Kitchen skills cookbooks

Sharpen up your cooking knowledge with these guides to improving your skills in the kitchen

Time Out reviews the best guides and cookbooks to help you improve your general kitchen know-how. Learn how to sharpen your cleavers, brine meat or make your own butter from cream. We'll be updating this page with more Kitchen skills cookbooks shortly.

Knife Skills: How to Carve, Chop, Slice, Fillet

Marcus Wareing, Shaun Hill, Charlie Trotter and Lyn Hall,

Dorling Kindersley, £12.99

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The impressive group of chefs who authored this book did not club together one night over a pint and decide they really wanted to tell people how to use knives. Instead much of the content is extracted from Dorling Kindersley’s whopping 2005 culinary encyclopedia ‘The Cook’s Book’, to which they did contribute, and expanded with new and more detailed information – a wise move considering the popularity of knife skills classes in the capital.

The result is a keenly-priced and very useful reference with step-by-step photographs that take you all the way from slicing onions to how to handle sea urchins. You’ll learn why it matters how knives are built and sharpened, as well as various different ways to grip them safely while cutting. In other words – all you need to know about this truly essential kitchen tool.

Jenni Muir , Time Out London Issue 2005: January 22-28 2009.

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Forgotten Skills of Cooking

Darina Allen, Kyle Cathie, £30

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A 600-page whopper of a book with a tactile green-cloth cover, Darina Allen’s latest work is part cookery book, part smallholder’s manual – and has ‘nostalgia’ written all over it.

Allen, a grandmother with more than 25 years’ teaching experience at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, is aiming to pass on the cookery skills that previous generations took for granted, but which modern life has rendered largely obsolete – or impractical – for the vast majority of contemporary city dwellers.

Books with a self-sufficiency thrust are nothing new, of course, but this one isn’t William Cobbett revisited, being far more recipe oriented. For the hardcore Good Lifers, though, there are chapters on keeping hens and organic gardening as well as instructions on how to kill, skin and prepare various types of game, fish and livestock.

For those of a less huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ persuasion, there are chapters on foraging, making cheese and jams and preserving various types of food. The recipes offer plenty in the way of slow-cooking, roasting, stewing and baking.

What really sets this book apart is the concentration on skills such as brining meat, making sausages, or making butter from fresh cream. As a practical manual, some of these ‘mini-courses’ – such as ‘How to cut your own steak’ – need clearer illustrations to make them achievable.

Overall, though, there’s plenty of excellent advice on topics ranging from how to tell if your chicken stock is on the turn to how to descale your water taps. There’s even a recipe for fried fish, which Allen prefaces with the cheery but wistful note that, ‘if things get really tough, one can always go back to cooking minnows’.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2060: February 11-17 2010

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