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The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) Hardcover – 1 Oct 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 486 pages
  • Publisher: America's Test Kitchen (1 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933615982
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933615981
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 3.2 x 27 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

This book has been tested, written, and edited by the test cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters, and cookware specialists at America s Test Kitchen, a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside Boston. It is the home ofCook s Illustratedmagazine andCook s Countrymagazine, the public television cooking showsAmerica s Test KitchenandCook s Country from America s Test Kitchen, America s Test Kitchen Radio, and the online America s Test Kitchen Cooking School."


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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 (i.e. you first warm the interior so that you can quickly sear both sides for flavor in the pan without reducing the temperature of the pan when you flip it). 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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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.
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