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on September 22, 2012
Having relied on Cooks Illustrated recommendations for many of my favourite kitchen tools, buying this book was a no brainer. Needless to say I had high expectations going in, and this book did not disappoint.

I'm an avid cook, and while I've had great success with certain types of food, I've been frustrated by inconsistent results in others. (I can't seem to get a consistently moist pot-roast -- reason: my cooking temperature was probably too high; wrong cut of meat + oven braising is better than stovetop since it heats more evenly in more directions)

The Science of Good Cooking breaks down why food cooks a certain way, and which techniques are best for what purpose. The book is organized into 50 concepts with recipes reinforcing each concept. There's a section called "why this works" following each recipe, which breaks down the science behind each step -- for instance why use a certain type of marinade, cooking technique, take extra steps, etc to achieve a desired outcome. It's nice that it's not just a list of recipes.

Experiments back each concept. Meats were weighed, measured, smashed to determine tenderness, and moisture loss. They came up with a range of ideal resting times for various meats based on actually measuring the amount of juices lost at various times, and they sent food to the science lab to analyze their structure. They even stuck bones on mashed potatoes to test out whether keeping bones on makes food taste better. This book debunked some assumptions I had (acid does not actually make food more tender), and helped me understand other ones better - why salt directly applied on skin makes it more crispy, but if you brined the skin you'd get a different outcome. I also learned that the direction you cut your onion affects its taste - obvious in retrospect, but I never thought about that!

I was disappointed I couldn't see a table of contents before purchase, so here are the 50 concepts you will find within the book -

1. Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking
2. High Heat Develops Flavor
3. Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness
4. Hot Food Keeps Cooking
5. Some Proteins Are Best Cooked Twice
6. Slow Heating Makes Meat Tender
7. Cook Tough Cuts Beyond Well Done
8. Tough Cuts Like a Covered Pot
9. A Covered Pot Doesn't Need Liquid
10. Bones Add Flavor, Fat, and Juiciness
11. Brining Maximizes Juiciness in Lean Meats
12. Salt Makes Meat Juicy and Skin Crisp
13. Salty Marinades work best
14. Grind Meat at Home for Tender Burgers
15. A Panade Keeps Ground Meat Tender
16. Create Layers for a Breading That Sticks
17. Good Frying is All About Oil Temperature
18. Fat Makes Eggs Tender
19. Gentle Heat Guarantees Smooth Custards
20. Starch Keeps Eggs from Curdling
21. Whipped Egg Whites Need Stabilizers
22. Starch Helps Cheese Melt Nicely
23. Salting Vegetables Removes Liquid
24. Green Vegetables Like it Hot -- Then Cold
25. All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal
26. Potato Starches Can Be Controlled
27. Precooking Makes Vegetables Firmer
28. Don't Soak Beans -- Brine 'Em
29. Baking Soda Makes Beans and Grains Soft
30. Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy
31. Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor
32. Chile Heat Resides in Pith and Seeds
33. Bloom Spices to Boost Their Flavor
34. Not All Herbs Are for Cooking
35. Glutamates, Nucleotides Add Meaty Flavor
36. Emulsifiers Make Smooth Sauces
37. Speed Evaporation When Cooking Wine
38. More Water Makes Chewier Bread
39. Rest Dough to Trim Kneading Time
40. Time Builds Flavor in Bread
41. Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads
42. Two Leaveners Are Often Better Than One
43. Layers of Butter Makes Flaky Pastry
44. Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy
45. Less Protein Makes Tender Cakes, Cookies
46. Creaming Butter Helps Cakes Rise
47. Reverse Cream for Delicate Cakes
48. Sugar Changes Texture (and Sweetness)
49. Sugar and Time Makes Fruit Juicer
50. Cocoa Powder Delivers Big Flavor

The only thing I would have loved was a trouble shooting / Q&A section - e.g. How do you keep meat from cooling too much when you rest it?

Overall a great book if you want to improve your cooking technique, and also if you just want to learn more about why things behave the way they do!

Update: Looks like "Look inside" is now available for this book so there's finally a table of contents! :) Since I've been cooking with the new concepts in mind, I'm happy with how my meat dishes (especially the stews) are turning out. I also tried using vodka instead of water to make pie crust (with the tip of putting a heated pan under the pie pan) and the pie crust turned out flaky and delicious as promised.
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on April 11, 2014
This is a fantastic cookbook. It's also a wonderfully entertaining education on the hows and whys - the science - of cooking. Every recipe I've tried has turned out well - and has taught me something. I own a hard-cover copy, and it has a place of honor on my kitchen bookshelf.

Then I bought the Kindle edition. Whoever formatted this book for Kindle has done a superlative job. The formatting actually enhances the reading experience.

For example - you are reading an early chapter entitled The Science of the Senses. In the first section (The Five Tastes) there's an interesting discussion of the fifth "taste," umami flavor. You can just read this and go on to the next section on How Taste Works. Or, if you want to understand umami a little more, you can follow the links in that first section to an in-depth discussion of glutamate and nucleotide levels in foods. This is Concept 35 - a section that is more than half-way through the book and yet meshes perfectly with what you read in that introductory chapter. The Concept ends with three recipes specifically engineered to show the best use of glutamate and nucleotides to produce rich meaty flavors -- AND with links to two additional recipes from yet another section of the book that also illustrate techniques associated with enhancing meaty flavors. It's a seamless reading experience that has you wandering through all different parts of this book.

When I first did this, I became a little alarmed. How was I ever going to find the recipes again? Have no fear. There is a complete and interactive table of contents. You can readily navigate to each of the "Science of.." chapters, or pick out one of the 50 Concepts and go directly there. In addition, there is a specific page of links that just lists all the recipes. So if you want to cook - hey, it works as a cookbook!

The Ebook version of The Science of Good Cooking reminds me of those "Choose your Own Adventure" stories - each time you dip in, you can follow a different path through. Kudos to the editors at America's Test Kitchen.

Edited to add:
The images in the book were clear, dark enough, and large enough be viewed very easily on my Kindle paperwhite. Tables were always correctly formatted, and fit the pages. The whole thing looked amazingly NICE and professional. Would that other ebooks looked so good!
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on October 3, 2015
I think it is time for Cook's Illustrated to come up with some new recipes and factoids - Or maybe I just buy too many of their cookbooks. This cookbook is just a repackaging of their same old information with no photographs. There are lots of lovely drawings, but I like seeing pictures of the at least some of the finished product. If you have even ONE Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, you do not need to buy this one. The only reason I did not give it one or two stars is I felt that it would be unfair. Even though the recipes are over-used, they are good recipes with good directions.
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on December 13, 2016
I have four shelves of cookbooks in my kitchen with classics such as Julia Child's originals all the way to glossy offerings from 3-star Michelin restaurants. Despite this, one can be an excellent cook using only two cookbooks: "Cooks Science" and the "Joy of Cooking". Cooks Science is comprehensive and the discussions help make you a better more informed cook than the usual recipe-oriented fare. I give it four and not five stars only because some of the recipes seem to be "tacked onto" the broader technical discussions rather than drawing upon them. For example, a discussion about the importance of slow cooking pork is followed by several recipes that seem to ignore that counsel. It's not an exhaustive cookbook like Joy of Cooking, but does offer recipes in most areas and manages to hit most of the biggies. Still, these seem to be a minor quibbles with an othewise excellent text.
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on July 7, 2016
Nothing but love from me about this book. I am an self taught experienced cook and caterer who totally understands how technique is key to many great food outcomes. I am also a learner so this book was way to fun to read. "Oh wow that's why that doesn't work!" I recommend if you are a reader. I also own and LOVE The Food Lab same type book both with great information. I can understand how some inexperienced cooks could find this book troublesome. BUT, if you really take the time to read it and understand and learn from it you will be rewarded in great taste.
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I bought this book for my husband who agreed to let go of all of the Cooking Illustrated magazines sitting untouched in our kitchen if I would buy him this book. If you like Cooks Illustrated but want an easier format in order to look things up, this is the book for you.
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This book is great for those wanting to improve their cooking skills. Many cooking books start you out with a bunch of cooking utensils, what they are, which ones you'll need, etc. This book gets right down to the matter of how to make grandma's recipes taste like grandma cooked them instead of the recipe seemingly missing something that you can't put your finger on.

It starts right at the heart of the matter with measuring, comparing dry measuring with liquid measuring and to measurement by weight. The first thing I did after starting to read this book was to go out and buy an accurate electronic food weight measuring scale. It shows how what even good cooks measure can be off by far more than you think.

Next, it covers stuff to check like making sure your oven is really the temperature it says it is. It then goes on to show you how to use all of your senses to cook and how due to ingredients being somewhat different around the world you may have to adjust some. Through the guidance of this book, it gives you the insight that your grandmother probably learned through decades of cooking. For example, when you start smelling the food it is often done and cooking it more just cooks the taste right out of it. Using your eyes to detect changes in the bubbling or color while cooking instead of depending on a timer which could throw off the whole way your food tastes.

There's two cookbooks that I think every home cook should probably have in their personal library. The Joy of Cooking is a tried and true favorite which is great for having a good starting base for many recipes. And this book, is the book you sit down beside it and use to perfect those recipes and make them taste just like grandma's or maybe even dare I say it, a little better.
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on November 25, 2015
This book was used for my son's Culinary Arts class and I've found that I really like the book myself. It's the science as to WHY things happen in the kitchen with over 40+ concepts. It's broken down into the concept, all the science behind it, testing out the theory, what worked and what didn't in the testing of the concept, then recipes that support it or further emphasize that particular concept. I love a good America's Test Kitchen cook book and since Cook's Illustrated and ATK are one in the same, I was happy to buy it.

It was interesting enough that I sat down and have read much of the book myself and I'm not even in the class! I learned a lot of neat cooking stuff that I had never heard of such as: the acidity of the water in a pot of dried beans you are cooking makes all the difference in the time it takes to cook them and the finished product, all about how brining a piece of meat really works, the ratios you need to make it work, how long to brine the meat, etc. There are so many different and varied scientific cooking concepts that any cook will benefit from this book. The bonus is the ton of recipes in the book and the tried and true ATK method of telling you how they arrived at the best recipe for xyz, what worked, what didn't and how they figured out their best of the best recipe for this particular dish. Why reinvent the wheel when these people have done the work for you.

I like the book so much that I'm going to give one to my Dad for Xmas since he loves to cook and I just know he'll find all the interesting science/cooking concepts to be very interesting and inspirational. This book and some great spice mixes from SAVORYSPICESHOP.COM ..... Xmas for him is done!!
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on September 6, 2016
This book has a number of good instructions that helped me out. I am new to cooking and I am only doing it now for health reasons. I feel this book is a must have for anyone new to cooking and does not have a good cook to instruct them in the basics. Normal cook books and recipes tend to expect that people understand terms and methods that this book describes.
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on September 15, 2017
I learned more practical tips to improve my cooking reading this book than I had learned in over 20 years of cooking. And understanding the why makes the tips easier to remember. Presents each tip, then example recipes, then explains why the recipes work and ends by demonstrating the principle with a pithy sometimes humorous expwriment
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