You are following a promising recipe from a brand new cookbook and so far you had frustrating experience. For two ingredients called for you drove to three markets before you finally could check off your list.
Following the cooking steps to the T, you turned the oven on a full hour before it was needed. What a waste! All ingredients were given in the recipe steps according to the listing but an ambiguity in the recipe cast some doubt whether you were exactly on track. Worse, because of the layout of the illustration, the recipe spilled over a consecutive page forcing you to turn a page back and forth while following steps and checking the ingredients.
But the recipe was a reasonable success. However, a few months later thumbing through the index to find it again, you failed. Apparently, Stuffed Chicken Breast was only listed under Stuffed, not under Chicken.
Having your experience, as a book reviewer, your brand new cookbook would receive an unenthusiastic report even if the book had stunning professional photo illustrations to please the eyes.
A good cookbook must have good recipes (the most important ingredients) with some originality, spiced to modern taste buds, logically presented, easy to follow, not overwhelmingly wordy that slows down the cook and ingredients you readily find in your own favored neighborhood market. Illustrations, whether professionally done of the finished product or nice sketches to help you in preparation are a plus. For the convenience of the cook, good layout is imperative. You don’t mind turning the page to look at the illustration but you don’t want to do that while busy preparing the recipe and your fingers are wet or sticky.
Logical presentation of recipes is implicit but so is an excellent subject index that is thoroughly cross-referenced. You should be able to find a previous recipe in seconds. Pages on heavy (preferably spill-proof) paper stock is a desirable quality as well as sturdy binding ensuring years of damage-free use.
You can trust a cookbook reviewer who considers all these points and some more. Alas, there are few truly excellent cookbooks and such a stream of mediocre ones. A good reviewer should help you choose.
GEORGE ERDOSH is a culinary scientist, food writer and certified cooking teacher. He is the author of ten published food-related books and numerous articles in newspaper food columns and magazines, including hunting and fishing publications. His blogs are www.howfoodswork.blogspot.com and http://WhatRecipesDontTellYou.com.