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What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

(What Einstein Told His Cook #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,545 ratings  ·  412 reviews
Do you wish you understood the science of foods, but don't want to plow through dry technical books? What Einstein Told His Cook is like having a scientist at your side to answer your questions in plain, nontechnical terms. Chemistry professor and syndicated Washington Post food columnist Robert L. Wolke provides over 100 reliable and witty explanations, while debunking mi ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2002)
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3.85  · 
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 ·  3,545 ratings  ·  412 reviews

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Better Eggs
Confession: this was a free dl and I only clicked on it because I misread it as "What Einstein told his Cock".

It's quite interesting though. I now know why tea made from microwaved water doesn't taste as good as water boiled in a kettle. It has quite a bit to do with nucleation sites. I understand what a nucleation site does (it gets molecules excited and they jump around when hot and boil over or am I still thinking of cocks here?) but I don't understand how they suddenly arise when they weren'
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of David Sedaris

Q: What book do you remember from your childhood as irritating?

When I was somewhere around seven years old, I was given Charlie Brown's Super Book of Questions and Answers about All Kinds of Animals ... from Snails to People!: Based on the Charles M. Schulz Characters.

Although I’ve never been a question-and-answer type of reader (the questions asked never seemed to be the ones I wanted to know more about), I eventually came to enjoy the book for its information bites and colorful pictures of f
Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it
More superficial and less relevant *to me* than I'd hoped. 1In a way, it's a lot like a lot of similar 'debunking pseudo-science' books I frequently read, including, just this week, the latest from Dr. Joe Schwarz. Sometimes the light tone is just right, sometimes Wolke strains for humor and doesn't reach it. It's always clear and easy to read though.

I did use a lot of book darts to mark bits of note, so let's see what they point to:

A recipe for 'White Chocolate' Bars. Of course, white chocolate
HOLY FREAKING COW I LOVE THIS BOOK! This book took me about two months to read. Why? The reason it took so long to read is that each page or two has some interesting/truthful fact about cooking. I couldn't just read it in one setting. I would turn to the table of contents, scan a topic I was interested in at that very moment, then turn to the page, and read it. Each subject or fact was so fascinating and useful in my love for cooking, and wondering why certain things do certain things in the kit ...more
❂ Jennifer
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. This one is an interesting, engaging and unique combination of reference, cookbook and almost an FAQ. I can definitely see myself coming back to this one again and again over time, and there are at least two recipes in here I'm eager to try (thank you to the author for including recipes that include a lot of egg-whites!).

Full review:
Tali Autovino
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I do believe I was hungry at the time of my choosing, because I picked What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained. I loved everything about this book except for that it ruined my appetite for various processed foods (not entirely a bad thing), however it was interesting to read about.

The author, Robert L. Wolke, is a chemistry professor who happens to take an interest in the molecular structures and production of foods, beverages, etc. He conducts experiments in his “laboratory,” als
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Strictly speaking, What Einstein Told His Cook is more of a reference book than anything else. Wolke divides the book into sections like "Sweet Talk" (all about sugar) and "Salt of the Earth" and goes on to answer common questions about the topic at large. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I'm all about a good food book. And this is one, so even though I probably should have used it as a reference, I read it like a novel, from cover to cover. It was entertaining, and I le ...more
Jan 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Although the author sounds like a bit of a pretentious douchbag once or twice, I enjoyed this book a lot. It's divided into very short sections, so it's great for the bathroom or very quick spurts. (Oh, no pun intended, yet I leave that in.) It's also nice as a second book by the bedside. For example, while I was trying to read "The Rest is Noise," which taxed my attention and brain too much, I would end the night with a few pages of this much lighter book.

It wasn't anything earth-shattering, b
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Robert writes in such a lite and fun way. He's able to explain the chemistry of things that go on in the kitchen in a fun and relatable way. Made me laugh a few times and reminded me of the reasons as to why I love science. You may have heard of what you should and shouldn't do in the kitchen, or that you should avoid certain foods, but these critics don't seem to have a plausible reason as to why they should avoid or use alternative methods and foods. This book takes away the b ...more
AJ McEvoy
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Not much to say, except that this is a fascinating, fabulous fusion of science & cooking. All the basics of cooking are much easier to remember if one understands the reasons behind standard kitchen techniques.
Menglong Youk
2.5/5 stars

I picked up this book hoping to learn more about chemistry and physics in the kitchen, but it doesn't really give me what I want. Mind you, it is not a bad book, but I do not want to know how to cook; I just wanted to know the interesting sciences behind it, but there seems to be not many of them in here.
Christopher Gallaga
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I know a lot of culinary people loved and respected this book. While I found a handful of interesting new facts, and at least one startling reframing (electricity is transmitted fire) I found much of the tone the author takes to be petulant and juvenile. More often than not I put the book aside disappointed, either in the banalities of the information or the poor delivery.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, food
Though it has lots of interesting information about cooking and food/kitchen science in general, the constant bad jokes, overly simplistic "tech speak" without more real context, and the inclusion of questions that were (at least in my opinion) so narrow as to be irrelevant and/or banal took away a couple stars.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it did not like it

The book What Einstein Told His Cook Kitchen Science Explained the author Robert L. Wolke talks about a lot of things from the differences of sugar to the tools that are used in the kitchen. The author investigates things from questions that people have about cooking, and certain things used around the kitchen, he talks about the science people don’t really know about. For example, one of the questions was, “To sweeten my iced tea quickly, I added powdered sugar. But it turned into gummy lumps.
Apr 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, cooking
This book is interesting and well written, quite a page turner actually.

However, the structure of the work is to answer questions on various topics. For example, I read the Salt of the Earth Chapter, which features answers to questions such as:
- What are all those special salts and meat tenderizers in the supermarket?
- What are salt substitutes?
- Why add salt to the water when boiling pasta?
- Whats so special about sea salt? Kosher salt? Freshly ground salt?
- Can a potato remove the excess s
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up-reading
If I wasn't a food engineer, and knew nothing about (food) chemistry, I'd probably enjoy the book, but I couldn't stand to read more than a chapter - not only because of impatience with the lack of new information, but mainly because of technical errors, such as when the author explaif I wasn't a food engineer, and knew nothing about (food) chemistry, I'd probably enjoy the book, but I couldn't stand to read more a chapter - not only because of impatience with the lack of new information, but ma ...more
Kater Cheek
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I think I must have read this book years and years ago and forgot to write a review, which tricked me into thinking I hadn't read it. It's a book about kitchen science. It's good reading for anyone who loves chemistry and cooking, and it's good fodder if you're the type of person who likes to argue with that annoying person in your life who picks up dieting advice from the media that flies in the face of common sense.
Wolke doesn't just explain what happens when you freeze an egg, or describe wh
Jan 07, 2009 marked it as to-read
Mr. Wolke, a chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh, presents his topics in sort of a question / answer format. The articles themselves are short – easily consumed in one sitting (if you catch my drift) – but are topically consolidated into larger and more complete chapters. Wolke answers the posed questions in a very thorough and straightforward manner. He describes his topic in layman's terms, including scientific terminology in “techspeak” notes. For example:
“The most common use
Aug 09, 2015 rated it liked it
The author tries to answers questions about cooking, myths in the kitchen, chemistry of foods, misleading labels, the Zero calories, etc... and breaks it down through experiments and lots of chemistry & scientific information. A good book in general. I learned a bit & refreshed up on some other things. I gave this a 3 star because a lot of the information I already knew based on my history of reading, loving science, and taking advanced chemistry classes/college etc... but if you don't r ...more
Audrey W
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ever since the beginning of time, humans have been cooking and preserving food, and many of those techniques are still used today. In the book What Einstein Told his Cook by Robert L. Wolke, many of these methods are explained and debates about these methods are proved with experiments Wolke performs. When Wolke is not writing books, he is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh or writing food columns for the Washington Post. This book is divided into nine chapters, that explains the scienc ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Food columnist Robert Wolke puts forth this combination of questions he's fielded over the years about kitchen science. They're conveniently organized by common subject (all the microwave related questions together, all the alcohol questions together, etc.). Interesting book, if you care for knowing why certain things happen with your food or have always wondered just what the difference is between baking power and baking soda.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, nonfiction, science
This will appeal to exactly the sort of person who loves Good Eats. Of course, if you're a faithful viewer of Good Eats, Alton Brown has already explained much of what is in this book to you already. But there's always more to learn, and there is indeed plenty in here that AB hasn't covered yet. And Wolke's tone is very similar to AB's tone on Good Eats. I mean all these comparisons as the absolute highest of praise, of course.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting information on food and cooking and the science thereof. Not a quick read (no real plot tends to have that effect) but a decent one, with things broken up by topic and question. I now understand how microwaves work and a little more about carbonated beverages (which are a large part of my diet).
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Q&A format and entertaining prose make this book great! For those into nutrition and food chemistry, some sections will be a review. But if you're a beginning cook, interested in science in the kitchen, or find yourself wondering about things like, "Why does vanilla extract smell so good and make food taste so good, yet taste so awful from the bottle?" - then this book is for you!
Amjad Al Taleb
Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pop-science
Not very clear from the title... this is a science book :D
Honestly I thought I will learn how to cook in a scientific way, but this book went much deeper into the science behind what takes place in that part of our houses. I recommend this to anyone, even those who are not at all interested in cooking but would be intrigued to learn some everyday basic science.
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: preparing-food
I'm considering buying a copy of this to keep around for reference, because it explains so many common kitchen questions. I read it cover-to-cover like a novel, though, because that's what it felt like it was trying to be. A decent straddling of those two genres, but only great as the former.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
If you've cooked for a decade or more, especially if yòùre in habit of reading cookbooks, you likeły know mòst of thîs. While well expłained, The science is largely high-schooł level. Did nòt enjòy "witty„ style. Best parts fòr me: microwave ovens, añd fòod irradiation.
Jason Gehring
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
while i learned most of this information in culinary school, this book was a nice refresher course, and offered some more in-depth knowledge about the chemistry behind cooking.
an excellent book written in a simplified, yet intelligent, and sometimes hilarious way.
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great book! It does an outstanding job of debunking a lot of food myths by giving a solid foundation of food science.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
LOVE this book. It explains kitchen science really well, recipes are great, and the humor just adds to it all (in a good way). Can't wait to read What Einstein Told His Cook 2!
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Robert L. Wolke is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and a food columnist for The Washington Post. As an educator and lecturer, he enjoys a national reputation for his ability to make science understandable and enjoyable.
He is the author of Impact: Science on Society and Chemistry Explained, as well as dozens of scientific research papers. His latest book, the fourth

Other books in the series

What Einstein Told His Cook (2 books)
  • What Einstein Told His Cook 2: The Sequel: Further Adventures in Kitchen Science
“When the combined taste, smell, and textural stimuli reach the brain, they remain to be interpreted. Whether the overall sensation will be pleasant, repulsive, or somewhere in between will depend on individual physiological differences, on previous experience (“just like my mother used to make”), and on cultural habituation (haggis, anyone?).” 0 likes
“As a matter of fact, with heating, you can coax more than two pounds (5 cups!) of sugar to dissolve in a single cup of water.” 0 likes
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