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on March 25, 2012
"The Kitchen as Laboratory..." is a compliation of dozens of science experiments done to explain WHY foods do the things they do. Each chapter is written by different culinary chemists on a different topic. Most of the chapters begin with a question, like what benefit is given when you refrigerate cookie dough before cooking it? And what causes food to brown as it's cooked (loaves of bread, onions, etc.)? What ingredients make the perfect sponge cake? Which breads and cheeses make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? What is the chemical reaction that makes a roux sauce come together?

These questions are answered using the scientific method, but not in an intimidating way! The authors' use everyday language to explain their experiments and results. In fact, included are microscopic pictures of the air bubbles inside sponge cake, diagrams of pork belly to show where the variety of bacon comes from, tables that show the conditions that speed up or slow down the Maillard Reaction (browning), and my favorite part, each chapter comes with a recipe that you can make in order to prove the authors' findings to yourself. The book has been designed to not only teach you, but to also help you become a better cook.

Some basic background knowledge of chemistry is needed in order to understand much of this book. Topics that the reader is assumed to know are things like the difference between amino acids and carbohydrates, pH, catalysts, metric measurements, and basic atomic attraction.

This would be a good book for:
*Biology, Chemistry, Culinary teachers and/or students
*Anyone who likes to cook
*Anyone looking for a way to relate science to "the real world"
*Anyone looking for a way to relate food to the science world
*Those who like non-fiction books full of fun facts
*Anyone who wants to become a better cook
*Those who are daring and want to try new things in the kitchen (like learning to use sodium citrate and calcium chloride to make apple caviar)
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on April 5, 2012
I read a review of this book in Scientific American which is why I sought it out. I'm not a scientist, but I like reading about science that is understandable, and this book is. It is an anthology. Each chapter stands alone although occasionally there is a specific reference something in a previous chapter. It's beyond the basics, like what makes a cake rise. Rather it explains why refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough makes better cookies. It also offers a broad range of subject, and talks about the feel of food and the sound of food, the difference between crispy & crunchy. I really enjoyed it.
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on January 14, 2013
Like cooking and science...but not very good at science? This is a great book for you! While not many pictures or recipes, it provides detailed (yet fairly straight forward) description of major gastronomy issues and techniques
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on June 26, 2012
Lots of interesting modernist cuisine material. It would be better if there were fewer generalities, and more concrete examples. Each chapter has different authors, and there seems to be a lot of self-promoting material.
Worth a read, but not the best. The McGee books are a lot meatier
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on March 6, 2013
We sent this to a friend who is a chemist and gourmet cook. He was thrilled with it and, to our surprise, he had not heard of it previously. His report is that it is a super book that is filled with great scientific information about cooking. Other Amazon customer reviews helped make the decision to purchase this and I'm glad that I read them!
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on May 21, 2012
I wish there were more books like The Kitchen as Laboratory. The essays are tremendous in their depth and have fundamentally changed my understanding of several cooking processes, ingredients and techniques. I love how wonderfully specific and geeky each essay is, and it is written perfectly for someone with even basic scientific knowledge can undersand. I hope for a volume two!
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on January 16, 2016
Not really a cookbook but many useful recipes. It's more about what happens when you cook. Written in a almost chatty narrative style. Thereexplanations on new(tome) ways of doing things like making stockChop up carcass of chicken in food processor Should steak be brought to room temperature before cooking? Not necessary. Should cooked meat be rested? yes, Author's opinions arebacked by experimental evidence. Long section on Sous Vide method and how it be accomplished at home, with inexpensive materials This is a very well produced book, heavy coated stock, good photography. I only looked at the hardcover edition.Recommendations on eqipment, and knife sharpening methodsand even an attempt to solve the ground meatvs. stew meat in Chili question, Recipes for both are included.
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on February 18, 2013
If you think about it food and cookery have always been interlinked but not so many people have bothered to think why and look towards science as a way of making things even better. When they do, invariably, it is to make commercial food production more efficient and cost-effective.

Does the consumer gain so much here? Not so when it comes to the plate in any case and many people are sceptical to overt scientific manipulation of their foodstuffs. Yet in more recent times there has become a growing amount of interest in the science of gastronomy with many talented chefs around the world tackling this subject and looking at ways of pushing the envelope. It is no longer good enough to use good ingredients to make tasty food. A wow factor is often desirable and what better way to do that then through fooling the senses in a positive way and making the absolute best of the ingredients at hand! Some chefs such as Heston Blumenthal have managed to carve themselves a niche through their reputation as a good chef and as a talented gastronomic or molecular cook.

This book is a collection of 33 standalone chapters or essays looking at different elements of molecular gastronomy, as the subject has been labelled. Good science if you will differentiate it from the sometimes-controversial scientific manipulation of foodstuffs. Much of this work is still relatively new and developments are constantly being made as techniques are trialled and refined and knowledge becomes more commonplace.

This is not a dry scientific book that will only appeal to people with many letters after their name! Of course, it is going to be science-heavy and not an overly light read but the information contained within the essays is engaging, thought-provoking and accessible. Each chapter is concise and self-contained, meaning that you need not read the entire book in sequential order. You can pick and mix, of course, as and when the mood takes you. The range of topics being discussed is wide and varied. Quite thought-provoking really when you consider the subject matter. The science of a grilled cheese sandwich, the appeal of sound to eating, designing a sustainable and stretchable "fox testicle" ice cream, the perfect cookie dough, pairing of ice cream flavours and so forth.

One needs to remain open and willing to learn. In some ways it may challenge existing knowledge and beliefs but hopefully it will lead to a greater, complex understanding of foodstuffs and how they in fact interact together to form a meal or a key ingredient for the meal. This book manages to appeal to all levels - both the bemused but interested non-cook, the amateur cook who wants to one day take things further, the scientist and the professional cook who wishes to add this style to their repertoire. To achieve this with such an understandably complex subject matter is testament to the wide range of contributors and polishing by the editors.

Some further reading suggestions are given at the end of each chapter for those who need to look at concepts or references in more detail. Whilst it might have been nice to have had many colour photographs to illustrate the concepts shown in the book, maybe it would have then transformed into an unwieldily tome. Nonetheless some illustrations could have helped further express the visual concepts examined in the book. Current problems with technology mean that it is not possible to reproduce the aural and taste experiences that the experiments would have delivered. Maybe a future version when the technology allows!

One can equally expect that this book will act as a springboard into the subject of molecular gastronomy and inspire more people to take a closer look at it for professional, private or educational use. There is also a growing home movement of amateur molecular gastronomists who are enjoying riding the wave and trying to copy the often high-end, esoteric creations of leading-edge chefs. Although, on the whole, to do this and do this well you need a deep pocket as a lot of the equipment being used is very expensive, running into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars a time. As amateur interest develops, however, prices of equipment may begin to fall.

The book ends with a detailed resume of the contributors and an index. Unfortunately it was not possible to examine the index and state whether it was comprehensive and helpful or flaccid and a waste of pages as the review example provided did not feature this. However, one would be surprised if this was found to be deficient when one considers the overall high quality of this book. It is further pleasing to see the quite low price point for this book, making is less of an exclusive academic resource and more accessible to the regular reader without overly watering down the content. If you treat it as a great overview and introduction irrespective of your level of accomplishment or background, you should not be disappointed. This reviewer expects that this book will be a regular reference companion in the future too.
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on May 14, 2012
Love this. There's always more to learn. Why not ask why? I recommend this book and think anyone who is inquisitive about food, chemistry and physics will enjoy.
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on April 26, 2013
If you have a disorganized mind with an interest in food science, this is the book for you. The topics seem unorganized and disconnected but it is still an interesting read. I learned a lot about a large variety of topics.
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