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The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen
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The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,359 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Americans are on a roll in the kitchen—we've never been better or smarter about cooking. But how does a beginning cook become good, a good cook great?

Modeled on Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, The Elements of Cooking is an opinionated volume by Michael Ruhlman—the award-winning and bestselling author of The Making of a Chef and coauthor of The French Laundry Cook
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 6th 2007 by Scribner
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3.96  · 
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 ·  1,359 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Whatever chops you thought you had in the kitchen, this guy makes you feel like a jackass. Modeled on the Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Michael Ruhlman gives a very idiosyncratic and opinionated take on the fundamentals of cooking, in eight essays, which are both intimidating and illuminating. Through them, he gets to the heart of what elevates cooking to an art. The essay on stock is a little scary, particularly when he holds forth on the virtues of veal stock. But he also shares very ...more
Nicholas Aune
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm somewhat conflicted by this book. The opening essays are okay, but not great. Outside of the essays, the book is sort of a lazy man's french cuisine encyclopedia. The research for the book really isn't that thorough. In fact, about 95% comes from one of the two sources, both of which just so happen to be textbooks from the CIA when he attended. The book really only has one recipe, which was almost just copied from the Professional Chef cookbook.

The encyclopedia entries are just not that inf
Claudia Taller
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is an inspiration. There are no recipes. In Anthony Bourdain’s introduction, he says “It’s useful these days when everyone, it seems, has an opinion about food, to know what the hell you’re talking about . . . It’s all here. In much the same way as Strunk and White’s classic, The Elements of Style, became an essential reference text on every writer and journalist’s desk, The Elements of Cooking should sit atop every refrigerator.” Ruhlman dives right in with “Notes on Cooking: From Sto ...more
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've always aspired to cook without a recipe, and this book gives me the tools and principles for doing just that. I plan to keep this book handy in my kitchen as a reference guide. Modeled after Strunk and White's Elements of Style, this book has the same structure - essays on important aspects of cooking that are the building blocks of any recipe (stocks, proper salting, temperature), followed by an alphabetical definition of cooking terms and ingredients. Want to know what a mandoline is? Wan ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
This is an excellent book. It is more a reference book than a cookbook. Don't buy this if you are looking for recipes. Buy this if you want basics of making stocks and sauces. Those parts of the book make this worth the cost. He then moves to basics like salt and eggs. Then he covers heat and tools. After these basics the book becomes a reference of food terms and food. Ruhlman is thorough to the point of being anal. But, in this instance you want someone who is thoroughly anal. Tony Bourdain, R ...more
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-books-2010
This cheerless book emulates The Elements of Style by offering definitions of some foundational techniques and ingredients that all cooks should know, according to the author. There's only one recipe, for veal stock: Ruhlman says much home cooking could be improved by the addition of veal stock. I'll take his word on that.

As for the techniques and definitions, I didn't find myself learning much that I didn't already know. For example, the "flavor" definition starts "arguably the most important
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
- Loved the introduction (Anthony Bourdain) and the Notes on Cooking section, especially the explainer on how the most important skills in cooking are knowing how to properly salt food, and knowing how to properly use heat.
- There's a special section on the egg, which makes sense because it's included in dishes that fall on so many points of the heat spectrum... Ruhlman explains somewhere that a chef who has excellent command of the egg will have excellent command of everything else.
- Well-wri
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Michael Ruhlman knows a lot about a lot; he has written a number of successful books sharing his culinary knowledge and experiences. In a deliberate attempt to duplicate what Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" does for writers, Ruhlman wrote "The Elements of Cooking" in the same style for cooks. The book is more than a dictionary but less than an encyclopedia of cooking. The first fifty pages contain highly opinionated essays about various topics such as veal stock, salt and the proper k ...more
Jun 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book has a few essays at the beginning and then the rest is like a dictionary of cooking terms. I actually read through the entire thing and learned a lot about cooking. Some of it, I've already put into practice. For example, I'm trying to be diligent about salting food as I go rather than just assuming that I can add the salt at the end. I did this with one of our favorite rice dishes on Friday, and salting early in the cooking process made a remarkable difference in how good the food tas ...more
Ben Exner
Jan 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cooks and foodies
An "Elements of Style"-inspired take on the world of cooking by Michael Ruhlman, Elements of Cooking provides both wannabe and professional cooks with 8 short essays on what he views to be the most important ingredients/tools/concepts separating good cooking from great cooking. Ruhlman also includes a glossary of food terms that is actually interesting to read on its own. Following the "...of a Chef" trilogy and some very nice cookbooks, I have wondered where Ruhlman's muse was going to take him ...more
Jan 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Culinary school students
Aimed more at the home cook or the kitchen neophyte, this book does contain some nuggets for kitchen pros. The essays at the beginning, although not containing a ton of new information for me, were engaging and thoughtful. I've always liked Ruhlman's prose style, and this is just more of that. Following the essays is a small encyclopedia/index of restaurant and culinary terms. Although not as exhaustive as The New Food Lover's Companion, it still covered the basics. Overall, if you know someone ...more
Mandie Kok
This book contains a few essays on various cooking topics, such as the importance of veal stock and the most important tools the home cook should own, before it becomes a reference book, with alphabetical entries on everything related to cooking.

Despite finding the essays interesting, the rest of the work is not complete enough to recommend this as a "kitchen bible" reference book. The entries are enough to explain a term or ingredient, but in the time of Google, is it enough?

It isn't for me and
Freddo Ru
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book discussed basics of cooking, from the ingredients to the techniques. For the culinary enthusiast and the culinary students, it's a recommended read. The most important part of the book are the essays. Michael Ruhlman discusses things that the ordinary person doesn't consider important to home cooking. Things like heat, tools of the trade, stocks, and even sauces are the foundation of cooking. Without these concepts to focus on, it won't be as easy as grasping what you really want from y ...more
Nov 08, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food
More than anything I was unconvinced by the casual style of this book. This might be partially due to subject matter. The beauty of the Elements of Style is that the authors use the book as an example of exactly what they are talking about. "Finesse," one of the main themes of The Elements of Cooking, can't really be given concrete example in written form.

One thing the book did do: it reminded me that I want to got to French Laundry. The date I can call for reservations is now marked on my calen
Although Ruhlman is a renowned cooking and food journalist this book is not worth buying: I say buying because that was his intention when he structured it as a reference book.
The only section that is worth the money was the first 50 pages where he does a good job of highlighting the essentials of cooking. Here he goes over the basics of heat, seasoning, eggs, ... etc.
So in short, if you are a beginner in the world of cooking, the first 50 pages are worth borrowing the book from your local libra
David Stanley
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food
"ELements" is not a "cookbook" but you'll learn far more about cooking from "Elements" than you will from 99% of the cookbooks available. It's not a "science" book but you'll learn more science than you ever did in 9th grade Bio (Food science & chemistry, mostly). Plus, Ruhlman's skill as a writer is equal to his skills in the kitchen. As Bourdain says in his Intro, this is one of the books every cook/chef should own. No recipes, just everything you need to know about everything in the kitch ...more
Jan 28, 2008 is currently reading it
Was a gift from a friend who got it for me because of the similarity to The Elements of Style. Interesting in a theoretical way. He takes it all (including himself) a *lot* more seriously than I do (or ever will). I can imagine being seriously interested at this level if you are a professional cook/chef/wannabe, or even having to cook three meals a day for a finicky family for the rest of time. As it is, I find it vaguely amusing for the same reason that Vogue magazine might be: as sociological ...more
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed a bit by this book. I guess I didn't investigate it very thoroughly before ordering it, because it was considerably shorter than I'd expected and was geared more towards the serious gastronome... I suppose I'd have known that if I was already a Ruhlman fan, as I know many are.

However, for me, there was far too much detail about doing complex things with meat and lard, etc. Hardly a replacement for broad, basic cookbook tutorials like those I've relied on in The Joy of Cooking.
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Elements of Cooking is an interesting almost-narrative glossary of most things you'd need to know to understand what a cook is talking about. I learned the definitions of lots of terms that you see on fancy menus (or hear thrown about on Top Chef or on food blogs), what beurre blanc and beurre rouge are and how to make them, and also how to make stock. We made a great deal of that using the Thanksgiving turkey, which was spectacular. I'd highly recommend this book for the non-cook, the cook, ...more
May 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read the intro part to this book which was decent. Half the book is a glossary of cooking terms, so I suppose its more of a reference type book...which is not what I was expecting. I highly recommend the other books he's written, they are all interesting looks into the life of a chef. This one is really only good if you are needing to understand terms in a cookbook that you may not understand.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read08, foodie
Well, I'm not sure why Ruhlman bothered to write this book, to be honest, since most of the useful information is taken directly from the books he was influenced by. At least he cites them. I think you'd be better served to go out and buy Escoffier, McGee, and the Zuni Cafe Cookbook (the three he references constantly). Those are the books I'll buy for my kitchen reference collection. Besides.. how could he leave out "in the weeds?"
Virgil Eavesaaaaarr D$gggyesssssrdreeffrf$gr
Great info, bland read.

Readers who loved the delicious previous writing of the author will be disappointed by the bland, robotic style of this book. It is more a list of reminders, equipment and utensils than a book with passion on the culinary arts. It contains invaluable information the reader may obtain at the price of plodding through an entire volume of knee deep lax writing from an author proven capable of far better literary flair.
Joshua Hansford
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you like to cook or want to know more about cooking read this book. The book is filled with knowledge and explainations of just about everything in a kitchen. It breaks the information down into what you need to know to accomplish the task in the kitchen. I have a culinary degree from Le Cordon Blue and I think this should be required reading for Basic Kitchen Skills.
Dec 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: foodies everywhere
Shelves: food
Ruhlman's passionate about food, friendly to the novice, and writes with a nice rhythm. I read all the essays at the beginning of the book (veal stock! heat! salt! finesse!) and plan to dip in to the definitions as needed. This strikes me as a lovely -- and literary -- kitchen resource, very "Elements of Style"-ish. I like to think E. B. White would approve.
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-cooking
I picked this up after seeing it on the stack of "new" books at the library. I had read this author's book about his time at the Culinary Institute of America so it caught my eye. I really liked the first 50 pages but was disappointed when it turned into a dictionary of food terms. Not exactly read cover to cover material.
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I suspect this book isn't necessarily meant to be read cover to cover--it's a kind of encyclopedia of cooking terms that can help you decipher any menu or recipe--but I read it anyway, because Michael Ruhlman is such a good writer. AND he makes me want to be a better cook, without being condescending at all.
Nov 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
I've become a big fan of Michael Ruhlman's writing (mostly through his blog), so this seemed like a no-brainer to pick up. At first, the glossary format didn't appeal to me, but the more I read, the more I learned. And the essays that comprise the first 1/4 of the book are compelling reading for anyone who has an interest in the craft of cooking (and cooking well).
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is a more straightforward, almost scientific way to look at cooking and the elements that make up the recipes we like. I found it to be really interesting, even if I won't use much of that knowledge.*

*I had to change my review because, after having read it, I found myself thinking. A LOT. Now I am finding that I need my own copy to reference in the future.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The essays that begin this book are outstanding. A must-read for anyone who's serious about cooking, and gets a kick out of someone waxing rhapsodic about veal stock. The latter section of the book is a glossary of terms and so not really something to read straight through, but interesting to browse through.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
This book has about 40 pages of basic cooking topics - like stocks, salt, and heat - followed by about 200 pages of definitions, which are good as a reference. I found the basic topics very helpful. I learned how to make a better chicken stock and used it to make a soup.
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Michael Ruhlman (born 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an American writer. He is the author of 11 books, and is best known for his work about and in collaboration with American chefs, as well as other works of non-fiction.

Ruhlman grew up in Cleveland and was educated at University School (a private boys' day school in Cleveland) and at Duke University, graduating from the latter in 1985. He worked a se
“Few people put veal stock in the same category as, say, the Goldberg Variations or Plato’s cave allegory, and this lack of understanding amazes” 0 likes
“Few people put veal stock in the same category as, say, the Goldberg Variations or Plato’s cave allegory, and this lack of understanding amazes me.” 0 likes
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