Cooks Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking
Master 50 simple concepts to enjoy a lifetime of success in the kitchen.
Despite the saying about the cat, curiosity is what sets humans apart from other mammals. A hundred years ago, most cooks were working with a limited repertoire of recipes and ingredients, and they had plenty of first-hand experience to make those recipes work. Now we stand at the beginning of a new century, many of us keenly interested in the culinary arts, but without the years of practical experience that it takes to become a great cook.
I couldn't agree more and I was thrilled when my sister-in-law handed me a copy last weekend.
I'm a huge fan of a Cooks Illustrated and have been receiving their year end collection of monthly issues since 1993. When I started out learning how to cook I would use their articles to teach me the hows and whys behind a cooking technique and then try applying it to a recipe. I loved learning not only what to do but why I was doing it.
What separates success from failure in the kitchen" It's the ability to think on your feet, to make adjustments as you cook. And, despite what you might think, a lifetime of experience isn't a prerequisite for being a good cook (although it does help).
The editors of America's Test Kitchen with Guy Crosby look at 50 basic cooking concepts, "ones that every home cook should know." They look at how heat effects different foods, the science of taste, how emulsifiers make smooth sauces and why rinsing (not soaking) makes rice fluffy. This is just a sample of what you'll learn in this amazing collection of cooking articles. And if you are into baking, there are several articles on the topic. And throughout the book you'll find cool advice like when buying shrimp...
FRESH OR FROZEN? Because nearly all shrimp are frozen at sea, you have no way of knowing when those "fresh" shrimp in the fish case were thawed (unless you are on very personal terms with your fishmonger). We found that the flavor and texture of thawed shrimp deteriorate after a few days, so you're better off buying frozen.
There are recipes like Stir-Fried Beef with Snap Peas and Red Pepper to illustrate the maillard reaction at work and the foolproof method for preparing Hard-Cooked Eggs using conductive heat.
Here's what one reviewer said on Amazon.com about the book...
Combine the very best of Alton Brown of the Food Network's Good Eats and America's Test Kitchens (ATK) and the result is this wonderful book. It is much more than a cookbook although it does have hundreds of excellent, ATK developed and tested recipes.
If you are into cooking and want to know more than just how to make a recipe but the why's behind it, I think you'll enjoy The Science of Good Cooking.