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on October 8, 2012
For those of you that don't want to read the silly-long review I wrote, scroll down to "BOTTOM LINE" for the important stuff.

I'll start with a disclaimer: Do not buy this book until you are familiar with the original "Modernist Cuisine." By that I do not mean you need to own that set first (quite the opposite, this is the stepping stone to the full set), but you should understand that it encompasses a style of cooking that can be crudely summarized as "cooking for scientists" or "how to make dinner in a laboratory." Once you know what you're getting into, decide if it's worth around $140 of your hard-earned cash.

Now, on to the good stuff. For those of you who salivated for a year, wishing you could justify buying "Modernist Cuisine" but knowing you wouldn't be able to use it to it's full potential (like me), your prayers have been answered! "Modernist Cuisine" made headlines (in the Food and Travel section) for:
1. Deconstructing the science of cooking rather than just listing recipes
2. Focusing on modern methods of preparing foods using tools such as combi ovens, sous vide setups, emulsifiers, etc
3. Including some rather stunning photography of the equipment and ingredients within

I am happy to say that all three are present in the "at Home" version. First, "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (MCAH hereafter) introduces a consolidated set of kitchen tools and gadgets that the home chef can reasonably afford. Don't have the funds for the laboratory-grade centrifuge featured in "Modernist Cuisine?" No problem. Not only does MCAH omit the prohibitively expensive tools from its recipes, but many of them are the same recipes found in the original, redone for the home cook. MCAH even goes as far as offering several options at varying price ranges for the equipment used within.

The same goes for the ingredients. MCAH mostly does away with the laundry list of exotic spices and chemicals featured in many "modernist" cookbooks and instead relies on ingredients you can find either at the local grocery store, or in reasonable quantities online. For the ingredients you are probably less familiar with (malic acid? agar agar?) there is a two-page spread detailing what each does, where it comes from, and what it costs. In many cases, the recipes will list alternatives if you choose not to add their recommendations to your shopping list.

Much like Modernist Cuisine, MCAH explains some of the science behind the various cooking techniques, but at a beginner's level. Each recipe includes a blurb about what's going on inside the pot (so to speak), and almost all of them include multiple variations at the end, allowing for a wide variety of options. This is especially useful for people new to the idea of sous vide cooking, as MCAH does a great job explaining exactly how it works, and how to make it work for you.

How has it taken me this long to get to the photography? Stunning, just as in "Modernist Cuisine". I don't know how they did it, but every picture is suitable for framing. Equipment has been dissected to yield amazing looking cross-sections used in explaining how the various tools function. And get this: included in the back are four prints from MCAH you can frame. I had no idea until they fell out while I was reading, but they are every bit as beautiful as the photos inside, and I dare say will look better on the walls of a kitchen than the usual crap paintings of grapes or farms or cows that people seem obligated to put up these days.

If it seem like I'm gushing, it's because I am. Any home cook who has jumped into sous vide cooking has probably experienced the frustration I have with cookbooks dedicated to the style. You have Douglas Baldwin's "Sous Vide for the Home Chef," which, while great for it's temperature charts (and the fact it came out before anything else was available) is too simple for anyone looking to expand their horizons into restaurant-quality preparations (French Laundry, anyone?). And on the other end of the spectrum is Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure," which, while exquisite in creativity and detail, is geared completely towards the restaurant chef (which he warns in the forward), both in scale and complexity. Even the original "Modernist Cuisine", while featuring more accessible recipes than "Under Pressure", still excluded the home cook from about half of it's contents due to equipment or ingredient limitations. MCAH is the first book that features sous vide in a way that the home cook can learn and excel at, while also creating dishes that will blow the guests away. Seriously, the stuff you can make from this book looks like it belongs on the set of Iron Chef.

BOTTOM LINE:

This is a "modern" (or Modernist) cookbook, so the recipes inside are going to be closer to what you'd find in a restaurant that uses an obscure adjective for it's title rather than what you'd see in your grandmother's kitchen. If the idea of cooking a beautiful cut of salmon in a Ziploc bag seems blasphemous, or using a digital scale instead of an elephant-shaped measuring cup is akin to high treason, you may not be ready to make the jump. But if you want to learn how modern cooking styles can produce amazing taste and presentation in your kitchen (while removing much of the uncertainty and variation that traditional high-heat methods entail), this is the book for you.

PROS:

- Currently the best book available for home sous vide setups
- Delicious recipes using accessible ingredients for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Meat, Poultry, Fish and Veggies. Even has a few vegan options inside.
- Teaches the "why" of cooking, not just the "how"
- Stunning photography, and great step-by-step images for most of the recipes
- Comes with a separate water-resistant "kitchen manual" with every recipe inside so you can keep the gorgeous main-book away from the messiness of the kitchen.
- Comes with 4 prints you can frame in your home. Or not.
- Even though the recipes are designed using ingredient weights, approximate volume measurements are included
- Well constructed. You could easily beat an intruder to death with this book if you caught him stealing your sous vide setup
- Even has the bookmark ribbon you see in bibles, which fits, since this has become my new kitchen bible.

CONS:

- Though it says "at Home" in the title, your average kitchen will most likely lack some of the basic tools used in many of the recipes. At a minimum, you will need a digital scale, Sous Vide setup, a pressure cooker, and a whipped cream siphon. MCAH will help you in your quest to acquire those tools, but you should commit to expanding your kitchen arsenal if you plan to use this book to it's full potential.
- There are no calorie counts on these recipes, and in some cases if there were, it would take scientific notation to fit on the page. This is not a diet book, this is a book dedicated purely to creating the most delicious food possible at home. When you get to the page about deep-frying a hamburger, you'll understand what I mean.
- $140 (or whatever they charge now) isn't chump change, and for most people the new equipment will add to the cost.
- The sandwich on the cover does not actually levitate when you make it at home.
- Does not mow the lawn while you aren't using it.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments. I am in no way affiliated with the producers of this book, though I would consider trading my first-born for a chance to work in their kitchen. Your Mileage May Vary.

EDIT - 6 Oct 2015: Three years later and I still love this book. I not own the full-fledged Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, but I'm always going back to this one. Take the leap!
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on October 28, 2012
First: A disclaimer. I have no connection with the authors of this book or the publishers. As a matter of full disclosure, I have been a cook for over thirty years, and I majored in Biology, so scientific terms don't scare me. My motto is: if someone else can do it, so can I.

Now for the review: The problem with most cookbooks is they do not provide the cook with a reasonable starting point from which to make excellent cuisine. I remember the days when I used to struggle to try to make recipes from Larousse Gastronomique and Joy of Cooking that were spectacular, but that end always seemed to elude me. I never felt as though I prepared a meal- ANY meal which rivaled or surpassed that of my favorite restaurants. Those cooks in the high end restaurants knew things that I didn't know, and used equipment I had never seen, let alone used. Well, that is no longer the case. I picked up the original tome (Modernist Cuisine) and extracted from it the recipes I could do in my kitchen at home, and at once realized that there was a whole world of phenomenal food out there, waiting to be tasted.

I cooked chicken breast sous vide (using a Rube Goldberg contraption I have since replaced with the SousVide Supreme) and the breasts were done perfectly, with all the delicate tastes intact. Wild duck breasts that had been lying in the back of my freezer because I knew they would taste like cardboard? They were the best poultry I had ever tasted. With those two successes under my belt, it was on to fish! I live in Florida, and so am fussy about my fish. My first foray was into cobia, and that dish, on that day, was the best fish I have ever tried, let alone made. And so on. Best green beans. Best carrots. Best risotto. Best salmon. You get the idea...

After getting sous vide under my belt, then I started playing with other techniques. Spherification is a blast, and I modified a technique from Thomas Keller's Under Pressure to make watermelon and mango 'egg yolk' "Steak Tartare", which was a huge hit with my guests. I just had the best carrot soup of my life, with the recipe taken from MCAH, which uses caramelization techniques well known to pros, but heretofore unknown to me (it involves a pressure cooker). Making classic sauces takes an hour or so, instead of many, many hours.

This is not a book for everyone, because not everyone really, really likes food. Or likes being able to create things in their own kitchen that far surpass their local restaurants. If food is just fuel, forget about MCAH. If, on the other hand, you have a part of your mind that remembers special meals, remembers certain dishes of their past with pleasure, and likes to savor their food, rather than gulping it down so you can watch the 7:00 Seinfeld reruns, this is the book for you. It is the first book that goes beyond- far beyond- what Erma Rombauer started all those years ago with The Joy of Cooking. The new millenium put self publishing in our hands (faceBook) and video distributing (YouTube) and reporting (Twitter), and now, in this age of paradigm shifts, we have world-class cuisine in our own homes. It's crazy, but it's cool.
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on March 13, 2014
I read many reviews of this book, and many reviewers complained that the book was almost impossible to read, hold on your lap, store in your bookshelf, find room for on your counter, and so on. I laughed! Buck up, people, I thought to myself. Then the behemoth arrived by semi trailer and required a crane to get into my place. A little hyperbole on my part, sure. But this thing really IS unwieldy. It's a beautifully done book, and the concepts and recipes so far have been enlightening. I was inspired to purchase because of the hysteria over the hideously priced previous volume and by the fact that my husband gave me a blow torch and immersion circulator for my birthday. So, of course, I had to have some reading material to accompany these things. First, I got the Thomas Keller book. I am a former professional chef, and am not intimidated by recipes that require special equipment or days of preparation. Suffice it to say that Mr. Keller's book is not for the casual home cook. So I wanted to try Modernist Cuisine at Home next. Even I am not willing to put several hours of prep into a weeknight dinner for the two of us. I find the recipes in Modernist to be more accessible. Ingredients are pretty much readily available. Instructions are clear. Sure, are you really going to make that burger more than once? Or even once? Probably not. But recipes for things like stocks, sauces, dressings, and other basics are excellent. The use of the pressure cooker is genius on every level. The smaller handbook is a great reference tool. That's the one I'll keep on my shelf. If you are not willing to spring for an immersion circulator and a pressure cooker, you will find that you can't make 90% of the things in this book, but if you do own those two things, the rest is a snap to procure. Go for it. There is so little out there about sous vide cooking in general. This is a very good start. For instance, I have seen instructions on line saying to cook a rib eye for twelve hours and all the way down to one hour. Which is it? This book gets very specific about things like that, but also lets you know where you have some leeway to mess around a bit. I wish the publisher would have made the format smaller; maybe broken it up into two volumes. Seriously, that's how unwieldy the thing is.
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on September 9, 2014
I love this book. The recipes are spectacular. I've made a significant number of the recipes, even making variations, they are about as good as food can get.

Do I recommend this book, even at the price point? Yes, constantly. It's a far better value than almost all the other cookbooks I have.

Why? I own three sous-vide rigs. I have a very good vacuum sealer. I have digital thermometers and scales. I have three pressure cookers. I was comfortable with all this gear before I bought this book. MC@H takes what I was already doing and drastically improves it.

So why 4 stars instead of 5? Simple the Kitchen Manual. It.is.NOT.waterproof (see update below). I had it. sitting closed, on the counter and a glass of water spilled next to it, totally soaking the edge. I dried it as well as I could (I was in the middle of cooking for 24 people). Three days later the pages along the top are glued together. Now I have something that can be best described as a brick. It's useless.

Update:
I contacted the folks at modernistcuisine.com about my issue with the Kitchen Manual. According to them, it's a defect that affects some (but not all) of the editions. So, my version of the Kitchen Manual was not waterproof. The one you get will be. They offered to replace my copy free of charge (no shipping cost either). I haven't received the manual (yet), though I do have a tracking number and it's on the way! Exceptional customer service.

So now what do I think? Well, assuming that the new kitchen manual is actually waterproof, then buy this book. Really. Buy this book. I can think of only one reason not to buy this book, and that's if you're planning on buying the mothership: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, which I'll be purchasing at some point.
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on November 3, 2016
Wow I love this book. I learned to cook like like a man with it. I have to admit I skipped over the chapters that did not interest me. I really didn't know how to cook more than a pizza. Now I am one of the best cooks of all my friends. Thank you. Totally worth the price of the most expensive book I have ever bought.
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on September 19, 2014
Modernist Cuisine at Home is a cookbook. As such, it shouldn't be read end-to-end, but should be reviewed for the recipes it contains. However, it's more than a cookbook, since it's also an advocate for a different approach towards cooking, which is ideally suited for engineers and other folks (mostly men) who have little patience for acquiring skills associated with traditional cooking. I am just such a person, so the Modernist approach does have great appeal to me.

As far as I can see, modernist cooking has a few principles:

Use of modern technology. This includes pressure cookers, sous vide machines, and blow torches
Accurate temperature control. This could mean water baths, or simply an oven safe probe stuck into the thickest part of the meat.
An emphasis on time efficiency. Minimum prep time, and "fire and forget" formulas.
I, on the other hand, was looking for the following:
Minimum skill required, as well as prep effort. I can barely flip an egg over to make eggs over-easy. Anything more is just too much.
Precise prescriptions. "A dash of baking soda" means nothing to me. I'd rather hear, "10g of baking soda."
To my mind, Modernist Cuisine at Home meets a lot of this criteria. Much has been made about sous vide, but I didn't have a sous vide set up, so I first tried the other recipes that were easy:
Slow Baked Chicken with Onions (page 242). The first time I did this the results were amazing. The prep work is weird, using brine injectors and slicing onions thinly, but my wife (who usually hates chicken) liked it a lot so I tried again. The second time was a disaster. I had to throw it away. The inconsistency of the oven made me willing to buy a Sous Vide setup.
Pressure Cooked Lamb Shank (page 234). The first time I did it the results were good, but marred by my pressure cooker being not up to spec. I splurged, upgrading to a $30 Presto pressure cooker, and the second time I made it it was nothing short of incredible. The meat just peeled off the bone when I lifted the bone up, and the resulting lamb curry tasted great. In fact, the store-bought sauce did not do the meat justice.
Carrot Soup (page 178). Since my visits to Rosenlaui began, I've admired their soups. Since I had a pressure cooker now, I could use their recipe to see if I could emulate the creamy soups that Rosenlaui did. The resulting texture is nothing short of amazing. It's quite a bit of work, since you have to pressure cook the carrots, then blend them, and then add carrot juice. This is eliminating the final step. But the soup is incredibly smooth and generally good stuff. I liked it a lot, but Xiaoqin is in general not a fan of Western style soups, so I guess I won't be making this again.
All this convinced me that I should experiment with sous vide for a more consistent experience. It took a bit to figure out what to buy, so I'll list it here, in case you want to try it yourself:
Sous Vide Supreme Demi. You don't need anything bigger, so don't waste your time with the other stuff. I didn't opt for a circulating bath heater, because the resulting decor would not please my wife. If you're single and cheap, try a manual rice cooker or crockpot and the DorkFood temperature controller.
Iwatani Torch Burner. It burns butane cartridges you can easily get at Ranch 99. Easy on, easy off, and it doesn't look like industrial equipment.
Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer. If all you do is short recipes you can use zip-loc bags. You can also buy a package including the Sous Vide Supreme sealer, but the difference between reviews of this unit and reviews of the Sous Vide Supreme unit is huge, so I recommend buying this one.
With this, I experimented with the following receipes:
Sous Vide Salmon (page 276). OMG. This is melt-in-your-mouth type salmon. I couldn't believe how good this was. Xiaoqin doesn't like cooked Salmon, but she found this acceptable. I'm going to have to try cod one of these days.
Sous Vide Chicken (page 244). You know how baked chicken always tastes dry? The reason the Slow Baked chicken receipe works is because you inject the chicken with enough brine so it doesn't dry out. Well, by cooking sous vide, you don't have to do that and the results are amazing. Xiaoqin doesn't usually like chicken, but she liked this one so much she complained I didn't eat enough. Bowen doesn't usually eat meat, and he ate a third of a piece of chicken thigh by himself. This blew my mind.
Sous Vide Prime Rib (page 194). This was relatively disappointing. Not because the result was bad, but because we'd had high hopes after the last two sous vide dishes. I didn't follow the instructions enough, and left the meat in the machine for 3+ hours instead of the recommended 50 minutes, because I read some other instructions on the internet. On the one hand, it was my loss, but on the other hand, it demonstrates the value of the book: the book's recipes so far out perform the internet, which is unusual.
Sous Vide Duck Confit (pages 245-246). This was the most ambitious recipe that I tried from the book. It took about 18 hours of brining the duck legs in the refrigerator, and then about 27 hours in the Sous Vide machine. But it was excellent and better than some duck confit I've had in France! If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be able to make duck confit this good, I wouldn't have believed you.
I'm not much of a foodie, and have eaten at Michelin 2-star restaurants that I considered terrible compared to say, Kabab & Curry's. I've also eaten at Google's cafetaria during the good years (2005-2007), and could taste the difference when I returned to Mountain View in 2008 after a stint in Europe. I would say that this book has revolutionized my approach and expectations for home cooking, and I cannot imagine not using the sous vide approach for meats cooked home if I can help it. I justified my purchase of my above set up based on the idea that I could easily return it to Amazon if I didn't like it. Well, I'm not going to return those machines. Furthermore, when I first heard about the 72 hour short-rib sous vide recipes, I thought, "3 days to cook dinner? That's ridiculous." I will now admit that my thoughts about the matter now are: "how could I do without my sous vide machine for 3 days?!!"

I will now pay this book the greatest compliment I can: before I return this book to the library, I will either buy my own copy of Modernist Cuisine at Home, or the entire $530 6-volume set of Modernist Cuisine. Highly recommended. If you haven't tried it out, try it. If you're local and want to try it, talk to me and we'll work something out. And if you're an engineer who hates cooking and can't do anything right in the kitchen, you need this book.
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on February 15, 2017
Love this book. Great photos, accessible equipment, awesome techniques and recipes.

However, avoid Momox as the shipper. Also Amazon did absolutely ZERO to help me get resolution. The 1st pic is what it's supposed to look like, with a neat box to hold the main book. The shipper tossed the book/box into a shipping box, with a single thin layer of bubble wrap. All but useless.

Now I get to see if a local bookbinder can help with a fix, because the binding and glue were damaged in shipping. Caveat Emptor!
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on April 23, 2017
Love the book content; great photography, good recipes, etc. But the build of the book al has much to be desired. We've only paged through it, carefully (almost with white gloves) a couple of times and the pages are already coming detached and falling out. For the price of this book, I expect a lot better craftsmanship!
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on January 27, 2013
I have the original set and while it contains a ton of great information, it also was impractical in a normal house. This book however is great: the recipes are workable in my kitchen - yes it uses sous vide, pressure cookers, etc but it's all affordable - and they are really good. I really like the way they are written out. It makes you first run thru easier. At this point, we've tried about 20 as written as well as exploiting the principles for improving our own favorites. And we use the microwave for things besides reheating and popcorn.

My only complaint is the size. It's a huge book...
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on December 30, 2016
I'm not a foodie by any means, this was a gift for my brother who is a chef by profession and a foodie by choice. If the tears of joy when he saw this book are any indication, I think this book was just perfect.
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