Jump to content
Forums offline 11pm CDT tonight, 3/23/2019 Read more... ×
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Chris Amirault

Michael Ruhlman's Ratio

Recommended Posts

As a disclaimer I haven't read ratio yet but did read a few of Ruhlman's book in the past.

I feel that Ruhlman is probably right about the idea that food behave the same in one country or the other, at least at the basic level. To use Janet's linguistic comparison, that there are gramatical similarities even between languages as unrelated to each others as English and Mandarin at a very basic level (e.g. the subject-verb-complement structure: I love you = wo ai ni).

Does he go beyond that basic level?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i studied it for a week, every chance I got, am totally confused by it all, and have passed it on to someone else hoping they will be able to get what i couldn`t from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sounds like he's getting a bit testy there! He could have just said that he uses the French terms as they are the pretty much universally used terms in kitchens around the world? Or at least in the "western" world.

I've looked at the book online and in the store, and while I really like his other books, this one has little use for me. I'm not quite sure why I'd look up some universal ratio to - say - bake a rustic bread, instead of just taking my baking book and looking up the real recipe there? Maybe it's useful for someone that does not have many books? Or too many and can't remember which book contained this or that recipe?

I'd put it more in the "interesting to read" category, I'd pick it up for cheap and would not mind it as a gift. Something to occasionally page around in.

Of course, just my subjective opinion, as I stated above it also includes too many chapters about things I never make, i.e. sweet things. Maybe once it's out in paperback or on the bargain racks~~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This book deserved better editing and publishing. A little more time, better word scrutiny by the editor, and color photos from the accomplished photographer; all would have helped.

It is disappointing when corrections have to put forth on the internet, but not unusual. The no knead bread book had a series of corrections, online.

Both books are groundbreaking, and welcome additions to my library.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Late, and relevant or not, I must weigh in.

"Ratio" contains the only explanation of baking that I've ever responded to.

I've baked stuff, sure: usually in abject fear of what I was trying to make, /hoping/

that it would work, crossing my fingers: I knew better, but didn't know how to get better.

I am never going to be a perfect baker, but something that turns mysticism

into understanding is always welcome by me.

Micheal Ruhlman's book has done this for me. WOW! Thanks for waking me up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wasn't aware of Michael Ruhlman's new book until I came across this thread. As soon as I saw the topic of the book I went ahead and ordered it without any reservation. I look forward to its arrival.

It is my observation and belief that most of the people who participate in these forums are very opinionated and very passionate about eating and cooking. Many people here have professional ties in some form or another to the food industry somewhere along the lines. For whatever the reasons, food issues trigger peoples egos and I think some of the opinions become way too subjective and lose sight of the big picture.

I don't think many professional chef's are going to run out and get Ratio as they simply have no need for it. On the other hand, for the home chef, or those looking to expand their cooking ability I think this is not a good, but a great topic. If you know the basic ratio's you have the launching pad from which to vary ingredients and tweak a dish to your own liking. More importantly, starting with the proper ratio, you aren't likely to encounter the disasters you might otherwise. With the proper ratios you'll have the confidence to cook and create dishes. I can think of few, if any topics that I would find more important than ratio's. For that reason alone I applaud Mr. Ruhlman on picking such a fine topic.

As for the banter about some of the talk on the french terms not really being commonplace to the everyday chef I think that is blown out of proportion. While they may seem foreign (no pun intended) to those criticizing it, they really are commonplace once someone learns the basics.

As for the errors, or errata in hipper more with it circles, that I have more of a problem with accepting. For those who go on-line more or who follow foodie sites, learning of the errors and making corrections can easily be done. The bad part is for the person who may just be getting involved with coooking more, they may not be aware and become frustrated. Hopefully the errors aren't too critical. I know from experience in writing professionally on a different subject that sometimes, if it is not a matter of grammar but of content, that even with several re-readings and editings that some errors just get missed. That's just gonna happen sometimes.

I would agree with what Janet said about a couple of the sentences being a bit, or more than a bit awkward. Having not read much in Mr. Ruhlman's other books, I don't know if he tends to be wordy and a bit awkward or not. As one who has committed that offense on more than several occasions myself I know both the frustration it can cause for the reader having to read it and for the writer having to rephrase it.

While Ratio may not be everyones cup of tea, for those who have been critical of the book I'd ask the following questions;

1. Do you think the average home cook, in terms of proportions, will get a better idea of the realtionship of the ingredients?

2. Do you think the average home cook will feel more comfortable in approaching dishes having a knowledge of the ratios?

3. Armed with this new (to him/her) information, do you think the average home cook might try to be more adventurous?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then the book has a lot of merit. Again, I think the topic of this book is a very important one and I'm happy Mr. Ruhlman has taken it on. Perhaps I'll feel more or less positive once I get my copy but I'm pretty sure that in the long run I'll be pleased

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the general consensus is that the concept of the book (your questions 1, 2, and 3 probably leading to the writing of it) is solid and important, but most criticisms have been in Ruhlman's execution. I invite you to read fellow eGulleter lamington's review here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This book is a dud. To talk about ratio cooking is fine, it exists. But there is not enough supporting documentation to make this book worth a read. And corrections? Don't sell me your product that works part of the time. I guess when you are working on many different books at once, the ratio of time developing recipes is sacrificed. Same goes for the Alinea book, come on, a section on your web page for corrections??????? Any chef not testing their own recipes for an expensive book is beat, as well as writers, who hang out with very talented chefs, then think they are chefs and write cookbooks. Stick to boat building books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This book is a dud. To talk about ratio cooking is fine, it exists. But there is not enough supporting documentation to make this book worth a read. And corrections? Don't sell me your product that works part of the time. I guess when you are working on many different books at once, the ratio of time developing recipes is sacrificed. Same goes for the Alinea book, come on, a section on your web page for corrections??????? Any chef not testing their own recipes for an expensive book is beat, as well as writers, who hang out with very talented chefs, then think they are chefs and write cookbooks. Stick to boat building books.

I think you are being highly unfair in your criticism of these chefs and their books. I have been involved on the editing side of cook book production for many years and I can assure you that no matter how careful the chef, how often the recipes are tested, by the time they have gone through the publishing processs there will be errors! Few of these can be blamed on the chef. Editors, proofers, copy editors, transcribers, etc., all have a hand in the production and errors can creep in at any stage before the book arrives in the bookstore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I happen to agree with Jamesbchef, I gave the book a try and ended giving it away, I need a reliable reference book sometimes at work, not something with errors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I happen to agree with Jamesbchef, I gave the book a try and ended giving it away, I need a reliable reference book sometimes at work, not something with errors.

It's a good thing you don't use the no knead bread book in your kitchen then! :raz: We've had this discussion elsewhere about the errors. You didn't get the book. I understand that. But several professional chefs do get it, among them some of the preeminent chefs at the CIA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I read correctly, rocler is saying that s/he can't use it bc of the errors, not that s/he didn't "get it."

Makes sense that CIA chefs use and like it, as it's largely based on their ratios, isn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you are maybe too closely tied to the book to make a fair assesment of the book. I am not saying its not good for someone who is just starting out, but for a reference book,that you need to depend on at times it could be better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If I read correctly, rocler is saying that s/he can't use it bc of the errors, not that s/he didn't "get it."

Makes sense that CIA chefs use and like it, as it's largely based on their ratios, isn't it?

A ratio is a ratio isn't it? Shouldn't really matter if the chef is from the CIA or a golf club.

The errors are not even in the recipe itself as I pointed out elsewhere.

if you look at the three errors, they are not errors in the recipes themselves, but rather in the transcibing them over to another page. The original bread recipe is correct as written. The 1-2-3 cookie dough recipe is correct as written, as is the actual recipe for the spice cookie, it's just that he wrote 3-2-1 in his dialogue. The roux recipe is reversed, but I'd have to look at my working papers to see if it was reversed when we tested it, because I know those soups turned out fine in testing.

My point being, is that in three errors, two of them are not in the way the recipe is written at all, those are editing errors not in the recipe itself.  So yes, the recipes still work even if you actually read the dialogue before the recipe. I think that's not a bad batting average at all.

And rocler, it has nothing to do with me being tied to the book. Although I freely admit I am. I put a lot of time into testing these recipes so I know first hand that they do work.

There are plenty of things I disagreed with Michael on in this book. But as I've said before, the recipes work. Are they the best ever? Of course not, and he doesn't make that claim.

As a professional chef, you shouldn't need to depend on a book like this at all.

And I hope whenever any of you write a book, it' perfect in every way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not depending on a book like this, however working in this field and wanting to keep on top of the trends etc. you do need to buy books constantly or you would become stale very fast. Reference books have always and will always be welcome in my library for as long as I will be working.

I think the reason why the book doesnt work me me, is I`ve been doing this for so long that I have my basics down, and dont see them in ratios, but rather grams and ounces, so when I tried to do some figuring out I wasnt coming up with the right amounts.

This is not a personal attack of the book, but rather a personal opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am not depending on a book like this, however working in this field and wanting to keep on top of the trends etc. you do need to buy books constantly or you would become stale very fast. Reference books have always and will always be welcome in my library for as long as I will be working.

I think the reason why the book doesnt work me me, is I`ve been doing this for so long that I have my basics down, and dont see them in ratios, but rather grams and ounces, so when I tried to do some figuring out I wasnt coming up with the right amounts.

This is not a personal attack of the book, but rather a personal opinion.

And that makes much more sense than saying the book doesn't work for you because of its "errors" because the errors aren't actually in the written recipe.

Sometimes we do something a certain way for so long it is hard to get our heads around thinking another way, and believe me, math was never my strong suit. It worked for me, the testers and lots of other people. It's not a perfect book, and yes it has a couple of errors, , but they work. I'm truly sorry it didn't work for you.

But then, not everything works for everyone sometimes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The book does not work for me. I am not in the food business and I only test my own recipes. I do know I think in terms of ratios and most cooks do. I know that there are no perfect cookbooks out there, but I can look at the recipes ratio and know when it is not going to work. ( I have ruined too many cakes before I learned how.) I also know the ratio of flour and sugar I like in a cake.

I purchased the book for two reasons. Learn how to change recipes and have a quick reference to making basic items. I found the lack of color on the charts inside and the type of print difficult to use as a quick reference. The print on cheap paper (and I paid $27 plus shipping), awkward sentences, and constant font changes make this small volume difficult for me to read. Yes, old eyes.

This is only my opinion. But since I am a a big consumer in terms of buying new books, this book has taught me to wait and think more than twice before purchasing more cookbooks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I did notice that the book was relatively more expensive compared to other books with similar production values, except for the hard binding, which is less common at this size. But cost isn't all about the physical properties of the book, I guess :/ (well, duh jumanggy :)

Anyway, Ruhlman invites readers to share any errata discovered on his blog post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Got the book last week. I thought the creme anglaise recipe was off but the creme patissiere recipe is even worse. Too many egg yolks, cream, too much butter.

There are recipes here that are just wrong. If it was just a book about recipes, well fine then. But his ratio here is just so off. It makes me weary of the whole premise of the book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Got the book last week. I thought the creme anglaise recipe was off but the creme patissiere recipe is even worse. Too many egg yolks, cream, too much butter.

There are recipes here that are just wrong. If it was just a book about recipes, well fine then. But his ratio here is just so off. It makes me weary of the whole premise of the book.

Have you tried his creme anglaise recipe?

I got my copy of the book finally, and I must say, it doesn't have that which I would most like to see in terms of ratio's but it is a step in the right direction.

I don't mean to single your comment out, but a problem I'm having is that so many people seem to be saying his proportions are off but without saying they have tried his recipe/ratios. I will buy the fact that his ratios are off when I see people say they've tried them and they don't work. It seems/feels to me like people right now are passing judgment based on their own ratios without trying his.

Creme Anglaise is not a recipe that I've really tried or found a need for. So to me, as a newbbie so to speak, I want to know that somebody has tried his recipe and found it doesn't work. Perhaps I'm all wet, but I sense that peoples' judgment is based on belieft rather than trial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Got the book last week. I thought the creme anglaise recipe was off but the creme patissiere recipe is even worse. Too many egg yolks, cream, too much butter.

There are recipes here that are just wrong. If it was just a book about recipes, well fine then. But his ratio here is just so off. It makes me weary of the whole premise of the book.

Have you tried his creme anglaise recipe?

I got my copy of the book finally, and I must say, it doesn't have that which I would most like to see in terms of ratio's but it is a step in the right direction.

I don't mean to single your comment out, but a problem I'm having is that so many people seem to be saying his proportions are off but without saying they have tried his recipe/ratios. I will buy the fact that his ratios are off when I see people say they've tried them and they don't work. It seems/feels to me like people right now are passing judgment based on their own ratios without trying his.

Creme Anglaise is not a recipe that I've really tried or found a need for. So to me, as a newbbie so to speak, I want to know that somebody has tried his recipe and found it doesn't work. Perhaps I'm all wet, but I sense that peoples' judgment is based on belieft rather than trial.

It's not that it doesn't work. Work is relative. The recipe is incorrect in its ratios. Too rich. Sure it works, but it's actually closer to a pate a bombe than a creme anglaise.

I think Ruhlman should rewrite the entire custard chapter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
quote]

It's not that it doesn't work. Work is relative. The recipe is incorrect in its ratios. Too rich. Sure it works, but it's actually closer to a pate a bombe than a creme anglaise.

I think Ruhlman should rewrite the entire custard chapter.

And I think you should at least try the recipe, Leslie, before dismissing it a priori.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  While Ratio may not be everyones cup of tea, for those who have been critical of the book I'd ask the following questions;

  1.  Do you think the average home cook, in terms of proportions, will get a better idea of the realtionship of the ingredients?

  2.  Do you think the average home cook will feel more comfortable in approaching dishes having a knowledge of the ratios?

Having read the entire book, I can say no. Ruhlman almost invariably presents a ratio and then follow it with so much contradictory and convoluted information and exceptions to his rules that I think an average home cook will just be confused.

3.  Armed with this new (to him/her) information, do you think the average home cook might try to be more adventurous?

Maybe. I can see someone trying additions to baked goods -- particularly bread, pancakes or shortbread.

. . .a problem I'm having is that so many people seem to be saying his proportions are off but without saying they have tried his recipe/ratios.  I will buy the fact that his ratios are off when I see people say they've tried them and they don't work. 

Whether or not his ratios and recipes "work" is, of course, an important part of the story. (And, incidentally, I'm sure the recipes do work; they were tested extensively.) But another more significant question is whether the book does what Ruhlman says it will do. Here's what he says in the introductory chapters:

  • "When you know a culinary ratio, it's not like knowing a single recipe; it's like knowing a thousand."
  • "Ratios free you."
  • What can you do, now that you know the bread ratio? You can make fresh bread without opening a single book. . ."
  • "I like to think of it as an anti-recipe book, a book that teaches you and frees you from the need to follow."

I think the books mostly fails in these goals.

I'll agree that ratios for ingredients can be a useful memory device, once you already know the rest of the recipe -- that is, the procedure and the details. But if you already know a recipe for, say, bread, what more does a ratio give you? An easier way to do math? The crucial part is not the ratio, it's knowing how to make bread. And so the only way you can make bread without opening a book is if you know the technique (oh, and those pesky additional ingredients like yeast). Ruhlman says this in the text of the book, so he knows it too. Then why does he insist that knowing the ratio is what "frees" you? What "frees" you is internalizing the ingredients and the procedure, and that just comes with practice -- not from memorizing a ratio.

Another problem I have with the book is that once he leaves the realm of doughs and batters, the whole "ratio" idea falls flat.

For instance, in the section on sausage, he gives "the ratio" of meat to fat as 3:1. But then he says the right amount of fat for sausage is 30 percent (3:1 results in a fat content of 25 percent). Then he says that the extra 5 percent is usually provided by the meat itself. Okay, fine. But then he says that some meat has more fat than other meat, so you have to use common sense and "eyeball" the mixture. Hey, I've made sausage (from recipes in Charcuterie) and I understand that, but I'm sorry, if I have to do all that, then that 3:1 ratio is pretty close to useless. Why not just tell me I want a mixture of 70 percent meat and 30 percent fat? Or make the ratio 7:3? It's even more confusing when you get to his recipes, which call for 4 lbs. of meat to 1 lb. of fat, except for the chicken sausage recipe, which calls for 3.5 lbs. of meat to 1.5 lbs. of fat. Still not a 3:1 ratio to be found.

In short, I think there's a limited set of circumstances in which ratios play a crucial role. There's a larger circle in which ratios can be an interesting concept. Maybe for someone who never thought on her own to multiply or divide ingredients in a recipe, this would provide a breakthrough, and that's great. The subject of ratios would, with the right author, make an interesting chapter in a book on learning to cook. As a primer in its own right, it fails.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Someone tell him that he wrote for Thomas Keller, not cooked for him. What a discredit to real chefs who have put in time behind the stove.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Cookwhoplaysdrums
      Can anyone suggest me some good books related to Gastronomy, food history, culture, recipes based on different cultures. 
      Also recommend the best food magazine subscriptions. 
    • By artiesel
      THE BOOKS ARE SOLD
       
       
      I have Volumes 1 ,2 and 4 of Jean-Pierre Wybauw's Great Chocolate books are for sale.
       
      The books are in great shape!  There is some tape on the corner of the front of volume 1 that I used to keep it together after a drop.  Volume 1 is also autographed by the author (See pics below).
       
      I'm asking $150 for the lot OBO.
       
      Let me know if interested or if you have questions
       
       
       



    • By umami5
      Has anyone come across a digital version of Practical Professional Cookery (revised 3rd edition) H.L. Cracknell & R.J. Kaufmann.
      I am using this as the textbook for my culinary arts students and a digital version would come in very handy for creating notes and handouts.
    • By Mullinix18
      I dont believe that any English translation of Carêmes works exist. An incomplete version was published in 1842 (I think) but even the that version seems lackluster for the few recipes it does cover. I think it's time the world looks to its past, but I don't speak great French and it's a huge task to undertake. I hopefully plan on publishing this work and anyone who helps me will get a very fair cut, and if we decide not to publish it, I'll put it out on the internet for free. I'm working in Google docs so we can collaborate. I'm first cataloging the index to cross reference the pre-existing incomplete English version to give us a reference of what yet needs to be done, and from there we will go down the list of recipies and Translate them one by one. Simple google translate goes only so far, as it is 1700s French culinary terms and phrases being used. I'd like to preserve as much of Carêmes beautiful and flowery language as possible. Who's with me? 
    • By Mullinix18
      I have seen referenced in several places on the internet, including Wikipedia, a stat about escoffier recommending 40 minutes for scrambled eggs in a Bain Marie. I cant find where this number is from. On Wikipedia it refers to the book I currently own, the "Escoffier le guide culinaire" with forward by Heston Blumenthal by h. L. Cracknell...specificly page 157 for the 40 minute cooking time of scrambled eggs but it's not in my book on that page! Even tho there is the recipe for scrambled eggs on that page... I've seen the 1903 first edition online.. And it's not in there either.... Where is this number from?? Id like to know in case there is some even more complete book or something out there that I'm missing. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you. 
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×