Learning to Cook

Cookbook Review: The Science of Good Cooking

2016 cooks scienceMy anxiety over cookbooks has to do with a photo with each recipe.  I’m visual, what can I say.  But, if I want to be better at cooking or baking, I think it would be most helpful if there was a book out there, like Cooks Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking, to help me understand how it all works.  This book is now my favorite.  And, NO, it does not have a photo for every recipe.  It has something useful, information.

In fact, if you become a chef, I believe you have to know everything that is in this 450 page book.  Did you know that the brown bits left in the bottom of your skillet are called “fond”?  I’m using that name going forward.  Also, I had no idea, that shrimp, when caught, are actually frozen on the boat before it gets to shore.  WHAT!

I picked the book up at the library and have decided to order it.  The contents of the book were written by people at America’s Test Kitchen and the home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  The reader is being given clever explanations of the cooking process just as a scientist would give when explaining the scientific theory of anything.

On the “Welcome” page it intimates that in cooking “…there’s a right way to sauté, there is a best way to cook a pot roast, and there are measurable scientific principles involved in producing perfectly beaten, stable egg whites.”  Their job, “to investigate the fundamental principles of cooking so that you become a better cook.”  Well, thank you.

With each recipe, it explains “Why this recipe works.”  They offer Practical Science sections for many topics such as whether to “dimple” or not “dimple” your burger when grilling or in the skillet.  The science of Blanching and shocking vegetables.  Think I’ll be shocking them next time.

I’ve been cooking since I was 13, so 48 years.  I’ve made a Green Bean Casserole so many times that I can do it in my sleep.  They have a recipe for the “ultimate” casserole that I will definitely try without the canned cream of mushroom soup.  Meaning, you make your own roux for this dish and it sound delicious.  This is a fresher spin on the classic.

This is not a book filled with foodie hacks.  It explains in detail just why the coarse cut of cornmeal is the best for polenta while comparing it to the super-fine, and regular cornmeal.  I’m not trying to sound like an SNL skit, but when you just keep going along not knowing why, you’ll never become a better cook.

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