This year many of us are cooking and baking more than ever. Some of it is by necessity, but there's also a sense of comfort that comes with making meals at home, and fortunately we've had an ample supply of wonderful new cookbooks to inspire and guide us in 2020.
As always, choosing the top 20 cookbook, food and wine books of the year was tough with so many fantastic contenders. Below is a taste of what you'll find on the list: our top five picks, including our No. 1 pick, Marcus Samuelsson's The Rise, which brings forward the food and stories of Black chefs and others from across the country.
The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson
Our top pick for the Best Cookbooks, Food and Wine Books of 2020. This special cookbook by one of my favorite chefs is a gorgeous celebration of Black cooks and their valuable contribution to the contemporary culinary world. Samuelsson tells his own story and profiles Black chefs, writers, and others from across the country with 150 recipes highlighting this vast wealth of creativity and influence that deserves to be acknowledged and honored. The Rise is a cookbook for our times, one that elevates awareness and brings a feast of delicious dishes to home cooks everywhere.
Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Comfort food has been a theme this year, and nobody does it better than Ina Garten. In her newest Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, Garten takes classics and gives them a twist—one of my recent favorites being her recipe for Outrageous Garlic Bread. Eighty-five recipes cover everything from cocktails to dessert, and if you think that's a grilled cheese sandwich on the cover you're both right and wrong: that childhood (and all ages) favorite gets a little more sophisticated, but no less simple, as a Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese. A kitchen cookbook shelf staple to add to your collection.
Best-selling author and food blogger Nik Sharma lays out the science of what makes up flavor. Flavor, he says, is the sum of five parts: emotion, sight, sound, aroma, mouthfeel, and taste. Each of these is explained in easily understood language, and then Sharma follows up with 100 recipes that make heavy use of pantry staples to demonstrate the different types of flavor—bright, sweet, savory, and more—that can be easily achieved with spices and other ingredients that we already have on hand. If you enjoyed The Food Lab or Samin Nosrat's Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Sharma's latest is sure to become a new favorite.
The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller
In his introduction, Keller calls this book a tribute to "our shared humanity, our need for community, and our capacity for generosity." The French Laundry, Per Se is, as one would expect, a gorgeous cookbook with 70 recipes that speak to the elegance and creativity for which both restaurants are known. Keller adds personal touches throughout the book, in essays and introductions to farmers and purveyors. While largely aspirational for the home cook, Keller also includes 40 recipes to elevate the basics. A cookbook you'll want for your own shelf and the perfect gift for your favorite foodie.
Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz
This debut cookbook from celebrated baker and former host of popular Bon Appétit test kitchen programming, Claire Saffitz, is one I've been waiting for. Dessert Person has Saffitz's relaxed style, and each recipe is easy to understand and includes prep time and skill level right on top of the page. One of my favorite features in the book is her recipe matrix, where you can chart both skill level and total time to select the perfect recipes—genius! Incredible flavors and gorgeous photographs make this a go-to cookbook for both new and experienced bakers.
It's been a year of amazing cookbooks, but we narrowed it down to choose 20 of our favorites—and here's a look at the top five.