to do-it-yourself food.”
- Joel Salatin, from the foreword of The Prairie Homestead Cookbook . (Yes, he actually wrote the honest-to-goodness foreword for my book. Yes, I may or may not have cried a little when I read it for the first time.) . The cookbook will officially be out in the world a week from today, but who’s counting? (ME. I AM COUNTING.)  Head to the link in my bio to peek inside and I’ll give ya a bunch of homestead kitchen bonuses when you preorder! . : @lintonproductions

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