On the Shelf: The Science of Good Cooking


By: Trey Brusio


PC: eatthelove.com

General Background
Being in Culinary school and interested in Food Science (as I’m sure just about anyone reading this is in a similar situation), a couple of my instructors recommended this book to me. The authors break down things and explain why we do the things we do in the kitchen. They make the complicated seem so basic that anyone could understand it.  While this book is more acclimated to teaching the basics, I still recommend to professional chefs that like to find creative inspirations.

Title: The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry 4th edition
Author: America’s Test Kitchen
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: America’s Test Kitchen
Pages: 486

Who wrote this book?
If you haven’t heard of America’s Test Kitchen, you need to climb out from under your rock and do a little research. They state their mission is “to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite food.” But it’s not only recipes they test, oh no, they have their hands in almost all things related to food and cooking. They test ingredients, recipes, and equipment. They run a couple of magazines including Cook’s Illustrated, they have online courses you can take, and have New York Times bestselling cookbooks. Did I mention they have their own TV show?

Why get this book?
I particularly enjoy this book because you know for a fact that these recipes and techniques are tested by professionals whose job is to perfect these concepts. These professionals have done countless hours of research and now they want to share the concepts they’ve discovered.

What makes this book special?
This book is based around 50 simple concepts; things that are second-hand to most chefs. They take these concepts and explain to you the science based around it. They figure, once you understand why these concepts work, they become easier to master.

What’s in the book?
The layout of this book is very simple. The first few pages are all about the basics: minimum internal temperatures, senses, measuring, tools/ingredients etc. After that, each chapter is dedicated to a single concept. They explain the concept and then break each one down into three areas: How the Science Works, Test Kitchen Experiments, and great recipes that you can use that exemplify these ideas.

Concept 1 Gentle Heat Prevents Cooking Concept 26 Potato Starches Can Be Controlled
Concept 2 High Heat Develops Flavor Concept 27 Precooking Makes Vegetables Firmer
Concept 3 Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness Concept 28 Don’t Soak Beans—Brine ‘Em
Concept 4 Hot Food Keeps Cooking Concept 29 Baking Soda Makes Beans and Grains Soft
Concept 5 Some Proteins Are Best Cooking Twice Concept 30 Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy
Concept 6 Slow Heating Makes Meat Tender Concept 31 Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor
Concept 7 Cook Tough Cuts Beyond Well-Done Concept 32 Chile Heat Resides in Pith and Seeds
Concept 8 Tough Cuts Like a Covered Pot Concept 33 Bloom Spices to Boost Their Flavor
Concept 9 A Covered Pot Doesn’t Need Liquid Concept 34 Not All Herbs Are for Cooking
Concept 10 Bones Add Flavor, Fat, and Juiciness Concept 35 Glutamates, Nucleotides, Add Meaty Flavor
Concept 11 Brining Maximizes Juiciness in Lean Meats Concept 36 Emulsifiers Make Smooth Sauces
Concept 12 Salt Makes Meat Juicy and Skin Crisp Concept 37 Speed Evaporation When Cooking Wine
Concept 13 Salty Marinades Work Best Concept 38 More Water Makes Chewier Bread
Concept 14 Grind Meat at Home for Tender Burgers Concept 39 Rest Dough To Trim Kneading Time
Concept 15 A Panade Keeps Ground Meat Tender Concept 40 Time Builds Flavor in Bread
Concept 16 Create Layers for a Breading that Sticks Concept 41 Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads
Concept 17 Good Frying is All About Oil Temperatures Concept 42 Two Leaveners Are Often Better than One
Concept 18 Fat Makes Eggs Tender Concept 43 Layers of Butter Make Flaky Pastries
Concept 19 Gentle Heat Guarantees Smooth Custards   Concept 44 Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy
Concept 20 Starch Keeps Eggs from Curdling Concept 45 Less Protein Makes Tender Cakes, Cookies
Concept 21 Whipped Egg Whites Need Stabilizers Concept 46 Creaming Butter Helps Cakes Rise
Concept 22 Starch Helps Cheese Melt Nicely Concept 47 Reverse Cream for Delicate Cakes
Concept 23 Salting Vegetables Removes Liquid Concept 48 Sugar Changes Texture (and Sweetness)
Concept 24 Green Vegetables Like it Hot—Then Cold Concept 49 Sugar and Time Make Fruit Juicier
Concept 25 All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal Concept 50 Cocoa Powder Delivers Big Flavor

The Last Word
The Science of Good Cooking is an amazing book for beginners and professionals alike. America’s Test Kitchen does an amazing job of combining science and cooking that will please even the newest of students. I know that this book has made a comfy home on my shelf and I strongly suggest you add it to yours.



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