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

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  2,906 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
Why, exactly, do we cook the way we do? Are you curious about the science behind what happens to food as it cooks? Are you the innovative type, used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Do you want to learn how to become a better cook?

Cooking for Geeks is more than just a cookbook. Author and cooking geek Jeff Potter helps you apply curiosity, i
Paperback, 412 pages
Published August 12th 2010 by O'Reilly Media (first published April 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
Mar 23, 2011 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nov 16, 2011 Melissa rated it liked it
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.
Jan 25, 2013 Kirk rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jan 10, 2017 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were new in the kitchen, or if I wanted to give my son a 'housewarming' gift, or my husband a 'retirement' gift, I'd buy this book. I am on the wait list for a cheap used copy already.

Lots of excellent science, and lots of encouragement to the pizza and Hostess snack cakes crowd.

Also lots of stuff I'm not, at least for now, at all interested in.

I liked Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking better.

But this one has a Mean (as in arithmetical average) Chocolate Chip Coo
Kimberly Hughes
Sep 13, 2013 Kimberly Hughes rated it it was ok
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
Ticklish Owl
Sep 29, 2011 Ticklish Owl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
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.
Mar 14, 2011 Ellie rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2013 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jessica Strider
Aug 11, 2011 Jessica Strider rated it really liked it
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
Adam Wiggins
Dec 01, 2014 Adam Wiggins rated it really liked it
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)."


"Cooking is the application of heat to ingredients to transform them via ch
Peter Schott
Nov 26, 2010 Peter Schott rated it really liked it
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
Jack Jacobson
Jan 13, 2011 Jack Jacobson rated it really liked it
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
May 22, 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
Feb 02, 2015 Amos rated it really liked it
Fun and surprisingly instructive. I now know exactly what temperature melts sugar, and I'm glad I do.
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.
Sep 08, 2013 Oskar rated it it was amazing
Probably the best cookbook for a geek and/or otherwise analytically minded person! It doesn't just tell you what to do, but why you do it, so you actually learn something about cooking.
Jeff Norris
Jun 18, 2017 Jeff Norris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book for geeks that are interested in cooking. Give some cool experiments to try in the kitchen.
Jun 15, 2017 Rahim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so much of cooking finally makes sense! the chapter in food borne illnesses is terrifying
Mar 12, 2017 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a lot of information in this book.
Feb 28, 2017 Brian rated it really liked it
Be your own Alton Brown.
Nov 05, 2010 Patty rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Dec 28, 2012 Justin rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, cooking
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
Jan 02, 2015 Gavin rated it really liked it
Three years ago my newlywed wife sat me down and gave me a stern talking-to: it was time for me to start stepping up in the kitchen and helping her out more with cooking meals. I remember being indignant - not only did I find cooking to be a waste of time, I also thought my runny scrambled eggs were great and I didn’t really mind sandwiches for lunch and Cheerios for dinner.

Fast-forward to the present day. She might even tell you that I’m a better (and more diligent) cook than she is. I enjoy th

John Constable
Aug 19, 2012 John Constable rated it really liked it

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
Mar 05, 2012 Katarina rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 11, 2011 Kirsa rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 28, 2011 Petra rated it really liked it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2011 Mallory rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, food
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
Nov 26, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, cookbooks
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..."


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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Jeff Potter is curious about the science of food and loves finding answers to why ingredients and recipes work the way they do. By bringing science to food-minded people—and food to science-minded people—he blends genres to educate the public about how to master the kitchen. He’s been featured in USA Today, the Today Show, and is a regular guest on Science Friday. He’s even had the pleasure (and t ...more
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.” 3 likes
“The modern geek is more than just a refined version of the stereotypical movie geek from the ’80s.” 1 likes
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