Betty Crocker Cookbook

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Betty Crocker Cookbook
Cover of trade paperback 10th edition
AuthorGeneral Mills staff
Original titleBetty Crocker's Picture Cook Book
CountryUnited States
SubjectCulinary Arts
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons
Publication date
1950 (original), 2016 (12th edition)
Media typebook
ISBN0-7645-8374-3 (10th edition)
641.5 22
LC ClassTX714 .C7515 2005

The Betty Crocker Cookbook is a cookbook written by staff at General Mills, the holders of the Betty Crocker trademark. The persona of Betty Crocker was invented by the Washburn-Crosby Company (which would later become General Mills) as a feminine "face" for the company's public relations.[1] Early editions of the cookbook were ostensibly written by the character herself.[2]

More than 75 million copies of the book have been sold since it was first published in 1950.[3] Owing to the dominant color of the book's covers over the years, the Betty Crocker Cookbook is familiarly referred to as "Big Red", a term that General Mills has trademarked.


Early media forays for the Betty Crocker character included Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air broadcast from Minneapolis radio station WCCO beginning in 1924,[1] and several cooking pamphlets such as "Betty Crocker's 101 Delicious Bisquick Creations As Made And Served by Well-Known Gracious Hostesses".[4] The character was so successful that in 1945 Fortune magazine named her the second most popular woman in the United States, after Eleanor Roosevelt.[5] The same article exposed Crocker as "a fake", though to little apparent effect.[6] By the early 1950s, General Mills surveys showed that 99% of American housewives were familiar with the character.[7]

First published on September 8, 1950 with an initial print run of 950,000 copies,[6][2] as Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, the first edition sold for $2.95, with a $3.95 deluxe edition available.[6] The book's launch was heavily promoted by General Mills, with ample time devoted to it on the Betty Crocker's Magazine of the Air radio program and advertisements in magazines such as Ladies' Home Journal, which emphasized that over $100,000 had been spent developing the book's "revolutionary" recipes.[6] The 2161[6] recipes for the book were developed by a team of 50 chefs at the General Mills test kitchens, supervised by the home economist Janette Kelley.[8] The book was an immediate best-seller and contemporary reviews were positive; the Chicago Tribune declared it the best general cookbook ever published, and The New York Times noted that its sales of 18,000 copies a week were several times that of the most recent Ernest Hemingway novel.[6]

The original 1950 edition assumed very little knowledge on the part of the reader. The book made extensive use of photography and charts to make its techniques accessible to beginning cooks. It featured an extensive glossary that explained cooking terminology and in addition to recipes it offered instructions for using then-new appliances such as refrigerators and electric ranges.[9] With the Great Depression and food rationing due to the Second World War in the very recent past, the book contains instructions for preparing rabbit, a food that rural Americans resorted to in lean times.[6] In Germany, where food rationing continued for many years after the end of the war, the publication of the cookbook created a popular vision of the United States as a land of inexhaustible resources.[10]

The book's advice extends beyond the kitchen as well: the 1961 edition includes an exhortation to comb one's hair and apply make-up before breakfast each day.[11] Recipes for cake using Betty Crocker-brand cake mixes were a staple of early editions of the book.[6]

The recipes in the first edition are "basic" according to a modern review, and many are "grossly outdated"; there are several recipes for hamloaf and an "international" recipe for "Spaghetti Oriental".[12] A recipe for tuna and Jell-o pie from a 1965 cookbook was featured in a Buzzfeed listicle of "truly upsetting vintage recipes".[13] The 12th edition (subtitled "Everything You Need to Know to Cook From Scratch") was published in October 2016 and features more contemporary cuisine; there are recipes for beef pho, ropa vieja, and shakshouka.[3] An entire chapter is devoted to vegetarian cuisine.[14]

The Betty Crocker Cookbook is now the flagship book of what has become a large collection of books printed under the Betty Crocker name.


The Betty Crocker Cookbook is available in binder, trade paperback, and comb-bound formats, as well as several special-interest formats such as bridal, heart health, and a breast cancer fundraising edition. Mobile apps for iOS and Android are available to access the Betty Crocker recipe database on the web.

The Betty Crocker cookbook series includes more than 250 different books published since 1950[15] on subjects such as cooking basics, entertaining, as well as Betty Crocker: Kids Cook, first published in 1957 as Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls.[2] In 1980, following broadening American tastes, Betty Crocker cookbooks based around international cuisine started to appear, such as the bilingual English/Spanish Cocina Betty Crocker (a Mexican food guide), Betty Crocker's Chinese Cookbook, Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking, and others.[6] The current range of cookbooks features over twenty different books.[16]

The original 1950 edition and the Betty Crocker Cooky Book have been reprinted as facsimiles.

Feminist perspectives[edit]

It is commonly asserted that the primary purpose of the Betty Crocker Cookbook is to sell pre-packaged Betty Crocker-brand ingredients, which are specified in the book's recipes.[6][12] The culinary historian Laura Shapiro does not dispute this, but suggests that the relative ease of making a partially pre-packaged cake recipe from the cookbook empowered women to experiment and to view cooking as a creative outlet, which in turn helped housewives of the 1950s begin to see homemaking as a respectable profession unto itself.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Avey, Tori. "Who Was Betty Crocker?". PBS Food. PBS. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Stein, Sadie. "Betty Crocker and the Joys of Children's Cookbooks". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b Dawson, Mackenzie (12 October 2016). "This isn't your mother's Betty Crocker cookbook". New York Post. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Betty Crocker Edition History". Cook Books by Jane Jarvits, Bookseller. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  5. ^ Dakss, Brian (6 May 2005). "Betty Crocker Unveiled". CBS News Sunday Morning. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Marks, Susan (2010). Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439104019.
  7. ^ a b Shapiro, Laura (2005). ""I Guarantee": Betty Crocker and the Woman in the Kitchen". In Voski Avakian, Arlene; Haber, Barbara. From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studes: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1558495118. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Janette Kelley, The Woman Behind Betty Crocker". New England Historical Society. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  9. ^ Coyle, L. Patrick (1985). Cooks' Books: An Affectionate Guide to the Literature of Food and Cooking. Facts on File. p. 21. ISBN 9780871966834.
  10. ^ Loehr, Rodney C. (March 1955). "Business without Boundary: The Story of General Mills by James Gray (Review)". Business History Review. 29 (1): 100–101. JSTOR 3111606.
  11. ^ Vanni, Debbie. "1961 Betty Crocker". The Culinary Cellar. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b Forbes, Paula (27 January 2016). "Betty Crocker and the Lost Art of Home Economics". Epicurious. Retrieved 5 January 2018. I'm not going to pretend every recipe in Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book is a home run, though. There are recipes for grossly outdated food: more jello salads than anyone could ever need, all manner of ham loaves, a tuna casserole that uses cheese crackers instead of noodles.
  13. ^ Rebolini, Arianna (9 January 2014). "21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  14. ^ Worley, Sam (1 January 2018). "The Strange Secret Betty Crocker History You Need to Know". Epicurious. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  15. ^ "The Story of Betty Crocker". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Betty Crocker Cookbooks". Retrieved 7 January 2018.