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Have you ever noticed how there are some cookbooks you refer to again and again, even though you have dozens of others sitting around collecting dust? These “foundation” or cornerstone cookbooks are important because they help define your experience – and overall success – in the kitchen.
The best cookbooks can help you master the basics and give you the confidence to challenge yourself to reach new levels. At their best, you will find these exemplary collections are more of a culinary master course than a mere collection of interesting recipes. If you are looking for a new resource like this to add to your collection, you may want to take a look at The Science of Good Cooking, by the editors at Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen.
This impressive collection of culinary know-how serves as an interesting blend of functional cookbook and scientific textbook that promises to show you how to “master 50 simple concepts” in exchange for “a lifetime of success in the kitchen.”
Clearly that’s a pretty bold promise, so let’s take a closer look at how well it delivers on what it sets out to do…
For starters, you should know that The Science of Good Cooking is no lightweight volume of fluffy concepts and ideas. Instead, it weighs in at a robust, information-packed 486 pages. Throughout those pages, the 50 important cooking concepts mentioned above are brought to life via 400 thoroughly tested recipes that have been “engineered for perfection.” This tome seeks to answer the “Why” behind what works – and what doesn’t – in the kitchen. Much like America’s Test Kitchen does on PBS.
To give you an idea of what those 50 simple concepts comprise, here are a few examples:
High Heat Develops Flavor
A Covered Pot Doesn’t Need Liquid
Good Frying is All About Oil Temperature
Salty Marinades Work Best
Slicing Changes Garlic & Onion Flavor
The Science of Good Cooking is structured around these 50 concepts, with related recipes woven in to demonstrate how they hold up in real life applications.
The Science of Good Cooking has a retail list price of $40, but you can pick up a hardcover version on Amazon for around $21, while the Kindle edition is right around $20. This is a pretty good deal in terms of the huge amount of highly actionable information and quality recipes this book contains.
But don’t just take my word for it. As of this writing, The Science of Good Cooking has garnered more than 850 reviews on Amazon. Based on those reviews, it has earned a truly impressive 4.8 star ranking (out of 5 possible stars). In fact, a whopping 96% of those who reviewed this book gave it a 4-star (11%) or a 5-star ranking (85%). These results are pretty impressive when you consider these numbers represent nearly 850 individuals who have purchased and reviewed this book.
Of course, not everyone who reviewed The Science of Good Cooking loved it. However, it should be noted that out of those 850+ reviews, there have been very few 1 or 2-star ratings.
Some negatives mentioned in the reviews:
- the overall tone of the authors was too smug and condescending
- the text is too small
- the book itself is too heavy to be easily handled while working in the kitchen.
- lack of color photos to accompany the recipes. This is true of all of Cook’s Illustrated’s publications. Instead of photos they have lovely “illustrations”.
I am a bit of a science geek, and cooking is definitely a science so this book has a natural appeal to me. If it appeals to you too, I recommend checking out The Science of Good Cooking.
Do you have the book already? Have you thought about getting it? Let me know what you think!
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