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Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking [Paperback]

by Simon Quellen Field
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1, 2011 1569767068 978-1569767061

When you’re cooking, you’re a chemist! Every time you follow or modify a recipe, you are experimenting with acids and bases, emulsions and suspensions, gels and foams. In your kitchen you denature proteins, crystallize compounds, react enzymes with substrates, and nurture desired microbial life while suppressing harmful bacteria and fungi. And unlike in a laboratory, you can eat your experiments to verify your hypotheses.

            In Culinary Reactions, author Simon Quellen Field turns measuring cups, stovetop burners, and mixing bowls into graduated cylinders, Bunsen burners, and beakers. How does altering the ratio of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, butter, and water affect how high bread rises? Why is whipped cream made with nitrous oxide rather than the more common carbon dioxide? And why does Hollandaise sauce call for “clarified” butter? This easy-to-follow primer even includes recipes to demonstrate the concepts being discussed, including:

·        Whipped Creamsicle Topping—a foam

·        Cherry Dream Cheese—a protein gel

·        Lemonade with Chameleon Eggs—an acid indicator


Frequently Bought Together

Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking + On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen + The Science of Good Cooking (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks)
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Editorial Reviews


“Full of charts, step-by-step photos, structural formulas, and amazing recipes (the cherry cream cheese has me drooling), you will become a better cook without even trying.” —MAKE Magazine

“This clear primer to the chemistry of cooking goes well beyond the basics to teach cooks how to improve their results scientifically.” —Science News

“The writing style is very personable and he does a great job of illustrating concepts with recipes.”      —

“With information advanced enough to interest the well-seasoned, hard-boiled home cook, the information in this book is written in such a friendly and approachable manner that even beginner kitchen-chemists will be delighted to learn from it.”—San Francisco Book Review

“A gateway into the science of food.”  —Gastronomica

About the Author

Simon Field is the author of Why There’s Antifreeze in Your Toothpaste, Gonzo Gizmos, and The Return of Gonzo Gizmos, and is the creator of the popular Web site

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569767068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569767061
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
131 of 136 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what it is. November 25, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book comes off as a write up of Google searches. It contains lots of interesting factiods, to be sure, and on the whole is worth the price, but it's neither a chemistry course nor a cooking course nor -- what you'd hope for -- a braiding of the two.

It's not a biochem course, not even a lightweight one, as it doesn't build from first principals -- it just throws out whatever chemistry facts happen to pop up, some times at a basic level and sometimes at a very deep level -- too deep, I'd think, for most cooks. Neither is it a cooking/baking course (it mixes both), as again it doesn't build up an understanding from basic principals. So you get a chemistry fact, sometimes paired with a curious fact about cooking or baking. Then off to the next fact. Fortunately, it has a table of contents and a good index, so at least you can find the tidbits you might be looking for. Many times they are interesting, but not always.

My degrees are in chemistry and I consider myself reasonable well read when it comes to gastronomy, so I enjoyed the book and read it completely. But I think if I were someone expecting to be lead through an understanding of basic food chemistry and simultaneously basic cooking/baking I would have been confused and disappointed. You'd come away with some facts, but I don't think you'd come away with an understanding of the chemistry of cooking or baking, and I don't think you'd become a better cook (or chemist).
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's science you eat! Love this book. November 7, 2011
I like science, and love cooking. So Culinary Reactions : The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking by Simon Quellen Field is very exciting to me. The idea is to explain in clear and easy language how the chemicals in our foods react and behave to create what we eat.

From the liquid nitrogen frozen ice cream in the introduction, to the very end where he explains why salt and ice freeze ice cream and all the information in between, he's managed it very well.

The chapters each cover a specific topic, and there is some overlap in the examples used. Like making cheese involves making a protein gel using protein chemistry and can be flavored using molds which are covered in the biology chapter.

The language is clear and scientific. He explains the way molecules interact to create foams such as bread and meringues, how beer and vinegar are made, how specific cultured bacteria can create inhospitable environments for more dangerous bacteria. The affects of acids and bases on recipes, including a very clear explanation of the difference between the two.

Yes, it's science, but it's easy to read and understand.

There are few cooking projects that show the chemical processes at work. A whipped topping that's stabilized with the addition of xanthan gum, a homemade cheese cheese with instructions for two great, inexpensive and easy to build cheese presses, a turkey that's is surface sterilized to be cooked for a very long time at below boiling point temperatures to keep it super juicy, extracting DNA from pumpkins and fruit, and lemonade with color changing grape juice "chameleon eggs".
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There is better out there June 13, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not poorly written and does contain knowledge worth learning. The problem I had with the book is I had already purchased and read "the science and Lore of the kitchen" written by Harold McGee. I had found that Harold McGee's book was more detailed and covered a vast amount of knowledge. When I compared both books I felt like Culinary Reactions was kind of like attending a second grade class but you already graduate from high school, I found myself asking, why am I reading this? I can recommend this book to someone who is interested in obtaining the basics of food science. But if you are looking for more than I recommend "the science and Lore of the kitchen" written by Harold McGee.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The science of everyday cooking November 1, 2011
Culinary Reactions explores the scientific principles behind everyday recipes. Don't be intimidated by the word science mixed in with this description, the way he explains the process is fun and easy to understand. The author starts out with the basics of chemistry in the kitchen including the importance of measuring and weighing ingredients. He also talks about the importance of using quality ingredients and how to estimate calories.

Each chapter is broken down by the type of reaction involved: Foams, Emulsions, Oils and Fats, Solutions, Crystallization, Protein Chemistry, Biology, Scaling Recipes Ups and Down, Heating, Acids and Bases, Oxidation and Reduction; and Boiling, Freezing and Pressure.

Culinary Reactions isn't really a cookbook although you fill find recipes scattered throughout the book. The breakdown of the chemical reactions may not necessarily tell you what to expect in each chapter unless you're familiar with cooking chemistry. As an example, Foams includes things like marshmallows, whipped cream and ice cream. The book explains why each reaction occurs so I learned that proteins in these foams are changed from their natural state (denatured) and attract and repel different things which eventually causes them to stick to different things and form a film that holds their shape. Each chapter includes diagrams of various molecular structures so you can see the actual chemical reaction that takes place. There are also several shaded boxes that include chemistry lessons you can read for more information on specific processes discussed in the chapter. This is perfect for those of us that either never took chemistry or haven't thought about it for years... just in case you don't remember what a covalent bond actually is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great item!!!!
This was exactly what I needed for a Christmas gift for my friend. Christmas is neat and fun too! Yeah
Published 3 months ago by Sam Head
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay as an Overview
This book is alright. It covers some basic knowledge about the chemistry of food and has some brief Chem background. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Milena
5.0 out of 5 stars better than expected
this book is great. I really enjoyed the scientific break down of what is going on in the kitchen. you don't have to be a chemical engineer to understand the language. Read more
Published 4 months ago by jeremy sandusky
4.0 out of 5 stars great for the chemistry, may not be for the everday cook
The cook who wants to take their food to the ultimate level needs to understand the science. Without a doubt, this book does the science. Read more
Published 4 months ago by T Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars chemistry of no understanding!
Things were not explain well Horrible recipes. I wish I had read a sample before I bought the book what a waste another book on the shelf.
Published 6 months ago by sonja Mack
4.0 out of 5 stars adequate.
I really liked this book. It was informative and easy to understand. There are
a lot of photos and illustrations.
Published 7 months ago by James
2.0 out of 5 stars I do not recommend the Kindle edition
The text is informative but other books on the same topic are better. The Kindle edition is very strange. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Lita Nelsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Good enough for me.
Great book explaining the culinary science of everyday cooking. provides basic knowledge on what can mix and what cannot mix together. Read more
Published 8 months ago by KANG CHONG WEE
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Has basic chemistry discussed and involved recipes to go along with chapters. Its great if you have a bit of a food nerd in you.
Published 8 months ago by purchaser
5.0 out of 5 stars Great way to Learn Chemistry
We have food allergies in our house and have to do some creative cooking. We also homeschool, and this book satisfies two needs in our family. Read more
Published 8 months ago by MidwestMom
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