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The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen Paperback – May 4, 2010

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The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen + Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking + Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook's Manifesto
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439172528
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439172520
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month November 2007: Inspired by the Strunk and White classic, Michael Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking will quickly prove to be an essential culinary reference for both seasoned cooks and novices who might not know gravlax from gremolata. After a thorough "Notes on Cooking," Ruhlman, a prolific cookbook author and popular blogger, settles in for an opinionated and informative A-Z roundup (from Acid to Zester) of cooking terms, lessons, and techniques reduced to their essential essence. Even with only one recipe (for veal stock), it's a must-have for every kitchen library--a book that will help you re-think your approach to food. --Brad Thomas Parsons --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Ruhlman's slim 12th book, inspired by Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style, would more accurately have been titled Selected Elements of French Cooking. Organized in dictionary format, the book offers short definitions of culinary terms most likely to be encountered in a Continental restaurant kitchen: à la ficelle, jus lie, lardo, mise en place, oblique cut, oignon pique, rondeau, roulade. Entries for ladle, rolling pin and other common implements seem almost superfluous, while international items such as wok, tandoor, udon and cardamom are nowhere to be found (though to be fair, nam pla, kimchi and umami are included). An opening eight-page section announces, with finger wagging, that veal stock is the essential and discourses on eggs, salt and kitchen tools. Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) is an elegant writer and the entries he does include can be useful and sometimes entertaining. The real problem is the idiosyncratic, highly personal approach: you just don't know what you'll find in this book and what you won't. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Sources and Acknowledgements: Fifteen really good books about cooking.
Rebecca Huston
I was very excited about receiving this book, but on a careful reading, I'd have to say I'm disappointed.
Lynda Walsh
The rest of the book is a glossary of cooking terms, with substantial discussion of each item.
M. C. McCracken

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

212 of 221 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This last year, I discovered the writing of foodie Michael Rulhman, and his experiences in both the CIA and getting to work with such culinary greats as Thomas Keller and Michael Symon.

There are three essential sections to this slim volume, each one providing understanding to any cook, no matter what their experience level is. It's not exactly a book to sit down and read through as you would a regular book, except for the opening section. Instead, this is one to have nearby when you're reading through a cookbook, and you come across a term that you don't know, for example, a chiffonade or daube, or when you want some clarification on just what is poaching or why is a confit is so desired by foodies. No, it's not that massive tome, Larousse's Gastronomique, but it's quite a bit lighter and easier to go through than that chef's bible.

Ruhlman starts off slowly, after an opening essay by Anthony Bourdain. He gets right down to the very basics with a collection of eight essays on why you need to have knowledge of a variety of tools and ingredients, namely: Notes on Cooking, From Stock to Finesse. The language is geared for the average cook, who has never set toe into a professional kitchen or culinary school, but do want to improve their own skills at cooking.

The eight essays are as follows:

Stock: Ruhlman gets pretty darn rhapsodic about stocks; how to make them, how to ruin them, and while you don't really need to make your own, it's still a good idea to try. He also takes some of the mystery out of making them, such as how to actually 'skim' the stock, and get rid of that pesky raft. What I really liked about this one is his recipe for veal stock -- it's one that I will have to try soon.

Sauce: And yes, you can make them too.
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Shelley Ryan VINE VOICE on December 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I agree with many of reviewer Rebecca Huston's points. I'm posting my own review here anyhow because I think it might be useful to compare this book to others I've been reading.

Love love love the way Ruhlman writes about food and chefs overall in his other books, so I was excited to get a copy of "The Elements of Cooking." Then I found myself a little disappointed with the eight essays at the start. I looked back at my Alton Brown book "I'm Just Here for the Food" (v2) and decided the sections there on stock, salt, tools, etc. were way more useful in Alton's book. Ruhlman waxes poetic with his opinions... but Alton is vastly more instructive. (Do you want to get truly inspired -- and laugh your butt off -- about stock? Get Bourdain's ""Les Halles Cookbook!")

I did like the A-to-Z part of this for its definitions. However, they weren't very instructive, either. I can't fault Ruhlman for that, because he doesn't claim this is an instructional book. I recently got a copy of James Peterson's new book "Cooking" which doesn't cover all the techniques or terms in Ruhlman's glossary, but it gives step-by-step info and photos on a lot of them.

Bottom line, I suppose, is that there is no perfect book on food, not even McGee's "
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on November 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`The Elements of Cooking' by one half of the modern culinary Johnson and Boswell team, Michael Ruhlman (introduced by the other half of the team, Anthony Bourdain) is a brilliant conception, with some superb ideas communicated, but which falls short of true excellence by a fair measure!
For starters, the book claims to be patterned after a true classic, Strunk and White's little manual of writing, `The Elements of Style' (Elements). Many books have taken the same tack, especially in the field of computer programming technique. The big difference is that programming is very much like writing, and even more amenable to simple rules, while cooking is far more similar to a plastic art, where your ingredients vary from day to day, from source to source, and from season to season. The second slip down the slippery slope of concept is that the book does not consistently follow Strunk and White's pattern. Where `Elements ' is composed entirely of brief lessons on good usage and writing technique, Ruhlman starts out in the manner of `Elements', but a third of the way through converts to the style of Fowler's equally famous writing manual `Modern English Usage'. That is, the book switches from advice by technique to a glossary of culinary terms. And, it is this section which is called the `Elements'. The first fifty pages, which look most like `Elements', are labeled `Notes on Cooking from Stock to Finesse'. Now if this book had followed the `Notes' pattern or the `Usage' style throughout, I would have been far happier. As it is, both sections have a feeling of incompleteness about them.
There are at least two other superficial weaknesses of this book which are truly amazing, given the stature of the author and the publisher (Scribners).
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More About the Author

Michael Ruhlman is the author of more than twenty non-fiction and cooking related works, including the bestselling "The Soul of a Chef," "The French Laundry Cookbook" with Thomas Keller, Charcuterie and Ruhlman's Twenty, which won both James Beard and IACP awards. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, Donna, who is the photographer on his most recent cookbooks.