Customer Review

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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