The ultimate book for culinary science nerds

at the age of 20 I moved into my first apartment full of photocopied recipes and an instruction booklet: new basic recipe, from Silver Palate doyennes Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ 1989 Bible. I’ve lived with this cookbook for years, and my copy shows it: missing cover, broken binding, oil stains on lock pages. One of my roommates, a Korean, used this book for his first American meal (inexplicably, Cornish pheasant). The book contains dozens of charts showing the best ways to cook lamb, fish, or pasta, and I still regularly knock out its six-ingredient, 15-minute weeknight staple, broccoli and garlic pasta.

new foundation Good as a general kitchen manual, especially if you’re still living in the 20th century (seven different pesto recipes, no kale or quinoa found).But it doesn’t do much for chefs trying to understand why Roasted butterfly chicken is so much better than the classic whole chicken, no one makes pasta anymore.super science modernist cuisine For me about $500 and 50 lbs of recipe and as good and complete as Harold McGee’s about food and cooking Yes, it doesn’t have any recipes.

Enter Food Lab: Improving Home Cooking Through Sciencenearly 1,000 pages of new work from the Serious Eats culinary director1 J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.The author and MIT grad has spent years perfecting his technique, first behind the stove and later as an editor at the food science mecca Cook’s IllustrationToday, Lopez-Alt’s website is a prime destination for cooks looking for recipes and counter-intuitive techniques (refrigerated tomatoes!, budget knives aren’t always crap!) and more. Here’s someone with a scientific explanation for the right way to bake bagels.

food lab The perfect mix of McGee’s rigorous science and sheer eccentricity with Mark Bittman’s “tell me how to boil an egg” utilitarianism how to cook everything. Of course, you may gain a deeper understanding of food chemistry modernist cuisine. Or you can buy a Lopez-Alt product for $50 and spend the extra Benjamins on some great steaks.

food lab Too much attention to detail. It has a whole page about salt. Four pages on whether you should smash your burgers before cooking (yes, but only if you do so within 30 seconds of putting it on the stovetop). Six pages of onions. Eight pages are dedicated to making stock (add unflavored gelatin to chicken stock to help thicken soup faster). Fifteen pages of potatoes. Charts on topics like air-cooled vs. liquid-cooled saucepan weight retention. His vegan chili is no joke – it calls for homemade chili paste, marmite and soy sauce (for umami) and wine.

However, the key is to attract food lab Is its light meringue made with technology and science. Pancake recipes make a delicious breakfast, and It explains the role of baking soda in breakfast. (Sodium bicarbonate is alkaline; mix it with acidic liquids like buttermilk, and the resulting molecules will lift your pancakes and trigger the Maillard reaction that gives baked goods and meats a lovely brown appearance.) Baking soda too Less and your pancakes will be like – brilliantly. Too much and the Maillard reaction overclocks, producing a burnt chemical smell. Let’s be clear: Lopez-Alt’s pancake recipe is more effective than the perfectly usable pancake recipe from Mark Bittman, it skips the science and baking soda, and it saves you arm workouts by not requiring you to beat egg whites. But damn if the Lopez-Alt pancakes weren’t good.

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