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How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  472 ratings  ·  64 reviews
In a book widely hailed for its entertaining prose and provocative research, the award-winning Los Angeles Times food journalist Russ Parsons examines the science behind ordinary cooking processes. Along the way he dispenses hundreds of tips and the reasons behind them, from why you should always begin cooking beans in cold water, to why you should salt meat before sautéin
Paperback, 334 pages
Published September 8th 2003 by Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published August 12th 1973)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  472 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Linda Abhors the New GR Design
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes to cook
I loved this!
I consider myself (as do others, from comments) a pretty decent cook, though I could work on presentation. I'm a decent baker, but pastry has always thwarted me-to the point where I've generally just thrown up my hands and bought frozen pie shells whenever I'm required.
I was intrigued by the title when I got it from Daedalus, and now that I've read it, wish I'd read it years ago, when I first got it.
There are the things that I thought I knew, but didn't-such as sweet Vidalia onions
David Cooke
Aug 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My major disappointment with this book is that it is essentially a cookbook marketing itself as something else. The chapter text, which is why I picked up the book in the first place, is really quite good. It's a nice, readable version of some of what you would find in Harold McGee's quintessential book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Unfortunately, the text is far too short, and instead there is recipe after recipe building upon what you learned in the chapter, which ...more
Catherine Beebe
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
This is fascinating - it's a nerd's cookbook. (That's a good thing). I needed answers behind the instructions in recipes as to why I needed to dry off food before pan-frying, or the wonderful magical egg. If you love to cook and you loved the lab portion of chemistry class, read this.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I loved the information in this book so much that I started taking notes. In the book the author explains what is actually happening when you cook food. I started reading this book the day after I made fried green tomatoes for the first time, and it just so happened the the first section of the book was about the chemical process of deep frying. So then I totally understood the purpose of every layer of coating of the fried green tomatoes and why they were the consistancy they were... it was jus ...more
Jan 24, 2014 added it
I finally managed to finish a book in the new year (sort of--I haven't tried any of the recipes). I've been too preoccupied with moving and settling in to a new city.

Not everything in this book was new to me; I learned a lot about food science from my mother, who once majored in the subject. But I learned a lot here: about frying, the way starches react at the microscopic level when cooked, and the Maillard reaction. I'm tempted to go into a food science textbook for more on gels and the emulsi
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The scientific why of cooking. This book is excellent. I really believe it will make me a better cook because it explained why I failed at grilling zucchini, why my strawberry sauce turned into jelly, and how I keep going wrong with emulsions. Understanding the underlying principles at work in kitchen chemistry is absolutely the best first step to becoming a better cook. I've already used it to make hard-boiled eggs with perfectly yellow yolks.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who ever coo
Andrea James
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: cooking
It would have been great if the recipes were more infused with the stories and explanations. The book starts each section with decent explanations of the whys and hows of food and then follows that with a bunch of recipes.

I would have been happy just to read the stories and explanations without the recipes (which I found sadly rather uninspiring).

I got this book second-hand for not very much at all and it's really easy to read so it didn't take much time and therefore I actually think I got a g
Sarah Jane
It was good for me to learn (or review, as the case may be) the information presented in this book to make myself a better cook. I think most everyone can benefit from a little course of the basics, and the hows and whys of cooking. For the most part, I skimmed through the meat chapter because it was grossing me out. As soon as he started talking about muscle fibers and melting collagen, I was done. I think I might be too squeamish to ever be a meat-eater. Oh well.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent Half Price Books find. It includes some very tasty-looking recipes that put the kitchen science principles discussed in the chapters to practice. I learned so much about onions and cell structure and I think I'll be able to put it to use in my cooking. I thought the chapters on "Meat and Heat" and "Fat, Flour and Fear" were especially interesting. This was a very practical book and I look forward to dropping its factoids in conversation.
Tamer Nosshi
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book as an intro to Kitchen Science. It really helped to understand where I have been issues in my cooking. Its a very easy read, probably about 100 pages of actual material with the rest are recipes. Will probably require a couple more reads to truly grab every valuable kernel of information.

Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a bit more of a cookbook with scientific information thrown in than it was a science book with recipes thrown in. I was hoping it to be the latter. Lots of interesting information, and I am sure it will stay on my shelf to be referred to many many more times.
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you enjoy watching Alton Brown on the Food Channel, you will love this book. Cooking as a science - things we do for best results explained and broken down into comprehensible instructions. I guarantee this book will make you a better cook no matter your skill level.
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A really interesting look at why some foods do what they do. Half cookbook and half easy to read science book. It has a ton of recipes that I can't wait to try.
Dominic Howarth
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I LUV food, which should be to no one's surprise. The only thing I may love more than food itself, is food science. This book is full of it. Awesome tips and interesting stories abound, plus delicious sounding recipes that range in a nice degree of difficulty. The prose is drier than say, Alton Brown, who's comical and grounded style usurps Parson's writing, but the book is still very good. Should be in many a kitchen.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really really like this book. Easy to understand, easy to read. And I really like the fact that he included recipes at the end of each section.... because there is NO WAY i am going to retain the scientific information without actually having to use the science.... so this book is actually one I am going to purchase, so I can dip in and out of it easily!
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a great little work horse of a book. Of course, I want more, but that's not really what it's intended to do. It's whets the appetite, with enough science to keep it interesting, followed by illustrative recipes. Great for any novice cook.
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book knocked my socks off! SO FASCINATING! I am not passionate about cooking. I enjoy it, I do it daily for my family, sometimes I like to have fun making new things, but I am no chef and cooking is not my passion. That said, this book was incredible. From literally the first sentence, I was hooked. Parsons takes a basic kitchen tasks or food types and, using the underlying science, tells how and WHY things in the kitchen work the way they do. After every single chapter I wanted more of tha ...more
Stuart Woolf
Apr 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was given to me by a former mentor, a food engineer who also gave me Owen Fennema's Food Chemistry. The books couldn't be more different: the latter is a dry, information-dense textbook that will teach you everything you want (and don't want) to know about food, whereas this book is written by a journalist (the food editor at the Los Angeles Times) seeking to enchant readers, who presumably hate science, with selected fun facts about cooking.

My attitude is, food writing is best left to
Alejandro Jofre
Nov 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All food lovers w scientific mind
Recommended to Alejandro by: San Ramon Library
Shelves: cook
WHAT MADE ME READ IT: Rec by San Ramon Library
50th PAGE EVAL: Yummy, Lots of good food, ideas about food and the reasoning behind food
PLOT: A cooking Bible with Sciencia and great recipes that I will try soon
NOTES: I like the coments at the beginning of the recipes that puts them in a frame of mind. I want to try 90% of them.
IT MADE ME (DO) : Cook and test the hypotherisi, ideas, and shortcuts presented
IT MADE ME READ : More cooking books
Jun 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Book about food, and the science of cooking. For example, why french fries have to be fried at a certain temperature to have that yummy crispy outside, and warm, not soggy inside. I thought that some of the topics were very interesting, but that some were not explained enough and others seemed to repeat the same thing over and over again. The book did include some recipes so you could try out the foods they were talking about.
Katie H
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An awesome book. This was the first science-based food book I have ever read, and I absolutely loved it. The book was a good balance of technical details and general cooking tips. It made me feel like I could go into the kitchen and whip up great food, even if I don't have the perfect recipe. I'll definitely be looking for more books like this!
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Actual stories are too few. Need moar science and intrigue, less recipes. The recipes do look decent, but none of them are, like, beggin' to be cooked. Bummed, because the interview with this fella that I heard made me think this book was gonna become indispensable. I did learn from it, but not very much.
good for the boy. he's done a lot of cooking lately & is interested in it, and the way this book laid out info is perfect for him with his left-brain thinking. i thougt it was kind of interesting too.
the boy seems to be enjoying it. i'll have to take a peek.
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved the cooking information in this book, and find I am more confident in the kitchen as a result. The book was thorough and written in an engaging voice. For me, the one drawback to this book was that the recipes tended to be more on the gourmet side, and included few recipes that I would include in my day-to-day cooking.
Sep 20, 2009 rated it liked it
This was probably more of a 3.5 stars. It was fun reading and presented a lot of "aha!" moments. I feel like it is a reference book that I could go back to again. I already used a technique in the book to prepare some vegetables and it worked quite well. Anyone who likes to cook will enjoy this book.
Robert Hudder
Apr 05, 2014 rated it liked it
A decent science based cookery book. Not as scientific as What Einstein told his chef or Harold McGee but definitely accessible with more recipes. A real good start for someone wanting to get into the science bits.
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
if you had to only have one cook book this maybe be it. I know there are other wonderful cook books out there, but the size and usefulness of this book, just can't compare. I have taking this cook book on countless trips.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Interesting to know some kitchen science, and it made me think of more questions about why things work the way they do with food. But the guy who wrote it seems a bit of a food snob, and that rubbed me the wrong way.

The recipes I've tried from the book so far are great!
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
OK, I am a total food science geek so I love stuff like this - you may not. I find they really help me to eb able to compose dishes and meals on the fly with less reliance on recipes (although there are a number of them in the book).
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Some of the recipes look great but I would have liked more kitchen science. There were also some random recommendations I disagree with (like the 'necessity' of taking the skin off of fish before serving.)
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