On Cookbooks and the Internet

Cover of "Joy of Cooking"
Cover of Joy of Cooking

In her interview, Penny explains why she prefers the internet to cookbooks:

I don’t believe in cookbooks because I want recipes for the foods I have, as opposed to buying ingredients for recipes. Unlike cookbooks, the internet allows me the  flexibility to find recipes based on a list of ingredients.

Penny makes a good point. When you start with a recipe, you’re stuck with a list of ingredients. But you can search for new recipes on the internet by plugging your ingredients into a search engine.

Still, I wouldn’t give up my cookbooks. A good cookbook includes techniques and cooking philosophy, not just recipes. I often refer to Joy of Cooking for its comprehensive lists of ingredients, basic cooking methods, and substitutions. Beginning cooks in particular can benefit by reading cookbooks and experimenting with recipes. There’s no need to buy them at first: borrow from friends or the library.

There are a few drawbacks to searching the internet for recipes:

  • While some sites let you exclude ingredients that you don’t have or want, it’s usually hard to find a recipe with only the ingredients you happen to have. Chances are you will need to improvise, just like you would with the cookbook.
  • The internet recipe might include the ingredients you want. But you might not (yet) have the equipment or skills. I mention other issues in my post on evaluating recipes.
  • I don’t always trust the reliability of recipes contributed by users. Even if a lot of readers like something, it doesn’t mean my family will. I put more confidence in my tried-and-true cookbooks.
  • Searching via the internet requires skill. Sometimes it’s easy to find what you want, but sometimes you have to sift through lots of unsuitable results.

I do search the internet often for recipes. Today I found, at my son’s request, a recipe for for No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream. I often use the internet as a guide, like when I want to check whether a particular combination has been tried before.

How do you prefer to find recipes, via the internet or your tried-and-true cookbooks?

If you’re looking for a particular recipe, you can always ask readers in the comment section or on Cooking Manager’s Facebook Fan Page.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

My Mom, Food Processors and Norene Gilletz

Five Basic Recipes for the Food Processor

Evaluating Recipes


  1. I like my cookbooks too and like buying a new one every now and again.
    My mother has a similar recipe for ice-cream with dehydrated milk instead of cream, so less heavy.

  2. I also buy new cookbooks occasionally. The ice cream was very rich, but good. Next time I’ll try half milk instead.

  3. I love ice-cream. I’ll try and remember to post my mom’s recipe soon, as in in time for Shavuot.

  4. I love cookbooks. A couple of them I bought largely for the amazing photography (Deborah Madison). The ones I use the most have smudges and stains and certain recipes are like old friends. I do use the internet to find recipes sometimes, but I think that a well-written, thoughtfully collected cookbook is a treasure.

  5. I’ve had flops with cookbooks that are supposedly “hits”. when there is a recipe posted online, usually people can comment if they think there is a typo, and you’ll be able to know that. But when a cookbook has a typo, you sometimes are stuck.
    Also, when doing a search, if you, lets say, want a recipe for baked beans with ketchup that doesnt include bacon, you can do a search for “baked beans ketchup -bacon” and that will only pull up recipes without bacon.
    Yes, I sometimes have to do substitutions when searching for a recipe online, but the difference between online substitutions and cookbook substitutions is this:
    I can get 4 different tomato sauce recipes online. One has marjoram, oregano, and basil, one has wine and basil, one has shallots and marjoram, etc… I can see the common ingredients there and know to use those, and then know that if I don’t have shallots, I can use the onions and garlic written in the other recipe. I get ideas what I can use for substitutions. Whereas in regular cookbooks, there will be at most one or two recipes for that tomato sauce, not leaving you many ideas for substitutions.

  6. Thanks Penny, for expanding on your idea. I think a lot also has to do with how comfortable you are searching online. And if you find a site that you trust, it makes a big difference.

  7. I agree, Hannah, that being able to search online opens doors of opportunity for you, and not just in the cooking sphere.
    My favorite site that I trust is allrecipes.com because there is just so much feedback that I usually can get a good idea beforehand if the recipe will work or not. Recipezaar comes up second.

  8. There are also websites where you type in various ingredients and it will find recipes for you.
    Or you can just Google your ingredients and add the word recipe and it will find recipes for you.