Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The science of food

I was thrilled to learn about The Food Lab: Better Cooking Through Science a short while ago, and I'm thinking this might be the cookbook for me, although for some months I've been bemoaning the fact that the book I want does not exist and steeling myself to do the research and write it myself. But maybe now I don't have to.

I want to know things like:
  • When a recipe says to use a wooden spoon, is that because someone's grandmother used a wooden spoon, or is there something fundamental in the utensil's woodenness that improves either the contents being stirred or the way I actually stir? Can I use a rubber spatula?
  • What happens if I don't wait for the oven to preheat to the required temperature? If I put something in earlier, that means it will take less time, right? How am I paying for it in terms of texture or flavour?
  • The recipe calls for an egg at room temperature, but I just pulled it out of the fridge, and I can't wait. What does it change?
  • What exactly is wrong with the way I stir-fry?
  • Why are most recipes written so I can't tell what are the essential instructions and which ones belong to the "that's how it's always been done, with a wooden spoon in a glass bowl" ilk. How am I supposed to know what I can safely modify or ignore?

The author is director of Serious Eats, and if that's anything to go by, with such gems as Why Do I Cream Butter, and What Happens If I Don't?, this may be the answer to all my culinary quandaries.

I haven't had a chance to track down a copy of The Food Lab in-store so I can look it over properly. Is anyone familiar with it? Will it tell me everything I want to know?

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