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Twelve Recipes Hardcover – October 21, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


New York Times Bestseller (New York Times)

IACP Cookbook Award Winner (IACP)

“The best beginner’s cookbook of the year, if not the decade. In addition to being warm, funny and smart, Twelve Recipes will actually teach you to cook… [Peternell] can nudge anyone, from novice to expert, to want to be a better cook… His wit and intelligence are apparent throughout.” (New York Times Book Review)

San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Delightful and instructive. . . . Marked by Peternell’s zeal for good, simple food, this title takes a very different approach from cooking handbooks that emphasize science or technical precision.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“[A] smart new cookbook…written for new cooks, for uncertain cooks, for good cooks looking for simple inspiration, for anyone wrestling with a New Year’s resolution to cook more and better…The recipes are narratives, written conversationally, like excellent emails from a friend explaining how to make béchamel.” (Sam Sifton, New York Times)

A Best Food Book of 2014… “Encouraging and discursive… Peternell [teaches] the oldest of his three sons how to cook… a skill he realized he’d neglected to pass along while he was growing up, even if Alice Waters in her foreword calls Peternell ‘one of the greatest teachers I know.” (The Atlantic)

“Warm, funny, and full of cool recipes. [Cal Peternell’s] decades of working at Chez Panisse are molded into solid, grounded advice for cooks who are just starting out.” (Refinery29.com)

“Chef Peternell offers an informal crash course in the “big 12” recipes “at the heart of home cooking”… Essays have an inviting personal tone, and Peternell encourages cooks to use good sense, relax, and enjoy the unexpected pleasures that come with cooking for yourself and for others.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This book is very much a representation of the chef’s home cooking-nothing fancy, but all prepared properly…The tips and tricks he shares throughout might be game-changers…This is a fun read.” (Yahoo! Food)

“Many consider chefs culinary artists, but Peternell, of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, actually has a degree in painting. Art runs in the family: His wife and sons added whimsical illustrations to this already beautiful book.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“His tone is casual and conversational, and makes you feel you have a friend in the kitchen with you, cheering you on… If you feel you could use help with the basics… this is the book for you. More seasoned cooks… there’s plenty here of interest for us, too.” (SF Weekly)

“Practical and very funny. . . . I could not put this book down.” (Huffington Post)

“I love this book above all for the felicity of Cal Peternell’s writing. It puts me right there, with no sense of artifice or forcedness. It’s simply him, and his family, and his food, and it all seems so comfortable and real and immediate. It’s a splendid achievement.” (Thomas McNamee, James Beard Award-winning author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse)

“An extraordinary cookbook… Funny, warmly embracing, beautifully written and sweet, not what I expected from a well-known chef… Every recipe I tried was a home run… [It] will be my new gift to any high school graduate, newlywed or new cook.” (Florida Times-Union)

“Grabs the most intimate culinary moments -- parent and child cooking together… Originally planning that the collection of recipes would be like a private, family love letter, Peternell discovered a glorious connection to his childhood and an impulse to share on a broader scale.” (San Jose Mercury News)

“One of the best books of the year… [Twelve Recipes] is a culinary manual written for beginners, but full of useful chef wisdom that an experienced cook will appreciate, all written in a very conversational tone that makes this book such a pleasure to read.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“A poignantly penned kitchen manual designed to provide even the most insecure of cooks with the framework to master everyday cooking.” (FirstWeFeast.com)

“Conversational and fun. . . . His recipes . . . function like basic building blocks. A good chef can improvise with any cookbook, but this book inspires improvisation from the get-go.” (Berkeleyside.com)

“Twelve Recipes offers an expert’s take on the essentials of cooking… a book that celebrates the kitchen as the heart of the home, be it a college-student apartment or a house full of family.” (The Register-Guard)

From the Back Cover

In this charmingly written, beautifully photographed and illustrated cookbook, the chef of Alice Waters's Chez Panisse offers basic techniques and essential recipes that will transform anyone into a confident home cook

When Cal Peternell, the chef at Berkeley's legendary Chez Panisse, was helping his oldest son pack his things for college and beyond, he naturally set him up with the gear for a new kitchen: a nice skillet, a decent knife, a cutting board, and a colander. He also started writing. Just twelve recipes at first—reminders of foods they'd cooked together and enough to put together some good meals—but what started as a cookbooklet from a father for his sons has become, luckily for the rest of us, Twelve Recipes: a baker's dozen chapters on how to cook and eat well.

Standards—toast, eggs, beans—are renewed with simple elegance and wit. More advanced and adventurous dishes are made accessible. Variations are allowed for and encouraged, rules are well explained and unenforced. Twelve Recipes is a cookbook that will get you into the kitchen and get your friends around the table; an essential and versatile book of recipes, and a book to read with pleasure in and out of the kitchen.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks (October 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062270303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062270306
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Talvi TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Twelve Recipes is a beautifully written, informative, and very personal mix of memoir and cookbook. Ostensibly, a collection of recipes based around 12 basic skills a person needs in order to increase overall cooking. But at its heart, it's about the cook's family, his children growing up, and life transitioning for his family when his son goes away to college. It's a mixture of diverse ideas that really shouldn't work but does effectively due to a great balance of pathos and technique.

The chapters/topics of the book are a bit surprising at first glance but make more sense when they are read. The basic techniques are: toast; eggs; beans; salad dressings; pasta with tomato; pasta otherwise; Rice, polenta, mashed potatoes; roasted chicken; braising; grilling; three sauces; cake. A foreward, introduction, and universal conversion chart round out the book's contents.

The introduction is both history and tips. A chef sending his son off to school and realizing that his son could use a better understanding of cooking techniques. That segues into a collection of overall rules for general cooking (from tasting to leftovers). Cooking and cutting techniques as well as needed tools are discussed as well. I really like how Peternell gives both the right and the poor way things are done as well as good vs poorer tools. It's not just about the best way to do things but also the ways we often sabotage the taste or quality of what we cut by shortcuts or poor technique/time management/quality of food decisions.

The recipes start out with general discussions before transitioning into cooking and then several recipes based upon that initial simple recipe. As an example, toast starts out with discussing the best toasting methods (thin, thick, and what to put on them).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This feels like an older much more experienced sibling telling you which rules of the kitchen you shouldn't break and which ones you can, at least bend, if you have a good reason. The twelve recipes are each a foundation of general principles of how to treat broad subjects like toasting bread, cooking pasta, roasting meat, making salad dressing, etc. The pages after the clearly illustrated recipes for the basic dishes are full of numerous examples of , "If you don't have that, use this," or "if you like it spicy, add this." or "If you're in a hurry, do this instead." so that twelve becomes 1200 when you use all the permutations. Many things here will be known to an experienced cook but the clearly explained and often illustrated why for each step, ingredient, order of preparation, and how that may be changed by different steps or ingredients is very valuable.

This is one of those books that one can read each year, for 20 years, and get more out understanding with each reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading this book by a chef at the renown Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley is to be taken into a family of joyful and quirky eaters and cooks while basking in the accumulated wisdom of a wry and thoughtful observer about matters food or otherwise. It is a loving paean to living joyfully in general and with food in particular. It is as much how to think about food and cooking as it is about recipes and techniques, but from a most generous and non- judgmental spirit. It could have been called, "How to Easily Cook Delicious Food with No Anxiety and Have Fun and Learn a Few Things that are Very Important about Cooking and Life."
Although written for a son who had headed off to college, it is by no means a book only for the beginner and has lots to say to the experienced cook as well. And it’s just so much fun to read and look at.
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So far I've made three recipes from the book and all have been outstanding. Cal Peternell brings out so much flavor in simple recipes and I'll be making more from this book in the near future. The braised chicken legs are the kind of comfort food my familiy and I love. The sauce has such depth of flavor without being fussy and it's good enough for company. I also made the Ragu and Butter Sage sauces for pasta and both were very satisfying.

My criticism is regarding the format. The cookbook reads much like a novel with embedded recipes throughout which is interesting and somewhat entertaining, but when you're trying to follow a recipe, especially one that has many steps or one of the many variations (such as the original ragu, Bolognese), it is difficult to follow and some of the directions are unclear. There are no bulleted or numbered steps, which is fine if you're just reading the material, but when you're in the middle of cooking, it's hard to find your place and to follow. I found myself losing my place and re-reading the instructions multiple times during cooking. As I make these dishes more (and I plan to!), I'll have memorized more of the steps, but novice cooks might find the usability of the book to be an obstacle to the actual cooking.

There are also only 4 meat recipes, which makes this book less of an everyday go-to. I'd love to try the braised duck legs, but my local grocery stores do not sell only duck legs. This, alog with some of the confusing instructions and difficult layout make me wonder if the recipes were reviewed and tested. However, if you are diligent and want to eat well at home, this book is worth the extra effort.
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