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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Massive Book Packed with Good (But Hard to Find) Info
I'm probably not the target audience for this richly-detailed mashup of textbook and cookbook, in that I don't watch cooking shows, am a capable but largely indifferent cook, and was terrible at high school science. Actually, maybe that last part does make me a likely reader, since the whole point of this massively detailed book is to explain the science of what happens...
Published on 15 Feb. 2013 by A. Ross

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3.0 out of 5 stars Helful to understand 3 things: right cooking times; ...
Helful to understand 3 things: right cooking times; right cooking temperatures; right salt concentrations in brining different meats. Very anoying the measures only coming on the imperial system.
Published 8 months ago by Nuno Canha


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Massive Book Packed with Good (But Hard to Find) Info, 15 Feb. 2013
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
I'm probably not the target audience for this richly-detailed mashup of textbook and cookbook, in that I don't watch cooking shows, am a capable but largely indifferent cook, and was terrible at high school science. Actually, maybe that last part does make me a likely reader, since the whole point of this massively detailed book is to explain the science of what happens in the kitchen to the layperson. The book is organized around teaching the reader fifty "concepts" ranging from the obvious (for example, #1: Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking, #14: Grind Meat at Home for Tender Burgers, etc.) to the less so (for example, #31: Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor, #44 Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy). I'd say about a third of these are relevant to the kind of cooking I do, but I don't make my own bread, do a lot baking, or eat red meat or pork, so your utility will likely be much higher.

Each of the fifty concepts is a few pages of sciencey writing with the kind of diagrams I could never parse in high-school chemistry, followed by a bunch of related recipes (there are about 400 in the book), mixed with various test kitchen experiments, and lots of "Practical Science" sidebars. I actually found the latter to be the most interesting (and digestible) parts of the book, but a chacun son goût. Consider the following random sentence from Concept 31: "Onions glean their intense flavor and acrid odor from sulfur-containing substances similar to allicin, called thiosulfinates, which are created when the same enzyme allinase interacts with an odorless sulfur-containing amino acid, similar to the one in garlic, released when the onion's cell's are ruptured." That's all well and good, but too technical for me.

Although the book is packed with great information, it can just be a little hard to find. For example, interspersed among the fifty concepts are one-page "101" pages, such as "Salt 101" or "Eggs 101," which talk about the different varieties of the ingredient, how to use, store, etc. These are great, except that they're hard to find -- ditto for an good appendix on kitchen equipment. I think I would have preferred the book without the recipes, which really add a lot of bulk and an extra layer of content to sort though. I suspect a more linear structure would have made the material much more accessible. All that said, this is a great book for anyone who's into the science of cooking, or just likes cooking and science and hasn't ever considered the two together.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good intro to food science with dependable recipes, 2 Nov. 2013
This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
First and most importantly: this is not a cookbook, it is a textbook with recipes. "The Science of Good Cooking" combines a solid look at food science with the great photos, illustrations and recipes that Cook's Illustrated is known for. Chefs and passionate foodies have likely already read the excellent (if text-heavy) On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen cover-to-cover (or for the truly ambitious, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking), but for the occasional home chef, "The Science of Good Cooking" does an admirable job at breaking down the basics of heat levels and its effect on flavor and texture, the reasons for cooking bone-in over boneless, brining, salting, the importance of fat, starches, alkaline cooking, how to work with spices (blooming, working with chiles), emulsifiers, leavening, etc. Along the way, photo sidebars and simple color illustrations bring to mind high school science textbooks (but get the job done).

Each section also offers up recipes that utilize the target concept, along with a sidebar on "why this recipe works" that serves to reinforce the previously studied concept.

This is indispensable for advanced home bakers; their discussions on starches in pudding and pastry cream, stabilizing whipped egg whites (meringues, mousse), lamination, fraisage, fermentation, tempering and blooming is worth the price of the book alone.

My only nitpick is that some of the font on sidebars (like the one on egg safety on page 173) is written in miniscule font that I had difficulty reading. Otherwise, the contrast of the color illustrations and recipe text stands out clearly on the page. There is also a good illustrated guide to recommended equipment that you will find standard in Cook's Illustrated cookbooks, although as a baker, I found their section on "essential bakeware" to be sadly underpowered (they don't list any recommended Bundt pans or springform pans such as the top-rated Frieling 9-Inch Glass Bottom Nonstick Springform Pan, despite including recipes that use these products). I also found it curious that they do not discuss using copper (Mauviel M'Passion 2191.26 Copper 10-Inch/4.6L/4.9-Quart Egg White Bowl with Ring) and its effect on egg whites during their discussion on stabilizing egg whites.

Also, Cook's Illustrated has a tendency to recycle their recipes and reviews heavily, so a good deal of the subject matter and recipes has appeared in other CI publications / shows. However, it's also convenient to have it at hand when you want a recipe that uses stabilized egg whites, for example, without having to go hunt down a different Cook's Illustrated cookbook to look it up.

Otherwise, this is an approachable, user-friendly guide to food science coupled with 400 tested recipes that illustrate each concept. If you're not quite ready to jump into On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, this is a great place to start.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how-to cooking methods explained - scientifically,, 12 Mar. 2013
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
If you are like me, you love to cook but the results of your efforts are sometimes frustratingly inconsistent. Even if you read your recipes very carefully, there are levels of expertise that are sometimes assumed, hence unaddressed. Really good cooks have a feel for these things that are hard to transmit, and often say that you just have to learn by trial and error, also frustrating.

This book is the perfect remedy to these problems: you can look up how to do things, which they have carefully proven by exhaustive experiment, and written down in a succinct way, with plenty of scientific detail if you are so inclined.

You can look up almost anything and get practical advice on how to do it better. The index is excellent, the table of contents broken down by method - so techniques are easy to find.

For example, I only recently began to cook steak (my wife doesn't like it, but now the kids want it). No matter what I did, it almost always turned out too tough, unless I bought a very expensive cut. So I looked up a method in this book: marinate in oil and salt, then heat it gently first in the oven, before pan frying it at high heat. They discuss all other methods, such as pure pan frying and explain why slow heating works best. It works every single time. The same goes for beans, chickens, and veggies: there are simple things you can do to vastly improve the taste. Indeed, I am learning what I have been doing slightly wrong for the last 25 years of cooking! It is a revelation.

That being said, there are some things the book is not. First, it is not about nutrition, which doesn't appear in the index. Second, it is not a recipe book, except to illustrate the concepts they wish to introduce - its recipes are pretty normal, which is of course fine. Third, it is not a science book, though that aspect is interesting as well, if you want to go there.

What you can do with this is supplement your favorite recipes, study it for practical tips, or learn what is happening when you cook. I couldn't be more pleased. Warmly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, even for a beginner, 20 July 2013
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
I am taking a cookery course, and this book was recommended to me by another student. To be honest, I am not beginner, but I think that even an absolute beginner would benefit from this book. It teaches some fundamental concepts of good cooking that are reusable across almost all recipes. There is certainly quite a bit of science in the book, but not overwhelmingly so, and there is a healthy balance of grounded, practical advise. The only downside is that all measurements use the American system of measures, which is a shame. However, conversions of the metric system are explained.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Helful to understand 3 things: right cooking times; ..., 26 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
Helful to understand 3 things: right cooking times; right cooking temperatures; right salt concentrations in brining different meats. Very anoying the measures only coming on the imperial system.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Metric conversions?, 17 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
It would be good if the Test Kitchen folks would include metric conversions in their recipes (as Jamie Oliver usually does). Most of the world is on the metric system!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must for every good cook, 5 July 2013
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
My son also loves cooking and between us we have learnt a lot more about the actual science of cooking. You can have some fun experiments in the kitchen with this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good, 5 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
A Very interesting book, there are some tasty recipies which are described well. I am looking forward to trying more out
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 19 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
Great book. Good to flick through and easy to read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 6 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) (Hardcover)
Great book, explains the art of cooking.
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