The Secret of Cooking: Recipes for an Easier Life in the Kitchen
One of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of 2023 • An NPR 2023 "Books We Love" Pick • One of WBUR Here & Now's Best Cookbooks of 2023 • A National Post Best Cookbook of 2023 • One of the Guardian UK's Five Best Food Books 2023
A culinary companion to simplify cooking while making it more enjoyable, The Secret of Cooking is packed with solutions for how to make life in the kitchen work better for you, whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a crowd.
Do you wish you could cook more, but don’t know where to start? Bee Wilson has spent years collecting cooking “secrets”: ways of speeding cooking up or slowing it down, strategies for days when you are stretched for time, and other ideas for when you can luxuriate in kitchen therapy. Bee holds out a hand to anyone who wants doable, delicious recipes, the kind of unfussy food that makes every day taste better: quick feasts from a can of beans; fast, medium, and slow ragus; and seven ways to cook a carrot.
Alongside thoughts on how to cook when you’re alone, with children, or just plain tired, Bee offers 140 recipes including:
- the simplest chicken stew even the pickiest of eaters (aka children) will love
- Zucchini and Herb Fritters, a Grated Tomato and Butter Pasta Sauce (with or without shrimp), and other ways of making your box grater work for you
- salads to savor, like a tuna salad with anchovy dressing
- leisurely projects like an Aromatic All-Purpose Curry Powder and quicker food for friends (try Bulgar and Eggplant Pilaf with pistachio and lemon)
- the loveliest red curry sauce you can make in your instant pot
- universal desserts, or those gluten-free and dairy-free sweets that you can serve no matter who comes over, like a Vegan Pear, Lemon, and Ginger Cake
With advice on seasoning, cleaning up, and choosing the best equipment, Wilson reimagines modern cooking and brings the spark back into everyday meals. As Bee says, “There’s still magic in the kitchen, if you know where to look.”
Shall we cook?
Praise for The Secret of Cooking: Recipes for an Easier Life in the Kitchen
As a writer, I couldn’t stop reading Bee Wilson’s chatty, smooth prose in The Secret of Cooking, my new kitchen companion. As a cook, it delights me to know that if I work through every recipe in this book—which reads like an essay for living as much as a witch’s Book of Shadows—I will learn something new about cooking with each one. Some recipes are essentials, such as Ms. Wilson’s “universal sauces”: her go-to red curry, cilantro chutney and tomato sauce. And others, like her butter-poached carrots, may positively change your life. The lessons here are humble yet lasting.
— Eric Kim - New York Times
Reading [The Secret of Cooking] feels like talking to a therapist who’s trying to break you out of a cooking rut. . . . Wilson’s approach feels liberating and reminds me that cooking for joy or just to get by isn’t just okay but welcome.
— Genevieve Yam - Bon Appétit
Bee Wilson is a dreamy writer. . . . She focuses like a laser beam on the things that make capable cooks capable. . . . The Secret of Cooking will build on what you already know in the kitchen, help you refine how you think about food, and very likely take your kitchen confidence—and the pleasure you get from cooking—to new heights.
— Sheryl Julian - Boston Globe
The way [Wilson] writes, like how I imagine she cooks, is personal and breezy, sweeping the reader along to address the task at hand.
— Florence Fabricant - New York Times
Wilson walks readers through the actual magic that can happen in a kitchen when a cook dials into their unique set of circumstances (access to ingredients, tools and even their mood) to show that the home kitchen can be a more comfortable and creative place. Wilson advises that it’s OK to cut corners, it’s OK to have preferences and, most importantly, it’s OK to make mistakes because all of that makes you a better cook. Though there are recipes like “soup for frayed nerves,” the whole is more manifesto than cookbook, a guide on how to use your kitchen in a way that is generous, malleable and fun.
— Korsha Wilson - Food & Wine
Earnest and accommodating. . . . It’s no surprise that Secret is as much a joy to curl up with as it is to cook from; you’ll be reminded of Wilson’s endearing prose every time you peel a carrot or reach for a metal spider.
— Bettina Makalintal - Eater
I somehow got my hands on an early copy of Bee Wilson’s The Secret of Cooking, and I’ve been using it ever since. A lot of cookbooks promise a less stressful, more enjoyable, life in the kitchen, as this one does. But you only have to look at Wilson’s section headings to know she is going to be true to her claims. . . . She is about probability, not possibility; she wants her reader to cook for the life they have rather than for some impossible fantasy existence, because this is how she cooks herself, every day. Every page is full of tricks and shortcuts and substitutions: 15 pages alone are devoted to that simple but immensely useful and versatile bit of kit, the box grater. (NB it really isn’t just for cheese.)
— Rachel Cooke - Guardian
Bee Wilson’s book is like being invited into a warm, cozy kitchen for a cup of tea. Her writing, her recipes and her warm style of talking about food makes you want to cook your way through much of the book. She understands that we all live busy, crazy lives and often it’s challenging to find time for cooking.
— Kathy Gunst - WBUR
[Wilson] devotes more than 400 pages to dismantling the roadblocks that stand in the way of that pleasure—time, money, guilt, fear, anxiety, insecurity and a raft of other emotions—to help us figure out ways of cooking that work for us.
— Susan Puckett - Atlanta-Journal Constitution
The beauty of The Secret of Cooking lies in Wilson’s attention to things that often go unnoticed or unsaid. Whether prompting you to take a fresh look at a ubiquitous tool or everyday ingredient or inviting you to time cooking tasks with songs instead of a clock, her advice makes moments in the kitchen more enjoyable.
— Laura Brehaut - National Post
Bee Wilson is . . . a witty and informed companion on everything from marmalade to table manners.
— Ed Cumming - The Telegraph Magazine
Food writer Bee Wilson is like a kind older sister. . . . She gives us strategies—how to figure out what flavors go together so you can use what you have, how to build a repertoire of favorites for your family that everybody will really look forward to, and the most important thing, how to cut yourself some slack when everything goes wrong. Basically, she keeps saying you should cook for the family you have, for the palate you have and for the life you have.
— Jennifer Vanasco - NPR Weekend Edition
Absolutely grand. . . . Wilson tosses in practical tips along the way, but the overall message comforting me is her reminder that, 'The best way to cook anything is the one that works best for you and your life right now.'
— Rebekah Denn - The Seattle Times
Wisdom and notes from a lifetime of reading, thinking, cooking, and eating. And it’s not just about food but about how we live, and how we look after ourselves and each other.
— Diana Henry
Bee Wilson is the ultimate kitchen friend: smart, funny, conscientious and patient, this is a book you’ll want to spend time with, in and out of the kitchen.
— Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, authors of Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East
It’s not often that a genuinely game-changing cookbook comes out, but this accomplished, approachable and helpful book—its writing as nourishing as the recipes—is most definitely it. Quite frankly, there’s not a kitchen that should be without a copy of The Secret of Cooking.
— Nigella Lawson
Reading The Secret of Cooking is like sitting in a warm kitchen with an exceptionally articulate friend. I don’t need a lot of convincing to pick up a pan, but Wilson’s tips are so clever, her recipes so tempting, and her vignettes of family life so candid, that this is a book I can read for pleasure alone.
— Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus
A wonderful book filled with great things to eat, and wisdom, wit and much kindness.
— Susie Boyt, author of Loved and Missed
The Secret of Cooking is just magnificent. Part cookbook, part kitchen philosophy, it's beautifully written, eternally wise and impossible to put down. Plus recipes you'll return to again and again.
— Tom Parker Bowles, on Twitter
Bee Wilson might be the most honest food writer out there. . . . In addition to simple, comforting recipes that she really truly walks you through, [The Secret of Cooking] is packed with advice on 'cooking from a standing start' (i.e. when your best self didn’t think to soak the beans overnight) and three things she knows to be true about feeding picky young eaters. (Each of her three kids was particular in their own way.)
— Jenny Rosenstrach, author of Dinner: A Love Story
Wilson’s book provides plenty to learn for all levels of home cooks who have the desire to indulge in the contemplation and wisdom she provides.
— Sarah Tansley - Library Journal