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Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes Hardcover


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Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes + On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen + The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (October 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202680
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202681
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No matter how creative the chef, every great dish relies on proven science, and this compendium of well-researched data is a textbook for proper food preparation. Curious Cook columnist for the New York Times and author (On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen), McGee will banish any romantic notions about cooking with his fast-draw expertise. Keys is a companion guide designed to be used in conjunction with cookbooks. With chapters devoted to Kitchen Tools, Heat and Heating Appliances, and Cooking Methods, McGee's 101 approach takes nothing for granted, but will surprise readers with lesser known insights, such as that salted water reduces the loss of flavorful and nutritious substances during boiling and that foil should not be used to wrap acidic foods or nonaluminum metal pans. McGee breaks down methods with basic tips--in pan-frying, for instance, warming meats to room temperature and drying food surfaces ahead are important factors for success that are often left out of recipes. Descriptions of foods from common fruits to cultured dairy products and seed legumes are detailed but not trivially so, with McGee summarizing the safe handling, purchase and storage, preparation, and basic characteristics. With an eminently pragmatic approach to cooking and a user-friendly précis of a lifetime's devotion to the kitchen, this is an invaluable addition to food literature. (Nov.)
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Review

“Mr. McGee might have called this encyclopedic work "The Kitchen Home Companion," since it offers indispensable information on how to make the most of any recipe—a user's manual that enables home cooks to achieve maximum results… the enjoyment it affords will be found on the table.”

(Wall Street Journal )

"If you want to know virtually anything about the "why" of cooking, read Harold McGee. Along the way, he'll teach you the "how."

(ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH )

“McGee’s writing is broad, yet detailed at the same time, scientific, but comprehensible.”
(CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR )

“A great addition to any cookbook library. It picks up where many cookbooks leave off. The "How's" and "Why's" of a dish's success - or failure - are often a mystery, but McGee sheds light on many of those mysteries to make us more informed in the kitchen and ultimately, better cooks.”

(SEATTLE WEEKLY )

“McGee will banish any romantic notions about cooking with his fast-draw expertise… With an eminently pragmatic approach  to cooking and a user-friendly précis of a lifetime’s devotion to the kitchen, this is an invaluable addition to food literature.”

(PUBLISHERS WEEKLY ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Harold McGee writes about the chemistry of food and cooking, and the science of everyday life. He has worked alongside some of world's most innovative chefs, including Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal. He lives with his family in California.

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Customer Reviews

Even good cooks find this book helpful.
David Hall
Harold McGee's "Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes" (Penguin) is an essential kitchen staple.
BlogOnBooks
That is assuming you are a bit of a science geek, but you would be if you like the author's first book.
Jackal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Gillin on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read and purchased McGee's other titles I did not expect this one to be terribly different. That is to say that his books tend to be chock full of information without many pictures. I consider myself an experienced cook and baker, and still find this information very helpful when a question arises about why something happens in cooking the way that it does. If you are the type that prefers lots of pictures, even humor, then Alton Brown is probably your best go to source. Although McGee himself is not without humor - it was the famous scene from "Blazing Saddles" that sent him in this direction food science, but this book is pretty cut and dry. On the front jacket cover the chapters and their contents are listed nos. 1-24, breaking down the subject matter from 'Basic Kitchen Resources' to 'Nuts and Oil Seeds' and much more. I, however, prefer to judge a book by its index and this book has a decent one. Whoever handled the indexing for this title did a fairly thorough job, but missed the boat by not cross-referencing, which I personally think is critical in a book of this nature. Maybe that was a decision on the publisher's part rather than the indexer, but I feel like something's missing. All in all, this is an excellent reference. If you're like me and consider Hester Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection" your idea of leisure reading then this book will be right up your alley. If not, use it strictly as a reference, because I don't think any decent cookbook collection should be without McGee's books!
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Dr Garry on November 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm going to disagree with some other reviewers here. I have been been reading Mr McGee for many years, and regard myself as a huge fan.
Few of his previous works would be suitable for the everyday cook. This one is. How many people would wade through his earlier erudite discussions of protein strings, just to get a practical morsel for the kitchen? Few indeed.
This is a book that distills Mr McGee's work into a single practical volume. It may be "the size of a brick", but so what? Nor do I find the typography and layout disconcerting. I think they are ideal: they send you to the essential points immediately.
I have sent this book to some of my friends who would never read even think to peruse Mr McGee's previous opuses. But I am sure they will at least leaf through this one.
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141 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Jackal on November 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really liked the author's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, which is a five star book. That book was more detailed about food than cooking, so there was definitely room for improvement on the cooking side. However, this is not really what his new book accomplishes. Instead, in my mind, it is a dumbed down version of the old book (i.e all science and explanation of why is totally gone). It is organised around different cooking tasks, like making meringues and cooking rice, and you do get more direct advice than in the author's previous book. This is all good. Sadly, the book is mostly targeted to the eager-to-learn novice or the less experienced. If you have cooked for a couple of years and read the author's previous book, you are likely to find the simple stuff quite tedious. I advice you look at chefs that are also good technicians, Pepin comes to mind (Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques) and also Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine. There you will learn tons of useful stuff. A scientist trying to provide similar advice is borderline ridiculous. You will find several entries in which you don't learn anything new. Check out the three short video tips that are posted by amazon on this page. If you find these three examples really useful, you should probably buy the book.

The above could have been forgiven, if the book had a decent layout.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Cane Questions on November 13, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoy using McGee's "Keys to Good Cooking. its information is useful, clear, and fairly copious, and as usual it debunks commonly held myths. the book takes the perspective of focusing on ingredients or types of ingedient and then the different means of preparing them and how any method affects the taste and texture. since I do more experimentation than recipe following, McGee's approach works well for me. it presents alternative ways to consider the taste or texture problem I am trying to solve, and so far has steered me in fruitful directions.

if I could own just one book by McGee, it would still be the justly famous [[ASIN:0684843285 On Food and Cooking], which is a hard act to follow. nonetheless, I find the new volume a welcome addition and I refer to it frequently.

one warning about the Kindle edition, however: the publisher made the index flat text without hyperlinks, so you can see what's in the book, but you can't get there from here. this is *REALLY* irritating; perhaps later editions will correct this lunacy.
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