I discovered the classic cookbook Joy of Cooking in 2014 as a late bloomer in the kitchen. With its intuitive instruction and clear navigation, it soon became my GPS for tackling home cooking with ease. I’d joined a long line of cooks, both beginner and advanced, who’d relied on the eight previous editions of this culinary resource for everything from basic technique (“stand facing the stove” was an early instruction) to throwing a dinner party. Joy was first self-published by then-53-year-old homemaker and hostess Irma Rombauer in 1931. (She was in dire need of income after the death of her husband.) That book, beloved for Irma’s encouraging tone and characteristic wit, became a foundational text with more than 20 million copies in print.
Rombauer’s clear, approachable, anyone-can-cook spirit has been captured in the updated 2019 version of Joy of Cooking, revamped by John Becker (Irma Rombauer’s great grandson) and his wife Megan Scott. Like their readers, Becker and Scott are passionate home cooks, without formal training. (In fact, Becker only dug into the family book when he took the 1997 version with him to college.)
To tackle this 9th edition, the couple painstakingly went through the entire book, line by line (multiple times) to create a blueprint of what needed to be changed, added or fact checked. Almost five years later, they’ve completed the enormous challenge of revising, updating and adding 600 new recipes. Their goal was to dig deep and improve what was already a comprehensive on-ramp for home cooks at all levels.
Here’s everything you need to know about this new edition of Joy.
The new edition is a complete overhaul
Every section of every chapter has been revamped, while staying true to the spirit of the original, whether it’s advice in an introduction, recipe and ingredient additions, better cross referencing, the inclusion of new techniques (like sous vide) or new vegan and gluten-free baking options (like vegan eggnog and gluten-free sandwich bread). You can dig into what GMO foods are and also find a section about being mindful of the planet.
Becker points out that his grandmother, Marion Rombauer Becker, was already sounding the alarm about meat and sustainable eating in the 1975 edition. For 2019, the authors suggest a middle-ground, flexitarian approach to meat, showcasing ways that it can act more as a supporting ingredient (like in a ragout), plus offering more plant-based and vegan options (from appetizers to desserts).
600 New Recipes
To give you a taste—an expanded drinks section covers everything from cold-brew to horchata and fruit shrubs. New appetizers include Thai-Style Chicken Wings, Queso Fundido (Hot Chorizo and Cheese dip) and pickled shrimp. In Soups and Stocks you’ll find Pressure Cooker Stock, Kimchi Jigae (Kimchi-Tofu Stew) and Megan’s Vegan Chili, while salads includes a vegan “egg” salad, Larb (Thai minced pork salad) and Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Spiced Yogurt. Also new are a revamped Muffuletta, Mission-style Burritos, Shakshouka, Chana Masala, Mushroom Bacon, Tofu Scramble, Pecan and Cheddar, “Sausage” Patties, Kimchi Mac, Ramen, Roasted Mushroom Lasagne and Tourtière. And for the sweet tooth, new recipes include Raspberry Streusel Tarts, Apple Dumplings, Vegan Chocolate Cake, Nanaimo Bars, Peanut Butter Cups and Strawberry-Rosé Jam.
It’s got a new look
The 2019 design keeps an even fuller book trouble-free for kitchen use—it’s wider (so more square) and lays flat with ease (no holding down pages with your elbows while your hands are covered in chicken grease). A font change also makes the recipes much easier to read. It’s immediately more user friendly.
There’s also a new fermentation section
With the fast-growing interest around fermentation, the couple wanted to lay the groundwork, believing the process to be a really interesting type of food preservation. “With fermentation you’re harnessing wild bacteria and yeast to do something for you so the process is not always linear, it’s not like, Oh, put this in a pan and cook it for 20 minutes and it’s done,” says Scott. You also learn to pay attention, which she loves. Each fermented batch may smell a little different or take a few extra days to reach the sourness you like—and that kind of observation is a critical part of being a good cook. The section also covers food safety, tools and troubleshooting alongside recipes for kimchi, kombucha and hot sauce.
A new “Streamlined Cooking” chapter is packed with time-saving tips and meal planning advice
This chapter covers strategies and habits to maximize kitchen time, save money and create less waste. The “Cook for a Day, Eat for a Week” section breaks down meal planning that creates multiple ways to use leftovers (a roasted salmon dinner can get repurposed as salmon cakes, salade niçoise or a yummy pasta dish). In “Preventing Waste,” you’ll learn to use parm rinds as flavour boosters and pickle brine for marinades. Leftover wine—if you have any!—is repurposed in a granita, for pan sauce or to add depth of flavour to stew.
But don’t worry, no one’s messing with the classics
“If we were trying to make room for new stuff, and there was a recipe I had any doubts about, like maybe this was Irma’s favourite? I’d be on the phone to my father to make sure I wasn’t desecrating the family legacy,” says Becker.
Some recipes—like chocolate chip cookies and Irma’s brownies—are standards that people love and have been kept as is. But both are also offered with an update, a fudgier version of the brownie and thicker, chewier version of the cookie.
All the baking recipes now offer ingredients by weight
If you’re getting ready to make Joy’s new Ginger Cake (just the smell from the oven will trigger full hygge) you’ll notice that the recipe includes measurements both in the traditional cups and teaspoons, but also by weight in grams. Being able to measure ingredients by weight—which is both easier and more precise than by cup—was something readers told the authors was really important.
“We love grams too, because it also creates fewer dishes, you can keep adding things to a bowl and weighing it, you don’t have to measure anything, you don’t have to get your spoons and cups dirty,” says Scott.
Joy is still your compass for cooking
Like Janet, the all-knowing database from The Good Place, this new edition of Joy of Cooking has an updated, comprehensive index and newly-added bibliography (want to know more about foraging wild mushrooms? Joy will point you in the right direction). Unsure of the difference between broiling, searing and browning? Check the techniques section. Joy is not just about following a favourite recipe, it’s also about developing confidence in your own knowledge.
The authors hope people will turn to the book when they have a question, and explore both the recipes and the reference information. For Becker, teaching is at the heart of Joy. “For us it would be the best situation, as teachers, is if people could come away with an awareness and skepticism to be able to tell when a recipe is leading them astray. That’s kind of the end game for me, personally.”
Joy takes the fear out of entertaining
The anxiety of entertaining is taken head on in the “Entertaining and Menus” chapter. “The intro is kind of a pep talk,” says Becker. Covering everything from cocktail parties to children’s birthdays, there’s also a handy pre-planned menu section. Search anything from “Thanksgiving” to “Taco Night” or explore “Quick Recipes” (Overnight Oats, Basic Vegetable Stir-Fry) and “Author’s Favourites” for veggie mains or go-to desserts. I discovered a delicious Guyanese Pepperpot stew whose rich aroma filled my house with warmth, and had my guests raving. My weeknight rotation now includes the incredibly easy and delicious Miso-Glazed Eggplant.
Becker understands that living in a world inundated with quality recipes sources, the function of The Joy of Cooking is no longer to be the “one” cookbook you need, “There’s all these single subject titles that have fantastic recipes, cultural background and stories to tell but they don’t necessarily have the space to fill in the gaps,” he says. With over 1,000 pages and almost 90 years of experience, Joy has the capacity to be a trusted touchstone, “We want to be a supplement as well as inspiring people to cook. We spent a long time finding recipes we get excited about and we want to share those— that’s our little mission.”
Quick Sichuan-Style Cucumber Pickles
These spicy pickles go especially well with Braised Pulled Pork and other rich meats. For a milder pickle, halve the amounts of Sichuan peppercorns and dried chiles. Get this Joy of Cooking Quick Sichuan-Style Cucumber Pickles recipe.