Weighty Issues: The Heaviest Cookbooks Out There


42.9 pounds of books. Photo: Paula Forbes

We have been known, on occasion, to make fun of (and also defend) the thick, cloth bound, coffee table versions of cookbooks. Recently we've noticed that this trend has gotten a bit out of control and want to call out those which simultaneously break your back and your pocketbook. Whether their heft is due to a celebrity chef's massive ego, an institution's thoroughness, or a detailed exploration of a nation's cuisine, heavy cookbooks represent a massive (and pricey) portion of the market.

Chief amongst them, to the surprise of absolutely no one, is The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, by Heston Blumenthal. Weighing in at a grand total of 11.6 pounds, Blumenthal's opus also took top honors in our price per pound category: $13.58 per pound. Other heavy hitters include the CIA's The Professional Chef (pick an edition, any edition, but ours is #8), Ferran Adria's A Day at El Bulli, and every book ever written by Thomas Keller, save for Ad Hoc at Home, which only weighs in at a puny 3.3 pounds.

So, is a heavier book reflective of the amount of information contained within it? Or is it merely showing off? Contenders for both arguments, below.

Table: The Heaviest Cookbooks Out There

Rank Pounds Title Price Price / LB
#1 11.6 The Big Fat Duck Cookbook (Amazon)
Heston Blumenthal
$157.50 $13.57
#2 7.8 The Professional Chef, 8th Edition (Amazon)
The Culinary Institute of America
$44.10 $5.65
#3 7.4 Larousse Gastronomique (Amazon)
Librairie Larousse
$56.70 $7.66
#4 6.9 A Day at El Bulli (Amazon)
Ferran Adria
$32.97 $4.77
#5 6.7 Alinea (Amazon)
Grant Achatz
$31.50 $4.70
#6 6 The Silver Spoon (Amazon)
Phaidon Press
$29.70 $4.95
#7 5.8 Chez Jacques Deluxe Edition: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook (Amazon)
Jacques Pepin
$38.71 $6.67
#8 5.6 Vefa's Kitchen (Amazon)
Vefa Alexiadou
$29.70 $5.30
#9 5.4 Bouchon (Amazon)
Thomas Keller
$30.00 $5.55
#10 5.4 1080 Recipes (Amazon)
Inas Ortega and Simone Ortega
$28.84 $5.34
#11 5.3 My New Orleans: The Cookbook (Amazon)
John Besh
$26.32 $4.96
#12 5.2 The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Heavy-Duty Revised Edition (Amazon)
America's Test Kitchen
$23.07 $4.43
#13 5.2 Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent (Amazon)
Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid
$29.70 $5.71
#14 5.2 The French Laundry Cookbook (Amazon)
Thomas Keller
$30.00 $5.76
#15 5.1 Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia (Amazon)
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Daguid
$29.70 $5.82
#16 5 Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating (Amazon)
Michel Richard
$29.70 $5.94
#17 4.9 Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide (Amazon)
Thomas Keller
$47.25 $9.64
#18 4.8 Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen (Amazon)
Ruth Reichl
$23.40 $4.87


The table doesn't seem follow a specific pattern; while Blumenthal's behemoth is predictably on top both in terms of weight and price per pound, the rest of the table is all over the map. Some included are definitely vanity pieces, while some are just mammoth workhorses. Either way, heavy cookbooks seem to be here to stay, and at least they earn their keep: the stack pictured above has been known to press quite a few eggplant slices and store several chef's knives in addition to being the inspiration for some mighty fine meals.

—Paula Forbes

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Comment Feed

  1. Sue

    I love my large cookbooks just as well as any of the others, of course, but they do often give the sense that they intend to be more than just your usual recipe sources. The Duguid-Alford books are travelogues, and some of the others represent the outsized egos of the authors (Keller, Achatz, Adria--and maybe Peterson, too?) and Larousse is semi-comprehensive, so that's its excuse. I have so many now ... I need to buy more coffee tables.

  2. Paula

    Thanks for totaling the weight in the picture; now certain boyfriends of mine have an official excuse to never help me move.

  3. Caroline

    On the first day of orientation at the CIA we received not only The Pro Chef but being a baker, the CIA Baking and Pastry book (6ish lbs) along with at least 6 other bulky non-cookbooks in a easily tearing fiber bag... the short walk back to the dorms and up 4 flights of stairs became an eternity... luckily we didn't usually need them in class but still

  4. Actually there is a book that is no mention here ant it weights 11 pounds. This is "Culina Mundi" I'm talking about.

    Hoe do I know? I own one ;)

  5. This tradition has a history. In a used bookstore earlier this week, I found the first Gourmet cookbook. I could hardly hoist it off the shelf. Are these things really meant to be used the kitchen? Makes you wonder.

  6. Just back from Australia where I contemplated trying to bring back Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion AND her latest, Kitchen Garden Companion, in my carry on but passed because both are worthy of weight-lifting status. Folks at home swear they use TCC in their kitchens on a regular basis, and it's been reprinted once so this text-book like cookbook is definitely popular despite its intimidating heft.

    I'd like to hear from folks about how the size of these tomes impacts how or when they use 'em.

  7. Anna

    I have several of these books, and I don't think that I've ever cooked a single thing out of them. I view them more as food porn than actual instruction.

    The heaviest book that I use regularly is probably The Way to Cook by Julia Child -- but I have it in paperback!

  8. wendy

    I find the heavy cookbooks useful for squeezing out tofu juice. The America's Test Kitchen Best Recipes plus 28oz Muir Glen tomatoes - on top of a plate - on top of the bar of tofu - over the sink. Hella good.

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