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McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture [Hardcover]

Harold Mcgee
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
RRP: 39.99
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Book Description

8 Nov 2004

McGEE ON FOOD AND COOKING is a masterpiece of gastronomic writing; a rich, addictive blend of chemistry, history and anecdote that no self-respecting foodie or cook can afford to be without.

McGEE ON FOOD AND COOKING renders the everyday miracles of the kitchen wondrous and fascinating, shedding light on questions that have puzzled generations of cooks. If you've ever wondered why fish goes off quicker than meat; how to tell stale eggs from fresh ones; why you're supposed to leave pancake batter to rest; how it is that cheese can possibly have so many different permutations of flavour and texture; why chopping onions makes you cry; about the health benefits of chocolate and alcohol; why Jerusalem artichokes make you fart; or even how to avoid poisoning your guests - then this is the book for you. With the enlightenment it brings, you may find yourself emerging from the culinary dark ages.

Harold McGee's original ON FOOD AND COOKING was acclaimed as a masterpiece on both sides of the Atlantic, and won the 1986 André Simon Food Book of the Year. Now completely rewritten for a new generation, reflecting the seismic shifts in science and upsurge in home cooking over the past two decades, this new book will amaze all those who love food.

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McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture + Molecular Gastronomy Exploring the Science of Flavor (Arts & Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History): Exploring the Science of ... the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) + The Flavour Thesaurus
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (8 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340831499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340831496
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 16.6 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


It answers every culinary question. . . This is the definitive, heavyweight reference book for the keen cook. (Spectator)

There has been no book like this since Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food, and there a few books so comprehensive, perspicuous or gracefully written on any subject. It is no exaggeration to call it a masterpiece. (Paul Levy, TLS)

Dazzling informative. . . . McGee is the father of modern food science and by far the most enjoyable writer to read on the subject. (Bee Wilson, Sunday Telegraph)

if you have to buy a present for someone really obsessed with cooking the outstanding choice is a work that is not new and does not contain a single recipe. McGee on Food and Cookery is an expanded version of Harold McGee's classic exploration of science in the kitchen. Not only does he explain how every culinary reaction works, he also explores the history of everything we eat... For the price of a meal, you'll get a lifetime's nutrition. (Christopher Hirst, Independent)

He has made the jump from mere author to timeless authority ... the book is quite remarkable in its depth, breadth and clarity. (Observer)

Book Description

Everything you've ever wanted to know about the science, history and culture of food and cooking, in one encyclopaedic, 896-page reference book

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
258 of 258 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing 31 Dec 2004
By P. Yale
I was eagerly anticipating this book ever since reading the reviews of the first edition. Since its arrival, I've not been disappointed. The first thing you notice about the book is its sheer size - it's enormous. It quickly became apparent that this was not a book to be read from start to finish - it was going to be a reference book.
And so it is turning out. It's great fun to dive in at random, and just read all about the topic at that point. I guarantee there will be numerous things you never knew, and some things that you did know, explained in more detail than you would have thought possible. Initially, some of this level of detail might seem unnecessary, but when taken in the context of the whole section it all makes perfect sense, and enhances the overall understanding of the subject.
The art of beating eggwhites, for example, is described in minute detail, covering the various stages that the beaten whites pass through, together with a scientific explanation of why this happens (and why the same process does not work for egg yolks). Having the scientific background knowledge helps you understand just why things can go wrong, and hopefully avoid those problems in the future.
Incidentally, for anyone who may have purchased Heston Blumenthal's book "Family Food", it is clear that Mr Blumenthal has been strongly influenced by McGee's book. The section on the effects of temperature on meat proteins is fascinating, and is very closely paralleled in Blumenthal's devotion to low-temperature meat cooking. The two books certainly complement each other very well indeed, and would make an ideal joint-purchase.
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scientific Cook 24 Feb 2006
Without doubt this is the book for all those who enjoy the scientific aspect of cooking. If you have ever thought why did that happen, or why do we do that? McGee on Food and Cooking has probably got the answer. But this is not just a story of what we eat and the whys and wherefores, but full of practical advice as to the nature of food, what slows spoilage and how different processing methods can either kill or enhance flavour. This is a serious book for the applied scientist in the Kitchen and should be a text which is compulsory reading in catering schools as it adds a unique dimension to culinary knowledge which can only add to gastronomic success. For the serious amateur cook they will find a host of facts competently marshalled and lucidly explained. A unique publication
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The answer to all culinary questions. 27 Aug 2006
By N. Wood
An unrivalled guide to the science of cooking.

Every concievable topic is covered in detail; from the manufacture of soy sauce, to descriptions of the aromatic compounds in different herbs and spices. Why does fish smell fishy, and exactly what happens to meat when it's browned?

This is an almost overwhelming resource, and a must for anyone eager to develop their culinary understanding beyond the basic information found in most recipe books. I have been better able to control the food that I cook with a fraction of the information found within this amazing read.

An absolute must.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making me better at EVERYTHING in the kitchen. 20 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I haven't actually finished reading yet, I'm only about 3/4 of the way through. Many of the reviews I have read about this book suggest that it should be used more as a reference, rather than a reading book. While that would certainly work to improve your technique when looking up a specific ingredient, you'd miss out on a lot. If you DO work your way through from beginning to end, and are serious about cooking, this will improve every aspect of your cooking. The book is laid out in sections of basic ingredients and explains in layman's terms (mostly) how they're constructed, why they do what they do when treated in a certain way and gives tips that will apply to literally every single meal you cook. There are handy little science class diagrams which help clarify and text boxes containing recipes, lore and writing hundreds of years old.

In a nutshell:
If you read this book, you will be able to get the most out of every ingredient and piece of equipment in your kitchen. There will be a hundred "AH! THAT'S where I've been going wrong!" moments and countless times when answers you have searched for all your culinary life (Like "How can I get my cheesecakes not to crack??") will suddenly shine from the pages.

Also a brilliant gift for any foodie!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 29 Jun 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had been looking forward to reading this book for some time and I'm happy to say that it is excellent! I'll admit that it is not an easy read because the level of detail is impressive to say the least. Why not 5 stars? Honestly? The constant references to U.S food production etc bored me. The book was obviously intended for the American market and whilst I can't blame McGee for doing so (he is American afterall!), he's written the book without considering the fact that not all readers will be interested in knowing about the USDA et al.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McGee on Food and Cooking 7 Feb 2009
By Decodor
I bought this book thinking that it would be full of recipes as it was mentioned by Heston Blumenthal as his favourite, on one of his TV programmes. It turned out not to be full of recipes at all, but my wife, who is an advanced and brilliant cook, found the book fascinating as it explains all the things that are never mentioned in the usual recipe books. It is an informative encyclopedia on the whys and whats in food and my wife can't stop reading it, although she does find some parts of it a bit too technical.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Really practical and helpful reference work for the serious cook
This is a great reference book for people interested in the science behind cookery, but it's more than that. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Fishpix2010
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
The few helpful tips are few and far between.
Published 2 months ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars A must in everyone's kitchen
A scientific and historical explanation of every kind of food may enter in your kitchen. I've found it something it's nice to keep in your kitchen and browse every time you come... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Luca Borghesan
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth twice the price
This book is an absolute steal on Amazon as the amount of knowledge it holds is worth twice the money at least. Read more
Published 4 months ago by headandneck
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading and source of information
perfect if you want to have a look a deeper look into the complex world of food and the history behind it, the only think I don't like about the book is the size of it, its quiet... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Dwayne
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book poorly executed
I had a nice edition of this years ago. Wanted to replace it. I have to say the print production values are a bit poor. Read more
Published 6 months ago by eric_cx
5.0 out of 5 stars McGee legendary
bought as present & enthusiastically received. for those who wish to understand food, not just eat it! A complete gastronomic education.
Published 6 months ago by Ipf Pyne
5.0 out of 5 stars Science in the kitchen
A wonderful read full of fantastic insights and revelations about food and cooking. It may not help you become a better cook, but at least you'll know why.
Published 8 months ago by Mr. S. J. Huntley
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent (but huge)
What a magnificent reference volume. This book seems to cover almost everything. I have only owned it a couple of weeks, but have spent hours a day reading it. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Anthony Lauder
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
There is only one, and I mean one, noteworthy criticism of this magnificient achievement of a book: you're lying in bed at night, reading this behemoth of information, and there is... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Elizabeth Ballarin
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