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The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime… (original 2012; edition 2012)
by Cook's Illustrated (Editor)
The Science of Good Cooking by America's Test Kitchen (2012)
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I enjoyed this book even though it was quite long. I especially loved learning the scientific reasons and reactions. I must admit I skipped the many parts about cooking meat, etc., as I am vegetarian and have no interest in it. ( )
This was a 4.5 for me. Really good.
Finally finished…and I'm a better chef for it.
I've always loved cooking, but there's always been a part of me asking why does a particular recipe work when I add the secret ingredient? What's the science behind it? What's the reason I add salt to my meat, or flour before cooking. Just how long should I let something sit in a stew? Why? Why? Why? Finally, I decided to find out. By looking online? Of course not…being the voracious reader that I am, I opted to get a book about the science of cooking. And this was the book for me.
The book is categorized by 50 concepts, anything ranging from the Malliard effect when browning your meats, what happens to the whites and yolk of eggs when they are heated, and just how much sugar to add to your fruity drink affects not only the taste, but the texture as well. Each concept is given its own introduction, a sample experiment of the concept in action, and a variety of recipes that fit into this concept's category. Each recipe is also given it's own, "Why this works" scientific explanation. For the budding scientist in the kitchen, this is right where it's at.
There's so much going on in the world that we can't see, and I find it fascinating to be able to find these out. Sure, the adept cook can figure out that the minutes are very important when working in the kitchen, but when asked why, only a handful of them would be able to promptly explain why their method works, and can be repeated. Remember, a good experiment is something that can be repeated with the same results. Cooking is no exception.
This book would make a wonderful conversation starter in your kitchen. Perhaps put it on one of those knife blocks that also serve as a cookbook book shelf, and you've got yourself a recipe for fun! I give this book a scrumptious 5 out of 5.
When I subscribed to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I read each issue cover to cover, enjoying every bit of deconstructing a recipe or technique and evaluating commercial pantry staples and cookery tools. And now I devoured every word of this big volume on the science behind 50 fundamental concepts essential to good cooking.
Each concept is presented as an 8-16 page chapter that begins with the science/theory behind a technique, followed by a cooking experiment that tests the science, and then much further exploration of the concept via at least half-a-dozen recipes (for generally familiar, delicious, foods). Note: this is not an “illustrated,” coffee-table book; there are some graphics to help describe the science, and some simple photos of experimental results, but this is a text-heavy book -- lush with information not visuals.
The topics mostly concern meat, eggs, vegetables and baking. All of it feels solid -- the reinforcement of concepts I already knew about, the confidence to try techniques that are new to me, and many “aha” moments about the whys behind the science, some of which come to mind even now:
• when to cut a food with the grain vs. against the grain (answer: onions and tough meats, respectively; cutting across cells breaks them, resulting in a too-pungent onion but a more tender meat);
• the difference between baking soda (which reacts with an acid in the recipe to create CO2 bubbles that leaven) vs. baking powder (which contains baking soda + a powdered acid) vs. double-acting baking powder (which contains a second acid that works later, in the oven’s heat) -- and why you ever even need separate baking soda (it leads to flavorful browning);
• why adding eggs to a batter one at a time, and alternating the addition of wet and dry ingredients, does matter (both cause ingredients to incorporate faster/better and prevent the over-mixing that toughens the batter);
• whether to salt scrambled eggs before or after cooking (before: “Salt affects the electrical charge on the protein molecules in the eggs, reducing the tendency of the proteins to bond with each other. A weaker protein network means eggs are less likely to overcoagulate and will cook up tender, not tough.”)
If you have an opinion about Cook’s Illustrated magazine, that will be your opinion of this book -- multiplied by 50 :) If you’re unfamiliar with the magazine, I highly recommend using e.g. Amazon's “Look Inside” feature to browse the Table of Contents for the concepts/techniques covered, and then read the “First Pages” (which is “Concept 1: Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking”) and is representative of the book.
Unlike any other cookbook you know, The Science of Good Cooking is organized around concepts, rather than recipes, categories, or occasions. The editors urge you to master these fifty simple concepts in order to enjoy a lifetime of success in the kitchen. After each concept--such as “Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking” or “Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness” or “Salty Marinades Work Best”--the science behind it is explained. A description of the test kitchen experiment on the subject follows. More than 400 recipes that demonstrate the concepts are included. Helpful little tips on practical science abound. The Science of Good Cooking is the most original, and perhaps most instructive, cookery book I’ve seen!
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In this radical new approach to home cooking, science is used to explain what goes on in the kitchen. Unlike other food science books, this is a direct and practical connection between the science and the cooking divided into 50 core principles.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)641.3 — Technology and Application of Knowledge Home and family management Food And Drink Food
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