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Showing 1-10 of 499 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 681 reviews
on June 9, 2016
I purchased this book for a course I took last semester. It is incredibly interesting. It's packed with information, but it never delivers it in a dull way. I find myself learning new things all the time as I peek into this book, and it has improved my confidence in the kitchen, as I have a better understanding of "WHY" things do what they do, or foods react to certain things, or change at certain temperatures, etc.
Great book that I return to again and again. The layout is excellent, and well organized. The index is stellar. This isn't the first effort or edition, and thus it is honed to precision, and delivers facts in an engaging way.
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on March 4, 2017
If I had this book when I was in Chemistry, I may have passed high-school chemistry! LOVING the info. It is a great deal of information, so you may want to ask if you are a person who loves to know all info possible, but it is very interesting to me! (note: i am a reference librarian who adores research and thought she hated chemistry until this book discusses the chemistry of cooking.)
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on May 11, 2013
This is an incredible tome and is a really fascinating read. It's not a cookbook, even though there are a lot of tips and guidelines on getting the most out of your recipes. This is a book that really LOOKS at the food we eat and how we eat it and asks the question "why?" It then, more importantly, answers with well-researched facts backed up by scientific observation. The books covers broad categories of foods and then examines individual examples of those foods in an in-depth fashion, explaining why some cooking techniques work better than others and how to get the most out of your cooking. It also deals with "common knowlege" in the kitchen, supporting or debunking common food myths and explaining how they came about. This isn't necessarily something that is useful to have WHILE cooking, but anyone who wants to take a deeper look into the science of the food they eat will find this invaluable.
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on September 16, 2015
If you cook, eat, farm, shop or just read magazines and papers on food, you need this. McGee explains why eggs get hard, how not to ruin meats, what heat does to food. It's food geekery for un sciency people. Not just a recipe collection, but reader or reference book chock a block full of explanations on how food works and instructions on how to do food. Did you know that vodka makes better pie crust? Now you do. Lots of fun.
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on July 2, 2013
My blurb is not going to sway you, if Thomas Keller's and Rose Levy Berenbaum's endorsements don't, but I do so admire this book that I had to weigh in. I have a number of cookbooks, but this is the only one I keep in my kitchen. It is eminently readable at all points, and laid out to work perfectly as a reference. It is assuredly "serious" but you don't need a M.S. in chemistry to appreciate it (since McGee has one, and is a lucid and funny writer).

If you're a proper nerd and you want to be GOOD at cooking, buy this now. This book explains how cooking _works_ in the mechanical detail that I find exceptionally useful. Understanding the structure of eggs, their protein/fat makeup, and how those proteins respond to heat is alone worth the cost of the book. And it's filled with lessons of that sort. The diagram on cheese types is a pleasure in itself. I could not more highly recommend this book.
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on April 10, 2013
This book is absolutely fascinating! I find this book covers every food category I could imagine. Granted you will understand and enjoy the book more if you have a basic knowledge of chemistry but I am a science teacher and love finding out the reasons behind cooking techniques and flavors. Some reviewers said reading it would not really help one become a better cook but I disagree - knowing why something acts the way it does under certain circumstances is a huge help in becoming a real cook. No, this is not the type of the book you are going to leave open on the kitchen counter as you try and follow a recipe from it because it does not contain any recipes. This is the type of the book you should relish over for an hour, or more if you can spare the time, then be inspired to awaken your sense of culinary adventure and focus on a particular category of cooking to utilize your new-found knowledge and appreciate the fact that you now know the nitty-gritty of what you are doing.
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on January 12, 2006
This book does more than any other I'm aware of to bring cooking out of the traditionalist confines of practice, and to free it with science. In the process, it manages to confirm tradition and practice, and to frequently shed new light on old methods. Cooking schools and cookbooks, with few exceptions, have always relied upon simple, prescriptive instructions without explanations. Students are told to add a roux to demi-glace to create a clasic brown sauce, but aren't informed of the chemistry that makes the sauce thick and silky. Mr. McGee provides the explanation, in lucid, perfectly informative text, with enough detail to satisfy the nerds, and with enough enthusiasm to keep the casual cook entertained. And more serious cooks will understand the science and use it as a springboard to improvements and new improvisation. The spirit of the new cuisine, as propounded by El Bulli and the like, with its radical rethinking of food as chemistry, is possible only because McGee and others have organized and explained the facts behind the ingredients. But, for those of you who prefer a good old-fashioned bistro supper to foamed winter savory over a gel of seawater, McGee's book will be a revelation and an entertainment. If you read and understand the science of browning meat, you will get better at it. But you will also find yourself jumping from the meat-browning explanation to a treatise on protein, which will lead you to the chemistry of sauces, which will pique your interest in glaces and reductions, which will lead you to... If you tend to browse in dictionaries and encyclopedias, this book is for you. And if you're skeptical of the simplifications of cookbooks, or confused by their oft-conflicting advice, you will begin turning to this book to disentangle the traditions and complement your knowledge. I use it for menu planning, recipe refinement, helping my daughter with her school report on fast foods and saturated fats, and staying awake in the bathtub. I've also used it to settle a bet [I won a bottle of E. Guigal White Hermitage 1998] and to correct an error in the Larousse Gastronomique [something tremendously important to do with heating foie gras].

I believe that most cooks would benefit greatly from relying more on reference books and less on recipe books. And of all my food reference books, this one has been the most enlightening.
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on January 9, 2017
Showed up before they said it would and in great condition.

This is the perfect book for anyone interested in cooking that's also a nerd. There are no recipes in this book, it is more like a textbook that explains anatomy and origins of various ingredients. Charts that explain the different fat contents in various types of cream..... etc... etc...
I repeat... this is NOT a recipe book.
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on March 2, 2011
I agree with all the positive comments from other reviewers. This book explains the "whys" in ways that are logical, methodical, culinarily and scientifically relevant, such that the answers simply make sense. (e.g., explaining the difference between brown and white meat physiologically first, which makes it easy to understand why cooking them optimally requires different approach / temperature / duration, etc).

However, I'm disappointed by the kindle edition:

- It has no navigable Table of Content. Yes, there's a linking ToC at the beginning of the book, but you can't access individual chapters by going through Kindle's "Go To" menu.

- The book cross-references itself by page number, which is useless in the kindle edition. I wish the references were hyperlinked to the proper locations. Alternatively, Amazon can implement the new page number feature.

- The editing for kindle needs some fine tuning. The kindle edition embeds page number directly in the text, but not always sensibly:

"... the amino-acid content and there192 fish and shellfish fore [sic] taste intensity of fish varies according to the waters they're caught in."

- The placement / flows of sidebars don't always make sense on kindle. Sometimes you'll be in a new section and then encounter a block of text that seems to referring to the content in previous or next section. I suppose this is a limitation of kindle's small screen.
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You know who you are. It's not enough that you know 'how'. If you love something enough to understand the how, you have to know the 'why' and maybe even the 'who' and the 'where' and 'when'. This is the book for you. There are a few books in my life that I really treasure because they unlocked secrets. Of course, I'm not curious about everything, there are some secrets that are more special than others.

Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is a book that looks behind the chemical scenes at one of my favorite activities. This is the book that showed me how the structure of a gluten molecule accounted for the strange elasticity of bread dough. It taught me what goes on when fruit ripens and meat browns: why there's no dark meat on fish and how a meringue forms.

I was delighted when I read this book and I keep a copy on my desk now, going back to it for answers to questions and just for fun. This is not a book of recipes, but it's the perfect first stop for someone who wants to make their own recipe. It is loaded with the history and culture of food.

The best thing about this book is that for lovers of food and cooking it offers something more than mere knowledge-it offers a sense of sharing in its secrets, a sense of intimacy with the subject, And for true lovers, isn't intimacy the best thing of all?
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