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food science books?

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#1 insectrights

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 11:59 AM

I'm not exactly looking for a college textbook on food science, but rather explanations on things in the kitchen as well as species descriptions of fish, meat, poultry, etc. Anyone know of anything even close to that?

-thanks

#2 jackal10

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 12:14 PM

McGee. Maybe also McGee. Did I mention McGee?

(Harold McGee On Food and Cooking. 2nd Edition) You need nothing else.
McGee's Curious Cook is also interesting, as is Jeffrey Steingarten "The man who ate everything" and "It must have been something I ate".
Shirley Corriher "Cookwise" and soon "Bakewise" has both science and recipes but these others pale into insignificence in scholarship, content, completeness, and clarity beside the monument that is Hal's second edition of "On Food and Cooking"

No serious kitchen should be without it.

Edited by jackal10, 27 January 2005 - 12:16 PM.


#3 JAZ

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 12:18 PM

The newest and most comprehensive is On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. McGee was the guest of a special Q&A here in November; click here to read it.

Other books that discuss the science of the kitchen are Russ Parsons' How to Read a French Fry and What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert Wolke.

#4 =Mark

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 12:37 PM

Agree with the Parsons and Wolke recommendations. Alton Browns I'm Just Here for the Food is also a great source of kitchen science.
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#5 jgm

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 01:12 PM

I second the above nominations, but want to include the importance of getting McGee's 2nd edition. The first is an oldie but a goodie, but the information in the 2nd is far more complete.

#6 memesuze

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 08:02 PM

don't forget one of the older editions of Joy of Cooking....

#7 Really Nice!

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 09:17 PM

kitchen Science by Howard Hillman is the reference you're looking for. It's not a college textbook, but does explain what goes on in the kitchen on a level we all can understand.
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#8 Bux

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 09:40 PM

McGee''s book -- the second edition of On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen -- will not only answer most of your questions, but have you asking many more which will also be answered. It is also, for a book that gets very technically involved, very interesting and informative to read with the historical references and anecdotal information.
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#9 akwa

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 09:57 PM

McGee''s book -- the second edition of On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen -- will not only answer most of your questions, but have you asking many more which will also be answered. It is also, for a book that gets very technically involved, very interesting and informative to read with the historical references and anecdotal information.

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across the atlantic herve this works are very informative and inspiring, a bit more user friendly I have found than mcgee, but certainly not as comprehensive under one cover

#10 helenas

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 10:15 PM

if one is looking for baking science in particular is McGee''s book still the best?

#11 jackal10

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 01:48 AM

You should have McGee but gor baking I would also reccomend "Baking, the Art and Science" by Schunemann and Treu, 1986 ISBN 0-9693795-0 . I got mine from www.chipsbooks.com.
It is perhaps more designed for professional baking students rther than home cooks, but it has very good illustrations of just what can go wrong with your loaf and how to correct it.

#12 Moopheus

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 07:56 AM

if one is looking for baking science in particular is McGee''s book still the best?

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How Baking Works by Paula Figoni is also good, and available in paperback. It's more comprehensive on baking than McGee, but she is not nearly as good a writer, and is a bit sloppy with detail, and it's a little less technical.
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#13 bentherebfor

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 08:46 AM

Someone mentioned Alton Brown's first book already, but his new one, I'm just here for more food, also has some neat stuff for baking.
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#14 jabolster

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 09:24 AM

All of the above titles are fantastic, but I also like Peter Barham's book The Science of Cooking. As mentioned above Alton Brown's new book is focused almost solely on baking and is fairly easy to find. Happy baking. --Adam
[FONT=Times][SIZE=7][COLOR=red]"And those who were dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music." FN

#15 Bux

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 07:49 PM

McGee''s book -- the second edition of On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen -- will not only answer most of your questions, but have you asking many more which will also be answered. It is also, for a book that gets very technically involved, very interesting and informative to read with the historical references and anecdotal information.

View Post



across the atlantic herve this works are very informative and inspiring, a bit more user friendly I have found than mcgee, but certainly not as comprehensive under one cover

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As I understand it, This hasn't published much in English. In spite of that and in spite of the fact that we're an English language site, his name comes to the fore from time to time.
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#16 martinlersch

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 09:12 AM

Check out the link in my signature. I have compiled a large list of books related to molecular gastronomy, kitchen science (and also some everyday science).

Martin Lersch, PhD
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Visit Khymos, a blog dedicated to molecular gastronomy and popular food science.

Follow me on twitter @tastymolecules


#17 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 09:46 AM

I second the above nominations, but want to include the importance of getting McGee's 2nd edition.  The first is an oldie but a goodie, but the information in the 2nd is far more complete.

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Ditto this. The newest edition is an amazing thing to read, melding history, science, linguistics, and lore. I found the first edition required slogging, whereas I keep picking up this one because, like a good novel, I want to be in it.

In addition, it seems to answer literally EVERYTHING about food. The first edition covered an amazing amount of territory, but the second is encyclopedic.
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#18 Irishgirl

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 11:28 AM

Magee and Wolke are both excellent books.

Now I know that these are not necessarily food science books...but if you add:

Larousse Gastronomique
The Visual Food Encyclopedia
and
The Food Lover's Companion

You will have virtually every question you have ever had about food answered.

Love my Visual Food Encyclopedia! Great when people ask what things look like. It also has lots of pictures of FISH! Something that I think was requested.

#19 alchemyst

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 03:26 PM

Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher is very informative and approachable. She puts the science next to recipes that they can illustrate each other. Anything by Christopher Kimball &/or Cook's Illustrated, The Dessert Bible, The Kitchen Detective, etc. will be helpful and much easier to read than Harold McGee. Don't get me wrong, McGee is great, I have all of his books but they're not exactly easy reading, especially for someone just getting into food science.
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#20 russ parsons

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Posted 16 March 2005 - 04:36 PM

thanks for the mention janet. i do think it's important to be specific about what you want from the book. each title mentioned is somewhere along a curve that runs from mcgee at one end (or any of the REAL food science texts, which are practically impenetrable) to, probably, "french fry" at the other. as john thorne pointed out in his review of the new mcgee, that book is not so much a cook's book as a science book about cooking (he thought that was not such a good thing; i'm of a different opinion). john seemed to prefer the "french fry" approach. i like my book quite a bit (even after 4 years and seemingly countless other food science books), but i wouldn't for a moment pretend that it was better than hal's, unless what you're specifically looking for is a cookbook that uses some a little science to explain practical technique.

#21 boulak

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 05:51 AM

If you are looking for a work on baking science, "Baking Science and Technology" by E.J. Pyler is quite definitive. Published in 1988, it is still relevant.

#22 Moopheus

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 07:15 AM

Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher is very informative and approachable. 

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Corriher is pretty good at explaining things and knows her stuff, though her book is not organized to be used as a reference. If your looking for some piece of information, as opposed to a recipe, it can be hard to find.
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#23 JanMcBaker

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:33 AM

Not exactly a scientific reference, but I like Merle Ellis' 'Cutting up in the Kitchen' for a meat reference. While he doesn't go as far as naming genus and species, he does give a nice breakdown of what cuts are what in different animals, suggested cooking methods, what to look for in a particular cut, etc. It is out of print, but I believe copies can be found on Amazon.
If you're interested in produce details, Aliza Green's 'Field Guide to Produce' is quite a nice, easy to carry book with a lot of produce information-- scientific name, alternate names, description, what to look for, how to cook it, what it goes with, etc. It also has a great center section with color photos of a lot of the entries. Then you can point out to the checkout clerk, "no, it's escarole, not romaine. See?" She's also just come out with 'A Field Guide to Meat'. I haven't had a chance yet to look at it much, but I'll bet it's just as detailed as her produce guide.
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#24 Hector

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 07:03 PM

I love the Swedish "Boiling Soup With Physics" by Hans Uno Bengtsson and Jan Boris Möller. It's a basic book, on how you make sauce, fry your steak, marinate your meat (DON'T MARINATE), makes your sauce, boils your vegs, boils and fry your fish makes mashed potatoes, etcetra.... in the most scientific effective succesfull way. All acording to the law of physics. it's great, hope it's translated to english though.

#25 Patrick S

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Posted 19 March 2005 - 06:08 PM

The Science of Cooking, by Peter Barham (2001) looks like a good book too.
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#26 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 March 2005 - 06:53 AM

This is a bit off topic, but did anyone else read John Thorne's review of the new McGee in Saveur this month? I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that the author of Simple Cooking had few good things to say about it, but it seemed overly critical, and inappropriately so.

For example, while there is certainly a lot of "scientific jargon" in the new McGee, there is a great deal that is NOT jargon -- and jargon is another word for precise, discipline-based language anyway. I dunno... it seemed like a editing stunt that didn't work.

edited for formatting -- ca

Edited by chrisamirault, 22 March 2005 - 06:56 AM.

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#27 badthings

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Posted 22 March 2005 - 12:20 PM

Russ, your review of McGee2 was much better than Thorne's. His objections made no sense.

I'm sure it's vanished into the archives, but anyone who wants to read a balanced assessment of the book, along with relevant criticism, should go find Russ's review (LA Times, 11/10/04).

#28 russ parsons

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Posted 23 March 2005 - 11:32 AM

well, john's a terrific writer and a very interesting, challenging thinker. he has written some very good reviews that i really disagree with and i think this is one of those. to me, the mark of a good review is not whether i agree with it or not, but whether i am clear where the author stands and why. by those standards, i don't think you can argue that john didn't write a good review.

i think hal's book struck a nerve with john, who is very much an experiential (as opposed to experimental) cook. i guess i'm somewhere in the middle, so i was able to take a more distanced view. one thing that i do agree with john about is the way all this food science stuff--unintentionally, to be sure--can actually serve to make cooking seem more complicated and difficult, rather than the opposite. someone interviewed me for a story a couple of weeks ago and wanted to know if people could cook well without understanding the maillard reaction.

Edited by russ parsons, 23 March 2005 - 11:33 AM.


#29 fifi

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Posted 23 March 2005 - 11:45 AM

First a disclaimer . . . I haven't read Thorne's review. But, just conceptually, I am not sure I understand why a reviewer would give a book a bad review if it isn't what he wants or thinks it ought to be. McGee's book doesn't claim to be anything but a science book. If you don't want to read about the science of cooking and cook "experientially" knock yourself out. Just don't read the science books. And don't blame a book about science for being . . . um . . . about science.

I, for one, enjoy every cooking science book I can get my hands on, every one of them, wherever they are in the spectrum. But then, I am a science geek.

My suggestion for choosing books of this sort is to get them all!
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#30 Bux

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Posted 23 March 2005 - 01:13 PM

I suppose I'm just offended by the notion that more information than one needs is a waste and that's how I read Thorne's review. I can't think of a greater richness than owning a book with information I just may want some day. I have at times been stingy enough to buy a book that just had the information I needed at the moment, but I'd not imply the other books had too much information for anyone. I honestly think it's terrific that Saveur looked for and found a dissenting voice, but when Thorne asked if McGee's book would be of any help in making gravy when the turkey was already on the counter, I had to wonder what his point was. Perhaps there are many people who already have more information than they can handle, but I'll continue to champion the idea that we can all learn more and put that knowledge to good use. A little knowledge may be a bad thing, but I've never heard that said about a lot of knowledge. Few people probably need McGee's book, but that won't change my opinion that those who read it can profit from the knowledge therein.

I don't think it's a good review. I think it misses the point and beauty of the book in it's attempt to find fault with knowledge.
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