While there are plenty of websites and apps like Allrecipes, Epicurious, and New York Times Cooking that a consumer can log on to, digital cookbooks are finding a niche audience as well. With millions of people self quarantining at home because of COVID-19, and as a result cooking more at home, there’s a growing need for the "narrative arc and inherent authority found in well-produced cookbooks." In fact, according to a new study by food and beverage communications firm HUNTER, as Americans have adjusted to home confinement, their confidence in the kitchen has soared with many saying they will carry on with their cooking habits even after the world returns to a new normal. Convenience appears to be the driver for the popularity of digital cookbooks. While e-cookbooks are not a major trend, according to Taste, (mainly because the market is dominated by apps and social feeds), they assert that "there is an interesting group of people for whom e-cookbooks seem to hold the most appeal: the expansive, urban-residing Millennials interested in meal-making who treat cooking as another life skill to master. They’re as likely to download a few of the best-reviewed books as they are to look up a recipe in the New York Times cooking app."
We have curated eight online or digital downloadable cookbooks that got high ratings on review sites, or those that were recommended by popular chefs, popular food channels, and other authorities in the food industry. For each cookbook identified, we explained why the cookbook stands out, (using direct quotes to ensure context was maintained in certain instances), the awards won, and we included a visual of the downloadable cookbook.
- Family Meal is a chef-driven digital cookbook inspired and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is published by Penguin Random House. It is a Wall Street Journal Bestseller.
- "Family Meal includes recipes from some of the biggest names in food, like Samin Nosrat and Kwame Onwuachi, and leans into the reality of being quarantined. Madeline McIntosh, the CEO of Penguin Random House, included a recipe for “Conference Call Cake,” with steps such as, “Vacuum. Make everyone wash their hands. Walk the dog again. Wash your hands. Have another Zoom.”
- It is a digital-only collection that features 50 easy recipes from famous food and drink authors that you can’t find anywhere else. "Readers will get an exclusive look at what these culinary masters are cooking at home right now: recipes that feed, sustain, and provide connection to the world outside. From Mushroom Bolognese to Shrimp and Chorizo White Bean Stew to Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies to Quarantine Wine Pairings, readers will learn what Ina Garten, Samin Nosrat, Hugh Acheson, Dan Barber, Bobby Flay, Alison Roman, Christina Tosi, Kwame Onwuachi, Ruth Reichl, Claire Saffitz, Danny Trejo, and many others are cooking for comfort."
Serving New York
- Serving New York is a digital cookbook edited by New York-based writer Kristin Tice Studeman.
- Serving New York draws upon some of the city’s most visited and well-known restaurants, that New Yorkers are really, really missing. “I hope these recipes carry people back to a few of their favorite NYC restaurants and help bring them much-needed solace through a home-cooked meal," asserts Studeman.
- The cookbook features 45 easy, pantry-friendly recipes from NYC’s best restaurants, including Olmsted, Momofuku, King, Charlie Bird, Llama Inn, the NoMad, and more.
South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations
- According to The New Yorker, South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations by Sean Brock is one of the best cookbooks of 2019.
- While it is available as a hardcover, it can be digitally downloaded here.
- It was a New York Times Bestseller and James Beard Award finalist, named one of the ten best cookbooks of 2019 by The New Yorker, named a best book of 2019 by Publishers Weekly, named the best cookbook of 2019 by Amazon, and named a best new cookbook of fall 2019 by the New York Times, Food & Wine, Epicurious, Grub Street, Chowhound, and the Robb Report.
- "Among the more than 125 recipes, a chapter of snacks includes deviled crab from the Low Country, fried bologna with pickled peach mustard from Appalachia, and two versions of shrimp and grits. Recipes can be mixed and matched to make a meal or eaten on their own. Taken together, they make up the essential elements of Southern cuisine, from fried green tomatoes to smoked baby back ribs and from tomato okra stew to biscuits. Regional differences are highlighted in recipes for shrimp and grits, corn bread, fried chicken, and more. Includes key Southern knowledge too: how to fry, how to care for cast iron, how to cook over a hearth, and more."
The Four Hour Chef
- "In The 4-Hour Chef, #1 New York Times best-selling author (and lifelong non-cook) Tim Ferriss unearths the secrets of the world’s fastest learners and greatest chefs. Ferriss uses cooking to teach “meta-learning,” a step-by-step process that can be used to master anything, whether searing steak, speaking Spanish, or shooting 3-pointers in basketball."
- Here is the PDF of the table of contents. The recipes start on page 134.
- It has a 74% five star positive rating on Amazon. As one reviewer noted: "This is not a perfect book, for a lot of reasons. It is however an amazing book, for a lot of other reasons." The Art of Charm declared: "Does the world really need another cookbook? How many different ways are there to boil an egg or crumple a souffle? The answer, upon reading a few snippets of The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss, is an immediate, Yes! The world really does need another cookbook. This one.”
- This cookbook teaches the most flexible techniques of culinary school using 14 strategically chosen meals, all with four or fewer ingredients, and all taking 5-20 minutes to prepare.
How to Take Care
- How to Take Care is a digital cookbook edited by interdisciplinary artist and chef Krystal Mack and includes wellness practices in addition to recipes.
- "It is a collaborative E-Guide With 100 pages of recipes, rituals, and reflections from IAO studio."
- "The ebook was available for download in exchange for a donation of $5 or more to an organization supporting victims of domestic violence and raised more than $7,000 in a month."
- "The more than 25 recipes, gathered from fellow artists and chefs, are simple and inexpensive to make, like a savory fruit salad and a ginger-tea recipe that asks readers to sing or chant, so that those vibrations are also infused into the brew."
Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen
- Another top downloadable cookbook recommended by the New Yorker, Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen is written by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock.
- The digital download features over 100 recipes and is organized into chapters by type of food, including breakfast, vegetables, main courses, desserts, and a super nacho party.
- "It is presented in a colorful package with more than 100 food and atmospheric photos that are bright, mouthwatering, and truly inspiring."
- It has a 4.21 rating on Goodreads.
Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook
- Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook authored by Carla Lalli Music is another top recommended cookbook from The New Yorker.
- It is a James Beard award winner, a Publishers Weekly bestseller, a GOOP cookbook club pick, and was named one of the best cookbooks of the year by the New Yorker, Food52, and the Library Journal.
- "Each recipe includes copious twists, spins, and alternatives: an ideal tool kit to transform a timid cook into an adventurous and confident improviser."
- "Where Cooking Begins is also the first recent cookbook to connect the way consumers shop to the way they cook. Music's modern approach is to pick up fresh ingredients a few times a week, and to fill the pantry with staples bought online.
- It has a 4.24 rating on Goodreads.
Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over
- Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over written by Alison Roman is a downloadable cookbook is a New York Times bestseller, as well as being named as one of the best cookbooks of the year by The New Yorker.
- Roman teaches her readers to make “unfussy food”: homey meals that can be thrown together and snacks to hold a person over when the throwing runs long. Roman gives cooks “permission to be imperfect.”
- The digital downloadable cookbook "is full of straightforward recipes with clever twists that work beautifully for everyday meals."
- It was an IACP award finalist and was named one of the best cookbooks of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and The Food Network.