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Determine Type of Cookbook

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Everyone is familiar with the classic, recipe-based cookbook but there are several other options that might suit your writing style better. Here's an overview of the main types of cookbooks you might want to consider.

Recipe Based

The most common kind of cookbook, recipe based cookbooks are all about the recipes.

The The Essential New York Times Cookbook is a great example of a recipe based cookbook. In the 1,000 page book there are maybe 50 pages of introduction or descriptive text. Even the recipe intros are only 1 to 2 paragraphs long. Their goal is not to educate you, wow you with photographs (there are almost none), or tell you a story. Their goal is to provide you with the best recipe (in their mind) for just about anything you want to cook.


Informational cookbooks have a much larger focus on teaching and explaining concepts instead of just presenting recipes.

Michael Ruhlman's new books are an example of Informational books. His book How to Roast is 160 pages and contains only 20 recipes. His main hope is that after reading his book you will so fully understand roasting that you won't need any more recipes, you'll be able to do it on your own.

Most of my books fall in between the Recipe and Informational categories. They usually have 50 to 100 recipes, but my goal is that after using my book you will understand the technique it is teaching and be able to create your own fantastic recipes. My recipes are geared towards highlighting the techniques and explaining them, not just providing recipes to be followed blindly.


Collaborative cookbooks usually fall into the Recipe Based or Informational categories but they include recipes from a wide variety of sources.

These books can be a great way to split out the recipe creation and testing to other people. It is also easier to get publicity for them because often the people contributing recipes will take pride in and write about the book. One caveat, all the recipes in Collaborative books should be given with direct permission from the author you are taking them from.

I was asked to contribute to At Home with Sous Vide along with several chefs and authors. I also often include a handful of recipes in my books provided from other authors I respect and reached out to for contributions.

Biographical / Historical / Story Based

Biographical, historical, and story based cookbooks are a combination of a traditional novel or non-fiction book with a cookbook. They will have many more stories than a traditional cookbook, and the recipes and cooking information might be secondary to the stories themselves and interspersed throughout the book.

Some great examples of these books are: When French Women Cook, High on the Hog and The Art of Living According to Joe Beef.

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