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The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  10,923 ratings  ·  389 reviews
Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that's perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac 'n' cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining!)—and use a foolproof method that works every ...more
Hardcover, 960 pages
Published September 21st 2015 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,923 ratings  ·  389 reviews


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Juli Anna
Mar 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: cookbooks
When I brought this book home from the library, I was expecting a Cook’s-Illustrated-style analysis of food science through recipes, perhaps with a little more flavor and panache than those guys seem to be able to manage. On first flipping through the book, I thought I got what I was looking for. The book design is pretty slick, with all kinds of offset colored boxes full of at-home experiments to try and tips about choosing ingredients, etc. The photographs leave a little something to be desire ...more
Katharine
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I find this a difficult book to rate.

Pro: The book contains useful and well-researched information on how to cook different food types, and the author provides supporting evidence for why one should use a given method.

Con: Humor is subjective, and the author's sense of humor apparently differs greatly from my own. To me, his writing style felt strained and forced, like he was insecure that the information about the science of cooking wasn't enough: he needed to tap dance, too. In addition to the
...more
Michelle Amos
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Most of my favorite recipes, the ones I cook again and again, are from J Kenji Lopez-Alt's posts for Serious Eats. I have made some of his recipes upwards of twenty times, and they are always delicious. And when I saw he was publishing a cookbook, I ordered it immediately. I took it on faith that it would be my new favorite cookbook, and even though I've only read the introduction and skimmed the recipes, I'm already in love with The Food Lab. It has useful charts (my favorite so far is the exte ...more
Jude Watson
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am a professional cook who reads/uses a lot of cookbooks, and this is my favorite one.

This book is amazing - full of recipes for staple foods that are impeccably researched with all the reasoning for the details within each recipe explained. I'm literally reading my way through the whole book (not finished yet but I feel like 250 pages in is enough to write a review).

This book is almost as much a textbook as a cookbook, which is how I like it. There are tons of graphics and pictures, in addit
...more
Niki
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
I didn't get to read this cover to cover but I read a fair amount of it and I'm sort of obsessed. As an engineer, this book was written for people like me. People who want to understand what is going on in their pan so they can correct issues or errors or simply figure out how they can substitute something in the future.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has A LOT of information. To me it has been like The Joy of Cooking meets Alton Brown's show Good Eats. A good introduction of the basics
...more
Jonathan
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Most of the science here seems valid, if not all. Can’t say for certain yet. Does rely heavily on meats. ‘Merica!

There are weird quirks like having a page on aioli but not having a recipe for it, and things like that.

The biggest reason for the three stars was the blatant misogyny and general character of the author. To be frank, he comes off as a self centered a**hat. I’m very torn about this book, as I do not want to financially support a man that represents a lot of what is wrong in the restau
...more
TS Chan
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am both a geek and a nerd, and I love understanding the science of all sorts of stuff that interests me. Cooking has always been something that I enjoy on an occasional basis, but with the Covid-19 pandemic placing the entire world in lockdown mode, cooking has become an essential daily activity. I believe that understanding the science of cooking would enable me to break out from just blindly following recipes to being able to improvise as well as being more confident in the kitchen.

I came t
...more
Holly
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Kenji = the best. I have been waiting for this one for *months*. I nearly snitched the copy the publisher had out at the booth at ALA. ok, not seriously, but the thought did cross my mind. ;)
B
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
I read a lot of cookbooks. Like, a lot. Like, I'm getting raised eyebrows from my husband as our floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, which is overcrowded as it is, spills out with dozens of cookbooks. "You have the internet!" he cries. "You don't need these!"

Oh, but I do.

I never give myself "credit" for reading a cookbook because it's cheating. A bulk of the pages are taken up by pictures, ingredients lists, and procedures. It's a textbook of deliciousness, not a novel.

That concept gets thrown out the w
...more
Bryan Alexander
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food
Excellent cookbook. Very detailed yet accessible. Recipes clearly laid out with impressive photo background.
High Plains Library District
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, andrea, food
I am the kind of cook that gets a recipe, and pretty much disregards so much of it by improvisations, substitutions, and approximations, that it really can't be called the same recipe. Most of the time it turns out great, and this is because I'm the kind of person that looks for inspiration, principles, and methods in a recipe rather than instructions. This makes this a fantastic cookbook for me- it discusses recipes and why they work, and seeks to find more efficient, tasty, or fool-proof metho ...more
Maria
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, non-fiction
Confession: I did not read every word of this book. I also returned it to the library without copying recipes. That being said, this is EXTREMELY well done. It's not something I want/need in my very pared down collection of four cookbooks (five if you count the manual that came with my pressure cooker...). I have López-Alt's recipe for pork butt in my notebook of internet recipes. I'll definitely be looking to him for more meat recipes, in particular. I also think I'm going to adopt his noodle-c ...more
Sara
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: how-to, cookbook
I picked up a few new tricks and concepts, so that was cool. I only had to read less than 2/3 of the cookbook since a big portion of the cookbook was meat.

However, I vigorously disliked Lopez-Alt's writing style and verbal tics, especially his repetitive jabs at his wife and his mother. I 100% agree with this review's points about the gender politics around cooking

Glad I checked this one out from the library, since I have no need for this behemoth in my kitchen. I wish he would have made a sepa
...more
Lynne
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book! Everything you ever wanted to know about cooking food and recipes! I read this cover to cover and tried many of the recipes and every one came out fabulous! It makes a wonderful reference book too. I do read his blog and there is some overlap but not enough to deter recommending this book. Every home cook could benefit from reading this!
Joe Soltzberg
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best cook book I’ve ever read. By approaching cooking from a scientific perspective you’ll make progress quicker, understand why certain techniques makes sense (and why some don’t), and eventually develop an intuition for discovering things yourself.

I also highly recommend Kenji’s YouTube channel and articles on SeriousEats
Sarah
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: cookbooks-to-try
Exhaustive book detailing essentially many ways to cook meat. For someone who is so obsessed with scientific evidence, it was rather surprising that he did not include any mention of baking whatsoever. And his sad attempts at stand-up comedy really rubbed me the wrong way.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking, foodie
(Shhh! I got this book for one reason: how to make the best biscuits in the world. I’ve taken down the relevant info and I plan to try this folding idea soon. I’ll get back with you on the result.)
Emily
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
haven’t cooked many recipes from it yet, but I did read it cover to cover! so much great information and (my favorite part!) lots of experimental data of how the recipes were optimized. :)
vonblubba
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm italian, so when it comes to cooking, I'm all about tradition. But I'm also an engineer, so big fan of scientific method too.
In this book, Lopez-Alt does both worlds. He approaches traditional recipes, trying some improvements based on trial-and-error.
An example: if you love cooking, you probably read somewhere that when cleaning fresh mushrooms you should never ever rinse them under running water, because they would absorbe a lot of liquid, like a sponge. But is that true? Lopez-Alt approac
...more
StompnTom
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
By far the best cookbook out there if you want to really learn about how and why your cooks and is the way it is.
A very scientific type approach to cooking.
This is an essential cookbook for every kitchen.
Sara
Jul 11, 2016 added it
I like the "idea" of cooking more than I actually like cooking. Actually, that's not true: I do like cooking, but it has to be on my terms. This means that I like to cook all by myself with no distractions. I like to follow a recipe to the letter, I don't like to experiment, and I'm pretty lazy . . . but I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes when food is ready to eat.

This book is great for looking up justifications. The author uses science and engineering to explain why things work be
...more
Jessica
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, recipe
This is a huge book so I didn't exactly READ the whole thing, but skimmed it and read the parts/recipes that really interested me. To really get all out of this book that you should I think you should own it. Tons of useful, interesting information about how and WHY to cook things a certain way for the optimal results. The author has a great sense of humor as well and made me laugh out loud in parts. A book I wouldn't mind owning.
sves yvonne
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Didn't finish. All the misogyny. Constant "jokes" about his wife and probably all the other women in his life. Didn't really enjoy his humour. Thought the science and explanation of science of food would be more straight forward but his humour fell flat. Was a fan of author from Serious Eats (his recipes turn out really well) but after reading his book... Not much anymore.
Brian
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Marked as read because it is a reference book. I probably won't read it cover to cover (though my wife might) but rather I'll jump around to different points interest. The writing is clear and fun, he adds nice bits of humor throughout.
Dana Kraft
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Lots of interesting food science in here. As a cookbook, it wasn't for me. It's pretty meat-heavy. I tried a few recipes with mixed success. One was excellent, but another (pancakes) was needlessly complicated in my opinion.
Ben
Nov 02, 2015 added it
Wholeheartedly agree with Jeffrey Steingarten, you can't read even ten pages of this book without becoming a better cook.
Belinda
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
4,25 stars - English hardcover -
Enjoyed this book a lot. I remember that mutch. Unfortounatly I borowed it to someone and gone was the cook book.
Jennifer Whiteside
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best cookbook I've ever owned. I actually read it from front to back. I highly recommend anything from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt - the man knows his cooking. And explains it.
Robin
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I haven't fully read the whole book since that's not really how I think you're suppose to read it.

But just from reading the first 100 pages and I probably learned more about cooking in this book than I have in my whole life. It is also the first real cooking book I've started to read and because science is used for every explanation it really makes you understand why things are.

The book is very thorough with recipes and pictures on how to chop/cut/etc everything.
While there is plenty in the boo
...more
Tasnim
Feb 23, 2020 added it
I've wanted this cookbook for years, but now that I've finally gotten it, I guess I've changed? The cookbook is too meat centric and I'm not in love with the anecdotes. They come off a little too "look at me, i'm a nerd🤓" and I guess it's kinda off putting bc I personally hate the whole distancing that comes with being a self-proclaimed nerd. Whatever, maybe that's just my baggage.
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J. Kenji López-Alt is the managing culinary director of SeriousEats.com, author of the James Beard Award–nominated column The Food Lab, and a columnist for Cooking Light. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Adriana.

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