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Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes
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Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  293 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The answers to many kitchen conundrums in one easy-to-use volume, from the author of the acclaimed culinary classic "On Food and Cooking"
Harold McGee is our foremost expert on the science of cooking, advising professional chefs worldwide. Now he offers the same authoritative advice for food lovers everywhere in "Keys to Good Cooking." A companion volume to recipe books, a
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ebook, 576 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published September 22nd 2009)
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Mary
2 or 5 stars? 2 or 5 stars?

Five stars because it has EVERYTHING in there! :)
Two stars because it has...EVERYTHING in there. :(

The book is great, it really is. But if you are easily overwhelmed (I'm not naming any names, but 3 fingers are pointing back at me), you might feel like you are in front of a haystack, pulling out the most interesting hay strands(sticks? pieces?) you've ever seen...one by one. They are all unique and educational. At first, you are completely fascinated for hours, and hav
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Chris
I have found this book useful on occasions where something comes up in a recipe and I just want a quick discussion of the technique. An example, I was making a recipe from the French Laundry and had gelatin powder not gelatin sheets, and the quick discussion in this book was helpful. Perhaps it could be found just as easily on the lap top, but I like the ability to grab it off the shelf in my kitchen and read. I like it.
Kiehl Christie
It's easy to learn how to follow recipes. It's hard to learn how to cook. This book and McGee's approach have helped me do the latter. The book as a read can get tedious, but it teaches how the different elements of foods mingle into complex sensory experiences. After reading it, I've learned better how to create, tweak, and balance recipes.
Aarthi
I don't know if anyone who doesn't already know everything in this book even reads Harold McGee. I don't think they do. It's something like an affirmation that everything you have been taught is actually right according to someone who you've been told should know. I guess it's a good reminder.
Devin
This is a great book if you are planning to cook a meal and want help with the technique and ingredients. Read On Food and Cooking if you want to know the why the tips and techniques work.
Blog on Books
Harold McGee’s “Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes” (Penguin) is an essential kitchen staple. In it, McGee (named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people) describes all manner of information about how to transform raw ingredients into successful meals. It is a guidebook, not about meals, but of the process itself. In it, the author offers empirical data about cooking techniques from broiling to grilling, from utensils to methodology, all designed to ...more
Darren
The jury remains out on this book. If one had not read other examples of this author's work there might not be such a dilemma.

In many ways this is a really good book that has pulled a lot of useful information, hints, tips, suggestions, wrinkles and the like into one place. It is after all billed as a concise and authoritative guide designed to help home cooks navigate the ever-expanding universe of ingredients, recipes, food safety and appliances, arriving at the promised land of a satisfying d
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Linn Steward
One of the books on my bookshelf that I consult most frequently. A sensible and realistic balance between the discipline of science and the enjoyment of eating. Here is just one on my favorite McGee observations:

Meats made safe by cooking are usually not the most delicious meats. Temperatures high enough to kill harmful bacteria quickly also dry the meat out. Temperatures low enough to leave meat juicy don't necessarily kill harmful bacteria.
Susan Reed
Harold McGhee is legendary.
The fact that he can put his knowledge into everyday words and teach it is wonderful.
For any and all food science nerds.
This guy is the original!
Cecelia
I had high hopes for this because the NPR interview was pretty entertaining. In that segment, Harold McGee shared thoughts on the efficiency of gas vs. electric stoves, choice of cutting board material, how to make crispy fish, etc. But in my cursory review of the book, the first several chapters were truly boring and a flip through the middle meatier sections was not much better. Most of the tips were plain old common sense (not I've-been-cooking-for-years common sense, but truly common sense) ...more
Beth Barnett
Really great information, overall. I learned some tips that are definitely helpful in my kitchen. I have to say that McGee is biased toward butter and doesn't think anything good can be made using margarine, and I have to disagree. As a strict vegetarian I have other reasons to not use butter, but I also find that Earth Balance and other margarines make perfectly good butter substitutes. Of course, any author is biased about his own preferences, and I skipped over the meats sections for the most ...more
Matthew
Great resource but it would be a lot better if it weren't so BORING to read. Factual is one thing. I love factual. But this book is dry as an overcooked turkey breast. If this had more details, it would be more scholarly which is allowed to be dry. This is neither heady nor interesting.

Still, it does have a lot of good facts in it, if you can stand to wade through it to find them.
Vy
If you already know your way around the kitchen pretty well, you might not find this book all that useful. If, like me, you missed out on Home Ec and have a lot to learn, it's a great reference. I didn't read this book in its entirety, but I did read relevant sections here and there, and they were useful.
Mightyko Jackson
So important to read if you want a grasp on what's happening in your kitchen. For the amateur home cook, this will improve your cooking immediately, practically, and explains it all in an easy to understand way. I refer to this book all the time.
Liz DeCoster
A good kitchen reference guide - more focused on how than why, and full of guidelines and suggestions rather than recipes. I think this would be especially helpful if you're hoping to troubleshoot a recipe, make substitutions, or try something new.
Steve
I can't believe I read the whole thing! This is a reference book, not really meant to be read cover to cover. A lot of great information about how cooking works, but not much fun to read, honestly.
Katy
More like a textbook of information on the hows and whys of cooking. Not the kind of cookbook (not a cookbook at all, actually) that I would just sit down and read. More of a reference.
Joey
Another reference-like book, not as easy to sit and read as On Food and Cooking, but I am still flipping thru it. I don't plan on reading the whole thing in it's entirety, ever...
Sarah Larson
This a great resource. McGee's organization is sensible, and his prose is clear, and occasionally poetic. I'm definitely going to get a copy of my own for reference.
Andrea
Harold McGee is giving a reading at Third Place Books on November 20, 2010 at 6:30 that I'm going to. I only wish I'd been able to pick up the book earlier.
Ozzy
If you are looking for a book that has a lot of information on how to pick and prepare your ingredients, not for a recipe book, this is a great book.
Max Trumble
This is a great book. I'd say I'm a moderate cook in the kitchen, but I love this book and find the tips not only helpful but fascinating.
Brittany
Didn't make it through the whole thing before it was due back to the library, but will definitely be pursuing my own copy. Fabulous.
Keli
This book is a bit dry to just read. But there's a lot of good information in it for someone who's interested in food science.
Rlsalvati
This was just too basic for me. The book is very thorough and would probably be good for a new cook.
Erin
This is a useful resource, easy to find things, but I liked On Food and Cooking much better.
Rachel
Lots of great information. Some of it most cooks know already but still worth a read.
Steven Bonisteel
And I thought I already knew how to boil an egg!
Melinda
Not too informative.
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