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CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking, The Secrets of Cooking Revealed Hardcover – August 21, 1997

4.6 out of 5 stars 186 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Is it safe to let a biochemist into your kitchen? If it's Shirley Corriher, extend an open invitation. Her long-awaited book, Cookwise, is a unique combination of basic cooking know-how, excellent recipes--from apple pie to beurre blanc--and reference source. She makes the science of cooking entirely comprehensible, then livens it up with stories, such as when her first roast duck blew up because she overstuffed it and the fat from the bird caused it to expand beyond capacity. Food companies pay Corriher fancy fees to troubleshoot their recipes, and Cookwise puts her encyclopedic knowledge ever at your fingertips. If you want to know how to make the flakiest pastry, best-textured breads, delicious fruit desserts from fruit that's not fully ripe, impeccable sauces, and attractively bright cooked vegetables, this book contains the answers. "What this recipe shows" tells you up front what's useful in each of the book's 230-plus recipes. "At-a-glance," "What to do," and "Why" help you learn or troubleshoot in minutes. If eight steps to a perfect Juicy Roast Chicken are daunting, think of the delight of Rich Cappuccino Ice Cream in three steps or the seductive Secret Marquise in five.

From Library Journal

Corriher is a well-known culinary consultant and problem solver whose answers to kitchen mysteries have appeared in many food publications. Now she has set down some of her vast knowledge in this big, wide-ranging reference/cookbook. In seven basic chapters, from The Wonder of Risen Bread to Sweet Thoughts and Chocolate Dreams, she explains why recipes work, what to do when they don't, and how to make them even better (anyone who's ever wondered why the same cake recipe always tastes better when her neighbor makes it will find out the probable reasons why). More than 200 recipes interspersed throughout demonstrate Corriher's explorations and explanations. Also included are At a Glance charts for easy reference (e.g., Finetuning Cookies), trouble-shooting charts (Yeast Bread Problems), charts on the basics (Whipped Cream: What To Do and Why), and dozens more. Although the recipes are delicious?and surely foolproof?this unique work will be far more valuable as a reference than as a cookbook. Highly recommended.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 524 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (August 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688102298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688102296
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.6 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've now read from cover to cover Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen," Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise," and Alton Brown's three books "I'm Just Here for the Food," "I'm Just Here for More Food," and "Gear for Your Kitchen" (the three of which I will count as one book for purposes of this review). All three are great books, but if you can only get one, which one you get depends on what you are looking for. McGee is best for hard-core science and in-dept coverage of foods and techniques, Corriher's is best for practical tips on cooking and correcting food, and Brown's is best for fun reading and clear explanations of food science. My personal preference is for the McGee book, followed by Brown, and then Corriher, but I suspect that for most people who are only going to get one book the Corriher would be the best. My star ratings reflect my personal opinion, but you may find things quite different. Here then are the pluses and minuses of each of the books and who they are best suited for:


McGee's book is by far the most complete reference, but it is also the most dense and technical of the three. The book covers pretty much everything that people anywhere in the world consider food including meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruit, herbs, fungi, legumes, tea, coffee, grains, alcohol, sugar, sauces, etc. Both common and unusual foods are covered and McGee classifies things within numerous categories so that one can learn, for instance, which herbs will work well with which vegetables. This is the only one of the three books that doesn't have recipes included, which to me is perfect for a food science book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suspect Shirley O. Corriher and her book, `Cookwise' are two of the most commonly quoted sources in culinary writing today. Like James Beard's `American Cookery' and Julia Child's `Mastering the Art of French Cooking', this book has become such a well-established authority in it's field that any attempt at criticism may seem like sacrilege. Well, I'm here to tell you that the reputation of this book is entirely deserved, and you should have no feelings whatsoever that there is any hype involved in the book's good name.
The primary value of the book is not that it explains mysteries of cooking technique, but that it explains them so well. I just finished a review of a book that attempted to explain the difference between saturated, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated fats, and it made a complete botch of the job. Shirley's explanation is so clear, it embarrasses you into having dozed through that lesson in high school. In fact, Shirley's book gives the clearest possible argument I have seen in a long time for justifying subjects like physics and chemistry in High School for people who plan to go into law or computer sciences or hair dressing. Everyone must eat. Therefore, everyone must either cook or rely on someone to cook for them. And, no sass about a raw cuisine either, because understanding what the absence of heat does to foods is as important as the application of heat.
My first very pleasant surprise when I started this book is that the first two chapters deal with baking subjects rather than savory cooking. And, I have read many an essay in the beginning of books on baking, and not a single one of them explains the mysteries of wheat flour, yeast, gluten, and bread making quite as well as Shirley's first chapter.
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Format: Hardcover
I took a class from Shirley before buying the book. In that 2-hour class, I learned more "rules-of-thumb" about cooking than I had gathered in 25 years of cooking. Finally, it all makes sense - the necessary logic to alter recipes when they're not right - the ability to read a recipe and KNOW it is right or wrong before you waste the time and ingredients! Let's take biscuits: they sound simple; most are awful. After listening to Shirley - or reading about biscuits in her book, I realized I could apply the same principle to a box of Bisquick! I took an unmeasured amount of mix, added milk to a manageable consistancy, rolled in flour, and now my biscuits are the best in town. It's just hard not to share the secret!
This should be regarded as a textbook, not a recipe book for entertaining. I read it slowly, applied her wisdom -tried to challenge it, and by the time I finished the book, I feel as if I finished my first year at the Cullinary Institute. If you care about what you cook, if you enjoy puttering in the kitchen, this book is the key to success.
Example 2: a famous cook used two boxes of light brown sugar - same brand. One carmelized, the other flunked. They called Shirley in a panic. It took her a while to realize that at that time, the FDA did not reguire brown sugar to be labeled cane or beet based. Cane carmelizes, beet does not. Now, don't we need that information BEFORE we try to impress our closest friends - or the boss - with an elegant creme brulee! You'll appreciate what you learn here, but don't expect an easy read. My copy is already dog-earred; I can't possibly remember it all, and so much is vital to success.
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