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I'm Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking

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Blending humor, wisdom, history, pop culture, science, and basic cooking knowledge, the host of Food Network's Good Eats presents a special edition of his innovative, instructional cooking guide that features various cooking techniques accompanied by a "master" recipe for each technique, and provides a vast array of food-related tips and advice.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2002

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About the author

Alton Brown

19 books522 followers
Alton Brown is an American food personality, cinematographer, author, and actor. He is the creator and host of the Food Network television show Good Eats, the miniseries Feasting on Asphalt and the main commentator on Iron Chef America.
Brown received a degree in drama from the University of Georgia. He first worked in cinematography and film production, and was the director of photography on the music video for R.E.M.'s "The One I Love". He also worked as a steadicam operator on the Spike Lee film School Daze.

At some point, he noticed that he was very dissatisfied with the quality of cooking shows then airing on American television, so he set out to produce his own show. Not possessing the requisite knowledge, he enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute, from which he graduated in 1997. Brown states that he had been a poor science student in high school and college, so he began to study the subject as he took cooking training and felt the need to understand the underlying processes of cooking.

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5 stars
10,571 (46%)
4 stars
7,042 (30%)
3 stars
3,583 (15%)
2 stars
1,002 (4%)
1 star
754 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 274 reviews
Profile Image for Kathrina.
508 reviews127 followers
July 10, 2012
I have a 13-year-old who thinks he wants to go to culinary school, but has still only mastered the arts of ramen noodles and jello. He's a fan of foodie rock stars like Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey, and, of course, Alton Brown. So, this summer we're making cooking homeschool -- I've got it all planned out, and this book is our text. We'll focus on one cooking method a week, and come September, I'll have another hand in the house that has no excuse for not coming up with dinner once in a while. He already made us beef stew and an oreo ice cream pie, and despite the anxiety, it all came out well. Here we go...

Week 1 Completed!
We have mastered the method of Searing--

Meal 1: Beef stew, delicious the first night, even better the next day.
Meal 2: Jerk tuna steak, the boys found the spices too...spicy, but I thought it was great. They scraped the spices off and enjoyed the tuna, and Eb added a coleslaw vinaigrette, which was the perfect side to mellow the spices.
Meal 3: hashbrowns. Eb refused to include the red beet the recipe called for, so he just made regular hashbrowns with ham steak and eggs. Nothing extravagant, but a challenge to have everything ready at the same time.
We'll be taking a 2 week hiatus while they're out of town, but next we tackle the barbeque. Let's hope we don't burn the house down...
Profile Image for Ron Davis.
45 reviews11 followers
March 20, 2008
This book changed my life.

I’ve never been a big cook. I think mostly because I’m a little impatient and the results are spectacular enough normally for me to get a charge of out taking the time to cook.

That may all be changing because of a book I got this weekend. The Mrs and I like to watch Good Eats on the Food network. Its just a fun show. I watch cooking shows for the same reason I was do it yourself shows. Its fun to watch people who know how to do something well do it. But I don’t ever cook anything I see on a cooking show. Because, like building a deck or replacing a sink, when you do it is harder and never works out the way it does for them.

I was at the book store and I saw Alton Brown’s book I’m Just Here For the Food.

I sat down in comfy chair at B&N and decided to thumb through it. I was going to skip the intro, but then thought Alton is pretty interesting I’ll see what he has to say. About half an hour and two chapters I was ready to buy and make a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond.

Needless to say it is the coolest cooking book ever. Notice I didn’t say cookbook. A cookbook is a collection of recipes. I’m Just Here for the Food (JHFF) is a cooking book. It talks about how cooking works. The book is organized by kind of heat application. Starting with Searing and going through grilling, frying, roasting all the way to microwave cooking.

There are some recipes, but they are more practical applications of the knowledge you just gained than ways to make a particular food. And I think it really will help when you make a recipe and it doesn’t turn out like you expected. Now I understand to look at the application of heat, how it gets into the food and how the ingredients effect that.

Profile Image for Max.
53 reviews20 followers
January 18, 2008
I came late to the Alton Brown party, so my man-crush on him seems ill-timed now that he's widened out in his celebrity role on the Food Network. But Brown is a man after my own heart - understand the science of something so you can play with it. I make something by the recipe the first time so I get the mechanics, then I start to tweak it. Brown's book is a great guide to your kitchen and it will make you throw away about half the crap you got for your wedding because they're unitaskers.
Profile Image for Lindsey Duncan.
Author 49 books12 followers
March 26, 2013
This is not a cookbook: it's a mad-science exploration of cooking. Alton Brown explains the chemistry, physics and processes of the foundational methods of cooking food, breaking them down with hilarious commentary and consistent precision. Throughout the book, he explains the inaccuracies in home equipment and how to combat them ... at an extent that is frankly ridiculous for any but the most neurotic, but it certainly is entertaining to ponder - and that's the point. But no, I won't be melting ice cubes on my grill any time ... wait, I don't have a grill. I digress.

This book is accessible and laugh-out-loud funny, and also a little disturbing - anyone who gets just a liiittle lackadaisical about kitchen sanitations practices will no longer feel that way after seeing the breakdown of hazards in actions we take for granted. And as I said above, it is not a cookbook: while there are recipes, explained with the same clarity and precision as the text, they tend to be fairly standard and iconic - blueprints rather than the specialty products of Brown's kitchen and cookery.

This is definitely a sit-down-and-read book rather than a flip-through book, and it holds up very well to this kind of intensive review. Recommended.
Profile Image for Raine.
6 reviews5 followers
February 28, 2013
Simply put, this is the science behind cooking laid out in a practical approach. Alton Brown doesn't just teach you how to cook certain meals, as an ordinary cook-book would, but delves into the theory of cooking methods and gives you the tools to understand what is going on when making food rather than having you blindly repeat a recipe - useful information when something goes wrong, or if you have different cooking apparatus than the person who wrote the recipe, or if you can expand the recipe you're making by taking a few extra steps (i.e., taking leftover meat drippings/fat which you would normally throw away and turning them into a sauce/roux, or saving leftover bones for stock, etc.) The book reads much like an episode of "Good Eats," and is laced with Alton's humor and interesting stories.

If you ever want to start inventing your own recipes rather than staying bound to a cookbook or blind guess-work, this is well worth your time. It also contains a lot of 'kitchen hacks' that allow you to get things done on the cheap or in a pinch.
Profile Image for Nicole.
116 reviews20 followers
December 10, 2018
Searing: 6/6 Recipes (2.67/5)
Skirt Steak (3/5)
Cast-Iron Duck (3/5)
Red Flannel Hash (2/5)
Bar-B-Fu (1/5)
Blackened Steak Tuna (4/5)
Pan-Seared Portobello Mushrooms (3/5)

Roasting: 4/6 Recipes (3.5/5)
Roast Turkey (4/5)
A Perfect Baked Potato (4/5)
Meatload (1/5)
Slow-Roast Tomatoes (5/5)

Frying: 5/14 Recipes
Batter Up (2/5)
Chip Chop (1/5)
Calamari Crunch (4/5)
Chicken in Garlic and Shallots (3/5)
Miller Thyme Trout
5 reviews
April 26, 2016
I'm biased to Alton Brown, his approach to cooking using science is really what inspires me. Although I cannot recall off the top of my head to have made any of the recipes in this book, the knowledge passed can be used in a professional kitchen. I happened to buy the version that has magnets of chicken, lamb, pig & cow showing the different cuts for each. If you're really wanting to "up your game" at home, I recommend anything Alton Brown.
Profile Image for Robyn.
1,689 reviews
July 14, 2012
Did not finish.

I enjoy Good Eats, I generally enjoy Brown's perspective on cooking, and I definitely agree that knowing the foundation of cooking will make you a better cook. This book, however, is not for me.

Too many pages had text discussing one thing, sidebars discussing something else, and drawings demonstrating a third. Like learning food science from an unmedicated 5 year old with ADHD. The drawings were also too stylized, not as basic and clear as the drawings in Brown's other books. The fact that his other books are sketches "by Alton Brown" and this book are illustrations by (6) other people "based on sketches by Alton Brown" is probably why it ended up looking like they were trying too hard to be pretty and slightly retro and eye-catching. Sorry, I don't need eye-catching, I need basic and clear, with no off-set colour.

Additionally, some visual aids that would work well in a video format (ie, on Good Eats) just do not work in a written/drawn form. The Lucy Model, for example, in which Lucy and Ethel are food and candies on a conveyor belt are the temperature of water, left me understanding convection less well than I did before I started reading the book.

Overall, the book was frustrating and I choose to stop spending my time on it. It's like the modern American inability to concentrate (short attention span) in book form. There are almost no pages that can just be read, nearly every page requires reading a bit, then down to the footnotes, then over to the graphic, then the other direction to the sidebar box, then follow the arrow to the extra note, then to the other sidebar for the last sidebar box, then back to the text, which is full of bullet points and bolded phrases and subheadings.
Profile Image for Jacob.
51 reviews15 followers
January 6, 2008
This is a great cookbook and really the only one (except Brown's other books) worth listing as a book I've read here. I haven't read it cover-to-cover. Like any other cooking or brewing book, there's not a lot of reason to read the parts that don't apply to what you're cooking. Despite this, I've read enough of the sections to get a good feel for it. If you enjoy the shows and find them helpful and entertaining, you'll find the books the same way. He focuses on teaching you how to cook more than just giving you recipes. The only thing to keep in mind is that many of the recipes actually differ from the recipes he presents on Good Eats. If you have I'm Just Here for the Food and I'm Just Here for More Food, and an internet connection for the good cooking websites for more recipes, there's no reason to own another cooking book (except maybe the kitchen gear book of Brown's).
Profile Image for Gregj.
78 reviews8 followers
November 27, 2017
I think I'm a pretty decent cook, but that doesn't mean I know what I'm doing. This books attempts to bridge the gap between relying on recipes vs allowing you to decide how you want to cook a food given a broad array of techniques. (searing, braising, sauteing, ect) The book is set up like some cooking school textbooks that I have seen, but keeps things as simple as possible.

This book definitely helped me, and best of all, I now know what areas I need to focus on order to continue to get better.
Profile Image for Negar.
294 reviews38 followers
July 25, 2021
سه و نیم.

نظرم رو بیشتر توی ریویوی کتاب دوم گفتم (اینجا).
به این امتیاز کمتری می‌دم چون مثال‌هاش و نمودار‌هاش بعضا گیج کننده‌تر بودن و از خود متن بهتر می‌شد فهمید و یه سری مشکلات ویراستاری داشت که خیلی اعصاب خورد کن بودن. ولی خود کتاب خوبه.

+ یه مشکل دیگه‌ای هم که البته داشت اینه که بیشتر غذاها و سبک‌هاش چیزی نیستن که ماها لزوما بهشون عادت داشته باشیم و رسپی‌هاش رو نمی‌شد مستقیم استفاده کرد، ولی خب تکنیک‌هاش مفید بود در هر صورت.
Profile Image for Greta Stough.
35 reviews9 followers
May 9, 2008
I know there is something wrong with me because I am recovering from a hard core crush on Alton Brown that lasted several years. Well, they say the first step is admitting you have a problem, but geeky glasses, food, AND science? I have no will power against his panoply of charms. And he even wrote a decent book. Food science at its most fun.
Profile Image for Tessa.
1,849 reviews67 followers
July 3, 2017
I 100% loved this book. I need to buy a copy for reference purposes. I would highly recommend this for anyone who wants to be able to cook without recipes and understand the science behind cooking.
Profile Image for Lillers Deezzz.
11 reviews
June 25, 2021
I’m just here for the food what I often hear my kids say. This book has really helped me after reading it with cooking great healthy nutritious food!!! A couple years ago I found my kids getting fat and unhealthy after finding this great book full of recipes I fell in love and got my kids back on track and all healthy! Highly recommended!!! #momlife#startreadingtoday#readingislife
Profile Image for Barrington Library.
192 reviews1 follower
August 22, 2013
Alton Brown illustrates the science behind cooking so its easy to see why a recipe works. His recipes are always reliable, many of them are staples in my house.

Profile Image for Ariadna73.
1,719 reviews113 followers
November 21, 2015
Interesting and entertaining. The quality of the paper is not the best, but the information contained in the book is valuable, especially the chapters about eggs and microwaving.
2,804 reviews254 followers
March 23, 2018
"Recipes are written to that if you follow them to the letter the dish will succeed."

My biggest complaint about this book is there aren't nearly enough pictures showing us what things are or what the products of the recipes given should look like.

That being said this is my favorite cook book I've picked up so far. Alton Brown focuses on teaching us how to cook - not just read a recipe. By understanding when you use blanching vs. broiling vs. grilling vs. convection you move past going through steps in a recipe hoping it will turn out and start being ale to cook good meals. Brown gives advice on what to do when and how to cook meals to get the flavor and texture that you're looking for. By using the science behind what fat gives you the best crispy outside on a steak or how to bring out the flavors in fish you learn how to cook things to your preference and substitute things in recipes as needed.

There are some great recipes throughout the book (wisely broken down by how you cook it not what's being cooked) and even advice on cleaning and buying spices. It's really a great beginners approach that gives you a great idea of how to approach things in the kitchen.
Profile Image for Michael McCain.
178 reviews
February 26, 2019
I love Alton. This book is a mess.
It's not marketed as a cookbook, so I'm not reviewing it as one (I haven't tried the recipes, either). He says at the beginning that he seeks to give the reader a map to understand food, and with this as the goal, he fails. Explanations of food science are convoluted with non-intuitive examples. The illustrations are terrible. Maybe all the asides work well in the physical book, but in the ebook they are criminally bad, interrupting whatever flow a section might have.
Anyone similarly disappointed should look up the marvelous Cooking for Geeks.
Profile Image for Sam.
22 reviews3 followers
December 28, 2019
I'm a science nerd when it comes to cooking, and Alton Brown is like like a Stephen Hawking for the kitchen! He has a lot of recipes throughout the book, but his explanations of WHY you are doing things like lightly planning a later of oil to the meat and WHY you wait 5 minutes after salting your dish that were the most compelling parts of the book for me. Filled with descriptive illustrations and tips on every page, this book helped shine a light on all the cooking methods and really boosted my confidence in the kitchen!
Profile Image for Bridget.
552 reviews47 followers
May 4, 2017
For those just getting started in cooking, or want to start cooking the right way, this is a great place. He explains the science behind cooking and breaks down the basics for you. There are some good simple recipes in there, and Alton Brown is informative, succinct, and very funny.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Julieanne.
145 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2017
When I discovered that Alton Brown's cookbooks were actually fun and engaging just like his show, it made cooking more fun. Many of the recipes in this book while difficult for a beginner, taste incredibly good. There are also fantastic food facts and cooking hints. It is like reading a massive episode of Good Eats!
Profile Image for Joanne.
567 reviews1 follower
April 7, 2019
This is a great book for cooking geeks and fans of Alton Brown! While not quite the classic Harold McGee cooking chemistry reference, Brown covers the hows and (importantly) the whys of all the main cooking techniques, including roasting, grilling, braising, searing, and (not to omit) microwaving. Fun to read and he includes a few recipes that highlight each technique.
May 30, 2017
I love Alton Brown and this book was great. I expected the recipes to be harder to follow but most was quiet simple. A few of the recipes we did not like at all and I followed the directions to a t. I really wish he would write a kid friendly cookbook.
Profile Image for Paige Fritsche.
39 reviews
July 10, 2017
I have been a fan of Alton Brown's scientific approach to cooking for many years. This book was a great resource to read through different applications of heat to food. I learned more about cooking and have made the Scampi 2.0 a new staple in our home.
Profile Image for Susan LoVerso.
8 reviews
May 7, 2017
Learned so much. I love steaming eggs based on this book. But I'm an AB fangirl.
Profile Image for Shannon.
662 reviews4 followers
June 15, 2017
I love his simple scientific approach to cooking and baking.
Profile Image for Daniel.
125 reviews
March 20, 2018
Nothing like AB's unique mix of science, food anthropology and humor.
1 review1 follower
January 14, 2019
Typical Alton Brown, humor, science and great recipes. Down to earth and a fun read
Profile Image for Andy Plonka.
3,369 reviews14 followers
October 16, 2019
While I gave up cooking in 1998 when my youngest child went off to college, I enjoyed's Browns lighthearted approach to the culinary arts.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 274 reviews

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