By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts
In our must-read cookbooks series, we’ve covered ingredient-focused books, vegetable bibles and the sweetest pastry selections. But there’s one area of the kitchen we’ve not yet touched, and that’s the meat section.
From butchery to charcuterie, simple pan sauces to showstopping roasts, animal proteins are an essential part of culinary education. As chefs become more aware of the quality of ingredients and the impact of their cooking from a sustainability perspective, respect for animal products is all the more important.
The following texts offer much for aspiring chefs and culinary professionals. Some contain advanced techniques that may go above and beyond the talents of home cooks, but they all will help readers gain a greater appreciation of where our food comes from.
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson
Henderson, considered one of London’s most progressive chefs, is dedicated to resurrecting time-honored techniques of meat cookery—using every bit of the animal from end to end—as well as reinterpreting these traditions through a more modern culinary lens. His book features recipes more commonly found at a communal table in the countryside than in a fine-dining restaurant, yet every top chef in America likely references this book on a regular basis.
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Many meat cookbooks boast hundreds of photographs and instruction on how to humanely source animals. For home cooks and professionals alike, few meat cookbooks have gained a more cult-like following than this volume in the River Cottage series. Including in-depth information on sustainability, how to select and store meats and numerous fundamental techniques for meat preparation, this is truly an all-purpose tome.
Au Pied de Cochon by Martin Picard
Dubbed the “temple of lard,” the Au Pied de Cochon cookbook is a collection of recipes from one of Montreal’s most innovative restaurants. With an introduction by Anthony Bourdain, this entertaining text is influenced by Chef Martin Picard’s love of large portions, an ever-changing menu and a loud, boisterous dining room. Unfortunately, the book is out of print, but pricey used copies are available online.
In the Charcuterie: The Fatted Calf’s Guide to Making Sausage, Salumi, Pates, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller
If you’re ready to take your carnivorous techniques to the next level, charcuterie is an ambitious, but rewarding, culinary tradition to explore. This book will explain multiple approaches to making the most of the full animal, with fully illustrated recipes and professional techniques that are sure to expand your repertoire of techniques.
Terrine by Stephane Reynaud
Recommended to me by a former fine-dining chef turned professional butcher, this book is geared toward the home cook. However, the text has plenty to offer even the most seasoned of professional chefs. Inspired by his upbringing in Ardèche, France, Reynaud’s recipes are sure to add an inspired savory—or sweet—accent to your table.
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