Despite occasional over usage, the term Kitchen Bible refers to specific type of cookbook.

To be a kitchen bible a cookbook must in a single volume provide a complete kitchen reference. Essentially someone with little or no knowledge of cooking should be able to prepare a meal with nothing but the information in the kitchen bible. There are several hallmarks that determine if a cookbook is a kitchen bible or not;
  • Recipes - A kitchen bible must contain a thorough complement of recipes. Not just the usual categories (desserts, vegetables, etc.), but basic preparations as well (stocks and sauces for example).
  • Ingredients - One of the handiest, and most often forgotten, features of a good cookbook is the section that describes the ingredients its recipes use. For a kitchen bible it's an absolute must.
  • Tools & Techniques - Here is where most cookbooks fail the test. Kitchen bibles have chapters on kitchen tools and equipment, as well as a description of basic cooking techniques.
  • Supporting Material - Chapters on menus, entertaining, food safety, nutrition, etc. round out the kitchen bible. These four are the minimum required to fulfill this part of the test.
This definition is restrictive, and intentionally so. Too often well meaning people give cookbooks that purport to be kitchen bibles to newly married couple, or students going off to college. A true kitchen bible can provide service to its owner for decades, a false one can instead lead to frustration and a dislike of cooking instead of serving as a gateway.

The two premiere kitchen bibles available today are the The Joy of Cooking and the Fannie Farmer, both of which meet all four tests easily. The Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks are often cited as kitchen bibles, but fail one or more of the critical tests. (Both are fine cookbooks, but not completely useful unless one has some knowledge of cooking beforehand.)