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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee

I can hardly believe it's been three months since I mentioned that I was going to be receiving Harold McGee's newest book, Keys to Good Cooking, for review.  Having it to pour through and reference for a good, solid month...I have to's fantastic!  I love reference books.  Cuckoo!?  But I do.  While I love the art of cooking...the creativity...the beauty...the process...the results... I am equally enamored by the why? and the how? of what produces the visceral part of my time in the kitchen.  I've mentioned before that I love reading and learning and gainin' smarts {gainin' smarts, people...that's what it's all about}; it's people like Mr. McGee that I turn to when I'm in one of my moods.

I almost feel at a loss for words when I try to explain Keys to Good Cooking.  If you are looking for glamorous celebrity chefs with glimmering teeth and manicured nails, then this is probably not the book for you.  It's all application and no frou-frou.  The best way I can think to explain it is to list the have-nots versus the haves.

  • shiny, ready-to-go recipes
  • food porn
  • glamorous celebrity chefs
  • fluff

  • empowerment- information and guidance to develop, adapt, or devise your own recipes 
  • food science
  • an advisor to chefs worldwide
  • substance
Don't get me wrong.  I have big love for a few certain "celebrity" chefs.  I love cookbooks with mouth watering food porn.  I like being able to put those ready-made recipes to work in my own kitchen.  But in the end, that's not all that I love.  I love having the knowledge, the edge, and the ability to know why "fats give flavor, moistness, and richness to pastries"...but also that their "main job is to break up the dough's structure and make it flaky or crumbly."  The fact that butter, shortening, lard and oil all have their own characteristics, structures, and abilities...and what those are...makes it possible for me to judge "what went wrong" in a certain recipe...or how to make my own with that knowledge.  This is just one tiny section in a sea (524 pages, to be exact) of advice and tips and research on the KEYS to being a good cook.
I know that Keys to Good Cooking has earned a permanent spot on my shelf in the midst of other fabulous references...including his On Food and Cooking...and look forward to years down the line when it is well broken in and perhaps a bit tattered, when I can pass it on to one of the kiddos.  You know, for them to use in their own kitchens.  Eeeek!  Hopefully that's a long way off ;-)

There is seriously SO MUCH MORE to discover and learn from in this book, I definitely recommend you add a copy to your shelves!  Check out Harold McGee in action...

*You probably know my standard disclaimer by now, but...I received this book for FREE from the publisher with the hopes that I would read it and review it.  But the opinions in this post are mine.  ALL MINE.  Mine. My opinions.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Thanks for the review and recommendation! This looks like a very useful book. :)

  2. I so want this book. I wanted a month ago and I want it even more now.

  3. I just saw this book the other day and thought it looked like the perfect reference book. Your review makes me want it for sure. ;-)

  4. I definitely love learning about food as well as cooking it because I definitely feel more confident in the kitchen if I know why certain things are the way they are. Great review!

  5. Thanks for the review, my Amazon wish list is filling up. :-) I like how you did the "have" and "have nots" for the review.

  6. Now I have another book to add to my Christmas wish list! Thanks for the great review. Happy Monday, love!

  7. I think you said it all with the word "empowerment". This is the kind of book that a beginning cook and also an experienced cook can both learn from. I'll have to search it out during one of those afternoons at the bookstore. (you know, the big bookstore with the train table where the little guy is happy and mom can take her time looking through books- paradise! LOL!)

  8. great review! i'm going to look for it next time i go to the book store.

  9. The do's and the dont's were an eye opener.

  10. Thanks for such a great review! This books sounds like it is absolutely ESSENTIAL for every kitchen ... mine especially. :)

  11. I like ones like this too, with information, not just recipes. I'm putting this on my Christmas wishlist.