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on 1 May 2012
Molecular gastronomy books have a very tough task in balancing readability, scientific detail, accessibility, and applicability of any results to the domestic kitchen. One the one hand, you have "popular science" books, easy to read, but often little more than a collection of anecdotes. On the other hand are more technical books, like Harold McGee's excellent 'McGee on Food and Cooking', which aren't the kind of book you might want to sit down and read for an hour. As molecular techniques begin to become more readily reproducible at home, there is a need for great books which hit all of the spots above. Enter The Kitchen As Laboratory.

Written as a collection of essays from many leading food scientists, each of the thirty-three chapters discusses a part of food science, from the more common topics, like the Maillard reaction or meringues, to less common topics, like the effects of Xanthan gum or "bloom" in chocolate. Often, experiments are carried out - like trying to make a meringue out of nothing else than milk - to illustrate the principles involved; so you can actually look at the results of some very strange creations. But don't let these experiments, or some of the pictures from cakes put under microscopes, make you think it is too "sciency" a book. The book is very readable, and I am sure that somebody with a limited science background could still get a lot out of the read.

I'd highly recommend this book for anybody interested in cooking, and certainly for those interested in molecular gastronomy. I hugely enjoyed reading it, and I wouldn't be surprised if it became a classic book in food science. It's not often you find a book of this quality.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2013
If you think about it food and cookery have always been interlinked but not so many people have bothered to think why and look towards science as a way of making things even better. When they do, invariably, it is to make commercial food production more efficient and cost-effective.

Does the consumer gain so much here? Not so when it comes to the plate in any case and many people are sceptical to overt scientific manipulation of their foodstuffs. Yet in more recent times there has become a growing amount of interest in the science of gastronomy with many talented chefs around the world tackling this subject and looking at ways of pushing the envelope. It is no longer good enough to use good ingredients to make tasty food. A wow factor is often desirable and what better way to do that then through fooling the senses in a positive way and making the absolute best of the ingredients at hand! Some chefs such as Heston Blumenthal have managed to carve themselves a niche through their reputation as a good chef and as a talented gastronomic or molecular cook.

This book is a collection of 33 standalone chapters or essays looking at different elements of molecular gastronomy, as the subject has been labelled. Good science if you will differentiate it from the sometimes-controversial scientific manipulation of foodstuffs. Much of this work is still relatively new and developments are constantly being made as techniques are trialled and refined and knowledge becomes more commonplace.

This is not a dry scientific book that will only appeal to people with many letters after their name! Of course, it is going to be science-heavy and not an overly light read but the information contained within the essays is engaging, thought-provoking and accessible. Each chapter is concise and self-contained, meaning that you need not read the entire book in sequential order. You can pick and mix, of course, as and when the mood takes you. The range of topics being discussed is wide and varied. Quite thought-provoking really when you consider the subject matter. The science of a grilled cheese sandwich, the appeal of sound to eating, designing a sustainable and stretchable "fox testicle" ice cream, the perfect cookie dough, pairing of ice cream flavours and so forth.

One needs to remain open and willing to learn. In some ways it may challenge existing knowledge and beliefs but hopefully it will lead to a greater, complex understanding of foodstuffs and how they in fact interact together to form a meal or a key ingredient for the meal. This book manages to appeal to all levels - both the bemused but interested non-cook, the amateur cook who wants to one day take things further, the scientist and the professional cook who wishes to add this style to their repertoire. To achieve this with such an understandably complex subject matter is testament to the wide range of contributors and polishing by the editors.

Some further reading suggestions are given at the end of each chapter for those who need to look at concepts or references in more detail. Whilst it might have been nice to have had many colour photographs to illustrate the concepts shown in the book, maybe it would have then transformed into an unwieldily tome. Nonetheless some illustrations could have helped further express the visual concepts examined in the book. Current problems with technology mean that it is not possible to reproduce the aural and taste experiences that the experiments would have delivered. Maybe a future version when the technology allows!

One can equally expect that this book will act as a springboard into the subject of molecular gastronomy and inspire more people to take a closer look at it for professional, private or educational use. There is also a growing home movement of amateur molecular gastronomists who are enjoying riding the wave and trying to copy the often high-end, esoteric creations of leading-edge chefs. Although, on the whole, to do this and do this well you need a deep pocket as a lot of the equipment being used is very expensive, running into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars a time. As amateur interest develops, however, prices of equipment may begin to fall.

The book ends with a detailed resume of the contributors and an index. Unfortunately it was not possible to examine the index and state whether it was comprehensive and helpful or flaccid and a waste of pages as the review example provided did not feature this. However, one would be surprised if this was found to be deficient when one considers the overall high quality of this book. It is further pleasing to see the quite low price point for this book, making is less of an exclusive academic resource and more accessible to the regular reader without overly watering down the content. If you treat it as a great overview and introduction irrespective of your level of accomplishment or background, you should not be disappointed. This reviewer expects that this book will be a regular reference companion in the future too.
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on 21 May 2013
This is a decent attempt to write up some "molecular gastronomy" experiments for the general reader. As with so much modernist cooking, the problem for the home cook is that much of this is not of any practical use in the home kitchen. So, as this isn't really useable, it would have been better if a firmer editorial hand had been applied to improving some of the writing. I get that the authors aren't necessarily professional writers, but some of this is really quite amateurishly written (see, for example, the multiple unnecessary exclamation marks!). Also, and this might be unavoidable given the subject matter, it does start to feel quite repetitive - here is the thing we are experimenting with, here's the process, here's the end result. Without writing that really communicates the tastes and textures to the reader, this can at times be a bit of a slog.

My star rating is a compromise - I reckon it's three stars for the amateur reader, five stars for the professional who can actually use the book.
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on 27 August 2014
The content is great. If you are into how stuff works in a kitchen on a lower level, this is a very interesting read.

It consists of different chapters with a topic in each, written by different authors.

The book itself is of pretty low quality, rough paper.
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on 15 September 2013
This is a really good read for anyone who has ever wondered how and why traditions develop in cooking, rather than just saying 'do this' it say's 'this is why we do this and this is how it works'
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on 24 December 2012
The mysteries of cooking revealed in an easy to follow manner, you dont have to have a degree in Chemistry to understand this book.
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on 11 February 2013
A birthday present for my husband a really geeky chef who loved it! Definitely worth buying for someone who likes food writing.
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on 18 October 2014
it look like a book full of recepies and experiments.but not lot of history and chemicks for study.
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on 9 August 2016
Got as a gift for someone. I think they liked it.
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on 12 January 2013
This is basically a circle-jerk of scientists seeing how little sugar they can put in a meringue and get it to stay up, whilst using a lot of chemical diagrams and technical vocab. I'm fine with technical vocab, but it has to do something for me as a kitchen-cook before I'll excuse you using it.

The structure of the essays is non-existent; perhaps OK for a dip-in toilet-read for a technical person but s***e for a cook looking for inspiration in the Kindle edition.
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