Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” as Want to Read:
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (The Science and Lore of the Kitchen #1)

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  11,588 Ratings  ·  443 Reviews

On Food and Cooking is a unique blend of culinary lore and scientific explanation that examines food -- its history, its make-up, and its behavior when we cook it, cool it, dice it, age it, or otherwise prepare it for eating. Generously spiced with historical and literary anecdote, it covers all the major food categories, from meat and potatoes to sauce béarnaise and cham

...more
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 684 pages
Published November 16th 1984 by Scribner (first published 1984)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On Food and Cooking, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Lior Aviram Wikipedia says:
"It is published by Hodder & Stoughton in Britain under the title McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science,…more
Wikipedia says:
"It is published by Hodder & Stoughton in Britain under the title McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture."
But I'd like to know if there are any content differences.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Elizabeth
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cooks, Chefs, the scientifically minded, and programmers for Personal Chef Robots of the future.
This book is endlessly fascinating. Interesting tidbits McGee's has taught me: raw pineapple will curdle milk, but cooked pineapple will not. Some of our fellow humans will be repulsed by cheese because of an instinctual reaction to fermented foods. See? Fascinating!

McGee's contains necessary information that you can not get from a recipe on practically every dish and ingredient known to man. This is the kind of book that will sit next to the stove, dog-eared and grease-spattered, eternally usef
...more
Cynthia
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies, lovers of trivia, history buffs
Before there was Alton Brown, there was Harold McGee. This is a smart, dazzling, fabulously eclectic collection of information about what we eat. From Plato’s views on cooking to electron micrographs of cheese to a description of how eggs form in a chicken’s body to the history of beer and chocolate, this book offers an intoxicating wealth of food information, trivia, and science. Did you know that the cell walls of mushrooms aren’t made up of cellulose, like plants, but rather of chitin, the ca ...more
David
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mathematicians, scientists
Once upon a time, I was expressing my frustration with books on cooking to a chemist friend -- primarily that most books on cooking treat cooking as this magical art. They presume lots of knowledge on the part of the reader and they give directions that theoretically make the food what it's supposed to be, rarely explaining WHY you want to cook this meat at temperature x or mince this thing instead of slice, or whatever. I wanted something that answered a bit more of the Why?

This friend suggeste
...more
John Burke
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in how food works
This is an invaluable resource when your kids ask "does THIS cheese have mold in it" or "why does it all stick together if you cook it too long" or when you want to know what makes espresso different from coffee. Is is not about cooking, but about why and how cooking works, about where the flavor is in the spices and why the tomato ripens, what makes a sauce a sauce instead of gravy or soup, and what nougat really is. The style is accessible but unafraid of chemistry. A wonderful companion to th ...more
Hirondelle
Dec 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, science
I think I am going to be currently reading this for a very very long time. Its 800 pages, small print, massive index (essential) and bibliography. Human imagination and cultural complexity regarding food being as it is, not even 800 pages will be enough, so I dont think it has EVERYTHING on food but it does have practically everything of the most common kind, in a wide global way.

First thing - this is not a recipe book and it is a pretty serious book. You can use it as dictionary, using the ver
...more
Matthew Iden
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who eat
Recommended to Matthew by: Found it on a library shelf
On Food and Cooking is one of those few books that I can drop on a table, let it fall open to any page, and read for the next hour.

As I said to someone once: you may not cook, but you probably eat. If so, this book should keep you entranced. Nearly anything you might want to know about the history, etymology, and process of gastronomy is covered in this volume, but even that is too dry a description to really explain how fun it is.

Want to know why there are so many Sugar Loaf mountains around
...more
Nick Black
Apr 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: new yorker
At $25, it's rather more palatable (pun intended!) than Modernist Cuisine's $675, and was referenced in the same New Yorker article. According to GnuCash, I spent more money last year on cigarettes than groceries; changing that seems a noble enough objective. I'll likely start by stocking pepper.

btw, wenger, i dig your taking up of my "*-acquire*" bookshelf semantics!
^
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cooks and the curious
Shelves: y-1981-1990
The 2nd edition. Concentrated knowledge; yet NOT written in impenetrable ‘academicalese.’ McGee's ability to amass, sort, analyse, and order an enormous amount of relevant information is awesomely impressive. He makes the average PhD. thesis look sheepish.

This is definitely a reference book to be laid open on a table and lovingly dipped into by an enquiring mind. Not held open in the hands: too heavy. However, I’ll keep my (much smaller) copy of the 1st edition, because I want to follow how McGe
...more
Lisa Hawkins
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It would be a stretch to say that I am a cook or a 'foodie', but I imagine that every culinary master in America must own this book.

This is NOT a cookbook -- it's a guide to food, a dynamic explanation about where your food comes from, the science behind how it cooks/blends/rises and how preparation techniques impact taste.

It's a book that is hard to peg, and not one that you'll read cover-to-cover in one sitting. The writing is succinct but not tedious to follow, and every chapter packs in a s
...more
Scott Erickson
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly epic book. It covers food from every relevant angle: gastronomically, biologically, chemically, historically, culturally. It's exhaustive and, as a result, can be exhausting sometimes. It took a month of fairly regular reading to finish, and I skipped some parts. But if you read this book from cover to cover, you probably should skip some of it, too. It covers so many aspects of nourishment that while you're basically guaranteed to find parts that are interesting or intriguing to ...more
pinknantucket
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK so I didn't read absolutely every word of this book, but it's over 800 pages and I reckon I read more than enough of them to equal a decently long novel. I'm actually reading it for my thesis, what with McGee being a pre-eminent food scientist and all, and it's so much more pleasurable to read than your average science textbook. Describing the science behind food - why does bread rise? Why should you start stocks with cold water? - McGee takes you not only through the science but also into so ...more
Diana
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very comprehensive book for the average person who is really into food. It goes into the historical and scientific background of various foods. The writing style is easy to follow, so there's no getting lost with this book!

I found the author's writing style to be a little too flowery, but it may just be that I am not enough of a food connoisseur to understand some of his descriptions. For example, he describes buffalo milk as being barnyardy and reminiscent of mushrooms and freshly-cut grass. Th
...more
Vicky
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I ruined cream sauce by cooking it at a too hot temperature (so that instead of thickening, the cream just broke down into water and oil), I thought I needed to know a little more about exactly what was going on when I cooked. I asked my brother (scientist and cook) to get me something like that for my birthday, and he sent this book. Lots of interesting information for cooking geeks. I am not sure yet if it has improved my cooking, but it's still fun to read. Most interesting to me: the se ...more
Greymalkin
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, cookbook
Such a fun and interesting book. As a foodie and a scientist I appreciate his approach to cooking and food. I also love the sense of joyful curiosity that suffuses the book. I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Harold McGee and he is still just as charming and enthusiastic as he seems in the book. He had so many interesting facts to impart that I wished the talk was three times as long. I'd love to sit down and chat with him.
Monica Lauer
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a total food nerd, this book was heaven for me. I am curious about the chemistry, preparation and anthropology of food and McGee has all of those bases covered. If you cannot handle information purveyed to you in a dry, textbook-like manner this is not the book for you. However if you want to know everything there is to know about eggs, milk, herbs, veggies, meat and more and why they all work together so well (or don't) you definitely need to pick this one up!
Elizabeth Theiss
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Who knew that food science could keep you up late at night? This is a can't-put-it-down explanation of how cooking, pickling,preserving, fluffing, rising, kneading and all manner of other cooking techniques work. I return to McGee's explanations again and again. I am a better cook and a more appreciative eater as a result. Bravo Mr. McGee!
Eva Gogola
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
This book is a MUST for the kitchen. I was never one for math, chemistry or any sort of science until I started cooking. This book is a great resource and packed tight with incredibly interesting food knowledge.
John Croutch
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you love cooking and want to know the minutiae of the science behind cooking, then this book is for you.
Esteban Siravegna
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great reading about a lot of facts on cooking, or debunking a lot of urban legends such as 'sealing' the meat in order to preserve tenderness.
Claudia
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course i did not read it all, used it selectively as reference.
Rod Greener
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious foodies, chefs,
Recommended to Rod by: Le Cordon Bleu culinary school
The finest book on food science and food history on the market!

I will never actually be done reading as I go back to it all the time.
_topo_
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
tutto ma proprio tutto quello che si vuole sapere sul cibo, dal punto di vista storico, gastronomico, biologico...
Jason
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For lovers of Cooks Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen. This the best of materialist explorations of food preparation. McGee gets into the foundational molecular details and interactions of ingredients and explores basic components like sauces and dough. This is not fussy though - it's imminently readable, and he covers both technique and historical trends. I've been reading straight through, but I'm glad it's in the library, so I can re-read as I delve into new cooking practices.
Owen
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read! Very interesting and informative while balancing readability. Does a great job of incorporating science, food history, and use. I wish they would publish updates regularly but the topic is so broad that it's probably a mammoth task. I am typically a fiction reader and have been able to work my way through this which is unusual for me.
Maximum Peaches
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone curious for a systematic, well-researched survey of cooking methods
I learned a lot from On Food and Cooking. I've been buying frozen vegetables for a while and reheating them in the microwave in a bowl. I learned the microwave only heats food down to about an inch and that heating vegetables can destroy vitamins in them. Now I'll spread the vegetables on a plate about an inch deep so they don't get overcooked. It teaches the common ways of cooking and I found out why the meat I'd been cooking was coming out tasting dry. It covers the healthiness of foods but fo ...more
Thu Hoài
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This could be on my reading list at any time, as it filled with an enormous amount of information on food chemistry and cooking. Embark on a delicious journey with McGee and dive in any chapter of your interest.
Jason Lowry
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great reference book on gastronomy and the history of food in general. Once you open this book it is really hard to put down.
Danie Sharpe
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read for food geeks.
Rodrigo Duarte
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gastronomía
Un imperativo para los cocineros con inclinación científica.
Felix Pütsch
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anything you ever wanted to know about food, ingredients and cooking. Actually *more* than you ever wanted to know. This book is a treasure trove of knowledge on anything food, covering vocabulary, chemistry, processes, and culture.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Meo lam tom hum sot me chua cay sieu ngon 1 1 Oct 20, 2016 12:54AM  
Cong thuc lam pho tron duoi bo ngon dung chuan 1 1 Oct 19, 2016 02:40AM  
cooking food 1 1 Oct 19, 2016 02:35AM  
  • Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor
  • CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed
  • The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen
  • Culinary Artistry
  • What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained
  • Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food
  • Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
  • The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy
  • The Food Lover's Companion (Barron's Cooking Guide)
  • Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques: Featuring More Than 1,000 Cooking Methods and Recipes,  in Thousands of  Step-by-Step Photographs
  • The River Cottage Meat Book
  • The Escoffier Cookbook: And Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery for Connoisseurs, Chefs, Epicures
  • Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
  • The Professional Chef
  • How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science
  • The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
  • Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia
  • Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work
58484
Harold James McGee is an American author who writes about the chemistry and history of food science and cooking. He is best known for his seminal book On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen initially published in 1984 and revised in 2004.

McGee is a visiting scholar at Harvard University. His book On Food and Cooking has won numerous awards and is used widely in food science cours
...more
More about Harold McGee...

Other Books in the Series

The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (2 books)
  • The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore

Nonfiction Deals

  • Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Long Tail: Why the Future Is Selling Less of More
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Funny In Farsi: A Memoir Of Growing Up Iranian In America
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
    $8.49 $1.99
  • Bad Boy
    $7.74 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
    $4.99 $1.99
  • All Over But the Shoutin'
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change
    $13.99 $1.99
  • WEIRD: Because Normal Isn't Working
    $6.99 $2.99
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness
    $5.99 $0.99
“Salsify” 1 likes
“Fish are an endless source of meditation and astonishment. The varied forms of these strange creatures, their diverse means of existence, the influence upon this of the places in which they must live and breathe and move about….” 0 likes
More quotes…