There are various styles of cooks; some follow cookbooks religiously, others use them more as a general guide, and recreate recipes to suit their style. Either way is fine. Out of print cookbooks are particularly great resources, full of ideas, techniques and tips on cooking that any good cook needs to be familiar with. Think of your out of print cookbooks as your own personal family heirlooms.
When following a recipe, it is important to read it through before you start on cooking, especially with out of print cookbooks. Even if you plan on improvising, the recipe will usually have some tips on technique and progression that you will want to be aware of.
Out of print cookbooks often call for ingredients that you may not have on hand. For example if you plan on cooking a roast and don’t have the vegetables or herbs the recipe calls for, you can get creative with substitutes. Some of your family’s favorite dishes will probably come from these types of experiments.
If you are trying a new recipe in an out of print cookbook, plan on cooking well in advance. Giving yourself sufficient time will help you not to feel under pressure, and even allow time for an occasional failure. It happens sometimes. Don’t worry, practice makes perfect.
Illustrated out of print cookbooks are easier to follow, and are great for ideas on cooking. Many improvisational cooks love looking at the illustrations for ideas. Also, the depiction of the finished product helps you to visualize what you are trying to create, especially if you are not yet an accomplished cook.
If there are ingredients that you are not familiar with, it is wise to read up on them. Certain ingredients must be handled and prepared in a particular way, or the whole dish can be ruined. Out of print cookbooks especially often have a section on cooking and handling various ingredients which can be very helpful. The more familiar you are with your ingredients, the easier it is for you to cook up something tasty.