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The Kitchen Detective: A Culinary Sleuth Solves Common Cooking Mysteries With 150 Foolproof Recipes Hardcover – August, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You have probably run into Christopher Kimball before, as founder/publisher/editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine, or host of public television's America's Test Kitchen, or maybe as author of The Dessert Bible, The Cook's Bible, or The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. Kimball probably grew up spending all of Christmas morning taking apart his presents to see how they worked. And he's never stopped.

Now he does it with food, sometimes with a big support staff and test kitchens, and sometimes at home. The Kitchen Detective is Kimball's home version of taking standard recipes apart and putting them back together again, often over and over and over again, until he gets to where he wants to be, or gets to what he wants to eat. In 125 recipes and 290 or so well-illustrated pages you will learn why all salt is not the same; why that $80 cake pan isn't any better than its $4 cousin; why various ways of measuring flour can yield results that differ by as much as 25%. Kimball's the guy in the back of the class asking the cooking teacher why she's adding cream of tartar to egg whites, and making her a little nuts because, truth be told, she doesn't know. The man takes no prisoners.

This book is about getting good, familiar food on the table fast for a family. There are chapters on "Soups and Stews"; "Vegetable and Salads"; "Pasta and Grains"; "Chicken"; "Meat and Fish"; "Eggs and Morning Baking"; and "Desserts". How about Minestrone with Flavor, or Really Good Blue Cheese Dressing, or Faster, Easier Fried Chicken, or Pork Chili for Sissies, or The Best Bran Muffin? Kimball touches all the bases and hits all the high notes with The Kitchen Detective. You'll not only achieve the results you are looking for, you'll know why. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Kimball, founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated Magazine, supplies his usual informative and detailed findings to help home cooks solve cooking dilemmas associated with many popular dishes. Following the style used by the Cook's Illustrated team, and defining what he considers the necessary essence of the finished dish, he takes readers on a journey of discovery through the methods, variations and experiments to the resulting finished recipe. While such detailed accounts may not be for everyone, they provide an interesting insight to the whys of the finished dish. Along the way Kimball covers the techniques needed to cook well, from searing, as with Quick and Easy Steak au Poivre, to high-roasting, which is used to great effect in the Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Raspberry Vinegar, to measuring flour for baking. Interspersed are panels of fascinating hints, forthright opinions and tidbits culled from his extensive knowledge on, for example, the equivalents of salt or the use of just a sprig of thyme, whereby he likens employing one sprig to "adding a can of coke to a swimming pool." Running the gamut from starters to dessert, the selection of recipes chosen reflects Kimball's eclectic tastes to provide a very personal collection that will appeal to those who like to know the why as well as the what.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: America's Test Kitchen (August 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936184701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936184708
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #996,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Kimball founded Cook's Magazine in 1980. Now known as Cook's Illustrated, it has a paid circulation of 900,000. He also hosts America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country, the top-rated cooking shows on public television. A regular contributor to the Today show, CBS's The Early Show, and NPR's Morning Edition, he lives in Boston and Vermont. Fannie's Last Supper, the film of the dinner that Kimball served in his 1859 townhouse, airs in fall 2010.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By L Goodman-Malamuth VINE VOICE on March 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Cook's Illustrated publishing empire is perhaps the most benign, useful deployment of mass obsessive-compulsive disorder in today's America. I say that in the nicest possible way. Cook's magazine reporters tell you everything that went wrong during recipe development and testing, and why. If that wears the reader out, they can skip to the recipes, which ALWAYS WORK. (I'm not shouting at you--there's no way to put italics on Amazon.com reviews.)
If I'm going to spend time, money, and care on everyday recipes, rather than ambitious gambles, I want to know that the results will be worth it. I've never had a dud from a Cook's recipe unless it was clearly my fault (I didn't hear the timer, someone in the house started screaming and bleeding, etc.).
This volume is more idiosyncratic than the magazine, as maestro Christopher Kimball gives full voice like a hunting hound to his personal prejudices ("Poaching perfectly ripe fruit is insane"). He explains exactly how to make a gloriously moist, evenly roasted chicken, a batch of bran muffins worth eating, or from-the-cupboard main dishes that are ready in a flash or two, yet still memorable. If his bow-tied certitude starts getting you down, pour a glass of wine and skip to the recipes.
The gold standard for kitchen "whys" remains, in my house, Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise." I wouldn't be without it. But for day-to-day usage, "The Kitchen Detective" is guaranteed to make a cook take a different five o'clock look at the unpromising contents of one's pantry: Canned tuna as a pasta-sauce base? Gosh, it's good!
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Stefohnee on March 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I almost didn't buy this book after wondering if it would just end up being another issue of Cook's Illustrated (the magazine founded by Kimball), but decided to go ahead and get it, and I'm really glad I did! After only having owned this book for a week, it's already my favorite cookbook. I don't know if it's my New England sensibilities or just the high quality of the recipes that I've come to expect from Kimball & Co., but I'm amazed at how many of the recipes in this cookbook I want to make. Usually when I buy a cookbook, many of the recipes are either too time-consuming, too complicated, or they require expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. As he tests different recipes to come up with a perfected version, Kimball makes note of any strange ingredients or bizarre preparation methods, favoring simpler and more straightforward methods that will save cooks time and result in recipes just as delicious as any that require hours in the kitchen.
The book is divided into sections - soups, meats, dessert, and includes many helpful sidebars with interesting information about such things as the rise of Kraft Mac & Cheese or his most-used kitchen tools. Overall, this book is more than just recipes, though the recipes are all really great. The author goes through the trial and error process for you, reports on his results, and analyzes why some recipes failed and others succeeded, and gives you the knowledge you'll need to know what makes some recipes work and others turn out badly.
My only complaint about this book is Kimball's overuse of the phrase 'marriage' when referring to the combination of two ingredients, tastes, textures, etc. Someone get this man a list of synonyms.
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82 of 90 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Based on the title and reviews, I was very excited to read this book. He told the reason he got started was because of a haughty french cooking teacher didn't explain how things worked and why adding things in a certain order mattered... basically the science behind the cooking process. I love kitchen science. The intro to this book was right down my alley. After that, the book went downhill and quickly. His method of going through what ingredients worked and what didn't were fine, but they were based on his personal taste rather WHY ingredients are working the way they are... basically it seems that he writes a recipe that says "do this, I've already tested it" without explaining why it works -- just like that haughty french cooking teacher did to him. I also felt he often contradicted himself. For example, he launches into a tirade about how we should spend more time in the kitchen because it's a process and it makes us better and more in tune with our families when we cook for them, then the next two pages have recipes for risotto in half the time and seven minute polenta because he doesn't want to spend all that time in the kitchen. Overall, very infuriating since the book was not at all what the title, jacket cover and reviews suggest. No disrespect to his recipes because if you're looking for fast answers on what to make for dinner based on what someone else decides are the best potatoes to use, then this is your book. If you want to know WHY you should use those potatoes (based on starch content and how it reacts with the butter that you added earlier vs later), I recommend Shirley Corriher's book 'Cookwise' over this one any day of the week -- her book goes into the taste and the science behind it....Read more ›
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