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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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"I talk about Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat the way people talk about beloved pets or newborn babies; like I was a different person before I read it – and I was. I liked to eat, but hated to cook. I was a huge proponent of what I called "snack dinner," basically whatever I had that didn't require a cooking implement. Samin Nosrat (and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton) set me straight. Together they debunk the concept of recipes, instead teaching you how to build food (and flavor) from scratch and by instinct. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat uses its eponymous guiding principles to chart a very delicious course toward never eating snack dinner again."
"My favorite metacookbook...[Nosrat] offers a beautifully simple checklist for ensuring a dish ends up in a good place...This is the book of cooking grammar that so many novices would benefit from...Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is written smoothly and casually, and kept breezy via charming watercolors by the perceptive Bay Area artist Wendy MacNaughton...Nosrat’s book would be of value both to people who don’t consider themselves cooks and to people actively striving to become better ones.", Atlantic
"Inventively illustrated...ambitious...[Nosrat is] a talented explainer.", Wall Street Journal
"A cookbook that will make you a better cook...with helpful, charming illustrations from artist Wendy MacNaughton.", Boston Globe
"An exhaustively researched treatise on the four pillars of successful cooking.", New York Times Book Review
"Hundreds of cookbooks are published each year. Some are good. Others are exceptional. A few are essential. Samin Nosrat just published “Salt Fat Acid Heat — Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” and I daresay this one is essential...That’s the fabulous thing about this book — it teaches readers about cooking, how to employ various techniques, and how to grasp that any subtle variations in technique can have significant impacts upon our end results. It is possible to learn how to cook great food...This book is bound to become an indispensable addition to cookbook shelves throughout America.", Dayton Daily News
"Nosrat’s beautiful, approachable book demonstrates how these four are the only elements necessary to make delicious meals anywhere, any time." -- Rapid City Journal
"Provides the cook with far more tools for branching out and exploring their own creative potential - and that makes it a standout.", Midwest Book Review
"An excellent cookbook and culinary resource that pares down the idea that it only takes four ingredients to make food taste amazing.", Belleville News-Democrat
About the Author
Wendy MacNaughton is a New York Times bestselling illustrator and graphic journalist whose books include Meanwhile in San Francisco (Chronicle), Pen & Ink (Bloomsbury). The Gutsy Girl (Bloomsbury), and The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her work appears in publications like The New York Times, Lucky Peach, Bon Appétit, AFAR Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the back page columnist for The California Sunday Magazine.
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This is an amazing concept for a "cookbook", and I absolutely love the setup and flow of the text. It keeps me engaged by presenting information concisely, but manages not to be dry or overwhelming.
I was so sad to find a pretty glaring scientific error at the very beginning of the book in the section entitled How Salt Works (subsection Cooking Foods in Salted Water, pg 35-37). I have a lot of sympathy for typos and grammatical errors as they don't typically effect my comprehension of the subject matter, but this was a more serious problem with the science being presented. Specifically, Ms. Nosrat has conflated salt (NaCl) with all minerals, and presents the idea that salting cooking water enough will prevent osmosis of nutrients and minerals from inside whatever is being cooked into the water. Le Chatelier's principle dictates that osmosis over a permeable barrier (like the skin/flesh of a green bean) occurs when there is an imbalance of a particular mineral or compound, ergo, the only thing adding NaCl potentially prevents is leeching NaCl, Na, and Cl. Other minerals and nutrients will freely pass out of your food and into the water as easily as they do in unsalted cooking water. Steaming and other cooking methods might mitigate this issue as exposure to water is limited, however, I expect these processes might yield similar results if food is cooked to the same extent. The way we account for this nutrient loss, in reality, is by eating more of a given cooked food than we would its raw counterpart, which is what cooking allows us to do by physically breaking foods down!
I hope this is the only error of it's kind because it is quite confusing and misleading, but I'm not at all confident that I could discern a similar future error. I gave the book 3 stars simply because of my skepticism of the underlying science and the authors understanding. I guess we just have to take it with a grain of salt. ;)
If you get one cookbook, get this one (!!!). If you get two, get this and The Food Lab (...or if you need four, then also get McGee's On Food and Cooking & Cook's The Science of Good Cooking). But THIS is the book you NEED!
Top international reviews
Samin has a really accessible style of writing and you can't help but like her as a person. I have enjoyed the stories she tells about her experiences and how she came up with this simple matrix for wonderful tasting food.
And it certainly has revolutionised my cooking. What's more, it's a great diet book. "Hold on a minute", I hear you cry. Let me explain. If you use this book, you might just find yourself enjoying your food so much that you'll eat less. The more satisfaction you can get from one mouthful of food, the less you'll need to eat. This is my own theory and it is working for me. Samin has improved the satisfaction I get from eating and I've lost nearly 2 kilos in a month. It's true.
But don't buy it to lose weight, buy it to rediscover enjoyment in the food you cook and eat. It's a terrific book. I would happily pay twice the price for it.
It does go into a lot of fairly tedious and obvious detail about the basics of using salt and which fats to use and which flavourings etc - all info that would be obvious from general knowledge or from just reading the recipe. Some recipes look interesting though and I will try them . It feels very geared to the US market too .not for me.
I bought it on Kindle. It has loads of diagrams which I suspect are really useful in a full sized book, but just can't be read in Kindle. If you want to understand your cooking, get this book in paper format.
So many cook books offer recipes which ultimately come up short time and time again. Simple things that were probably done like seasoning meat at a certain time aren’t put into books.
Why using certain amount of salt enhances even the subtlest flavours of food, try cooking your vegetables her way, you will never want other people’s under seasoned vegetables.
This cook book is a must for every home cook. Once you master the basics, the cooking world is your kitchen.
With her simply explained principles you will turn out amazing tasting food every time.
Unfortunately, I haven't read it all yet but i have recognized 2 errors already. The first is on page 29, about osmosis. The movement of the water goes from the less salty solution to the more salty. The illustration is wrong as well. If you want to introduce chemistry to a cookbook, you're very welcome, but make sure not to mess up with the most basic concepts. I hope they correct this.
The second mistake is on a recipe, the one of pasta alle vongole. Butter and parmesan in any pasta with fish or seafood is a BIG NO NO in Italy. I know italians tend to be way too bossy about their recipes, and I think they totally exagerate, but I have to be strict with this one. No cheese or diary with seafood in italian recipes. Exceptions are very few (if any).
As you can see in the photos, many pages look like they're printed by a cheap running-out-of-ink copier. The ink faded so much on some pages that the words are unreadable. This book has the worst print quality out of all the books I've bought in years. I remember flipping through the US edition when I was traveling and it didn't have these problem. I wish I picked one up then and brought it with me.
Since I live in Portugal, it doesn't make sense to return and order another copy due to shipping fees and I suspect they're all going to be similar since it's not a defect on a single page.
There are some bad reviews that complain its condescending but I think it just that its written for everybody so stuff they (and I) think are basic may not be for someone just starting out.
There are a few pull outs which state what fatt and acids and flavours different countries use which I liked a lot.
This is not a cookbook. Yes, 200 of the 470 pages are under the heading "recipes", but they are really worked examples of how to prepare and cook different types of food.
The book is best read from end to end, not dipped into. It does not just explain how to develop great flavour and texture in food, but why these techniques work. The author is not frightened to address quite complex scientific issues - cooking is, after all, applied chemistry and physics - and she conveys this understanding in a very accessible and effective way. Without photographs, but with excellent sketches, cartoons and graphics.
The writing is a bit gushing and hyperbolic and at times excessively repetitive, with a tendency to state even the blindingly obvious as if it was an Einsteinian revelation. But the enthusiasm is infectious and the constant reinforcement of first principles is helpful.
This is not a book with any obvious health or environmental agenda. Those concerned to reduce fat or salt, avoid meat, dairy or gluten or pursue any other particular dietary principles will not see much in direct support of their aims. What the book does do is stress the pleasure of making food using good quality basic ingredients and treating them properly.
So far I’ve only managed to use one recipe, the ragu, it was outstanding! Restaurant quality! I’m quite discerning and it takes a lot for a recipe to jump straight into my top ten that I plan to use many times, if the other recipes are as good then the book will change the way I cook forever.