Top critical review
31 people found this helpful
on March 31, 2014
I liked this better than I expected to.
This would actually be a good weeknight cookbook for pretty much anyone who isn't a super-serious cook, even if s/he is somewhat experienced. The recipes are basic--roasted vegetables, etc.--but they look good; they're not health-crazy but they're not gratuitously unhealthy, either; they don't require obscure ingredients, they don't use canned soup, they don't require a lot of ingredients (Rachael Ray's recipes sometimes strike me as overly long for the results you get), and they don't require special equipment. Even though she recommends a food processor as a long-term purchase, I think the pesto is the only recipe that really needs it (can you make pesto in a blender? If so, you don't even need the processor. I suspect more people have blenders, and they're less expensive).
Where it could have been better:
1) There are no instructions on the safe handling of chicken. Normally this wouldn't bother me except that the book is aimed at inexperienced cooks, who might not think through how foods can be cross-contaminated if you reuse your chicken knife and cutting board on the salad vegetables, etc.
2) There is an information section but it's at the back of the book. Put it at the front! It's useful! Make sure people read it!
3) It could use a small glossary. For instance, it does tell you how to poach chicken, but if you knew ahead of time that poaching just meant to cook by simmering in liquid, it would feel less like a mystery going in.
4) She frequently refers to meat cuts by weight but does not recommend the purchase of a food scale. I think a food scale is more essential than a salad spinner, pepper grinder, food processor, or panini press.
I think it's reasonable to point out, though, that she makes a comment in the introduction, something about if you're one of those Can't Cooks who gets halfway through a recipe and realizes you don't have an ingredient or don't know how to do the next step, etc. If that's the reason you "can't cook", then your problem is that you don't read through recipes first to find out what you need and what you have to do. If that's your problem, neither this nor any other book can save you, because that is a planning problem, not a book problem. This book is simple, but there are many other books that are just as simple, and none of them can magically make home chefs out of people who don't plan or follow instructions effectively. I wasn't born knowing how to cook, either; I got there by reading the recipe first, Googling what I didn't know, and not experimenting too much until I had enough experience to understand how I might affect the results.
So, as a book for people who "can't cook" I think it went 80%.