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What Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook should you give?

The Frugal Girl's cookbook recommendations

A reader emailed me the other day asking for a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook gifting recommendation, and while I have a lot of reviews sprinkled around my blog, they’re not really in one handy spot! So, I thought I’d do a little roundup.

In case you didn’t already know this, I am an enormous fan of Cook’s Illustrated and I use their recipes alllll the time. They’re unfailingly reliable, and I think they make it so much easier to make good food at home (which is key if you’re trying to save money by cooking more and eating out less). If you’re not a naturally gifted chef (I’m totally not!), good recipes are so worth the investment.

1. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Cook's Illustrated

My most-used CI cook book is The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Cooking Magazine.

It’s huge, comprehensive, and very helpful. I use it multiple times pretty much every week, and it’s actually where I found the butternut squash soup recipe I shared recently. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of recipes I use from this book.

One bummer: no photographs. It’s got plenty of line drawings to illustrate things, but there are no photos.

2. The Science of Good Cooking

the science of good cooking

For the cooking nerd on your list, I recommend The Science of Good Cooking. This is a bit more like a textbook than a cookbook…it outlines some foundational cooking concepts (like browning things to pump up the flavor), explains the science behind them, and then gives you several recipes to illustrate each concept.

I am not a scientific kind of person at. all. (!) But I think kitchen science is really fascinating, and I loved this book.

3. The ATK Quick Cooking Cookbook

If you’d like to buy a cookbook with more pictures and faster recipes, the America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook: A Faster, Smarter Way to Cook Everything from America’s Most Trusted Test Kitchen might be more up your alley.

This is a three-ring binder type of book, contains lots of full color pictures, and all the meals in it can be made in less than 45 minutes.

(Full review here.)

4. America’s Test Kitchen DIY cookbook.

For the homemade enthusiast on your list, the The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook would be great. This has all sorts of make-it-at-home recipes, ranging from easy to complex (vanilla extract, bacon, root beer, marshmallows, plus many more).

The no-stir granola I love is from this book, by the way.

(Full review here)

5. Baking Illustrated

baking illustrated

Baking Illustrated is one of the first Cook’s books I ever owned..Mr. FG gave it to me for a birthday gift years ago. The recipes in it are reliable and easy to follow, and there are several sections of great color photography. The German Chocolate cake in here is so good, as are the pizza recipes and the whole wheat bread. Really, everything I’ve tried has been excellent, and any baker on your gift list would love this.

I personally subscribe to the Cook’s Illustrated website every year, and I’d recommend that as a gift, but at the moment, they don’t seem to have any way to gift a subscription (although it’s quite easy to gift a print magazine subscription).

I’ve included Amazon links to these books because if you buy one of these books straight through the Cook’s Illustrated website, sometimes you end up being signed up for a cookbook of the month type of club, and gosh, I hate that (you know it pains me to criticize CI/ATK, but you gotta call a spade a spade.)

So, buy your books from a third party to save yourself the headache.


disclosure: Cook’s/ATK has not sponsored this post and I pay for my yearly membership with my own moola (some of the cookbooks mentioned were review copies and some were purchased). All enthusiasm for the Cook’s/ATK enterprise is 100% natural. Purchases made through Amazon links support this site at no extra cost to you.

Pssst! There’s an organic skincare giveaway going on right now and it ends tonight.


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Sarah J

Wednesday 30th of July 2014

Have you tried their slow cooker cookbooks yet? Would love your take on them.


Wednesday 30th of July 2014

I haven't...I have kind of a cheap, small slow-cooker, so I haven't ventured into that world too much.

Check and see if your library has a copy. Then you could try it out for free before buying!

Susan Curtis

Friday 27th of June 2014

i thought Cook's Illustrated had a celiac cookbook/gluten free ????


Saturday 28th of June 2014

They do now, but when I wrote this post, the gluten-free cookbook wasn't out yet.


Saturday 14th of December 2013

I have the Cook's Illustrated Perfect Vegetables cookbook and LOVE it!!! We love veggies and this book shows the best way to cook each one. You really should get this one next :)

Also, I REALLY appreciate all these reviews being in one place. Thanks!

Liz B.

Wednesday 11th of December 2013

I have several CI cookbooks, as well as the online subscription - they are my go-to cookbooks. I go most frequently to the "best 30 minute" CI cookbook- our fave meat loaf recipe came from there, as well as a yummy skillet tamale pie recipe. I did somehow end up in their "cookbook of the month" thing at one point, but it was easily resolved- I won't make that mistake again. Didn't know about the DIY cookbook - will have to add that to my wish list! :-)


Tuesday 10th of December 2013

Our favorite is their make-ahead book.

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