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30 people found this helpful
Good resource for those starting out--or even those with a lot of cooking experience!
on January 21, 2011
The book begins with this comment (Page 1): "Whether you fancy yourself a hotshot home cook or someone who wouldn't know a whisk from a Weimaraner, Cooking Basics for Dummies, 4th edition, can help you." So, this book is designed, at one level, to provide a neophyte the tools to use as the foundation for decent cooking. As such, I think, it does its job nicely. I have sometimes seen rather lame entries into the ". . . for Dummies" series. This is not one of those.
The volume begins with the basics--what goes into your kitchen? This includes the basics of your own kitchen (such as when you can best use a microwave--and when you should probably not use one); What tools one needs I the kitchen (Pots and pans, small appliances, mixing and baking tools, "gizmos and gadgets"--such a meat thermometers, which can be very useful; Stocking the pantry and the refrigerator--What are the basics needed? (e.g., baking supplies, herbs and spices, refrigerated supplies [such as eggs and butter and cheeses], fruits and veggies).
Part II of this book explores techniques, such as use of knives, boiling-poaching-steaming, sautéing, braising and stewing, roasting, grilling and broiling, and cooking basics (measuring, working with eggs, whipping-stirring-folding-etc. There are also recipes that illustrate the technique in action. For instance, sautéed skillet potatoes. Clean potatoes and scrub them (unpeeled), cube the potatoes, heat oil in a large skillet, add potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, remove potatoes, sauté onion, bell pepper, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, cook for about 4-5 minutes, add potatoes to mixture and cook until potatoes are browned and crisped. Described step by step and simply. Someone trying this dish for the first time would have a fair chance of success by following the 7 point instructions for the recipe.
Part III looks at mastering breakfast (e.g., how to make scrambled and fried eggs, how to cook bacon, how to make French toast), soups and salads, grains, sauces, and sweet dishes. One example of a recipe included in this section: Béchamel sauce. Heat milk, create a roux (butter and flour mix--explained simply), add milk to roux while continually whisking, remove from heat and add nutmeg and salt and pepper whisking all the while.
Part IV presents a variety of recipes using techniques described earlier. This includes one pot meals, making meals for a crowd, classy dishes, use of leftovers, etc. (keep in mind that recipes are also included in earlier chapters on techniques and so on). Part V focuses on "Tens": ten common cooking disasters and how to avoid/deal with them, ten ways to think like a chef, and ten ways to do healthy cooking (including going vegan or vegetarian, producing low fat meals, and providing more fiber with meals).
All in all, pretty satisfying. One can quibble about this or that, but this, overall, works pretty well.