How to Cook Without a Book

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Along the same lines of Ratio, there’s How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart (Broadway, 2000) by Pam Anderson, author of The Perfect Recipe series. Each chapter focuses on a classic technique. Each includes a step-by-step narrative on the method, offers a recipe to demonstrate the technique and then provides multiple, yet simple variations. An unusual twist is that each chapter starts with a mnemonic rhyme such as this one for sauté:

Heat butter and oil, swirling them around,
Add meat, seasoned and coated, and cook until beautifully browned”

A busy mother herself, Anderson focuses on the kinds of food real people eat everyday: salads, pasta, tomato sauces, chicken, potatoes and simple vegetables. At the heart of her message: Learn one technique, cook anything. For example, if you can sear a steak, you most certainly manage to sear hamburger, pork tenderloin, salmon, fish steaks and scallops. Once you get the gist of making a green salad and simple vinaigrette, the exercise no longer requires a recipe; instead, it becomes an exercise to clean out those random vegetables.

Why it’s important: In my cooking project, several people commented that they wished they were the kind of cook who could look in their fridge and just come up with dinner. That’s the goal of this book. As a side note, I recommend all of her books, notably The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great, one of the books that I keep in my kitchen. It features a collection of simple, quick yet healthy recipes for normal people with busy lives.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. This is also one of my favorite books, as well as her others you mention. In fact, I’ve been teaching my college daughter how to cook a few things from it and am going to send her back to school with her own copy.


  1. […] is a columnist for USA Weekend, contributing editor to Fine Cooking and the author of the classic How to Cook Without a Book and award-winning Perfect Recipe series of best-selling cookbooks. She blogs with her two […]

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