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The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science Audio CD – Audiobook, October 22, 2019
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About the Author
Mike Chamberlain is an actor and voice-over performer, as well as an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning audiobook narrator. Along with animation and video game characters, Mike performs narration and voices promos for television. He lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.
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So many chefs write the same old boring stuff. They start off with equipment and describe it like it was a chore that they have to get out of the way. Sort of like, here's the types of pans there are and here is what they are like and maybe here's how they are used. Kenji describes it with passion giving a great story of how when he tried to reduce cream using a pot that he didn't regularly use that the cream turned out a royal greasy mess due to the pan being too thin.
There are other good cookbooks out there with great recipes. And there are other ones out there that do a pretty good job of teaching how to cook and why certain things work. However, NOBODY....absolutely NOBODY I've ever seen has ever described the science behind cooking better than Kenji. He tells it so well and makes it so enjoyable and easy to read!
And his understanding of the subject matter is excellent. I'm a kitchen knife enthusiast. And no other chef I've seen has really properly described the characteristics of a knife that make the best ones the best. Few go into talking about the thinness of the blade actually being a GOOD thing. But at the same time, he looks at things from the beginner level AND the pro level, showing the full grip technique for beginners along with the balanced grip that most chefs use. And he understands that a cook also has to go with what they are comfortable with, like how he talks about how his wife loves her cheap, dull, unbalanced IKEA knife.
Also, don't let the title fool you. This isn't some cookbook about freezing food with liquid nitrogen and making all of these petite and crazy little dishes you'd get in some gourmet restaurant that you'd never cook at home. This cookbook is brilliantly about using science to make the dishes we like to cook and eat everyday and learn how to turn them from good to spectacular.
He's also got the experience to back up what he writes. He worked his way up from small kitchens to some of the fanciest restaurants in Boston. And Boston has some very good restaurants! Then he worked for Cook's Illustrated developing great recipes. Many of you might know Cooks Illustrated for some other names like America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Country. And now he writes for seriouseats.com.
I have a bunch of cookbooks, but none of them does nearly as great of a job as Kenji at explaining things. This is THE COOKBOOK of ALL COOKBOOKS if you have a passion for cooking like I do and really want to learn how to become a better cook. I'm definitely going to start following his blog and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting this cookbook.
This isn't more of a recipe book. This is a HOW TO book that has recipes. I hope I get to see a lot more cookbooks from Kenji and I hope his publishers will let him really write what he wants to write. He's a genius chef and I'd take his cookbooks over Julia Child, Pepin, Jamie Oliver, Emeril, or any other big name cook out there. He's one chef I'd love to meet.
Any of the negative reviews are undeserved. For once, we have a cookbook that is pure genius. Anybody who takes the time and reads it thoroughly and cooks from it is bound to realize it. I'm getting more out of this cookbook than dozens of others combined. He even gets into making your own sausage!
About the best way I can describe this cookbook is it feels like he looked directly into the soul of cooking and wrote with the passion and understanding and genius of a chef to make a master-piece that I'll cherish for years to come.
I really like the way this book has been laid out:
- The introduction is a modest overview of the author and his background followed by some really helpful information on equipment (such as an explanation on techniques for holding knives, how heat transfers through metal for consideration in what type of pan to use, essential equipment to have in your kitchen, and how to store and organize your fridge and pantry).
- Recipes in subsequent chapters are divided by meal type. Technique tips and explanations are dispersed through the recipes in every chapter.
* The breakfast chapter is lengthy and starts with explaining eggs - their composition and properties related to how they change when they cook, whether brown eggs are healthier than white eggs, how to hard or soft boil an egg,... and much more.There is a great range of recipes including numerous egg dishes, bacon, pancakes, biscuits, and hot chocolate.
* Soups and Stews has an in depth explanation of stock followed by recipes including black bean soup, tomato soup with grilled cheese, chicken, and dumplings, chili, and French onion soup.
* Meat recipes characterized by how to "Fast Cook" in 30 minutes or less for a variety of steak, pork chops, chicken, and fish recipes.
* Cooked Vegetables has a great range of side dishes such as Brussels sprouts, Mexican street corn salad, roasted cauliflower, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and quite a few more recipes.
* The Ground Meat chapter explains not only how to grind your own meat, but how to season it as well as recipes for making and cooking sausage, meat loaf, and burgers.
* There is a Roasts chapter for poultry, lamb, and pork. There is a ton of great instructions and tips in this chapter that could be used for making a Thanksgiving meal (with recipes of course as well).
* The Pasta chapter covers details around boiling pasta and how he tested different techniques to determine the best way to cook pasta. Recipes in this chapter include mac 'n' cheese, risotto, linguine with clams, lasagna, and spaghetti.
* The Salad chapter emphasizes picking the right types of greens, the complimenting salad dressing tastes, and accompanying textures to add to make a perfect salad. This chapter has recipes such as tomato and mozzarella salad, iceberg wedge, beet and goat cheese salad, potato salads, and coleslaw.
* The final Frying chapter covers types of oil to fry with and different types of vessels to fry in. Recipes included here are French fries, chicken, fish, and onion rings.
- The front and back book covers insides have conversion tables to be opened or flipped to quickly as a reference.
This book is over 900 pages and has a ton of photos both for techniques and presentations. The author's tone is filled with humor and is not pretentious. The explanations are really clear and educational.
I will be updating this review further as I make recipes within the cookbook. I recommend this book to all experience levels of cooks as well as science-minded people.
Top international reviews
As books go, I would recommend Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking instead. The Food Lab is better presented as a blog than a book.
there are though two major issues i have which made me give only four stars.
the first is the constant draw in of the author`s personal life with his wife, mum...etc that is just not very interesting and totally irrelevant. Most people who read a book like this are in search for knowledge not "cute stories"
The second issue i have is the amount of recipe in this book. though i have to admit I am chef and therefore most of the recipes are only useful to help me understand the book`s a preceding concepts but to be honest most are for home cooks. plus there are way too many that i personally just skipped through.
regardless it was a pleasure to read it.
The writing is clear, witty, and to the point. The amount of effort underlying the book - research, trial and error, experimentation - is huge (the picture showing boiled eggs between 0 and 12 minutes, for instance, shows how obsessive the author is).
I've tried many of the recipes, and they all work brilliantly - some of the best meals I've managed to date. The book includes sections on technique, on new ways to achieve common goals, and the photography is really useful.
This quickly became the best culinary book I ever purchased.
If you're looking to expand your cooking knowledge, this is the one. Buy it. If you're lukewarm or looking more for recipes, see if you can find it a book store and flip through it first to be sure.
I am still working through the recipes but I'm so happy I bought it.
The book does have recipes but I've only tried one, the Onion rings which were fantastic.
It’s really fantastic, I can’t recommend it enough!
I waited two years to buy it and wish I had got it earlier. Everything deconstructed about cooking you could wish for but also easy to implement techniques!
Did I say buy it?