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Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,840 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Are you the innovative type, the cook who marches to a different drummer -- used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Are you interested in the science behind what happens to food while it's cooking? Do you want to learn what makes a recipe work so you can improvise and create your own unique dish?

More than just a cookbook, Cooking for Geeks app
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Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 12th 2010 by O'Reilly Media
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Elaine Nelson
I love food science stuff: two things I miss very much from having actual TV is Good Eats and America's Test Kitchen, both of which get into why things work in the kitchen.

This book does that, with the extra twist of assuming a (computer) geek audience. It's smart and charming in the process. Lots of interviews, a whole section of really weird cooking techniques, and recipes too.

I've only used one of the recipes so far: Bechamel Sauce, which turns out to be the first time EVER that I've made a c
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Melissa
An excellent book! Learn how to make your own seitan! Learn how to make your own green olives. I no longer think of food as being cooked, I think of its proteins as being denatured. Every cocktail made at my house from now on will be sure to feature homemade ginger, mint, or lemon syrup. And whiskey, of course, I won't forget that part.
Ryan
I've read a fair number of books, websites, and magazines about cooking over the years. Prior to this book, though, NONE of them discussed using 3D printing technology to create cookie cutters/molds for cookies in the shape of the Linux mascot. Now, most of this book isn't nearly that hardcore, but it does give you a bit of insight into the mindset that went into developing it.

Cooking for Geeks knows its target audience well, and is full of content to appeal to geeks across all levels of experi
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Tam
I forgot to review this, which is funny because I read it, raved about it, and then ended up buying copies for some of my friend's Christmas gifts.

This book really appealed to me. But I am the type of over analyzing person that this book is aimed at. I like to know how something works and then go from there. With cooking, I've been uninterested in relying on recopies. Just explain the chemistry of a cake, and then I'll go off and play with stuff and see what I can make. In that respect this book
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Jack Jacobson
Cooking is chemistry. With maybe a little physics thrown in on the side. You know, temperature control, stuff like that.

You may think you don't like to cook. Too boring, too restrictive, you have to follow the recipe - or else. If so, this book is for you. It answer questions that most cook books don't think about asking. And if you have any curiosity about why recipes turn out like they do, and are interested in experimenting, using a knowledge of chemistry and physics to improve your dishes, t
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Peter Schott
Nov 29, 2010 Peter Schott rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Geeks who are interested in cooking.
This is not a cookbook. If you’re looking for a new collection of recipes, this is not the book for you. If you like shows like Good Eats or enjoy seeing how food is prepared and served, you’ll almost certainly love Cooking for Geeks. If you like experimenting in the kitchen and knowing why food turns out the way it does, pick up this book!

As a geek, I loved Jeff’s analogy: Recipes are code. Follow a recipe as written and you generally get good results. Forget the where clause and you could have
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Jessica Strider
Pros: a lot of extremely detailed information about cooking methods, equipment, reactions, etc., interviews with people who cook creatively

Cons: not many recipes, some information is well beyond what most cooks will use/need

This is an interesting cookbook. I would consider the first 5 chapters worth reading if you plan to do any cooking and want a better understanding of what's happening or if you like experimenting.

If you REALLY like experimenting the last 2 chapters will be perfect for you. If
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Gary
First read-through, I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet.

My great annoyance when attempting to work with other cookbooks was that I didn't really understand what was going on, or why certain steps had to be done in a particular order, etc. And this book has cleared up many things that may be obvious to people who grew up doing lots of cooking, but wasn't to me (too many things to count). While the "modernist cooking" section is interesting, the very well written focus on what actually
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Kyle
Jun 04, 2013 Kyle added it
Okay, this book wasn't exactly what I expected. In some ways, it's almost a textbook for a food science class and a "cooking for dummies" book in one, with some fun geeky things tossed in. To say it's textbook-like is to say that at times it felt long-winded and unnecessarily detailed.

But of course, that's just where I'm coming from, as a somewhat-interested-in-food-science person and a knows-plenty-about-cooking-already person. I can imagine people who really want to know so many things about t
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Kimberly Hughes
This is not a cookbook as there are very few recipes. The title is misleading as you would think it would delve into the science of cooking and how to manipulate recipes and it doesn't do this either. It's really a basic overview of how cooking works for those that come to it knowing absolutely nothing about cooking past a box of macaroni and cheese.

It's actually a very simple book filled with information on how to perform basic cooking experiments that would be good for 12-year-olds if it were
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Ticklish Owl
This read like a Cliff Notes version of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

If you are new to cooking or are curious about the why and how of cooking, Cooking for Geeks is a great introduction. If you're already comfortable in the kitchen, you might get more from On Food and Cooking.
Hans de Zwart
This is quite an amazing book. It is the way a computer-minder person (in the current parlance: geek) would write a book about cooking. I loved the overall tone of the book and the production is marvellous. It has lots of interesting interviews, asides and recipes. It is unlike any other book I have ever seen about cooking. Mainly in the way that it really tries to explain the processes and create a deep understanding of what actually happens when you cook. If you're a programmer and you have an ...more
Adam Wiggins
This book is a great combination of two things: (1) assuming you are intelligent and (2) assuming you know absolutely nothing about cooking.

Which gives choice quotes like:

"We eat for two physiological reasons: to provide our bodies with food to break down into energy (via catabolism), and to provide our cells with the necessary building blocks to synthesize the chemicals that cells need to function (called anabolism)."

and

"Cooking is the application of heat to ingredients to transform them via ch
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Dj
So while I have to say that this book was a day late, and since I got it from the library, a dollar short, it is a good and interesting book. It would have been a fantastic book when I was first starting to get into cooking, since it would have answered so many of the questions that I generally ended up having to call and ask people I knew that cooked or try and find online without really knowing what it was that I was looking for.

If you are deciding that you want to break out of the cycle of y
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Rachel
My fiance was not taught to cook growing up and I turned out to be a lousy teacher, so I was looking for a cookbook that would interest him and also teach him the basics in an exciting way. I stumbled across Cooking for Geeks and it's been a godsend. My fiance considers himself a life-long devotee of science and this was the perfect approach for teaching him to cook - the "experiments" are well-structured, engaging, and simple. He uses this book constantly and he's learned great tips and tricks ...more
Alex
Jan 22, 2013 Alex marked it as to-read
So, I was reading this article about cookbooks at a lady blog SHUT UP DON'T JUDGE ME and then I was like hey, I'm a geek and I eat, maybe I should read this.
Kat Dornian
I really adore this book! If you want to learn about the why and how of cooking, this is where to go. Potter offers experiments from the simple to the more complex, but all sound so fun, and every chapter offered at least one thing I could do right away (I do have a good number of kitchen gadgets already in my house though). The writing is witty and fun. It probably helps that I've been a computer programmer and totally understand the numerous coding/computer references given up. My favourite pa ...more
John Constable

I had a couple of false starts with this book before getting into it over the Christmas holidays. I think initially I was put off by the fact that I wasn't getting to cook the extravagant meals, and wasn't as interested in the assorted taste types he discusses in a chapter near the beginning.

However, when I came back to it, I found I was hitting the sections that i found the most useful -the science of cooking; mailard reactions, the different action of heat at different temperatures, even a who
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Kirsa
I loved reading this book. It's a nice mix of science, food, and interviews (including one with Adam Savage, as well a an xkcd comic). The scientific explanations were easy enough for me to understand, while still explaining some fairly complex reactions in an interesting way. It reminded me a bit of high school chemistry class (which I enjoyed), except better, because it's about food.

I didn't have a highlighter handy, so I found myself folding over page corners whenever I found something partic
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Dan
Jul 14, 2011 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
A great introduction to food science made all the more fun by the 'for geeks' spin on the subject matter, if that appeals to you - inputs, variables, error conditions etc.

I doubt I'll be running out for some liquid nitrogen anytime soon (that stuff sounds scary!), but I'll definitely be buying a proper probe thermometer and am very tempted to hack my slow cooker for some sous-vide experiments.

The recipes aren't going to see anyone through a three-course dinner party, but they're not intended to.
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Petra
So richtig kann ich keinen Review schreiben, denn bei diesem Buch bin ich ziemlich befangen - ich habe nämlich die deutsche Übersetzung und Lokalisierung gemacht ;)

Ich würde gern schon deswegen fünf Sterne vergeben, aber das würde der Sache nicht gerecht. Kochen für Geeks ist so etwas ähnliches wie ein Make-Magazin für Küchenfreaks, und so ist es auch aufgebaut, das unterstreicht bereits die Tatsache, dass viel der Info in Interviews zusammengetragen wird, die das Buch auflockern. Im großen und
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Katarina
Jul 20, 2012 Katarina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like science; people who like food
Recommended to Katarina by: Amanda
I LOVED this book. I don't think I was actually the target audience exactly-- I know extremely little about technology and a fair amount about cooking (the book is largely directed at the opposite)--but I was still able to appreciate the approach to cooking. Jeff Potter starts with basics (Why do people cook? What should one have in one's kitchen?) and gradually progresses toward more advanced material (eventually ending with such topics as liquid nitrogen and sous vide). The book is logically p ...more
Elizabeth
Apr 22, 2011 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who think of cooking as chemistry made edible.
Shelves: cooking
Another fine book that focuses on the science behind cooking. I must say, though, that this is the only cookbook I own that scares me. Not in the sense of looking at recipes and thinking they're really complicated, but in the sense of looking at the suggested equipment and thinking it could kill me (for instance, liquid nitrogen can be used to make fantastic ice cream as long as you don't get severe frostbite, blow up your kitchen, or asphyxiate).

But that's in the last chapter. Before that, Pott
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Justin
This book is really, really cool.

I’m not usually in the habit of reading cookbooks cover to cover, but this one demanded it. It’s not nearly as dense with complicated recipes as most, for one thing, but it’s also brimming with interviews and fascinating asides on the science of cooking. Processes that most amateur cooks take for granted are dissected in detail, which arms the reader not only with a wealth of interesting trivia but also useful information for culinary experimentation.

In other wor
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Jessica
I've been looking for a non-mix hot chocolate recipe for awhile! I also LOVED the fact that this book is great mix of scientific information, cookware, kitchen design layout---and just a lot of informative fun! I definitely got some great ideas and learned some things as well! Hopefully, I will have a fun time cooking and baking with some "tried and true techniques..."

cooking

My only little teeny tiny beef with the book (pun intended) is the fact it had terrible photography. I felt that some of the sci
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Kirk
I've been interested in the science behind food and cooking for years and this is my first attempt at understanding what goes on in the kitchen.

The book was all over the place for me, some of it was interesting other parts not at all. The first two chapters seemed geared towards readers who have never cooked before, the middle chapters seemed to be fore people with an understanding and curiosity about cooking and the final few chapters were for serious foodies. I debated putting the book down a
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Mallory
This is a book that looks at a lot of science behind chemical reactions in food. I enjoyed it since it explained the reason for many steps in cooking that I didn't understand the point of and sometimes skipped. (Not that it ruined the meal, but it probably would have had more flavor/come out better if I had not...and how I know why.) I read it in bits in pieces as I went along, although it is certainly not the kind of book that requires a person to read it from cover to cover. It also has recipe ...more
Brigdh
Cooking for Geeks*: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter is sort of a cookbook, but there's few recipes compared to the amount of writing, so you can just read it straight through, which is what I did. This is a book geared at everyone from people who don't know how to boil water to professional cooks, because most of the focus is on the science behind food, which I think few people know. But which is really cool! For instance, did you know that the reason your eyes hurt when ...more
Kin Guan
"A delightful read with a wide variety of tastes. Yet it feels like a full meal dragged too long."

I like this book. It talks about two of my favourite topics: Food and Science. How wonderful the world is! Jeff Potter smartly uses geeky languages and scientific terms to explain the cooking processes, and I think he has covered most of the interesting stuff under the hood. There are different sections in the book, each focusing on chemistry (how food gets cooked), physics (how heat is conducted) a
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Joe Balough
received this as a gift from my wonderful wife after I expressed the desire to understand what goes on at a chemical level when I bake. well this book is just what I wanted.

the recipes are great and the author provides countless tips and techniques that most cook books would skip. Jeff Potter changed the way I make crepes and helped me understand what the recipes I was trying to follow were actually doing.
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Jeff Potter has done the cubicle thing, the startup thing, and the entrepreneur thing, and through it all maintained his sanity by cooking for friends. He studied Computer Science and Visual Art at Brown University.
More about Jeff Potter...
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“Hackers, makers, programmers, engineers, nerds, techies — what we’ll call “geeks” for the rest of the book (deal with it) — we’re a creative lot who don’t like to be told what to do.” 2 likes
“The modern geek is more than just a refined version of the stereotypical movie geek from the ’80s.” 0 likes
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