The Joy of Cooking

by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

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Original Publisher
Bobbs-Merrill Company
Date of publication

Recommended by

Fred Plotkin

Authority on Italian food and opera

The first edition of this indispensable primer was written by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931 and has been updated countless times since, often with her daughter Marion and subsequently by other relatives and new editors. This is among the first books any American home cook acquires and is a valuable instruction manual on the basics of ingredient selection, preparation and cooking. Recent editions did harm to some of the book’s quirky charm by standardizing concepts that defy standardization. The original Rombauer versions (epitomized by the 1975 edition) of this book teach the reader—often a stranger in the kitchen—how to cook but also how to think creatively and intuitively. Many Americans of a certain age refer to The Joy of Cooking as “Mother Rombauer.”

Ben Starr


I list this last because I NEVER use any of the recipes in it, but I look at it all the time. Get the oldest copy, the earliest edition you can find. It's a piece of history, and will remind you of whence we came! The older copies have instructions like how to skin a squirrel, and how best to cook a possum. If you choose to use any of the recipes, it will teach you that you shouldn't trust most recipes. Half a teaspoon of salt in a casserole? For decades, this was the go-to cooking reference for our nation, which is why our cuisine was scorned the world over. But it was the life's work of Rombauer, and the continuing work of her daughter, and is of priceless anthropological value. It should be on every cookbook shelf in the nation.

Jenny Whitham and Margaret Carter

Specialist food producer

This book was given to Margaret by her mother when she complained to her mother that in married life she now had to cook. Being brought up in South America and the Bahamas, Margaret's early life did no include the necessity to cook. The kitchen was the domain of the kitchen maids! So this book was sent from Nassau to Margaret in the UK with blessings from her mother saying you will find instructions on how to cook Sunday lunch in here. Still Margaret's most hated meal to cook, she hates the balancing act of presenting so many different components to table at the right temperature.

Dan Lepard

Baker and food writer

The Joy of Cooking (1896) is the kitchen bible for many home cooks in America, still a bestseller. I found a battered, coverless but complete 1943 edition at the Strand Bookshop NYC in 1993 and somehow still have it. When I wanted to know the traditional way to bake a chocolate brownie, make cornbread, it was the book I went to. Rombauer called it a “record of our American way of life”, back in 1943, and it’s remarkable that she recorded it so thoroughly.

Jennifer Armentrout

Editor-in-Chief, Fine Cooking Magazine

My mom gave this book to me when I left home for college and kept calling her every night to ask basic questions, like “how do I roast a chicken?” Not only does it cover those basics, it’s also got instructions for oddball tasks like how to cook a squirrel or skin a beaver tail. Not that I’ve ever needed to do either, but who knows, one of these days that knowledge might come in handy.

Gina McAdam

Editor of Profile Leader and author

This spiral bound version was a wedding present from a childhood friend who knew that until I left for abroad to study for my Masters degree, I had never ever stepped into the kitchen. It was a lifeline during my first years of marriage — when Britain was still not yet the food nirvana it is today and eating out still quite the luxury — especially the recipe for spaghetti bolognese.

Cat Black

Food writer

I grew up with this bible of all possible recipes, it is no nonsense and has a recipe for everything. It works. I have never lived in a house without it, the page marking the temperature and measurement equivalents is permanently bookmarked. It is the first book I bought for my own house when I left home.

Sarah Chamberlain

Food writer

The American ur-cookbook, and the first place I look if I need to understand how to do something simple, like making gravy or cooking sugar. Highly unglamorous, but probably the most useful cookbook I own.

Merry White

Food anthropologist

I seem to have several JCs: Julia Child, Joyce Chen and J of C. They are equally tattered and this one held together by duct tape. My only brownie recipe is covered in chocolate: you can lick the page.

Craig Sams

Grocer, baker and founder of Green & Black's

My mother taught me to follow a recipe from this book when I was 9 years old. It tells you everything you need to know in a coherent order. Concise, simple comprehensive

Kate Schulz

Food writer and podcast producer

The OG of cookbooks; I think I started reading this cookbook when I was nine. Comprehensive, easy to follow, and solid recipes. I still go back to this again and again.

Simon Majumdar

Food writer, author and broadcaster

A book that has not only stood the test of time, but that, in its eight editions dating from 1931 to the present, has catalogued the changes in cooking in America.

Ann Yonetani

Founder and owner of NYrture Food

I know this is such an old-school cliche, but I really do turn to this book a lot for tried and true standards to which creative twists can be added.

Anna Francese Gass

Chef, recipe tester and author

First cookbook I was ever given. It’s a first edition, handed down me and although the pages are worn and yellow, I love it.

Julia Platt Leonard

Writer and Food Consultant

I grew up with this book and it's still on my shelves. I go to it for the basics -- pancake batter and cookies. A classic.

Karen Coates

Journalist & food blogger

It's a classic, my go-to book for the basics, and it's a vital contribution to an overall well-rounded kitchen.

Beth Lee


Who doesn't have this book - it's how I learned to cook prime rib the right way (and so much more)

Jeff Potter


One of the first books to work in “culinary chat”, having more text than ingredients and ratios.

Betty Fussell


For clarity and scope of cooking in the US, this encyclopedic classic is still essential.

Carol Field

Food writer and broadcaster

Latest edition, plus earlier editions with recipes for condiments, jams, preserves etc.

Peter Reinhart

Baking instructor and author

I learned to cook from an early Rombauer edition, but each update has been priceless.

Sheila Dillon

Food journalist

Joy of Cooking--any edition pre-1990s ( mine is 1979—before all the low-fat nonsense)

Lilian (Chinese Grandma)

Blogger, Chinese Grandma

An American classic, the 1975 is the edition to have, the last one edited by Becker.

Stephanie Jackson


THE classic American cookbook – from which millions (including me) learned to cook.

Susi Gott Séguret

Chef, Author, Culinary School Director

Always a first go-to reference, even for classic French dishes!

Joyce Goldstein

Author and consultant

Should be everyone's first book - unpretentious and helpful.

Linda Pelaccio

Culinary historian

Essential reference guide for standard American dishes.

Rachel Laudan

A Food Historian Cooks

For helping me understand American cooking

Dalton Wilson

Owner and executive chef, DW Bistro

This is everyone’s Bible!

William Grimes

Obituary writer and former restaurant critic


Cathy Cochran-Lewis

Consultant and writer

Harold McGee

Author and lecturer

Ellen Schrecker

Professor of American History and author

Glynn Christian

Food writer and author

Sophie McNally

(Formerly) Operations Manager at Keith McNally restaurants in NYC

Jane Tran

Executive Chef, Eat First

Jennifer Bushman

Culinary Consultant, Route to Market LLC

Robert McCullough

Publisher of Appetite

Barbara Haber

Author and food historian

Vikas Khanna

Chef, restaurateur, food writer

Zarela Martínez


Amanda Feifer

Fermentation blogger and educator

John Ashburne

Writer, editor and photographer

Andrew F. Smith

Food historian

Noam Ben-Ami

Host of Platypus (San Francisco pop-up)

Gabriel Rucker

Executive chef and co-owner, Le Pigeon and Little Bird

Marvin J. Taylor

Director, Fales Library and Special Collections

Paul Kahan

Executive Chef and Partner

David Joachim

Food writer

Charles Shere

Writer and composer

Barbara Ketcham Wheaton

Honorary curator of the culinary collection at the Schlesinger Library

Jesse Ziff Cool

Chef and cookbook author

Anne Mendelson

Author and editor

Chris Stueart

Co-founder, FOOD-X

Ruth Reichl

Writer, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine

Willie Lebus

Director Bibendum Wine

Wolfgang Puck

Chef and restaurateur

Jamie Schler

Blogger, Life’s a Feast and Plated Stories

Marion Nestle

Academic, food activist and author

Nicole Taylor

Food & Travel Storyteller

Clark Wolf

Consultant and writer

Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermentation revivalist

Andy Ricker

Chef/Owner Pok Pok Restaurants

Russ Parsons

Food columnist of LA Times