recommended by experts

The Best 2020 Cookbooks to Give, Recommended by Cookbook Authors

Photo-Illustration: retailers

This year, many of us have become the home cooks we never thought we could be (whether by choice or by necessity). Keep that enthusiasm going into 2021 with some fresh culinary inspiration; because while the pandemic derailed many things, the release of excellent new cookbooks was not one of them. To find the latest releases worth giving, from instant classics on the art of baking to one of the year’s most moving cooking memoirs, we asked our favorite cookbook authors to recommend a new cookbook they’d give as a gift — and then we asked the authors of those books for their recommendations. Ahead, the best new cookbooks to give this holiday season, according to the people who know it best.

Petra Paredez, author of Pie for Everyone

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Petra Paredez, owner of Petee’s Pies in New York City, says she’s most excited for the new cookbook from Mexican expat (and blogger) Mely Martinez. “One thing I’ve noticed about the Mexican American family that I married into is that they can literally talk for hours about the merits of one great aunt’s tamales versus another’s, but none of the recipes are on the record,” Paredez says. “I had encountered Mely Martinez’s blog many times when I needed a little more structure than those word-of-mouth family recipes. She makes Mexican cooking approachable and customizable, and includes so many soups, stews, and vegetable recipes, which is basically all I want to eat right now.”

Mely Martinez, author of The Mexican Home Kitchen

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For Martinez, it’s a new cookbook from Canadian chef and former Viceland host Matty Matheson that she’ll be thumbing through all winter. “I love the wide variety of recipes,” she says. From stews to sandwiches, there are loads of “unique and delicious dishes,” she adds. “Everything looks impressive; the bread section makes you want to start baking right away.”

Matty Matheson, author of Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery

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For his pick, Matty Matheson went with this memoir from Nashville-based pastry chef Lisa Donovan, which details her journey as a single parent, domestic-abuse survivor, and woman working in toxic, male-run kitchens. “I’m biased because I think Lisa is an all-around perfect person, and this book tells the story of one of my favorite people,” Matheson says. (To Donovan, he adds, “Thank you for being so vulnerable and powerful.”)

Lisa Donovan, author of Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger

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One of Donovan’s favorite books of 2020 is, unsurprisingly, a book on pastry — specifically this book entirely dedicated to the art of pie-making written by New York Times contributor and food stylist Erin Jeanne McDowell. “If my hands got crushed in some large machine accident and I could no longer teach the world about pie dough and pie-making, there would only be one person I would trust to impart the true wisdom of this age-old tradition and skill: my sister in pie, Erin McDowell,” says Donovan. “Not only is this a gorgeous book with incredible images, it is written so you succeed. Erin knows that pie intimidates, and she has a rare gift of easing your fears and guiding your hand all at once. You’ll wanna get this book for both inspiration and for a lifetime of learning.”

Erin Jeanne McDowell, author of The Book on Pie