The Joy of Cooking
by Irma Von Starkloff Rombauer, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker
This is the 1975 edition. I recommend it over the new 1997 edition (The New Joy of Cooking - see below). If you only own one cookbook, this should be it.
Since its first private printing in 1931, The Joy of Cooking has been teaching Americans how to cook. Craig Claiborne calls it "a masterpiece of clarity" and Julia Child says it's the one book she'd keep if she could only have one English title on the shelf. The nearly 5,000 recipes are handily organized by meal and ingredient, and no cooking instruction goes unexplained, so you can finally understand the difference between poaching and braising. The book includes nutritional information as well as an extremely helpful list of measures and equivalents. You'll find a version of every recipe your mother ever cooked, along with straightforward instructions for cooking more exotic specialties such as turtles and muskrats.
The New Joy of Cooking
by Irma S. Rombauer, Ethan Becker, Marion Rombauer Becker
This is the new 1997 edition. I prefer the 1975 edition above.
Irma Rombauer collected recipes from friends for the first Joy of Cooking, and published it herself. For this sixth edition, the All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking, Ethan Becker, grandson of Irma and son of Marion Rombauer Becker, worked with Maria Guarnaschelli, senior editor and vice president at Scribner's. Together, they called on top food professionals to produce a Joy that reflects the way we eat today.
Five new chapters satisfy today's love of pasta, pizza, noodles, burritos, grains, and beans, including soy. The roughly 3,000 recipes, most revised from earlier editions, give the food processor and microwave their due. Interest in ethnic flavors, grazing, leaner meats, more fish, and less fat are reflected, and old standbys such as Tuna Noodle Casserole and Fried Chicken are updated. Information on canning, jams, pickles, and preserves is replaced by expanded material on grilling, barbecuing, flavored oils, and vinegars. Also gone is the personal voice of the old Joy. The new Joy of Cooking is comprehensive for today's cooks. Time will tell if it remains the long-loved, dog-eared kitchen companion and teacher Joy has been since 1931.