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What's a Cook to Do?: An Illustrated Guide to 484 Essential Tips, Techniques, and Tricks Paperback – April 19, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

ALL IS REVEALED

How To season a cast-iron skillet, bake a perfect fruit tart, form crystal-clear ice cubes, make the perfect burger, decide which breading is best for veal scaloppine and chicken breasts, know where to position the wineglass.

Whether it's about peeling, or chopping or carving, or blending or whipping, or even restaurant etiquette, it's all here, compiled into 484 entries by master teacher and award-winning author James Peterson. Packed with 533 step-by-step color photographs, hundreds of inspired ideas, and dozens of delicious recipes.

About the Author

James Peterson is the author of nine award-winning and short-listed cookbooks, including the James Beard Cookbook of the Year Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, as well as Essentials of Cooking, Glorious French Food, and What's a Cook to Do? He teaches, writes about, photographs, lives, breathes, and cooks fine food.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: Artisan; 1 edition (April 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579653189
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579653187
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Peterson is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author, photographer, and cooking teacher who started his career as a restaurant cook in Paris in the 1970s. He is the author of fifteen titles, including "Sauces," his first book and a 1991 James Beard Cookbook of the Year winner, and "Cooking," a 2008 James Beard Award winner. He has been one of the country's preeminent cooking instructors for more than 20 years and currently teaches at the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's) in New York. He is revered within the industry and highly regarded as a professional resource. James Peterson cooks, writes, and photographs from Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 83 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
`What's a Cook to Do?' by cooking teacher extraordinare, James Peterson is the best handbook of cooking techniques I have seen due to its excellent organization, the quality of the advice, and the great good humor of the author. This ranking includes placing it above a similar work, `Julia's Kitchen Wisdom' by the legendary Julia Child, which is no mean feat.

The book falls into a rather small niche of culinary works. It is not a `scientific' work like those from Alton Brown (`I'm Just Here for the Food') and Shirley Corriher (`Cookwise'). It is also not a formal manual of professional cooking techniques like Jacques Pepin's `Complete Techniques' or the author's own `Essentials of Cooking'. The best recent book in it's category is the issue from `Fine Cooking' magazine, `How to Break an Egg', which I liked quite a bit, but Peterson's book is better. If you are a `foodie', you will want both, but if you feel you only want one, Peterson's is the one to get.

The major reason lies in the fact that as in all of Peterson's books, he writes with the kind of good humored common sense which engenders trust in his advice, even more than his impressive resume as a chef, author, and teacher. The best symptom of this common sense is revealed when his advice is simply more accurate than that offered in `How to Break an Egg' for example. Both books correctly warn against leaving a stock in the dangerous temperature range that encourages bacterial growth. But, on two points, Peterson's advice is superior. First, he more correctly identifies the upper range of the danger zone to be 140 degrees Fahrenheit rather than `Fine Cooking's 120 degrees. Second, Peterson points out that as long as the stock is above the danger point, applying coolant is a waste of ice.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mitch Baywatch on June 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is really an instructional book in 'tips' format. It's not really a collection of 'helpful hints.' To me, it resembles books such as such as Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Primer or Julia Child's Kitchen Wisdom, or even Anne Willan's The Good Cook (a much larger book).

Even if you already know how to chop an onion or peel a tomato, this book can be extremely helpful. For one tip, Peterson categorizes herbs as either watery and oily. For another, he tells you what type of pork chops should be braised rather than sauteed. His advice can be unconventional (telling you to skip the browning stage when making a stew) or middlebrow (suggesting the use of jarred mayonnaise as a starter when making homemade).

Recipes are embedded throughout, although they're so under-written as to barely qualify as recipes. This is actually beneficial, as it encourages you to develop your cooking instincts and think for yourself. That being said, I have found I wouldn't mind a bit more information when trying some of his baking recipes.

Nonetheless, this is a great book, and I wish it were written years ago.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Max in NYC on November 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have other James Peterson cookbooks which I love, and I ordered this
because of the existing 5-star reviews. This book is tips from his other
cookbooks, taken out of context. This information might be helpful to
an ambitious advanced beginner, but is too much for a rank beginner.
Experienced cooks might find a tip or two that's useful - unfortunately,
they will also find plenty of other tips to disagree with as well.
The photos are good, but in far too many of them the pans and trays full
of ingredients are not the quantities that a home cook would deal with.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By grumpy old man on April 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was disappointed in this book. It feels like something the author spun out in a hurry just to make a few bucks by capitalizing on his well-known name. Suggestions were very general and not explained well at all; no detail about how to perform specific tasks. It could have been a good book...it just doesn't seem like the author had his heart in it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By lisa flack on February 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this boook mentioned in a magazine and looked it up here on Amazon. I read the reviews. I then went to the bookstore to take a closer look at it. It is as great as described before me, so I will not repeat what everyone as already said. I gave the books I ordered as gifts to 4 very young, new cooks (male and female)and they were thrilled. I've been cooking over 40 years and learned a thing or two myself. I highly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mars on December 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great little reference book. In fact, it has more step by step info than I had expected. I often forget that I have it and can use it along side with my cook books, or even in some cases in place of a cook book. I found the best way to use it was to go thru each topic quickly and try to remember what info it offered so I would remember to pull it out when I faced a particular cooking situation. It's improved my cooking, not just the outcome, but the ease of actually doing it. I'm not an expert cook and perhaps the contents would be less important to someone more experiences. I think this is perfect for someone who enjoys cooking and would like to be better at it and learn some more basic techniques.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By intervideo on August 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has a lot of information in it, but it is not for the experienced cook. Yes, there are a couple of hints that everyone might have overlooked through the years of being an exprienced cooked but most of it is just the for the beginner cook.
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