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

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  495 Ratings  ·  33 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
ebook, 576 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published September 22nd 2009)
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Kiehl Christie
Oct 25, 2011 Kiehl Christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 by one. They are all unique and educational. At first, you are completely fascinated for hours, and hav
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.
Oct 31, 2011 Devin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 06, 2012 Darren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Blog on Books
Jan 24, 2011 Blog on Books rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Linn Steward
Jun 17, 2014 Linn Steward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 03, 2016 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
This is a reference book rather than a cookery book, so not exactly enthralling reading if read cover to cover (as I did). However, it is an invaluable reference on just about every cooking topic you can think of.

I'm not sure if I'll every bother cleaning my fruit and veg to the his suggested standards, but I will definitely refer to this book next time I need to improve how I make anything in the kitchen.
Feb 15, 2011 Vy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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.
Ben Strahle
Not a bad book and certainly contains info on pretty much everything. It'll help you better follow recipes but if you're interested in higher level cooking (and are too lazy to go to culinary school like me) then this doesn't help. Lacking on finer details but for what it is it's useful.
Liz De Coster
Jul 08, 2011 Liz De Coster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hobbies, food
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.
Apr 13, 2011 Keli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
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.
Jun 20, 2013 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Aug 21, 2013 Ozzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 23, 2012 Brittany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Max Trumble
Dec 09, 2010 Max Trumble rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking
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.
Oct 07, 2011 Rlsalvati rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking
This was just too basic for me. The book is very thorough and would probably be good for a new cook.
Sarah Karbassi
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.
Apr 11, 2013 Katy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Susan Reed
Mar 19, 2014 Susan Reed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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!
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...
Jim rated it really liked it
Feb 08, 2014
Allison rated it it was amazing
May 28, 2016
Jens rated it it was amazing
May 23, 2014
Danny Young
Danny Young rated it liked it
Aug 14, 2011
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