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The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Hardcover – January 31, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Behind today's celebrity chefs and starred restaurants is a mostly unsung army of dedicated food and science lovers working to uncover the scientific principles that make our modern gastronomical marvels possible. In offering thirty-three highly readable and often amusing essays by warriors in this multinational kitchen army, the editors of this anthology have accomplished the great service of filling a much-needed gap in the public's understanding and appreciation of twenty-first-century culinary 'magic.' Where else can one have fun pondering the acoustics of crunchy foods or the texture of an ice cream that stretches like a rubber band?

(Robert Wolke, former Washington Post food columnist and author of What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained)

The editors of The Kitchen as Laboratory provide not just intimate and fascinating anecdotal insights but also the scientific principles that inspired them. They have created a new altar for chefs and gourmands to worship: the poetry of science.

(Will Goldfarb, creator of Willpowder, Experimental Cuisine Collective)

The Kitchen as Laboratory provides good perspective on the scientific approach to cooking while reflecting the interests and passions of each essay's author. Readers are likely to come away with a lot of new ideas to use in the kitchen, as well as some recognition of the breadth of contemporary applications of science in the kitchen.

(Peter Barham, author of The Science of Cooking)

The Kitchen as Laboratory is not only an in-depth study of many areas of food science, but also an entertaining read. For someone like me, who relishes understanding more about cooking from the inside out, it's heartening to see this area of literature expanded.

(Chef Wylie Dufresne, wd~50)

Nothing is more difficult to master in the world than science itself. The Kitchen as Laboratory creates a beautiful synergy between food and science while amazingly representing difficult concepts in colloquial language. It is a powerful book.

(Chef José Andrés, James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef)

Cesar Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden have assembled a complete document that seamlessly bridges the inherent connection of the science of cooking and the art of cooking. They have created a testament to the fact that precise understanding and open minded observation are invaluable tools for creative cooking. Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking is a thought provoking, insightful and approachable resource for professional chefs and home cooks alike.

(Maxime Bilet, head chef for recipe research and development at The Cooking Lab, co-author of Modernist Cuisine)

serious and substantive anthology

(Harold McGee Nature)

Refreshingly, the Kitchen conveys simple and attainable advice...

(Scientist)

Engaging, thought-provoking and accessible

(Yum.fi)

Highly recommended.

(Choice)

Book Description

More than fifty international chefs, scientists, and cooks experiment with the physics and chemistry of the ideal meal.

--This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231153449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231153447
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Kitchen as Laboratory..." is a compliation of dozens of science experiments done to explain WHY foods do the things they do. Each chapter is written by different culinary chemists on a different topic. Most of the chapters begin with a question, like what benefit is given when you refrigerate cookie dough before cooking it? And what causes food to brown as it's cooked (loaves of bread, onions, etc.)? What ingredients make the perfect sponge cake? Which breads and cheeses make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? What is the chemical reaction that makes a roux sauce come together?

These questions are answered using the scientific method, but not in an intimidating way! The authors' use everyday language to explain their experiments and results. In fact, included are microscopic pictures of the air bubbles inside sponge cake, diagrams of pork belly to show where the variety of bacon comes from, tables that show the conditions that speed up or slow down the Maillard Reaction (browning), and my favorite part, each chapter comes with a recipe that you can make in order to prove the authors' findings to yourself. The book has been designed to not only teach you, but to also help you become a better cook.

Some basic background knowledge of chemistry is needed in order to understand much of this book. Topics that the reader is assumed to know are things like the difference between amino acids and carbohydrates, pH, catalysts, metric measurements, and basic atomic attraction.
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Format: Hardcover
I read a review of this book in Scientific American which is why I sought it out. I'm not a scientist, but I like reading about science that is understandable, and this book is. It is an anthology. Each chapter stands alone although occasionally there is a specific reference something in a previous chapter. It's beyond the basics, like what makes a cake rise. Rather it explains why refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough makes better cookies. It also offers a broad range of subject, and talks about the feel of food and the sound of food, the difference between crispy & crunchy. I really enjoyed it.
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By JT on January 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like cooking and science...but not very good at science? This is a great book for you! While not many pictures or recipes, it provides detailed (yet fairly straight forward) description of major gastronomy issues and techniques
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lots of interesting modernist cuisine material. It would be better if there were fewer generalities, and more concrete examples. Each chapter has different authors, and there seems to be a lot of self-promoting material.
Worth a read, but not the best. The McGee books are a lot meatier
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We sent this to a friend who is a chemist and gourmet cook. He was thrilled with it and, to our surprise, he had not heard of it previously. His report is that it is a super book that is filled with great scientific information about cooking. Other Amazon customer reviews helped make the decision to purchase this and I'm glad that I read them!
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Format: Hardcover
I wish there were more books like The Kitchen as Laboratory. The essays are tremendous in their depth and have fundamentally changed my understanding of several cooking processes, ingredients and techniques. I love how wonderfully specific and geeky each essay is, and it is written perfectly for someone with even basic scientific knowledge can undersand. I hope for a volume two!
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Format: Hardcover
Not really a cookbook but many useful recipes. It's more about what happens when you cook. Written in a almost chatty narrative style. Thereexplanations on new(tome) ways of doing things like making stockChop up carcass of chicken in food processor Should steak be brought to room temperature before cooking? Not necessary. Should cooked meat be rested? yes, Author's opinions arebacked by experimental evidence. Long section on Sous Vide method and how it be accomplished at home, with inexpensive materials This is a very well produced book, heavy coated stock, good photography. I only looked at the hardcover edition.Recommendations on eqipment, and knife sharpening methodsand even an attempt to solve the ground meatvs. stew meat in Chili question, Recipes for both are included.
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Format: Hardcover
If you think about it food and cookery have always been interlinked but not so many people have bothered to think why and look towards science as a way of making things even better. When they do, invariably, it is to make commercial food production more efficient and cost-effective.

Does the consumer gain so much here? Not so when it comes to the plate in any case and many people are sceptical to overt scientific manipulation of their foodstuffs. Yet in more recent times there has become a growing amount of interest in the science of gastronomy with many talented chefs around the world tackling this subject and looking at ways of pushing the envelope. It is no longer good enough to use good ingredients to make tasty food. A wow factor is often desirable and what better way to do that then through fooling the senses in a positive way and making the absolute best of the ingredients at hand! Some chefs such as Heston Blumenthal have managed to carve themselves a niche through their reputation as a good chef and as a talented gastronomic or molecular cook.

This book is a collection of 33 standalone chapters or essays looking at different elements of molecular gastronomy, as the subject has been labelled. Good science if you will differentiate it from the sometimes-controversial scientific manipulation of foodstuffs. Much of this work is still relatively new and developments are constantly being made as techniques are trialled and refined and knowledge becomes more commonplace.

This is not a dry scientific book that will only appeal to people with many letters after their name! Of course, it is going to be science-heavy and not an overly light read but the information contained within the essays is engaging, thought-provoking and accessible.
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