- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 42751st edition (November 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1569767068
- ISBN-13: 978-1569767061
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 122 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking 42751st Edition
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“Full of charts, step-by-step photos, structural formulas, and amazing recipes (the cherry cream cheese has me drooling), you will become a better cook without even trying.” —MAKE Magazine
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About the Author
Simon Field is the author of Why There’s Antifreeze in Your Toothpaste, Gonzo Gizmos, and The Return of Gonzo Gizmos, and is the creator of the popular Web site www.scitoys.com.
Top customer reviews
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It's not a biochem course, not even a lightweight one, as it doesn't build from first principals -- it just throws out whatever chemistry facts happen to pop up, some times at a basic level and sometimes at a very deep level -- too deep, I'd think, for most cooks. Neither is it a cooking/baking course (it mixes both), as again it doesn't build up an understanding from basic principals. So you get a chemistry fact, sometimes paired with a curious fact about cooking or baking. Then off to the next fact. Fortunately, it has a table of contents and a good index, so at least you can find the tidbits you might be looking for. Many times they are interesting, but not always.
My degrees are in chemistry and I consider myself reasonable well read when it comes to gastronomy, so I enjoyed the book and read it completely. But I think if I were someone expecting to be lead through an understanding of basic food chemistry and simultaneously basic cooking/baking I would have been confused and disappointed. You'd come away with some facts, but I don't think you'd come away with an understanding of the chemistry of cooking or baking, and I don't think you'd become a better cook (or chemist).
However, there is still some great science in this book. In between explaining things such as the difference between egg foam and fat foam, the author would outline topics like how to read an organic molecule diagram. This definitely has it’s pro’s and con’s. For me as a soon to be Chemical Engineering graduate, it’s great, it keeps me intrigued by talking shop about chemistry. To the average reader without a STEM degree, it might be a little overwhelming, verging on completely useless.
The never ending stream of science facts kind of take away from this book being about food. The author does go into great detail into many things that it would be helpful to know in the kitchen. However he often does not tie an idea back to cooking after he has fleshed it out. For example the chapter on fats and oils did not really leave me with many cooking tricks but much more knowledgeable about the organic structure of different types of fats. The fact that it doesn't exactly cover the science well enough and isn’t really a cookbook makes it difficult to see what this author was going for or what he wanted the reader to get out of it. It does also concern me that people with less knowledge in chemistry are potentially learning some of the more difficult parts of chemistry through a cookbook.
For those of you with a science background looking for a textbook to tell you what's happening in the kitchen, this book is for you. You will relearn many of the topics you cover in organic and general chemistry, in the context of cooking. However if you are a science novice looking for advanced cooking techniques you seem to be out of luck. Additionally, I wish it covered more of the health effects of food, and how different foods affect our bodies. This seems like a great venue for that kind of information and I was left disappointed it was missing.
A side note, I read this book on kindle, and did not at all like the formating. The pages really felt like a wall of text and there were not nearly enough diagrams of some of the organic chemistry lessons. An inclusion of more visual aids would definetly help a lot of readers understand some of the chemistry better.