How to Cook Without a Book

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

Cookbooks are great for collecting recipes but they're not always the most convenient to turn to when you need to get a meal together quickly. No-recipe cooking allows you to free up your time by eliminating the process of searching for recipes, shopping against a list, and checking in with instructions while you're cooking. It takes confidence and skills but once you master the basics, improvising in the kitchen can become second-nature.

Sam Sifton, founding editor of The New York Times Cooking section, makes improvisational cooking easier than you think in this handy collection of no-recipe meals that can be made with ingredients that are already on hand or easily found in your pantry or fridge. Recipes include black bean tacos, grilled corn with gochujong and sesame butter, chicken and vegetable stir fry, roasted pork chops with peanuts and a squeeze of lemon, and more.

Start the book-making process by gathering your recipes from a variety of sources, including family and friends, community-style recipe swaps, websites, and your own notes on your phone or computer. Once you have all of your recipes gathered, start organizing them into a rough table of contents. If you're creating a cookbook with multiple contributors, try using our Collaborative Albums or Documents, which provide easy ways for your whole team to contribute at once. Once you have your table of contents ready, it's time to start building the book itself. We recommend a Layflat Album or Everyday Photo Book, both of which lie flat and stay open at the perfect angle to follow instructions without requiring assistance from messy mid-meal hands.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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