Food & Drink

The Best Cookbooks for People Who Hate Cooking

THE STARVING ARTIST COOKBOOK
Sara Zin

Cooking is not for everyone -- and if you're reading this, odds are you'd choose two clicks and a credit card over cracking open your mother's dusty old Joy of Cooking any day. But while there are plenty of reasons why cooking sucks (recipes are hard, cookbooks are boring, you only have a microwave), there are many more reasons why, as a grown-up, you really ought to just bite the bullet and learn how to do it. Home cooking saves money, is healthier, and honestly, making full meals in a microwave is pretty impressive.

So toss aside lame excuses and pick up one of these game-changing cookbooks, each specifically designed to convert gastrophobics into gourmands -- or at least teach you to fry your own eggs.  

If you can't follow a recipe to save your life

Grilled Cheese Kitchen: Bread + Cheese + Everything in Between
by Heidi Gibson
If a 9-year-old on MasterChef Junior can whip up lobster étouffée in an hour, you can make a grilled cheese sandwich. Gibson's grilled-cheese manifesto gives you 39 different ways to spice up everyone's go-to sandwich as well as ideas for killer side dishes and tips for achieving that perfect golden-brown sear.

The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Peg Bracken
Fifty years ago, newly married ladies entered into their nuptials with the unspoken understanding that they, and they alone, were responsible for all the meals. And the ones that couldn't cook? They were terrified. Enter Peg Bracken, a superhero who wrote this life-saving cooking classic decades before those ______-ing for Dummies books were a thing. Women might no longer be chattel, sure, but a person's still gotta eat. Read, learn, repeat.

The Starving Artist Cookbook: Illustrated Recipes for First-Time Cooks
by Sara Zin
Here's a scenario: you're broke, you're hungry, you can't cook, and you just hit 30. How do you deal? If you're artist Sara Zin, you get out your paintbrushes and beautifully illustrate 90 wholesome, inexpensive, and easy-to-follow recipes. But you -- you can just buy her book, since it already exists and everything.

If you're bored stiff just thinking about a cookbook

Rapper's Delight: The Hip Hop Cookbook
by Joseph Inniss, Ralph Miller & Peter Stadden
This is not your mother's cookbook. In fact, your mom probably won't understand half of it. Inniss, Miller, and Stadden put together this hilarious compilation of 30 recipes inspired by hip-hop's greatest. Some of the dishes might be a stretch for more novice cooks, but bringing Ludacrispy Duck with Ho-Sin sauce or Run DM Sea Bass to your next dinner party is obviously worth the extra effort. Also, the cover is amazing.

I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands
by Kara Zuaro
Superfan (and accomplished food writer) Kara Zuaro hung out with over 100 bands you probably know and like (Violent Femmes, My Morning Jacket) and reported back on their favorite meals to produce this musically minded recipe collection. The writing is fantastic and the dishes, like the Mountain Goats' "Tato Mato" (kind of like a rice pilaf with potatoes and tomatoes), are interesting and generally pretty cheap to make. Listen along for maximum enjoyment.

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking and Going with Your Gut 
by Hannah Hart
Hannah Hart's rising stardom proves that it's not just tween musicians getting famous off YouTube -- over-imbibed 20-somethings can also have their day in the sun. If you've seen the show, you already know Hart is as funny as she is resourceful, and while you don't have to be drunk to make saltine nachos or "Things in a Blanket," it is wholly encouraged (i.e., each recipe comes with a suggested alcohol pairing). Bottoms up!

If you don't have an optimal kitchen situation

Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine!
by Chris Maynard & Bill Scheller
This is not a joke. OK, it's kind of a joke, but believe it or not, this groundbreaking guide for car-top cooking actually checks out. The only thing better than driving to the beach? Having a plate of Cajun-style shrimp with a side of stuffed bell peppers hot, ready, and fresh out the engine once you get there.

Two Dudes, One Pan: Maximum Flavor from a Minimalist Kitchen
by Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo & Raquel Pelzel
Despite the title, this cookbook is surprisingly tasteful. Each of the 100 recipes is expertly written and a snap to follow, proving that all you need is one trusty pan, a little patience, and about half a brain to crank out impressive-sounding dishes like buttermilk-sage fried chicken and strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

Microwave Cooking for One 
by Marie Smith
With over 300 microwave-only dishes, Marie Smith's Microwave Cooking for One is a gem for the oven-less. One look at the cover lady's Mao-inspired garb -- not to mention the bounty of meats, veggies, and pancakes (?) laid out before her -- and you just know you're in for a smooth, budget-conscious ride through nuke heaven.

If you're super broke

A Man, a Can, a Plan: 50 Great Guy Meals Even You Can Make!
by David Joachim
I'm not sure what a "guy meal" is, but I do know a good deal when I see one. Whether you're hoarding for the apocalypse or just so hungover you can't make it further than the corner bodega, Joachim's recipes are as straightforward and wallet-friendly as it gets. Also, there's an entire section dedicated to SpaghettiOs.

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day
by Leanne Brown
Ditch the wrapper and let Leanne Brown show you how you can make three square meals for less than you'd spend at the drive-thru. With an eye towards health and nutrition, Brown's 200-page ode to miserdom leaves no stone unturned, including a boatload of money-saving grocery-shopping hacks and efficiency-boosting cooking techniques. 

Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars
by Clifton Collins Jr. & Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez
Incarcerated or not, everyone loves instant ramen. When actor Clifton Collins Jr. and longtime buddy (and ex-felon) Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez set out to create the world's most extensive ramen noodle cookbook, they could never have anticipated the sheer number of diverse, delicious, and insanely creative recipes they'd find behind bars. It's worth a read for the ingenuity alone -- that, and because Samuel L. Jackson wrote the forward.

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Meredith Heil is a staff writer for Thrillist. Born sinner, the opposite of a winner, she remembers when she used to eat sardines for dinner. Follow her at @mereditto.