Product Added : January 28th, 2013
Category : Books
"This Best Selling The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks) Tends to SELL OUT VERY FAST! If this is a MUST HAVE product, be sure to Order Now to avoid disappointment!"
THE REVOLUTIONARY BOOK THAT
BRINGS SCIENCE TO THE STOVE
Great cooks seem to operate on intuition. Watch one at work and you might think he or she must have a sixth sense that switches on in the kitchen. But great cooks aren t psychic. They simply understand the fundamental principles of cooking the unspoken rules that guide their every move in the kitchen. What s behind these principles? Science.
At America s Test Kitchen, we know something about that. The team at Cook s Illustrated has spent the past 20 years investigating every facet and every detail associated with home cooking through tens of thousands of kitchen tests. In The Science of Good Cooking, we distill the past two decades of this test kitchen work into 50 basic cooking concepts, ones that every home cook should know.
These concepts sound suspiciously simple: Gentle Heat Retains Moisture. Salty Marinades Work Best. Starch Helps Cheese Melt Nicely. Sugar Changes Sweetness and Texture. It turns out that these ideas are not only easy to understand but also easy to master. And don t worry there is no molecular gastronomy, liquid nitrogen, or fancy equipment involved. As always, our mission is squarely focused on great home cooking.
In addition to explaining how food science works (and why you should care), The Science of Good Cooking shows you the science. This book brings you into the test kitchen with 50 unique (and fun) experiments engineered to illustrate (and illuminate) the science at work. The experiments demonstrate why adding fat to your eggs will make the perfect tender omelet, why grinding your own meat will make the ultimate burger, and why you should have patience before carving your roast.
And because no concept is complete without recipes, The Science of Good Cooking includes more than 400 classic Cook s Illustrated recipes that take the science to the stove, putting the principles to work. The book offers a fresh perspective on everything from roasting a chicken to baking chocolate chip cookies. These are the fundamental recipes home cooks struggle to get right. And when these recipes are coupled with the simple science explaining how and why they work, the results are illuminating.
Having relied on Cooks Illustrated recommendations for many of my favourite kitchen tools, buying this book was a no brainer. Needless to say I had high expectations going in, and this book did not disappoint.
I’m an avid cook, and while I’ve had great success with certain types of food, I’ve been frustrated by inconsistent results in others. (I can’t seem to get a consistently moist pot-roast — reason: my cooking temperature was probably too high; wrong cut of meat + oven braising is better than stovetop since it heats more evenly in more directions)
The Science of Good Cooking breaks down why food cooks a certain way, and which techniques are best for what purpose. The book is organized into 50 concepts with recipes reinforcing each concept. There’s a section called “why this works” following each recipe, which breaks down the science behind each step — for instance why use a certain type of marinade, cooking technique, take extra steps, etc to achieve a desired outcome. It’s nice that it’s not just a list of recipes.
Experiments back each concept. Meats were weighed, measured, smashed to determine tenderness, and moisture loss. They came up with a range of ideal resting times for various meats based on actually measuring the amount of juices lost at various times, and they sent food to the science lab to analyze their structure. They even stuck bones on mashed potatoes to test out whether keeping bones on makes food taste better. This book debunked some assumptions I had (acid does not actually make food more tender), and helped me understand other ones better – why salt directly applied on skin makes it more crispy, but if you brined the skin you’d get a different outcome. I also learned that the direction you cut your onion affects its taste – obvious in retrospect, but I never thought about that!
I was disappointed I couldn’t see a table of contents before purchase, so here are the 50 concepts you will find within the book -
1. Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking
2. High Heat Develops Flavor
3. Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness
4. Hot Food Keeps Cooking
5. Some Proteins Are Best Cooked Twice
6. Slow Heating Makes Meat Tender
7. Cook Tough Cuts Beyond Well Done
8. Tough Cuts Like a Covered Pot
9. A Covered Pot Doesn’t Need Liquid
10. Bones Add Flavor, Fat, and Juiciness
11. Brining Maximizes Juiciness in Lean Meats
12. Salt Makes Meat Juicy and Skin Crisp
13. Salty Marinades work best
14. Grind Meat at Home for Tender Burgers
15. A Panade Keeps Ground Meat Tender
16. Create Layers for a Breading That Sticks
17. Good Frying is All About Oil Temperature
18. Fat Makes Eggs Tender
19. Gentle Heat Guarantees Smooth Custards
20. Starch Keeps Eggs from Curdling
21. Whipped Egg Whites Need Stabilizers
22. Starch Helps Cheese Melt Nicely
23. Salting Vegetables Removes Liquid
24. Green Vegetables Like it Hot — Then Cold
25. All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal
26. Potato Starches Can Be Controlled
27. Precooking Makes Vegetables Firmer
28. Don’t Soak Beans — Brine ‘Em
29. Baking Soda Makes Beans and Grains Soft
30. Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy
31. Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor
32. Chile Heat Resides in Pith and Seeds
33. Bloom Spices to Boost Their Flavor
34. Not All Herbs Are for Cooking
35. Glutamates, Nucleotides Add Meaty Flavor
36. Emulsifiers Make Smooth Sauces
37. Speed Evaporation When Cooking Wine
38. More Water Makes Chewier Bread
39. Rest Dough to Trim Kneading Time
40. Time Builds Flavor in Bread
41. Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads
42. Two Leaveners Are Often Better Than One
43. Layers of Butter Makes Flaky Pastry
44. Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy
45. Less Protein Makes Tender Cakes, Cookies
46. Creaming Butter Helps Cakes Rise
47. Reverse Cream for Delicate Cakes
48. Sugar Changes Texture (and Sweetness)
49. Sugar and Time Makes Fruit Juicer
50. Cocoa Powder Delivers Big Flavor
The only thing I would have loved was a trouble shooting / Q&A section – e.g. How do you keep meat from cooling too much when you rest it?
Overall a great book if you want to improve your cooking technique, and also if you just want to learn more about why things behave the way they do!
Update: Looks like “Look inside” is now available for this book so there’s finally a table of contents! Since I’ve been cooking with the new concepts in mind, I’m happy with how my meat dishes (especially the stews) are turning out. I also tried using vodka instead of water to make pie crust (with the tip of putting a heated pan under the pie pan) and the pie crust turned out flaky and delicious as promised.
Yes, I have a BS in food technology with a lot of chemistry, biochemistry, bacteriology, etc. background. So I found this book another interesting treatise on food science. Personally, I love it. My wife, with a BS in elementary education, 2 sons with accounting and finance degrees, and a mechanical engineering daughter, I am probably the only one in the family to love this book. If you want to cook, and want to know WHY things happen during the cooking process, this is a great book. The recipes in each section emphasize each subject.
If you like Alton Brown, Shirley Corriher, etc., then this book is for you.
If you watch America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country on TV, and like the science section, buy the book. To me, the recipes may be redundant (400 recipes for 50 sections).
This is a great book if you want to take “Food Science 101″ at home. Read each section carefully, then maybe try a suggested recipe to understand the chapter subject. If you want to know HOW, don’t buy the book, but if you want to know WHY, place your order now.
But for me, at age 74, it is a great refresher course. It is definately a FIVE if this type of book interests you.
With 50 sections, you could do one a week and take a two week sabatical.
I still consider myself an advanced beginner when it comes to cooking so I LOVE cookbooks like this where they explain WHY recipes are they way they are. Things I liked about this book:
1. They have 50 cooking concepts that are discussed in detail. These range from “A covered pot doesn’t need water” to “starch helps cheese melt nicely.” They tell you the concept, then explain the science behind it. Often the explanation comes with illustrations, tables and details of the experiments they did in the test kitchen. There were a lot of things I had never read/heard of before like how salt added to meat makes it more juicy, but salt added to vegetables takes the water out.
2. The book is brimming with tips, tricks and information. The index has information on how to pick out kitchen equipment like knives, pots and pans and tools; emergency ingredient substitutions are also given. The front of the book goes over basics like meat temperatures that indicate doneness, definitions of common cooking terms. (I now know what to do if a recipe calls for chiffonading herbs!)
3. The book has lots of recipes and a good variety of types. It really has a little bit of everything.
4. The book is very well put together. The pages are glossy, the binding is tight. Feels like it can withstand years of being used.
Things I didn’t like:
1. The biggest pet peeve I have with this something many people will NOT have to worry about. I happen to have the The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Cooking Magazine and many (if not all) the recipes are the same. I randomly looked up about ten recipes and they were all duplicates. Some had more explanations on why they work, or might offer more variations, but so far I haven’t found a single recipe that is not a duplicate. (I have not looked at every single recipe though, as I said, I just looked up a few in different categories.) That said, you would think I would be majorly upset but I’m not. There are so many tips and explanations in this book not found in the other one that I don’t think it’s a total loss. I just want to mention this in case you have the other book that there are no new recipes, but much new information.
2. There are no pictures of the recipes, but if you’re familiar with Cooks Illustrated, this will not be new to you. Many of my “gourmet” cookbooks have no photos so this is a small thing. I just mention it in case there are people out there who are very visual and need photos.
3. The recipes are delicious but not simple. Cooking plain white rice has many additional steps. Basic Scrambled eggs is not basic; you’ve got to add two additional yolks and use half-and-half. That said, they give you a chart for “formula for perfect scrambled eggs” which I really liked.
With the three things I disliked, I still gave this 5 stars because I felt like people wouldn’t really have my first problem, the second problem is trivial, and the third, well, this is a cookbook for when you want taste to matter. Maybe not for Monday night when you have less than thirty minutes to throw something together for the family, but definitely for Saturday night when the in-laws are in town and you want them to be blown away.
I’m a longtime COOK’S ILLUSTRATED subscriber, and if you are too–or if you’re curious why some of us are such CI nutjobs–this book will sate your curiosity and provide you with lasting help in the kitchen to boot.
CI is famed for obsessively testing and re-testing virtually every aspect of their recipes. They don’t take on fussy foods; they take regular stuff and tell you how to make it as well as possible. This necessarily means that some culinary tropes and old wive’s tales get upended, but the effect is exhilarating rather than upsetting. “The Science of Good Cooking” is, essentially, an enormous keyring with dozens of keys allowing YOU, regular old home cook you, to perform to the highest standard you can in the kitchen.
One thing I love about the book and about the CI philosophy in general is that it’s DEPENDABLE. You know that the authors and their staff have tested and tested and tested each recipe six ways to Sunday, and you sow the harvest of their hard work. The whys and wherefores are fascinating–food chemistry is the only branch of science that even remotely interests me–but the real fun comes when you set your work down on the table and witness it being enjoyed and dispatched by appreciative eaters.
You don’t need this book if you already subscribe to Cooks Illustrated or to its companion web site. You don’t need this if you own the admirable Cooks Illustrated Cookbook. Each of these three resources will tell you all that you need to know as to “Why This Recipe Works,” and the latter two even do it in wonderfully succinct head notes. All of the recipes in The Science of Good Cooking have already appeared in Cooks Illustrated and are readily available on the web site.
You don’t need this book if you are a fan of the scientific cooking expertise of the estimable Harold McGee (“On Food and Cooking,” Keys to Good Cooking”) or the equally estimable Shirley Corriher (“Cookwise,” “Bakewise”). Both of these writers will tell you all about “Why This Recipe Works” in prose that is considerably less corporate than that of the self-styled America’s Test Kitchen. There is nothing “revolutionary,” advertising hype aside, about a book that gets into the nitty gritty of the Maillard reaction. Other writers have covered this ground.
But let’s say that none of the above applies to you. Well, then, do you like reading textbooks? The Science of Good Cooking is a textbook. It costs as much as a textbook and it would weigh down a backpack as surely as Introduction to Economics.
You like textbooks? While I could hardly have cooked my way through the 400 or so recipes in this tome, I did try (some more than once) a representative fourteen. So, in addition to lots and lots of useful information, here’s what The Science of Good Cooking has for the cook:
A few brilliant recipes, one of which is the recipe for Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread and another of which is the vodka-containing pie crust formula.
A number of very good recipes, among them the ones for Classic Brownies, Crisp Roast Chicken, Blueberry Scones, Scrambled Eggs, Ultimate Hummus, and Glazed Spiral Ham.
A few tweaks to otherwise perfectly good recipes, to wit Yeasted Waffles and Better Bran Muffins. These recipes belong to the Better Mousetrap Category.
A category of recipe I’ll call The Science Experiment. Yes, you can make Classic French Fries using three quarts of expensive peanut oil; yes, you can use both a fry pan AND the oven to make excellent home fries; and yes, you can turn your countertop into a floury mess in pursuit of Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits. But do you really want to? Or do you want, to offer one example, the very simple and good (and cheap) recipe for Oven Fries that isn’t in this book but IS on the Cooks Web site?
Since there’s no accounting for taste, there are a few dogs, a representative of which is the Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw, which I tried more than once. It’s creamy, all right, but so bland that it made me grab for something–anything–horseradish, sriracha, chipotles–to wake it up. This is pretty much the case for a lot of the Asian-type recipes, as well; you’ll be happier with a few more takeout cartons and a bit less scientific knowledge. (I await the day when Cooks tackles sushi.)
Do you need this book? You do if you’ve never heard of the Cooks Illustrated Empire of books-magazines-web sites. For the rest of us, it’s a smart repackaging of material that’s readily available in other corners of the Empire.
I’m not an unbiased reviewer. Two years ago my cooking skills were burning hamburgers on a grill and using a waffle iron. Then I caught an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. I thought “that doesn’t look too hard”, and better still, they explained why things should be done the way they should be done. It doesn’t hurt that they test and re-test recipes to make them as foolproof as possible. You get lots of leeway. Well, now the whole family looks forward to what I bring to holiday get-togethers (Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake ftw). I make Sunday dinners forty or more times a year, and often make desserts or weeknight dinners.
And this is the book that explains why things should be done the way they should be done. If, like me, you have a dozen ATK cookbooks, and a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country (my favorite), and back issues covering a decade or more, you don’t need this book. Frankly, if what you’re looking for is just a cookbook, this is probably not the one you want. Try ATK Family Cookbook or the ATK Family Baking book, or the latest Best Recipes. But … if what you’re looking for is fifty fascinating explanations (the secret to easy to roll out pie dough? vodka) this is the book for you.
Important concepts such as when to use what kind of potato, and why, are covered, as is the value of salt in marinades, and brining generally. I was glad to see salting meat covered as well, in the section on slow-roasting lesser cuts of beef. ATK includes a great recipe for eye of round (salted overnight, roasted in a very low oven until the meat is about 15 degrees short of being done, then turn off the oven to finish it). My family loves the thin-sliced roast beef I make with this, and eye of round roasts are not top shelf in terms of price. The book covers the value and use of different types of flour – high protein for breads, lower protein for tender cakes. There’s a difference between creaming and reverse-creaming when mixing butter into a recipe. Learn to keep ground beef tender, what to use in marinades, and four segments on eggs. Each of the fifty explanations has many recipes.
The book’s not perfect. For one thing, it’s got a great looking velvety black cover, but it scuffs very easily. Great for display, not so good for a book you’ll actually use in the kitchen. I would have liked to see something on zesting – why zest is far better at adding flavor than juice, but the book does have their fantastic Lemon Meringue Pie, so zesting is there, just not as a separate explanation.
If you want to understand cooking in addition to having up a couple hundred new recipes to choose from, this is exactly the book you need.
I’ve been cooking since I was a young teen. I received a weekly allowance to plan and cook our family meals after my mom returned to work when I was in 8th grade. I love to cook. While I know I’m a good cook, I also know that there is plenty I have to learn and Cook’s Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking certainly taught me that I don’t know as much as I thought.
I read this book from cover to cover while constantly, to my family’s annoyance” going “Hmm” or “I never knew that.” I’m not a newbie either, I was a Alton Brown addict and watched every show and have his books, so I certainly learned some techie stuff in terms of cooking, but this book blows anything Alton Brown did out of the water.
To start, I come from a British family, and that means we adore clotted cream. To find a recipe for clotted cream that actually works, that’s amazing. I’m making scones later today to enjoy the batch of clotted cream I whipped up.
The book contains 50 main concepts and a few extra pointers. Each concept explains the science behind why this concept works and gives detailed examples of what happens if you don’t follow the concept. Following the science are a number of recipes.
1. Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking (Delves into the perfect hard-boiled egg.)
2. High Heat Develops Flavor (I plan to test out the Tangerine Beef Stir Fry this week.)
3. Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness (Maple Glazed Pork Roast was a stand-out recipe for me.)
4. Hot Food Keeps Cooking (I’m not a tuna fan, but there is a great sounding recipe for Pan-Seared Tuna with a Ginger-Soy Scallion sauce.)
5. Some Proteins are Best Cooked Twice (Apple-Maple Glazed Chicken Breasts are on my list for this week.)
6. Slow Heating Makes Meat Tender (Two roast beef recipes.)
7. Cook Tough Cuts Beyond Well-Done (The chapter you want for pulled pork.)
8. Tough Cuts Like a Covered Pot (Pot Roasts and a recipe I tested – Chicken Provencal that was amazing.)
9. A Covered Pot Doesn’t Need Liquid (Recipes include another I’m testing out today – Pork Roast en Cocotte with Apples and Shallots)
10. Bones Add Flavor, Fat, and Juiciness (There are a few spareribs recipes.)
11. Brining Maximizes Juiciness in Lean Meats (Chapter does a lot with roast turkey or chicken.)
12. Salt Makes Meat Juicy and Skin Crisp (Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken sounds great.)
13. Salty Marinades Work Best (Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp are my must-try.)
14. Grind Meat at Home for Tender Burgers (Discusses the best way to grind your own meat. I never imagined they’d say a food processor.)
15. A Panade Keeps Ground Meat Tender (Great recipes for meatloaf and meatballs.)
16. Create Layers for a Breading that Sticks (There is an excellent recipe for Chicken Kiev.)
17. Good Frying is All About Oil Temperature (A chapter for anyone who wants to perfect French fries.)
18. Fat Makes Eggs Tender (Never thought about butter creating the lightest, fluffiest omelet.)
19. Gentle Heat Guarantees Smooth Custards(There’s a Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe for anyone who wants something different for Thanksgiving.)
20. Starch Keeps Eggs from Curdling (There are quiche recipes and a surprising recipe for Hot and Sour Soup.)
21. Whipped Egg Whites Need Stabilizers (Chocolate Mousse is covered.)
22. Starch Helps Cheese Melt Nicely (This is the chapter for homemade macaroni and cheese.)
23. Salting Vegetables Removes Liquid (Never thought to put eggplant in a microwave to stop it from soaking up too much oil.)
24. Green Vegetables Like it Hot – Then Cold (Covers blanching and has a great recipe for Homemade Green Bean Casserole.)
25. All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal (Best potato salad recipe I’ve seen.)
26. Potato Starches Can Be Controlled (Excellent recipe for Crisp Roasted Potatoes.)
27. Precooking Makes Vegetables Firmer (I’ve never tried Roasted Brussels Sprouts, but I will be doing so.)
28. Don’t Soak Beans – Brine ‘Em (The Minestrone Soup recipes is on my list to try.)
29. Baking Soda Makes Beans and Grains Soft (Recipe for Boston Baked Beans.)
30. Rinsing (Not Soaking)Makes Rice Fluffy (I’m still not convinced you need to rinse either. The Mexican Rice recipe is tempting.)
31. Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor (The Bacon, Scallion, and Caramelized Onion Dip sounds awesome.)
32. Chile Heat Resides in Pith and Seeds (I did know this already. There are chili recipes worth checking out.)
33. Bloom Spices to Boost Their Flavor (The Indian Curry recipe is on my must-try list.)
34. Not All Herbs Are For Cooking (Pesto and Salsa recipes look great.)
35. Glutamates, Nucleotides, and Meaty Flavor (Great stew recipe.)
36. Emulsifiers Make Smooth Sauces (Great recipe for Aioli.)
37. Speed Evaporation When Cooking Wine (My husband is dying to have me make the Poached Salmon.)
38. More Water Makes Chewier Bread (Making breads is a passion. Their Pizza Bianca looks amazing.)
39. Rest Dough to Trim Kneading Time (The Rustic Dinner Rolls are excellent.)
40. Time Builds Flavor in Bread (Has great recipes for NY-style Thin Crust Pizza.)
41. Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads (I’ll be giving the Ultimate Banana Bread a shot.)
42. Two Leaveners are Better Than One (Loved the before and after pictures that demonstrate why you need both baking soda and baking powder.)
43. Layers of Butter Make Flaky Pastry (This is where you’ll find the clotted cream recipe and a great recipe for flaky biscuits.)
44. Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy (Amazing. I never thought of using vodka.)
45. Less Protein Makes Tender Cakes, Cookies (Lots of cake recipes.)
46. Creaming Butter Helps Cakes Rise (Classic Pound Cake recipe in here.)
47. Reverse Cream for Delicate Cakes (I love the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream Frosting that doesn’t use powdered sugar.)
48. Sugar Changes Texture (Who wouldn’t love a recipe for Chocolate-Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries.)
49. Sugar and Time Make Fruits Juicier (A great recipe for Peach Crumble is found within.)
50. Cocoa Powder Delivers Big Flavor (Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling will make any chocoholic happy.)
In addition to all of the main concepts, there are chapters of the equipment you need for your kitchen, food safety, a full index of all the recipes, and a glossary of cooking methods. You’ll also find a handy chart for converting recipes to metric weights for best results, understanding why time isn’t the best way to judge when a food is cooked, and the ingredients you should always have on hand.
I know this review has been extra long, but I wanted to give a thorough sampling of the recipes and information you’d find within. I learned a lot in this book, such as the protein difference between Gold Medal and King Arthur flours, and it’s going on my list of things to get family members for Christmas.
The Science of Good Cooking; Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen was written by Guy Crosby who viewers of The American Test Kitchen will recognize as the Science Guy who is Chris Kimball’s “go-to” for the chemistry of cooking questions. In point of fact Guy has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and has written a smart book here. Unfortunately, it’s not a warm, fuzzy cookbook that some aficionados of the genre may expect from this publisher. It’s BIG! 9 x 10½ x 1¼ and HEAVY. This is a book that was made for your Kindle; otherwise it’s just uncomfortably large. That said, for what it is, it’s the best of the best.
The Concepts are many and mindboggling. Things you may never have considered if you’re not a student of Culinary Science. The list is: 1. Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking; 2. High Heat Develops Flavor; 3. Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness; 4. Hot Food Keeps Cooking; 5. Some Proteins Are Best Cooked Twice; 6. Slow Heating Makes Meat Tender; 7. Cook Tough Cuts Beyond Well Done; 8. Tough Cuts Like a Covered Pot; 9. A Covered Pot Doesn’t Need Liquid; 10. Bones Add Flavor, Fat, and Juiciness; 11. Brining Maximizes Juiciness in Lean Meats; 12. Salt Makes Meat Juicy and Skin Crisp; 13. Salty Marinades work best; 14. Grind Meat at Home for Tender Burgers; 15. A Panade Keeps Ground Meat Tender; 16. Create Layers for a Breading That Sticks; 17. Good Frying is All About Oil Temperature; 18. Fat Makes Eggs Tender; 19. Gentle Heat Guarantees Smooth Custards; 20. Starch Keeps Eggs from Curdling; 21. Whipped Egg Whites Need Stabilizers; 22. Starch Helps Cheese Melt Nicely; 23. Salting Vegetables Removes Liquid; 24. Green Vegetables Like it Hot — Then Cold; 25. All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal; 26. Potato Starches Can Be Controlled; 27. Precooking Makes Vegetables Firmer; 28. Don’t Soak Beans — Brine ‘Em; 29. Baking Soda Makes Beans and Grains Soft; 30. Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy; 31. Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor; 32. Chile Heat Resides in Pith and Seeds; 33. Bloom Spices to Boost Their Flavor; 34. Not All Herbs Are for Cooking; 35. Glutamates, Nucleotides Add Meaty Flavor; 36. Emulsifiers Make Smooth Sauces; 37. Speed Evaporation When Cooking Wine; 38. More Water Makes Chewier Bread; 39. Rest Dough to Trim Kneading Time; 40. Time Builds Flavor in Bread; 41. Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads; 42. Two Leaveners Are Often Better Than One; 43. Layers of Butter Makes Flaky Pastry; 44. Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy; 45. Less Protein Makes Tender Cakes, Cookies; 46. Creaming Butter Helps Cakes Rise; 47. Reverse Cream for Delicate Cakes; 48. Sugar Changes Texture (and Sweetness); 49. Sugar and Time Makes Fruit Juicer; 50. Cocoa Powder Delivers Big Flavor
The list price on the flyleaf is $40.00. Again, this is not a cookbook nor was it intended to be. This is a volume meant for the serious Culinary Academy crowd or someone looking to go toe-to-toe with Gordon Ramsay and become the next Master Chef. You can tell it’s a serious look at the Chemistry going on in your kitchen because there are no yummy photos of the 400 recipes that are included in this book. I like large, lip-smacking, color photos of food, but that’s just me. This is an excellent book for the intellectual crowd. I’ll judge it as such.
I am an avid home cook who grew up with a grandfather in the restaurant business. I have also been a guest lecturer in a culinary arts program at my local community college and I worked in a quality control laboratory for a major fruit/vegetable processor.
This leads into the substance of this book which is the ‘science’ of good cooking. ‘Science’ here means the ‘organization of experience into knowledge.’ This book is yet another ‘trendy’ recapitulation of the America’s Test Kitchen formula to ‘tag along’ with Harold McGee but the science stops well-short of the rising interest in ‘modernist cuisine’ or ‘molecular gastronomy.’ Do not confuse this with the work of Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet.
What readers will find is a fine overview of ‘why things work’ for the home kitchen. Traditional culinary history (Brillat Savarin’s ‘Physiology of Taste’) is presented here as ‘The Science of the Senses’ and is really a compact and understandable review of how humans taste and what types of tastes we can register. Things are updated from there but in a way that focuses on practical applications of rudimentary concepts. The idea that cooking is the management of heat and humidity as applied to food ingredients is ‘fleshed out’ for those of us who were not too sure what highschool chemistry was all about.
Some chemical terms are presented for the curious but they can be read and forgotten as long as one does remember the general changes their actions make in food and in the recipe. An example here is the book’s ‘Concept 39: Rest Dough to Trim Kneading Time.’ A side bar introduces two proteins in flour: glutenin and gliaden and describes their characteristics. Curious bakers need only remember that one protein produces the gluten web that traps gas from the yeast and the other gives dough its elasticity so dough has those two characteristics. The next technical word is autolyse which is simply a process that occurs if a yeast batter is allowed to rest prior to kneading by machine or by hand. Now we know. What we need to remember is that resting the batter before kneading produces a better gluten web (and better loaf texture) with less kneading and it allows desirable flavors to develop if given enough time.
Recipes are here (400) and they are carefully tested recipes, designed to ‘work’ (some cookbooks can not say as much)and to illustrate fifty general technical principles. A fine table of contents and index helps the reader to find recipes in the text and it worked better for me than ‘paging through’ the chapters since the recipes don’t stand out on the page as well as they do in ‘normal’ cookbooks. Test kitchen cooks have made each item several ways and carefully noted the results. Differences in their ‘experiments’ are summarized to point out why one recipe or cooking procedure worked better than the others for them. The recipes look tasty enough to me as a very well-read and experienced cook. Some of the procedures advocated–such as microwaving potato slices briefly and then grilling them on skewers, primarily to produce a certain flavor and texture–strike me as being too fussy. Similarly, I do not feel that my pie crusts need to be so tender that I will use the book’s trick of substituting vodka for part of the water in the dough.
This should not be your ‘first’ cookbook (America’s Test Kitchen recently introduced an excellent ‘Quick Family Cookbook’ to serve that purpose) but this book does add reliable recipes to the repertoire of an intermedite cook and it does ‘begin at the beginning’ which is also important for an intermediate home cook who can benefit (as I always do) from a ‘refresher’ on basic techiniques that lead up to advanced work. I would buy this book for my permanent collection if I were an average cook looking to understand things a little better or to find somewhat different recipes for popular items like tasty and chewy brownies or to learn some better techniques for ‘breading’ cutlets.
I have one caveat: every book from America’s Test Kitchen that I have ever bought makes sure to include recipes for many of the same, popular and comforting dishes. True, the recipes may differ somewhat from book to book but I do not feel that I need to own a copy of everything they publish.
There is no doubt that the book is full of useful tips: for example, they have an illustration showing which of the several available ‘grinds’ of cornmeal is right for making polenta. There are useful but by no means unique charts for temperature conversions, weight conversion, deciding on ‘doneness’ and the like. There are tips for ‘even cooking’ complete with photo illustrations of the consequences of using or not using a water bath. All recipes are based on a selection of what the culinary team found to work best after several tests of different recipes and or techniques. It all makes for interesting reading for the curious cook.