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Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Hardcover – November 15, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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Fans of 'Curious Cook' Harold McGee will relish the latest from This (Molecular Gastronomy), a French chemist and foodie hero who has helped to usher in the current restaurant world vogue for turning the kitchen into a laboratory.... Even those who might be turned off by the thought of food chemistry will quickly be drawn in by his obvious love of food and eagerness to apply his research to helping people cook better.(Publishers Weekly)
This has made invisible processes visible, revealed the mysteries, and the bread has risen, baked, and been enjoyed.(Claudia Kousoulas Appetite for Books)
Cooks who want to learn more about the chemistry and physics that make their efforts possible will discover useful things here.(Booklist)
This's molecular gastronomy is garnished with the author's own rich philosophy of food and flavor.(Peter Barham Nature)
An exuberant paean for the role of science in cooking... This's book performs a great service.(Len Fisher Times Higher Education Supplement)
This book should be in every kitchen.(Christine Sismondo Toronto Star)
[An] eye-opening book.(Kate Colquhoun Portsmouth Herald)
Witty and humorous... [readers] whose eyes glaze over at the very mention of electrons may find themselves becoming entranced by This' graceful descriptions of essential chemical reactions.(Lynn Harnett Seacoast Sunday)
Well crafted, sprinkled with insight, and containing a menagerie of information, Kitchen Mysteries is a wonderful trip down a stellar buffet line.(J. Edward Sumerau Metro Spirit)
Kitchen Mysteries is another tour de force for the French scientific chef... Highly Recommended.(Choice)
This's book offers expert explanations that give the reader a better understanding of both cooking and cuisine. As such, it is enticing.(Pierre Laszlo Chemical Heritage)
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Top Customer Reviews
In the first couple of chapters of this new translation from the 1993 original in French (Secrets de la Casserole), This introduces some basics of cooking and discusses the sensations of eating, debunking the 90-year-old four-tastes theory. Afterward, this book can be dipped into at any point. It has chapters on basic ingredients (milk, eggs, etc.), on cooking methods (steaming, braising, etc.), on souffles, pastries, and breads--everywhere (not surprisingly) emphasizing French cooking. The second-to-last chapter on kitchen utensils is also essential reading, and the last chapter highlights kitchen mysteries yet unsolved.
For someone with some scientific background, this book occasionally comes across as patronizing. I liked, though, his explanation of evaporational cooling: to summarize, the water molecules that escape (i.e., evaporate) from the surface of the liquid must have a lot of energy--more energy than the typical molecules left behind--leaving behind liquid that has a lower temperature.
There are a couple of minor scientific mistakes: limonene, and not the mirror image, is in fact the relevant molecule in lemons (p. 28); and the record-holding temperature that the physicist Nicholas Kurti achieved was a millionth of a degree above, not below, absolute zero (p. 95). The translation from French may also be faulty on page 30, where he says that "we see a smoke, not vapor" above a soup--"fog" or "mist" probably being intended rather than "smoke.Read more ›
This' eye-opening book is all about molecules and atoms in motion and what things like heat, moisture, acid and fat do to transform them into succulent meals - or into fallen soufflés, tasteless pot roasts, and rubbery eggs.
After a brief overview concerning the physiology of taste and the basics of saucepan chemistry, This concentrates on various common ingredients and techniques - milk, eggs, sugar, wine, steaming, braising, frying, sauces, salads, pastry - to name a few. We know that oil and water do not mix, and that microwaved beef is gray and unappetizing. This explains why.
He then goes on to show us how to whip up the perfect hollandaise or mayonnaise, and how to keep the succulence in beef. While the microwave plays no part in this last, This is enthusiastic about this appliance and shows us how to use it properly for making caramel, reheating vegetables and - producing a Cointreau-infused duck a l'orange!
This is witty and humorous and sprinkles his clear and effervescent prose with bons mots from such brilliants as Escoffier, Harold McGee and the great Brillat-Savarin. Readers (like me) whose eyes glaze over at the very mention of electrons may find themselves becoming entranced by This' graceful descriptions of essential chemical reactions.
He explains when and why to salt and answers numerous questions, i.e., why soup cools when you blow on it, why babies shouldn't eat sausage, why use so much oil for deep-frying.Read more ›
Whether or not you like this book probably depends on your personality. As a detail-oriented engineer, I found myself frequently frustrated by his incomplete and ambiguous explanations that often followed glowing promises to reveal treasured secrets.
Just for example, his section titled "How Can We Not Spill the Tea When Pouring It?" explained the phenomena of dribbling spouts with a mediocre desription of the Bernoulli effect causing a decrease of pressure on the underside of the spout. (That's what gives lift to an airplane wing, isn't it?) He doesn't say anything about choosing a spout of a particular shape nor my grandmother's trick of wiping a smear of butter under the spout. More to the point, he never answers the question he posed!
Little incoherencies like the above example drove me crazy, but another reader of different temperment might just sail on by and enjoy the illusion of having learned something useful.
He does give some practical cooking advice, and his scientific explanations hint at the reasons. It just seems like there is some slight disconnect between them, and I wondered whether it related to the translation from French (which sometimes shows trivial irritants like wrong verb tenses).
I don't disagree with any of the reviews, even the 5 stars, but I'm glad I borrowed this from the library and will put my money on buying a copy of McGee instead.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
great book for the cooks out there who wants to improve thier knowledge about science of cooking. no tears, no missing pages, and still intact.Published 10 months ago by Carl P.
What a fun book. Its a bit shorter than I expected, but the science behind food is fascinating. I have really been enjoying reading this one and am sure the lessons learned will... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Jmll22
Very good book, I learned a little more secrets for cooking.Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very thorough, detailed and well written. When one understands the science behind the cooking process it is much easier to remember how to do it.Published on March 10, 2014 by Lola
Great book ! Make things more clear in the cooking process. I think it is a must have for beginners (like myself)Published on November 10, 2013 by jorge kupferminz
reading This book should be the first thing to do as you decided to cook as serious as it deserve .. great !!Published on August 27, 2013 by Paulo Costa
Despite the fact that my knowledge of chemistry is basic, I found the book clear and informing. It was fun to read about the science behind some procedures that we're all familiar... Read morePublished on June 14, 2013 by BP
There are some interesting scientific facts here about cooking. But I find the writer's style annoying; there are too many words and too many jokes for every fact that is revealed.Published on April 9, 2013 by Misja Alma