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Book: Cooking for Geeks

Issue: 8.6 (September/October 2010)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,378
Starting Page Number: 12
RBD Number: 8602
Resource File(s): None
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Full text of article...

Cooking for Geeks
Jeff Potter
$34.99 (print); $27.99 (ebook)
Contact Info
Full of geeky math and scientific formulas; great geek humor; lots of handy tips; interviews with different types of people (not just chefs); easy to read as a whole or in bits and pieces (it functions as both reference guide and manual); excellent index and tables of contents (interviews and recipes have their own listings); includes a custom xkcd comic (http://www.xkcd.com).
Full of geeky math and scientific formulas (if you're not into that); expensive; some of the old-fashioned woodcut drawings throughout seem out-of-place and dated; long (over 400 pages); not enough material devoted to nutrition.
Rating (1.0-5.0):

Cooking for Geeks is one of those brilliant ideas that seems utterly obvious in retrospect, making you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself.

Whether you're an experienced chef, an utter novice, or something in between, if you're a geek, you'll love this book. I dearly wish I'd had it back in college, when I was first living on my own and having to cook. It would have saved me much grief and money.

For instance, the book goes into exhaustive detail on what equipment you need in the kitchen: knives, pots and pans, utensils, and appliances. It does this in a technical manner, describing the science between various alloys in pans and how that affects cooking. Most cookbooks don't explain why to use a pan (or don't explain in a way that us geeks appreciate). Potter even details how to organize your kitchen for true geek efficiency!

Potter gives tips on storing fruits and vegetables (I learned not to store potatoes next to onions as potatoes give off ethylene that causes the onions to spoil faster), and explains how to use knives.

This isn't a recipe book (though many recipes are included). This is a book about the cooking process. It actually explains things such as why you cook some things at one temperature and other things at another temperature, or how tastes (bitter, salty, sweet, etc.) combine to form unique gastronomical delights (the amateur chemist in you will be delighted).

What I really like about the book, however, is that it encourages you to be adventurous. There are no hard rules in cooking. Potter explains the traditional techniques, but continually emphasizes that you should feel free to break the rules and do what works for you. For many of us geeks, the cooking process doesn't feel creative -- we aren't sure which parts of a recipe we can ignore and which parts we must follow precisely -- so that cooking becomes a chore. I know I'm often frustrated because I don't have all the required ingredients for a recipe. Potter reminds me that I don't have to follow that recipe. I can use whatever I have on hand and create my own concoctions. This truly is a book for hackers -- there's even a sidebar on how to build your own ice cream maker out of Legos!

The book is full of fascinating interviews with scientists, culinary experts, chefs, and famous people like Mythbusters' Adam Savage.

There are also many handy tips in the book, such as leaving a pizza stone on the bottom rack of your oven to help equalize its temperature, or using a mug to hold a plastic bag open so you can pour something into it.

This is a terrific find. It's the type of book you can read from cover-to-cover, or just browse through and read certain sections, depending on your needs. (For example, if you're wanting to buy a new knife, reading the section on knives would be invaluable.)

End of article.

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