This book was given to me as part of the O’Reilly Blogger review program.
I love to cook. I don’t always have the time, but when I do there is nothing more therapeutic than putting together a meal and serving it. I am a huge fan of the Food network and wish it didn’t require a cable subscription to get it.
I’m also a geek with a slant towards the so called ‘nerdy’ subjects(math, science, computers). Even if I wasn’t working in IT I would still qualify with the love of sci-fi, music, and books. Put to the two on a Venn diagram and in the middle you would find “Good Eats” with Alton Brown, “America’s Test Kitchen,” and this book among other shows and tomes.
I was excited when I saw this book. I really wanted to love this book. Don’t get me wrong it is a good book, but for me it isn’t a great book. The good in the book is overwhelmed by some overly geeky exposition, a few too many interviews, and style that’s just a little too dry for my taste.
The book really delves into the science behind cooking. Unfortunately it sometimes reads more like an article out of a high end science journal. There are plenty of facts and I did find plenty of new, atleast to me, information that will help me cook better. The problem is the delivery. To be fair I’m spoiled by shows like “Good Eats” and “America’s Test Kitchen” where the science is wrapped up in an entertaining package.
This is “Cooking for Geeks” so the delving into the hard science of cooking isn’t out of place. The presentation is probably a matter of taste, but I did find myself wondering how much longer certain sections were. Also, I felt like there was one too many interviews with the experts. Again it maybe a problem of personal preference.
The book is broken down into basic sections. There is a fairly comprehensive breakdown on equipping your kitchen. A very informative chapter on food safety. A discussion on the science of taste/flavor. An indepth discussion on the effects of air on cooking. An analysis of how chemicals(think salt, corn starch, sugar, etc) change the composition of food and what role they play in the cooking process. There is also a chapter on advance techniques including sous vide cooking and, a personal favorite, cooking with a lot of heat(think blowtorches and pizza ovens).
The one chapter I didn’t mention is perhaps my favorite in the whole book. It is an in depth discussion of what happens to food at different temperatures. It starts with a basic discussion of what happens with heat and time. It then moves into what happens at key temperatures like 144 degrees Fahrenheit where eggs begin to set or 356 degrees Fahrenheit when sugar begins to visibly caramelize. I find the whole discussion fascinating, even if the writing remains a tad dry for my taste.
Overall this book doesn’t quite hit the bulls-eye for me personally. I would still recommend it for someone who has a interest in the how’s and why’s of cooking.
You can find more information on the book and purchase it here: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596805890.do