Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 20: Succeed in the Kitchen with Science

Welcome to Day 20 in our 24 Days of Books. Tick tock tick tock.... In a year when so many good cookbooks have been published, one merits our special attention due to its popularity with cooks across the country. I'm talking about Cook's Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen ($40, America's Test Kitchen).

Cook's Illustrated is one of our favorite magazines, and also one of our bestselling periodicals. It is renowned for its near-obsessive devotion to finding the very best way to cook a particular dish. Focusing on American home cooking and aimed at the home cook who wants to be the best possible cook she/he can be day after day after day, the magazine staff tests hundreds of recipes weekly, to discover which techniques work well and which don't.

Besides recipes, the indefatigable chefs at Cook's Illustrated test and rate cookware, kitchen gadgets, and pantry staples. And they aren't afraid to say what they think.

It's known as "the food geek's bible" for good reason. Cooking is an art, yes, but so much of what happens in the kitchen is science, and this magazine has been exploring the relationship between cooking and science for twenty years. As they say, good science makes good food. And good food doesn't have to be a mystery.

This new book boils down tens of thousands of tests into fifty simple concepts that are guaranteed to make you a better cook, whether you are a novice in the kitchen or an old hand.

Christopher Kimball, the bow-tied founder and publisher of Cook's Illustrated (which incidentally does not accept advertising to avoid any conflict of interest) is the relentless (in a good way) captain of this ship, and his personality and attention to detail steer the ship with a firm hand.

Including 400 recipes that are "engineered to perfection," the nearly 500-page volume is organized around the fifty concepts. Each concept is explained in a section called "How the Science Works," and then the Test Kitchen experiments are described. Following that, the recipes!

So, here are a few of the principles:

  • Gentle Heat Prevents Overcooking
  • Fat Makes Eggs Tender
  • All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal
  • Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy
  • Two Leaveners Are Often Better Than One
Besides the principles and recipes, this book also contains essays on the sciences of measuring, time and temperature, heat and cold, tools and ingredients, and much, much more.

This is the perfect book for just about any cook on your list. As always you'll find many more great gift ideas in our Holiday Books guide, available at our store. We love more than anything helping you to find just the right gifts for the people on your list -- especially the hard-to-shop-for ones. Hope to see you soon! We'll be open til 9pm every day until Christmas, except for Sunday (7pm) and Christmas Eve (5pm), for your convenience. Publishers are already starting to run out of some of the hot titles of the year, so don't wait too long.

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