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I'm Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking Hardcover – May 1, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 432 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alton Brown, host of Food Network's Good Eats, is not your typical TV cook. Equal parts Jacques Pépin and Mr. Science, with a dash of MacGyver, Brown goes to great lengths to get the most out of his ingredients and tools to discover the right cooking method for the dish at hand. With his debut cookbook, I'm Just Here for the Food, Brown explores the foundation of cooking: heat. From searing and roasting to braising, frying, and boiling, he covers the spectrum of cooking techniques, stopping along the way to explain the science behind it all, often adding a pun and recipe or two (usually combined, as with Miller Thyme Trout).

I'm Just Here for the Food is chock-full of information, but Brown teaches the science of cooking with a soft touch, adding humor even to the book's illustrations--his channeling of the conveyer belt episode of I Love Lucy to explain heat convection is a hoot. The techniques are thoroughly explained, and Brown also frequently adds how to augment the cooking to get optimal results, including a tip on modifying a grill with a hair dryer for more heat combustion. But what about the food? Brown sticks largely to the traditional, from roast turkey to braised chicken piccata, though he does throw a curveball or two, such as Bar-B-Fu (marinated, barbecued tofu). And you'll quickly be a convert of his French method of scrambling eggs via a specially rigged double boiler--the resulting dish is soft, succulent, and lovely. But more than just a recipe book, I'm Just Here for the Food is a fascinating, delightful tour de force about the love of food and the joy of discovery. --Agen Schmitz

From Publishers Weekly

Known as the successful host of Good Eats currently airing on the Food Network Channel, Alton Brown brings an MTV style to food and cooking. He applies his winning formula of pop culture combined with history, science and common sense to his first cookbook. He offers his formula of food preparation ("food + heat = cooking"), explaining each process and food element in quirky sound bites. Starting with searing and taking in grilling, water and eggs among other elements, he uses diagrams, captions, sidebars and footnotes. Each module has a master recipe that applies the tactic explained to a dish and is followed by several others to emphasize the lesson. He carefully integrates his recipe to produce a comprehensive repertoire, whether it's Skirt Steak: The Master Recipe, Chicken Piccata or Lamb "Pot Roast." Despite its unconventional style, this is a solid volume presented in a lively, fun manner guaranteed to put cooking in the reach of just about anyone: Alton Brown + Cook = Success.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang; First Edition edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584790830
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584790839
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (432 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you like "Good Eats," you're bound to love this book. In this volume, Alton Brown goes into the how and why of cooking to help you understand the process involved. Any cookbook can tell you , for example, to sear a piece of meat. This book explains why you sear a piece of meat (and its not what you might think), why cast iron is the best cookware for searing it, and what happens if you mess up. All this is done with the same off-beat style as Alton displays on his Food Network TV show.
The illustrations and examples are priceless. Who else would explain polyunsaturated fats by using pictures of shopping bags and dead rats? The recipes (about 80) are easy to follow, and each builds on the one before to give you a good understanding of the techniques involved. The aim of this book is to free you from your dependence on recipes, so that given a set of ingredients, you can create, if not a culinary masterpiece, at least -- dare I say it-- good eats.
Just a note about the arrangement of the book. Unlike most cookbooks, this volume isn't arranged by ingredient. Instead, it is divided by technique, in keeping with the author's goal of teaching the basics. Also, you won't find any cakes or cookies here. This book is about "cooking" the foods as they come from the plant or critter involved, rather than "making" food from the raw materials. (As AB puts it, "I didn't make the steak, I made the steak better.") Stuff you "make" is planned for the next book.
My only gripe about the book is that the typeface is a tad small for my tired old eyes. And the pages, pleasantly heavy as they are, aren't coated so they might tend to soak up grease. That isn't much of a problem, because this book really isn't meant to be read next to the stove anyway. Read it in a comfortable chair and prepare to achieve enlightenment. Yes, you too can be a briner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you care enough about food to be reading this review, but don't know who Alton Brown is, all I can say is, "For shame! Get thee to a cable or sattelite provider that has the Food Network, then watch every episode of Good Eats!" I'll wait till you're done...
Now that you know who wrote this book, I'm sure you'll understand why I pre-ordered it the second I heard it would be coming out. As you know (you do know now, right?) Alton Brown is the "Mr. Wizard" of cooking. He presents the science behind all kinds of cooking in a way that anyone can understand and enjoy.
"I'm Just Here For the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking" is the first in what will hopefully a series of books about the scientific principles underlying various recipes and cooking methods. This book focuses almost exclusively on the various methods of applying heat to food, what they do, how they affect foods, and how to control them. The presentation (in form and visual style) is reminiscent of a grade school textbook, but the text is light, easy to understand, and very witty.
Alton Brown is not a lightweight when it comes to erudition, either, but somehow the man can quote Brillat-Savarin and Greek philosophers without sounding stuffy. I only wish Brown had been there to collaborate with Harold McGee on "On Food and Cooking : The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (ISBN 0684843285, still the most comprehensive work on food science and history available), or to give style tips for "The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore" (ISBN 0020098014, and a good read nonethless). While those books may be more comprehensive and technically-oriented than this book, the style can get kind of tough to handle in those books.
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Format: Hardcover
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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