There's no time like the present to perfect these time-tested classics.

By Zoe Denenberg
April 22, 2020
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Joy of Cooking has gone down in history as one of the greatest cookbooks of all time. This complete guide to home cooking, self-published by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931, has endured as a tentpole of culinary education for generations. Almost 100 years after its publication, Joy of Cooking remains a steadfast source for many home cooks. What’s the secret to its staying power?

“Since its debut in 1930, versions of this tome have earned a permanent spot in many kitchens,” writes Sheri Castle, listing Joy of Cooking as one of Southern Living’s 100 Best Cookbooks of All Time. “Despite its oddball recipe format, this book is an encyclopedic source for techniques, and U.S. culinary history has all of the versions.”

Joy of Cooking has seen multiple revisions, with new generations of the family taking up the task to update and reinvent Rombauer’s classic recipes. Just last year, Irma S. Rombauer’s great-grandson, John Becker, and his wife, Megan Scott, published a 2019 edition of Joy of Cooking, adding over 600 new dishes alongside deep-rooted favorites. “Their revised version honors the cookbook's extraordinary history, while updating it for today's audience, and keeping it all in the family,” writes Meghan Overdeep.

If you don’t already have a copy of Joy of Cooking on your shelves, the most recent edition is available for purchase on Amazon. Once you’ve secured your copy, here are a few Joy of Cooking classics that every home cook should master.

Cobb Salad

“When you do not have this formula close at hand, remember: Egg, Avocado, Tomato, Chicken, green Onion, Bacon, and Blue cheese spells “eat Cobb,’” write John Becker and Megan Scott in the 2019 edition of Joy of Cooking. Find the recipe here.

Quick PJ&J Thumbprints

While we can appreciate the wonder of a show-stopping layer cake, quick and easy desserts hold a special place in our Southern hearts. That’s why we’re so fond of these Quick PJ&J Thumbprints, which pack all the nostalgia of our childhood lunchboxes into a slightly-sweetened cookie. As an added bonus, the recipe only calls for 5 ingredients.

Cacio e Pepe

A slightly upgraded version of Joy of Cooking’s classic Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese, this Cacio e Pepe is sure to become a family favorite. All it takes is a heavy dose of Romano cheese, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, and a half stick of butter. View the full recipe here.

BLT

The BLT was Joy of Cooking matriarch Irma S. Rombauer’s favorite sandwich, so it’s only right to include it among the essential Joy of Cooking recipes. Rombauer keeps it simple—find her recipe here.

Banana Bread

There are lots of banana bread recipes out there, but we’ll be getting ours from an ever-reliable source: Joy of Cooking. Rombauer’s version yields a tender loaf that will become your new go-to gift for new moms, neighbors, or just about anyone. Find the recipe here.

Basic Pancakes

Every home cook should have a basic pancake recipe memorized. This recipe from the 1951 edition of Joy of Cooking uses buttermilk to add extra tang to the pancakes—soon enough, you’ll be flipping these flapjacks every weekend. You’ll find a version of the recipe here.

Country Captain Chicken

This fragrant curried chicken dish is a time-honored favorite amongst generations of Joy of Cooking fans. Check out our version of the classic recipe here.

New York Cheesecake

Rombauer’s recipe for New York Cheesecake is much more than just a recipe: it’s a guide offering tips and tricks to perfect a notoriously finnicky dessert. You won’t find this recipe online; you’ll have to pick up a copy of the cookbook itself.

Shakshouka

When developing the 2019 edition of Joy of Cooking, Becker and Scott sought to modernize the cookbook by adding internationally-inspired recipes; this shakshouka, a popular North African dish of poached eggs in tomato sauce, is a testament to these efforts. This one-skillet dish can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; find the recipe here.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Southerners have been putting mayonnaise in our cakes for decades, and as it turns out, Irma S. Rombauer had the benefits of mayonnaise figured out, too. Rombauer’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is perfectly suited for a special occasion; find Southern Living’s take on the unconventional recipe here.