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McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture Hardcover – 8 Nov 2004


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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: 16.7 x 6.3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

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

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

268 of 269 people found the following review helpful By P. Yale on 31 Dec. 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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61 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Laurence G. Measey on 24 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By N. Wood on 27 Aug. 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. E. L. Martin on 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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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Greekfoodie on 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Decodor on 7 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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