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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

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A visionary new master class in cooking that distills decades of professional experience into just four simple elements, from the woman declared “America’s next great cooking teacher” by Alice Waters.

In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything comes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat has taught everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan to cook using her revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy. Master the use of just four elements—Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food—and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.

Echoing Samin’s own journey from culinary novice to award-winning chef, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat immediately bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone. Refer to the canon of 100 essential recipes—and dozens of variations—to put the lessons into practice and make bright, balanced vinaigrettes, perfectly caramelized roast vegetables, tender braised meats, and light, flaky pastry doughs.

Featuring 150 illustrations and infographics that reveal an atlas to the world of flavor by renowned illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will be your compass in the kitchen. Destined to be a classic, it just might be the last cookbook you’ll ever need.

With a foreword by Michael Pollan.

480 pages, Hardcover

First published April 25, 2017

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Samin Nosrat

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,625 reviews
42 reviews5 followers
March 22, 2021
I can't remember ever being so disappointed in a cookbook. The hype was HUGE!
First off, I should say that there is a massive gap between home cooking and cheffing, and I am a home cook with a home cook's preoccupations: put healthy food on the table, 3 X's a day, with variety, an eye to seasonality and what's on sale at the grocery store, using as few pots as possible, wasting as little as possible. I don't often have dinner parties. I'm not looking to WOW every meal, but I want every meal to be nice, well cooked, and healthful, and I don't want to kick my own ass in the process. We don't eat a lot of processed food and we seldom eat or order out and I'm always looking for ideas that are fresh and easy and tasty. I may be an outlier. I may be a market of one.
Chefs approach things differently: all knife skills and an assumption of an industrial oven, unlimited pantry, and dishes that just disappear after dinner. It's why I prefer Nigella or the Smitten Kitchen recipes over, say, Anthony Bourdain (RIP) or any of those guys on the food network. They're chefs. Their concerns are not my concerns. Their reality is not my reality.
I appreciate this book and what it's trying to do, but I feel like it fails every audience except aspiring chefs and maybe the odd person who really wants to wow at Thanksgiving but otherwise doesn't cook.
Samin Nosrat, newsflash, WORKED AT CHEZ PANISSE which she manages to work into a paragraph once every two pages. It's the "One time... at band camp..." of this book. And I'm sure that was a wonderful preparation but almost every chef who comes out of that restaurant writes a book which is entirely blind to the needs of cooks who don't live in America's breadbasket, with farmer's markets stuffed with glorious produce. Most of them write what I consider kind of porny-aspirational cooking books that your aunt gives you for Christmas and you browse through and delude yourself that you are going to gather all the ingredients for a first-rate roast goose with beet salad served over organic blood oranges and fresh greens all garnered from the farmers market, but you never do, and the book sits on you shelf and signals to your friends that you have taste.
This book IS more informative than the normal Chez P fare. It wasn't anything I didn't know- the ground has been trod by Harold McGee, Shirley Corriher and Alton Brown to name a few- but if you don't know how to properly salt things, or how various fats interact with flour, or how to buy olive oil, this book will be a good and accessible reference for you, and will probably immeasurably improve your cooking. I found it had blind spots, though, even in this category. She goes on about lean vs. fatty, tender vs. tough cuts of meat, and I know from my own experience trying to teach myself to cook that the novice cook, (defined here as one who doesn't know how to properly salt the water for pasta) doesn't know a pork loin from a pork shoulder and that a guide to which cuts of meat are fatty, lean, tough and tender is essential. It's a weird blind spot in this book.
I was irritated again and again by the cheffiness.
"Next time you roast a duck try..." I'm sorry next time I roast a duck? Like that's a thing?
Or my favorite,
"That night, I halved the apricots, removed the pits, and stuffed each half with a filling made of almond paste, almonds, and the little Italian cookies called amaretti. Then I placed the apricots on a piece of parchment paper, drizzled them with a few drops of dessert wine, sprinkled them with sugar, and wrapped up the cartocci. I baked the parchment packages in the blazing-hot oven for about 10 minutes, until they puffed up with steam, and then rushed them to the table with bowls of whipped crème fraîche. After a refined multicourse dinner, the simple pleasure of tearing open the packets, smelling the apricots’ heady perfume, and tasting their balanced sweet-tart flavor delighted our guests to no end. Even now, years later, when I bump into folks who were guests at that meal, they dreamily reminisce about the apricot cartoccio. I never cease to be amazed at how good a simple preparation can be."
A simple preparation.
A simple preparation.
In my little hausfrau mind, this isn't simple. To recreate this I somehow have to chase down almond paste, amaretti from wherever the fuck, apricots that aren't hard as rocks or fruit-fly ridden, (I live in Alaska, this is impossible) creme fraiche for ONE MEAL, and then have a bottle of dessert wine on hand even though neither my husband nor I particularly like dessert wine. This isn't simple to anyone who isn't in a commercial kitchen in San Francisco. Yeah, popping it in the oven wrapped up- no probs. Everything else a logistical nightmare.
She admits that she struggled a bit when she started cooking at home and had to deal with a real range, in the book. I also heard her interviewed on The Splendid Table where she admitted that she couldn't keep up with cooking every meal for herself. And that's for herself- I don't know about you but when I'm cooking for myself I am the least picky eater ever. A can of beans with tuna on top? Sure. She's not even cooking for two and she's struggling. All of her examples are dinner parties or anecdotes from restaurants. She also mentions her grandmother a lot, who would spend literally all day in the kitchen making elaborate, multi-course Persian meals for her large Persian family, because that was essentially her job. So between those forces which shaped the author as a chef, there's no, what to do when you're alone in the kitchen with an eggplant. Her recipes assume that this is event cooking, because indeed, I don't think she knows how to cook when it's not an event.
Towards the end she gives advice about par-cooking in advance and heating up when you're about to serve which is SOOOO CHEFY.
"This is exactly the kind of thinking restaurant cooks employ to cut down on the time it takes to prepare a dish to order without compromising quality."
Great advice for Thanksgiving, great advice for a dinner party, great advice for someone starting a catering company.
Terrible advice for someone who just wants to learn some tricks to make delicious meals easily, without spending her life in the kitchen.
She's profligate with pans- If your sauce isn't reducing fast enough just split it among three pans!!! Smiley face! Problem solved until you're crying over the dishes later. And she's profligate with energy. To get a proper sear, merely heat your pan for 20 minutes at 500 degrees. No big. The owner's paying the gas bill, right?
Oh wait, you're the owner, the dishwasher, the purveyor AND the cook?
This book doesn't have much to offer.
Except some wicked Thanksgiving recipes.
Profile Image for Chessa.
720 reviews58 followers
April 4, 2017
Full review at Leveled Up Reading

I love a good cookbook, but Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat goes beyond the normal boundaries of the genre. I would almost say that this book is like the kosher salt in your kitchen - it's going to enhance alllll the other recipes and cookbooks in your life. Personally, I have more confidence in my cooking than before reading this book, AND my food is more delicious. I couldn't' really ask for anything more!
Profile Image for C.
437 reviews19 followers
July 23, 2017
This book is flat-out genius and more than deserves all the praise it received. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is far from a normal cookbook: Nosrat uses approachable, funny prose and helpful drawings to explain the basics of cooking and baking by considering the elements of salt, fat, acid, and heat. In this way the book really teaches you how to cook everything, not just the recipes clustered at the book's conclusion. This is a cookbook you actually READ vs flipping through a litany of recipes before giving up. I can't overemphasize how enjoyable I found this book.
Profile Image for Bonny.
749 reviews26 followers
November 16, 2019
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat does offer an interesting way to think about the preparation of food, but I didn't find it “indispensable” or one that I “can't imagine living without” as Michael Pollan writes in the foreword. Author Samin Nosrat tells us that “there are only four basic factors that determine how good your food will taste: salt, which enhances flavor; fat, which amplifies flavor and makes appealing textures possible; acid, which brightens and balances; and heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food.” Those four are important and she conveys valuable information about how to use each of these to make better food. I wondered where sugar fit into this and why she left it out of the basic four. She does talk about sugar in each section, but mainly to say that salt will mask bitterness more effectively than sugar, and sugar is a good balance for acid. This first section is written in a chatty tone, telling the reader about the mistakes she made along the way along with things she did that worked. It is a little intimidating to the average reader/cook to read about Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, but Nosrat's writing conveys her passion without being overbearing.

The second section has recipes, and while most of them sounded like they would be good, I didn't find any that I felt I simply had to make. The author might have a gift for making things far more complicated than I want to be in the kitchen. She has a recipe for Torn Croutons that have only bread and olive oil as ingredients but goes on for four pages to obtain “even, yet rustic-looking” croutons. The Summer Tomato and Herb Salad lists tomatoes, salt, vinaigrette, and herbs for ingredients, and then continues for five pages of instructions. I think many of us have probably made this deliciously without a recipe at all. Chicken Pot Pie takes up seven pages and includes the sentence “Nestle the browned chicken into the vegetables.” (Nestle just made me laugh!)

Making good food is both a science and an art, and something I enjoy trying to do most times I prepare food. For me, that also includes simplifying things when possible. I think Samin Nosrat is an exceptional cook who makes exceptional food, but I don't think that her methods (and urging cooks to season cooking water with “palmfuls of salt”) will become indispensable in my kitchen.

Book Bingo 2017 - About food
Profile Image for Ariel ✨.
133 reviews75 followers
March 8, 2018
If you order takeout for every meal or have a personal chef, feel free to ignore this book. Everyone else on the planet, do yourselves a favor and read her first four chapters! I consider myself a decent cook for an untrained young adult with mediocre cookware, but Samin Nosrat blew my mind with her simple and honest tips and lessons. Apparently, I've been using the wrong salt this whole time, bottled lime juice is the devil, you don't melt the butter for baked goods!!!, and acid is way underutilized in all of my dishes.

I will say that Nosrat's class privilege peeks through many times throughout the book. "Skip culinary school; spend a fraction of the cost of tuition traveling the world instead!" Okay, Samin...that's not realistic advice for most of us. It was nice to read about how she worked her way up from a busser at a fancy restaurant to where she is now, but as with most people who are immersed in the gourmet food world, some of her advice was out of touch with the audience I think she was hoping to reach.

There's a lot of advice about cooking with meat and dairy, but vegetarians and vegans will also find this book useful. She covers non-dairy fats and writes at length about how different vegetables and non-meat proteins should be seasoned and cooked.

I tweeted at her and asked if the beautifully illustrated charts throughout the book would ever be available for purchase, and she told me she was working on making that happen! I'm going to buy them all and hang them in my kitchen.

Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
December 15, 2017
I was frustrated by this book. But it was also fantastic.

Why it's good: It's just an excellent explanation for cooking and a great way to view the whole enterprise. I love cooking and am pretty decent at making the stuff I like, but there was a lot in here that you get intuitively as a cook that is nice to see explained and spelled out. Like the acid part. I already love salt and I have intuitively used acid (lemon and vinegar) in most of my foods, but it was great to understand why.

The frustrating: Some it was very obvious and other parts were too complex without recipes (for example when she talks about bread dough, breads, and emulsion.

My main beef with the book is that it's all about Alice Waters and what she likes. I already know about Alice Waters and frankly, didn't want to read another book about her. I was MUCH MUCH more interested to hear about Nosrat's grandparents and family in Iran and how they work salt, acid, fat, and heat in their food--developed over thousands of years. Or Indian or Italian. She gives hints about her family's cuisine, but keeps coming back to what Alice said and does. But Alice did not invent the tricks of cooking. I would bet her grandmother could teach her a lot more about the subtleties of flavor. I know because I have a grandma just like hers.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
636 reviews42 followers
June 7, 2017
I bought this after seeing her at an author talk. She's INCREDIBLY fun and lively and the book is wonderfully illustrated. She brings a lot of cooking experience, humor, and scientific knowledge to her explanation of how an understanding of the four basics of salt, fat, acid and heat can enable you to cook pretty much anything in the kitchen.
Perversely, what I found was that this book actually made me feel more intimidated about cooking, not less, despite her funny stories about real-life kitchen mistakes and her reminders that, e.g., it's just stew, if it doesn't work this time you can try it again. I got her basic message that you need to understand the four tools and then you can improvise. But there was a sort of subtext about "I made this polenta following the recipe at Chez Panisse and the gifted professional chef tasted it and made an adjustment I never would have expected, and as a result the dish went from bland to fantastic." I cook a lot and am basically happy if everything looks nice and is basically tasty. After reading this, I started to feel like every dish in a meal has to be ... perfected, and at a higher level of flavor than I am probably currently achieving. So ... a good cookbook, maybe best of all for a younger cook who can absorb the information without having a crisis of confidence. Lively, funny, informative but ... ultimately not the best cookbook, for me, that I've read this year. The recipes that make up the second half of the book are fine and appealing but, again, nothing that made me flag the page and think, "Wow, can't wait to try this one!"
Profile Image for Kaytee Cobb.
1,852 reviews364 followers
December 15, 2019
Never have I ever: sat on the couch andnread every single page of a cookbook from cover to cover. Nope, drink. Because now I have and my life and my kitchen will be forget changed. Freaking fantastic. 5 tasty (salty, fatty, acidic, perfectly heated) stars.
Profile Image for Juli Anna.
2,455 reviews
October 25, 2017
I do not purchase cookbooks lightly, but I will be seeking out a copy of this one. I will also be enthusiastically recommending this book to everyone I know with a kitchen and tastebuds. This is the rare cookbook that transcends boundaries of cooking experience, background, and personal taste preferences. I would just as easily recommend this book to a picky eater who's just starting out cooking as to a voracious and kitchen-experienced foodie.

Nosrat has created a solid system for teaching people how to really taste their food and use four simple elements to balance flavors and textures. While she gives solid scientific reasons for the lessons in this book, she is not dogmatic about recipes or precise directions, at least not in the way that The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, for example, is. Instead, she encourages cooks to use their own senses as guides toward their own perfect cuisine. There are recipes here, but Nosrat is insistent that they are not to be followed by rote. I love how each basic recipe gives way to a myriad of variations, showing how they function as a part of a meal (adding acid or crunch or richness, for example), rather than simply showing off a combination of fancy ingredients.

This book is much more of a textbook than a traditional cookbook: in fact, right off the bat, Nosrat suggests that her readers read cover-to-cover, rather than picking their way back and forth through the pages. Her recipes are purposefully classic (corn chowder, tuna confit, fried chicken, etc.) and invite personalization. I don't think there's single trendy ingredient in sight; the recipes require no such frills.

Again, I cannot recommend this cookbook more strongly; it is an absolute gem.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,132 reviews69 followers
December 14, 2016
What a great idea for a cookbook! I feel like this should be required reading for anyone even marginally interested in cooking. For one thing, it's fascinating, and very well written. But perhaps more importantly, Ms. Nosrat provides a non-intimidating guide to correcting the mistakes (over- or under-seasoning, not knowing which ingredients pair well together, not knowing how to cook a cut of meat, etc.) that scare folks out of the kitchen. Genius! The number one comment I hear when I talk about tackling a challenging recipe: "I couldn't do that." Or, "I wouldn't dare try that." That makes me so sad, because cooking is definitely a skill perfected with trial and error. Here, Ms. Nosrat equips the reader with information that takes some of the guesswork out of the trial and error part of cooking. It's just wonderful.

I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Hesper.
391 reviews45 followers
August 22, 2018
Kind of disappointing overall, but that's a relative opinion. I'm pretty sure the value of this rises in direct proportion to how little time the reader has spent cooking & learning about food prior to picking this up, and how much patience one has for the story part of recipe blogs. After a few pages the tone goes from breezy to grating fast. Yes, it has useful information even for experienced cooks, but it doesn't really feel "indispensable."

Also, omitting garlic and adding ginger instead to the list of Eastern European spice pantry staples is laughable and criminal. Minus one star just for that.
Profile Image for Erin.
945 reviews23 followers
April 18, 2018
I was not a fan of the wide-eyed "well golly!" tone of the author's writing/reading (listened to this book as an audiobook). I felt completely talked down to, and for the first two sections I gleaned very little that I did not already know. The acid section gave me some new pointers, and overall I enjoyed the science of the heat section, but generally I didn't get much out of this book.

Would be a great gift for someone really new to food, who likes science and can forgive an author who clearly only learned the science for the book, and had had zero intuition or clue prior. (Is it because I'm a science person already? Because I've subscribed to cooking magazines for 20 years? Because I've edited numerous cookbooks? Maybe. But I definitely feel like I always have more to learn, and this book... was not the source for it.)
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
703 reviews138 followers
October 19, 2020
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Alas, flavor is on the tongue of the eater. Even Chef Samin Nosrat is aware of this sad fact: “The sad truth is that most Americans accustomed to the taste of rancid olive oil, actually prefer it.” (p.65) Nevertheless, she persists!

This is no ordinary cookbook. It is about managing flavor. The key elements are salt, acid, fat and heat. Ultimately, Nosrat is urging us to recalibrate our relationship with food. One way to articulate our current relationship is through a false dichotomy.

Eat to live. Here, speed is the emotional driver. Inevitably, hasty carry-out choices and the expectation of instant gratification emerge triumphant. Live to eat. An image of exclusivity, elite connoisseurs, hipster foodies and obsessives is what springs to mind. Nosrat simply wants us to eat thoughtfully and not out of habit. Why does food taste the way it does? she asks.

As readers we are confronted with a “chicken or the egg” kind of dilemma. How can a palate dulled by oversalted, oversweetened and under-flavored food be resurrected? Nosrat is hopeful and her enthusiasm is contagious. Although she encourages experimentation and improvisation, she also insists on discipline: “...while a great chef can make improvisation look easy, the ability to do so depends on a strong foundation of the basics.” (p.55)

The book is structured like a lesson plan. A caesar salad recipe (p.48-49) applies her simple principles for salt: when, how much, and in what form. (p.55) An unconventional index labeled “Cooking Lessons” categorizes recipes by the technique being illustrated. She suggests the simple experiment of frying onions in butter and frying onions in oil as a means for tasting the difference.

This is not a book for the impatient reader or the close-minded eater. The first 200 pages of text are the heart of the book.

“Home Cooking” by Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway is a jokey podcast that supplements the ideas in this book.

There was a production flaw in my edition of the book. I have never seen this before. Pages 105 through 114; and pages 115-122 appear twice. The repeat for 115-122 is awkward because the concluding instructions for the Pasta alle Vongole recipe are on page 123.

For the experienced but impatient cook, I recommend the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. I use one of them regularly when entertaining and looking for something new. I have never had a failure from scrupulously following the recipe.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
699 reviews869 followers
December 2, 2021
Best cookbook I’ve ever read.

It’s not so much about the recipes, but Nosrat’s amiable and engaging manner of imparting her knowledge of the fundamentals of what makes good cooking. Armed with the understanding of what these elements do in a dish, it’s easier to adapt recipes with what’s available in your pantry instead of just blindly following them.

Oh, I've also made her buttermilk roast chicken twice, albeit with a smaller whole chicken as I couldn't source the same size over here. By adapting the recipe with what I've learnt in her book, the roast chicken came out perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked both times.
Profile Image for Gina.
280 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2020
This book is so interesting! I never read regular cook books because I just Google specific recipes when I need to. This book is a "how to cook book" or cooking theory. There are lots of things that seem obvious once I read them (like places that have meadows for grazing use lots of butter, but other places use other oils/fats. Duh, but I had never thought about it.) Or some things that I had read in recipes but didn't get the reasoning (like let ingredients come to room temperature before beginning). There's a little bit of science in it, but not much. It's typical of what you'd hear chefs say on a cooking show.
I'm writing this without trying any of the specific recipes at the end, so if they're all terrible I might change my mind.
But I have already thought about and used some things during regular (Gobble delivery) cooking.
Also, I like the prose and feel like the author is giving direction in a chatty way.

Recommend to people who are interested in learning how to become more intuitive cooks and are interested in the science-ish foundations for cooking.

2020 Edit: I've tried some of the recipes since I've read it, and the recipes are fairly wordy but not THAT complicated. Like if you've ever cooked something brand new and it says "cook until done" and then you have to google ???? On the other hand, Samin Nosrat will explain like a page of how you know when it's done. She'll describe the color and temperature and smell and texture. That might seem intimidating but I found it super helpful. Also, she tends to make the very best version of things, but will tell you when things are extra. Like I made her pie dough recipe and she tells you to freeze the mixing bowl and mixer and ingredients. Most recipes will tell you to use ice water, but Samin tries to get you the Plato ideal of pie crust, and that means freezing the flour. I don't use her recipes for every day food, but if I want to make something special for a birthday or something, they are the best versions of food. I think the first half of the book, about theory, is more useful, but the recipes are also excellent.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,903 reviews20 followers
February 14, 2021
This was kind of fascinating to listen too. This author had some great tips. I was in awe because I wasn't really expecting useful information, and it turned out, there was plenty of useful information to be found. I thought it would be more of a history of cooking and it wasn't.

The author talks about the benefits of salt, fat, acid & heat. But also when, how and what kind will produce the best results. The author was also very personable. I liked that she seemed like a mere mortal capable of learning because hey, that isn't always the case with nonfiction.

So 4 stars for the cooking/baking lessons.
Profile Image for Jimmy.
512 reviews711 followers
March 24, 2020
Only a few years ago, I ate mostly frozen pizza and restaurant take-out. I'd always had an interest in cooking, but the way it is usually taught did not appeal to me. You see, I hate recipes and following directions. Doing things one after another without understanding why it works or doesn't work sounded like a chore.

Then I discovered an online class called Foodist Kitchen. I went from only cooking frozen food to making my own meals from scratch, almost daily, often without a recipe. And my meals tasted good too, much better than what I'd eat at restaurants (at least the ones in my budget).

The reason that class was so life changing for me was that it didn't teach recipes, it taught basic concepts. And once there was an understanding of how the different elements of a dish, of ANY dish, affect each other, I could improvise and riff off of whatever ingredients I had in the fridge.

I suspect this book, Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat, would have performed for me a similar function as that class did many years ago. It, too, focuses on understanding greater concepts rather than specific recipes. I'd say it's a little more advanced than the class I took, so maybe it's aimed at someone with a little more experience in the kitchen than I was.

But having already understood those concepts, this book was still constantly enlightening. I found that I knew many of the things she said, but the way she presented it increased my understanding. In addition, there were parts that I didn't know at all, especially her insights into baking (which I'm still a novice at) and how fat and acid affect gluten development.

The first half of the book is dedicated to understanding the four concepts of Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat and how they interact to create great food. I love her framing of these four elements like this, although some would find it debatable. I think she's pretty much right on, though. If I had to add or change anything, maybe I would add "Time" as the 5th element (though she does cover time a lot in Heat)... and maybe "Water" as the 6th (again, "Heat" covers a lot about water, so it would be redundant).

The second half of the book is dedicated to recipes. These recipes are to be seen as examples of the theory we learned in Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat. I found myself a bit bored through this section (as I said earlier, I hate following directions). Whereas the first part you can totally read through sequentially like any other book, the second part is more like a reference, and so I just read a few and skipped over most of it.

Throughout the book, there are cute illustrations and diagrams. I'm a huge fan of this book and of Samin Nosrat (just watch this, how can you not love her?) so I'd highly recommend this book to anyone with a little experience in the kitchen, but who doesn't completely understand WHY they're doing what they're doing.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
544 reviews9,843 followers
October 30, 2019
The best most beautiful cookbook I’ve ever owned. Totally liberating for the at home cook. Thoughtful and clear. Makes me excited to cook and try new things.
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
388 reviews113k followers
November 13, 2020
The informational chapters with the basics on Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat are highly worth it to get a good base. I've made a bunch of the recipes this year too - have really enjoyed this cookbook.
Profile Image for Anita Pomerantz.
648 reviews106 followers
January 2, 2018
Definitely learned some new tricks, but I thought the salt and fat and heat sections were stronger than the acid section, where I need the most help! I think the concept of balance still feels elusive and that is what I want to learn. But I definitely moved in the right direction and made a much improved roast chicken! The author has a great "voice", and I look forward to trying things she suggested.
Profile Image for Kayleigh Wiebe.
150 reviews9 followers
February 2, 2020
I think that if you are an experienced chef, or just know your way around a kitchen, this might be a bit introductory for you. However, as a person sort-of new to the world of cooking, I found that I learned a lot from this book! Although, I wish I hadn’t just listened to the audiobook version, as I feel like it would be very helpful to have a physical copy to refer back to on a regular basis while cooking or menu planning.
Profile Image for Anna Dawson.
112 reviews5 followers
April 9, 2020
Whether you’re a novice at cooking or a dab hand in the kitchen, this is essential reading. Nosrat’s abundant enthusiasm for the ritual of cooking is infectious, and her guidance is thorough and informative, without ever being overwhelming. The written passages are paired with beautiful illustrations, which breathe life into the ingredients and methods described.
Profile Image for Sarah.
94 reviews27 followers
February 23, 2020
A brief history of my orientation toward this book:

Indifference: "Eh, just sounds like gimmicky hype."
Curiosity: "What cute illustrations. I'm looking for a book that's about developing cooking intuition with recipes that aren't overengineered. She recommends some other cookbooks I've read and liked. It's not overwhelmed with flashy photos, that's nice."
Beguilement: "She has a pleasant narrative voice. Her background sounds very approachable. Interesting that she taught Michael Pollan, his Cooked series was kind of interesting. I like lists of things to keep in the pantry. This is going to be great."
Disillusionment: "Darn it, this is oversimplified hogwash. It is just hype. (Salt, Acid, and Fat chapters.)"
Slight comeback: "The Heat chapter is kind of insightful. Some of the diagrams could be useful."
Indifference: "She's listed like twenty salad dressing recipes. I don't think I'm going to make hardly anything in here."

Things I learned from this book:
- Oil in a pan is for transferring heat to the food since food isn't perfectly flat.
- Meat will cook better if it starts at room temperature.
- Michael Pollan is a good pal to his friends.

Things I'm not even going to try:
- Pouring canisters of salt into pasta water
- Eating food room temp instead of hot.

Overall, I wasn't surprised that this book is kind of an adaptation of her cooking workshops and seminars she's been doing for many years. "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" works well as an organization framework for teaching techniques in a classroom where she can show students hands on the distinctions she's describing. But she presents it instead as not just an organizational structure but as the actual elemental building blocks of cooking. You might think, what about sugar? Other spices? Flour and other binders? WATER? In fact these all come in as unofficial fundamentals as well, but she prioritizes her catchphrase over utility and so they are shoehorned in pieces rather than given consistent treatment. So already the model is breaking down a bit.

The bigger issue is that it doesn't really work as a model even on her terms. Too often the author says things like, "Salt is fundamental. That's why you want to season X before cooking it. It's also why you want to season Y after cooking it." In person something like this could work. In the book, she doesn't provide enough detail to understand the distinctions she's talking about. Other times, the science is just flimsy and she comes across as paraphrasing explanations from other people that she doesn't quite understand herself.

The tipping point for me was when she started talking about pastry, which is the one kind of baking I feel like I understand the science of decently well. It's the classic test of "how much do they get right when I know enough to check their facts." She describes struggling with baking throughout the book and makes some other questionable pronouncements like that butter cakes will never be moist. She doesn't even try to touch bread. But in the piecrust section, I realized her descriptions would not have helped me make better piecrusts. At this point I kind of mentally tuned out, got through the rest of the Fat chapter then the Acid section (which was even thinner) and didn't read much further for several weeks. I finally came back to finish it and was pleasantly surprised that the Heat chapter was much more substantial and felt like she really understood what she was getting at. Pollan's series is based on the thesis that cooking (adding heat to food) is the key distinction that separated humans from other animals, so it kind of makes sense that this concept would be one she explored in more rigorous depth.

My other complaints were more stylistic. She tells the same stories several times. She talks too much about a couple of chefs she clearly worships and comes across a little like a disciple describing her guru. Some of her advice is occasionally just way out of touch ("it's not worth making chicken stock with just one whole chicken. Store them in the freezer until you have three or four and you can make batches of stock once or twice a month." I live alone in a large city, but I don't think even 4-5 member families would consider assuming that everyone cooks a whole chicken at least once a week a little far-fetched.)

This winter I've been reading or skimming dozens of cookbooks as my hibernation obsession. The ones that have gotten closest to my ideal of helping build intuition with solid science and fundamentals have come from the America's Test Kitchen series, Diana Kennedy, How Baking Works by James Morton, Stella Parks, Mark Bittman, and the classic Joy of Cooking. I'm waiting on the library for Jacques Pepin, Fannie Farmer, and some others that have been highly recommended. Increasingly, though, I've realized that one source isn't really going to do do it. It's from pieces of various books, each of which may only add a couple new recipes or techniques, that combine to get a patchwork over time, with practice.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 2 books268 followers
February 12, 2022
Сочена за най-гениалната книга в кулинарното изкуство, тя просто потвърди отдавнашното ми виждане, че всички форми на това "изкуство" са просто усложнени упражнения в това да накараш продуктите в ресторантската кухня да имат вкус на добри и пресни, традиционни храни и авторката изобщо не крие това.

Колкото и да сотира, фламбира и маринова, всички тия усилия идват от стремежа й да достигне в кухнята на ресторанта си оня вкус, който помни от обикновения сандвич със солено домашно сирене и краставица в питка, който майка й е приготвяла за плажа в родния й Иран или кебапът, който чичовците й и сега, по време на семейните събирания, пекат на толкова нагорещена тенекия, че космите на ръцете им изгарят.

Наистина, книгата е добре написана, с ясни и понякога поетични обяснения, но седемнайсет вида сол и няколко "пласта" подкиселяване ми идват както в повече, така и напълно излишни. Повечето от написаното е теория, предназначена за хора, достатъчно опитни в основите на готвенето, която може би ще да е полезна за професионален готвач или фууди-хипстър.

Аз обаче не съм нито едното, нито другото и ако ми се прииска сандвич с домашно сирене и краставица, мога просто да си направя такъв, да го посоля с обикновена сол и да го изям с кеф. А историята, как някакъв международно признат готвач накарал авторката да сложи малко оцет (о ужас!!!) в супата си и нейния тотален шок как това подобрило вкуса, доста ме разсмя. Оцет в супата! Кой да знае, че в кварталната ми шкембежджийница толкова ги разбират работите :Р
Profile Image for Yaaresse.
2,027 reviews16 followers
November 30, 2019
Underwhelmed and really glad this was a library book rather than something I spent money on.
I really don't understand all the adulation for this book. It's nothing special, although the illustrations would make fun, whimsical kitchen art. They remind me of the backs of Cooks Illustrated magazines from the 80s-90s.

There is nothing in this book that hasn't been written more clearly, concisely, and effectively elsewhere and earlier. Coincidentally, I was in the middle of The Flavor Bible concurrent to this book, and the exact same things were presented in that 2008 book, almost word for word in some cases. Not that TFB was the first or best presentation of the information. Alton Brown, Karen Page, Ruhlman -- they've all said this stuff, and said it better. The science is basic, stuff we all should have learned in seventh grade physical science class. Admittedly, I didn't make any of the recipes because I saw nothing particularly new/interesting or that made me want to run to the kitchen. I read a few of them, and they were annoyingly wordy.

I found the writing style grating. The author can't not go on about herself, and some version of "when I was at Chez Panisse" or "Alice (Waters) says" appears on nearly every page. Felt more like every paragraph. We get it: you worked at Chez Panisse. Seems like everyone who writes cookbooks these days did, too, so it's not that special anymore -- if it ever was.
Profile Image for Erik.
331 reviews214 followers
January 12, 2021
Samin Nosrat's "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" is that rare cookbook that you should read cover to cover.

Four elements form the basis of all flavor and deliciousness in food. Salts enhance flavor, bringing out hidden tastes you otherwise might miss. Fat adds depth and texture to flavor. Acid balances flavor - it offers a sharpness to otherwise heavy foods. And heat is the conductor that brings it all together. Nosrat's method, which focuses on these four essentials, will help any reader become what I have always wanted to become: a master of spontaneously, improved cooking.

Nosrat's book is certainly intended for beginners so much of the writing will seem repetitious or overly basic for individuals who, like me, are not a novice in the kitchen. Nonetheless, her techniques are novel and interesting and will equip any cook with some new ways to be a better chef.
Profile Image for Kristin.
155 reviews
June 20, 2017
Maybe it was hyped too much and my expectations were too high, but I didn't find this book life-changing. Interesting and helpful enough, but oddly, it didn't make me want to jump up and cook everything, which is what usually happens when I read such books. Also, for my own tastes, it was very meat-heavy.
Profile Image for Becky Pliego.
682 reviews370 followers
May 18, 2020
A wonderful book to learn new techniques, methods, and also understand "Why's" in the kitchen. Very helpful and fun.

I have already tried some of her recipes and they have been fantastic.
Profile Image for Carlos Martinez.
336 reviews208 followers
February 16, 2021
In a break from my regular diet of politics, history, economics, fiction and pop-sci, I decided to read a book about cooking. It's a fun book that will make you a better cook and help you to understand the basic science of food prep. It's helping me become a bit less reliant on recipes and to develop my instinct for what to cook and how to cook it.
Profile Image for Cheryl .
9,271 reviews398 followers
Shelved as 'xx-dnf-skim-reference'
June 8, 2019
My middle son wants this. I haven't seen it yet.
I see one reviewer says that she appreciates the tutorial, and that her main takeaway is "when in doubt, add more salt." Since that is *terrible* advice (Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us anyone? Hypertension? Edema?) for the majority of us, I will definitely preview this before gifting it to my son.

I see another that says it's all "Alice Waters this and AW that" and I agree with that reviewer that says we can read an AW book if we want that, but would rather read about Nosrat's other influences, particularly her family.

Also, most reviewers seem to be less experienced than I am, people who rely on recipes. I don't.

So, we'll see. I'll keep trying to get a preview copy.
Skimming a copy now.

The thing about salt is that her fondness for it can be relevant to me *in certain instances.* I believe her when she says that cooking green beans in salted water will plump them, and that salt will bring forward other flavors, and that we don't want to use so much that the food tastes salty, but just enough to do the intended job. In my case it means that I might choose to salt the rice or bean water so that the food is seasoned *from within and throughout* and therefore I could use less seasoning of any type afterwards. (Maybe I could salt the pasta water, too, depending of the nutrition label's admission of salt already in the pasta.) I wonder if "No Salt" potassium chloride has a similar effect, as I should actually be using that sometimes....

I'm really not liking her voice/ attitude. If we're eating something she doesn't approve of, it doesn't matter how much we enjoy it, we should instead scold our palate, throw out most of what is in our pantry, buy a bunch of specialty ingredients, and learn the so-called fundamentals of cooking all over again. I suppose that actually makes sense for some readers, those who aren't confident of their talents in the kitchen. But others of us are indeed simply looking to add to our repertoire, looking for the "ah-has," and her Chez Panisse attitude sure does grate.

I didn't get anything out of the Fat chapter, except a reminder to preheat the oil before sauteing or frying.

Interestingly, the introduction to the Acid chapter reveals another dissonance. Her Maman showed her the value of acid (sour) by serving lemon, lime, sumac berries, or something else suitable at every meal. I think the idea to put a dollop of yogurt on the spaghetti is brilliant, though she admits that she winces at the memory. Now, of course the tomatoes are already acid, so I'll have to think about this. But in any case I'm bothered that she just threw out this combination from her heritage.

I did put together a pantry soup last week that was amazing. We've decided it was because of the lemon I used up in it, the juice and pulp. But I figured all that out before seeing this book. Hm.

Sometimes (carrot soup) responds to just a little bit of vinegar. I don't want to invest in a whole pantry of choices (and I despise balsamic) so I'm going to use the apple cider that I have more often, and buy a bottle of malt vinegar (I've loved it on fish).

Heat chapter, recipes, bonus materials didn't do anything for me. I tried. Sorry son.
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