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on January 3, 2018
Love these books and at a great price,
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on March 8, 2011
In the interest of full disclosure, I had access to a free electronic review copy from the publisher prior to receiving my (unfortunately NOT free) copy from, and I work for an organization mentioned a few times in the book (eGullet).

It's hard to review this book without it coming across as hyperbolic: after all, it's a 50-pound, 2400-page beast that will cost you an entire year's cookbook budget and must have cost unfathomable sums to produce; you're either going to love it or hate it. However, I can say with confidence that if you liked McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, you are going to love Modernist Cuisine.

While the press coverage of the book so far has focused on the more esoteric aspects of the book--centrifuges, rotovaps and chemicals, oh my!--the book actually simply treats those items on equal footing with woks, sauté pans, and water. It covers them because you can cook interesting, tasty food with them. Of course, the weird stuff gets all the attention, because, well... it's weird. But this is a book that devotes an entire chapter to *water*. And the things it teaches you *will* make you a better cook. The authors are never satisfied with "it just works, don't ask why." It seems like every paragraph, on every detail, is tightly focused on the question of not just "what happens?" or "how do you do it?" but also "WHY does it work?" and "HOW does it work?" This book is particularly excellent if you are science-minded, but it is written with such clarity that I believe anyone can learn these things from it. Who knew that blowing on a spoonful of soup to cool it was so complicated, and so interesting?

Probably the most relevant criticism I have encountered is the notion that the recipes it presents are unapproachable. And a few things do, in fact, require a centrifuge (though the majority of the time it is an optional step). There is no doubt that many if not most of the recipes require ingredients that standard American kitchens don't stock. Most of us don't have Agar and Xantham Gum in our cupboards, and some find the very idea of cooking with "chemicals" a frightening, foreign, or downright objectionable practice. Truth be told these "chemicals" are no more (or less) unnatural than baking soda or refined sugar (the book spends a great deal of time discussing food safety and nutrition before diving into the "crazy chemicals"). Amazon even sells a starter kit that I've found quite useful: Experimental Kit Artistre - 600 grams. And for the most part these ingredients are not used "just for fun": the goal of the Modernist Cuisine movement is to examine the foods we eat, and our perceptions of that food, and try to make things that taste great, and perhaps even engage us on an intellectual and emotional level. I've made a few recipes from the book so far, and in particular the Mac & Cheese was astonishing: it is far and away the best M&C I've ever had or made, without question. It actually tastes like cheese! (What a concept, I know). And it's easier to make and more forgiving than the traditional béchamel-based method. So some of the recipes are simple, and some are complicated. If you have Alinea you probably have a pretty good idea of what the complicated ones look like: daunting, yes, but *not* unachievable if you are willing to put the time in.

Obviously a review of a 2400-page book could go on more or less forever, but I think the upshot is this: if you are interested in learning the "how" and "why" of cooking, of even the most mundane processes (they cover boiling water in great detail), this book is probably deserving of six stars; it is simply monumental. Save your pennies, this is a worthwhile purchase. If, on the other hand, that is *not* interesting to you, it's probably two stars: get the first and second volumes from a local university library, and don't worry about the rest (if you are only going to read the first two volumes I'd say it's tough to justify the price tag).

* Level of detail is incredible
* Covers the "how" and the "why" of every detail of the cooking process
* Depth and breadth of coverage is... well, worthy of 2400 pages
* Stunning photography, graphic design, and even printing

* Many of the recipes are very challenging
* Coverage of hyper-expensive equipment can be off-putting
* Too tall to fit on any normal bookcase
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on August 16, 2013
This is way more than a cookbook. It is actually a great read and way too much for a coffee table book. I actually find myself reading a chapter more for the science than for the cooking, even when I started to look for something to cook. It does both and does them extremely well.
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on November 16, 2015
Amaing book with beautiful photographs and anusual scientific insights into food technology. My son, who is an engeneere with a passion for cooking finds it very inspirational.
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on December 31, 2016
My son the chef, loves these books I bought him for Christmas several years ago!
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on December 7, 2017
Simply the best.
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on September 3, 2011
I received these books a few days ago and have spent only limited time reading some parts and flicking the pages in other areas. They will take quite a while to become familiar with.

The books seem to cover are range of needs for different types of readers. They are artistic to the point of being beautiful coffee table books but the depth of information, the complexity of some of the recipes and the aim to perfection will lead me to use them for reference and knowledge before I would put them out for all to peruse.

The books came very well packed and in excellent condition. They are very substantial in size and weight.

The production values of the books are beautiful and impressive. The photos are very clear, detailed and precise, but with some photos obviously taken purely for their artistic value.

I am a chef with a varied career but have been lucky to work in some very high end restaurants that have a lot of the equipment that is used in the books and aimed to produce dishes that try and chase ideas of Ferran Adrià, Keller and Blumenthal, as well as study food science and technology and work in the food manufacturing industry.

I have found in the book so far that the scale of the technological equipment used is more than most would see in all but a few of the very best restaurants who choose to produce some or all of their food in this direction. Sous vide is used as a basic in these books, but the exposure to the many scientific, bio-chemical and physics theories that are included and explained at varying levels is probably the best reason for the purchase of these books for most chefs.

If you are not in the industry or you're not prepared to study background basics, a person may struggle to appreciate a lot of the processes and principals, and it would also be tricky to just envisage the use and results of some practices. That being said, the books are quite vast in their content from the history of almost everything covered to brilliant ideas for use and implementation.

From a food technologist perspective the books are a great compendium of information that I know and don't know, and it's great to be able to find new knowledge or a different point of view on so many culinary subjects.

Only a fool would claim to know all there is to know about food and how it should be treated, but this collection of information looks like it would enable a person to argue their way in, around or out of expert discussion.

I know some chefs and food technologists that would love to claim that they know all that is in these books, but I think they would be wrong, at least before they spent some considerable time with them.

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on February 13, 2012
MC is wonderful for too many reasons to name them all, but I will go through a few. The pictures are amazing! They are not only spectacular tto view, but they are a very helpful aid in understanding the different topics covered in the books. The information is organized in a way that you can easily look up a particular topic. This makes it very simple to use them as a quick reference guide. MC not only explains how to execute modern culinary techniques, but also how and why they work. MC gives you inexpensive alternatives to expensive equipment, and explains the equipment in grave detail. (IE How to turn a low budget Crock Pot/Slowcooker into a Circulating Water Bath for around $100) Finally, MC comes with a huge catalogue/kitchen manual of recipes which employ the new techniques you will learn. MC is expensive, but for anyone wants to understand the science of food and understand modern culinary techniques, it is a great tool and well worth the expense.
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on February 25, 2017
It's huge!! It's beautiful!!
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on May 22, 2012
My mother-in-law and I purchased this collection as a birthday present for my husband, who is already quite a chef. He was so thrilled, and I, who had seen this set given as a prize on one of the cooking competitions, Top Chef I think, love it also. It is like a huge, secret garden of information, techniques, gorgeous photos, just plain mesmerizing!!
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