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What’s the difference between an average cook and an expert chef? We’ll give you a hint: It isn’t the recipes. Anyone can follow a recipe, but it’s the execution--the tricks of the trade--that turns meatballs into holy meatballs.

Just in time for the holidays, we handpicked 30 of the best cookbooks around (everything from the quintessential Joy of Cooking to the under-the-radar Roots), but instead of choosing the greatest recipes from each, we pored over the pages in search of the very best tips.

And boy did we find some good ones. Did you know you’re supposed to dip your hands into ice water before handling cookie dough? (Thanks, Martha.) Or that you should decant even the cheapest bottles of wine?

Hungry for more? Click on over to our splashy hub. Just try not to drool on your keyboard.

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