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CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  5,395 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Offering “the hows and whys of successful cooking,” Cookwise, by well-known food writer and culinary sleuth Shirley O. Corriher, tells you how and why things happen in the course of food preparation. The more than 230 outstanding recipes featured not only please the palate, but demonstrate the various roles of ingredients and techniques—making Cookwise an invaluable refere ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published August 21st 1997 by William Morrow Cookbooks
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4.05  · 
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 ·  5,395 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you're a food science geek like me, this is a great reference. Not quite as approachable as Alton Brown (but you might have seen her on the Alton Brown show Good Eats). The recipes are chosen to be good examples rather than great eats, but they're still pretty good. The key is that she teaches you how food works -- which helps you to figure out how to make better food. If you're the type to cook by eye and taste and smell, this is the kind of cookbook you want to read.
Miss Poppy
May 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. There are recipes, but the value of the book is in how it explains the processes of cooking - why foods do what they do when they're cooked. Having a strong background regarding processes and ingredients makes it much easier to experiment and succeed. It's a Bible I return to again and again.
Mardel Fehrenbach
Jun 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Recently I was cataloging my cookbook collection and the process was making me think about all the different books and why I had them. I decided to randomly work my way through some of them, cooking and reading, mostly out of curiosity about why I originally purchased them and what I thought about them now.

The first book I grabbed, Cookwise by Shirley Corriher, was chosen because although I remembered that I have used it for reference, I couldn't actually remember that I had cooked much from the
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shirley is the REAL brains behind Good Eats.

Episode Three Chips for Sister Marsha is blatantly stolen from Shirley's 3 dueling chocolate chip cookie recipes - designed to show the interaction of the baking ingredients.
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent resource. Too bad I have to take it back to the library.
Terry Gallagher
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I just dipped into this, to get a little bread science down.

Corriher was always a treat to see in her bits on "Good Eats," a real scientist in a few words.

This book, on the other hand, is way more comprehensive than what I'm looking for (and it's due back at the library tomorrow).

Published more than 20 years ago, it's showing its age, too. The bread recipes are all in volume measurements when everything nowadays is by weight.

Michael Musgrove
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellect scientific perspective on how to cook.
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: experienced cooks
Shelves: 2009, cookbooks
Now that I've looked through this one, I vaguely remember reading it a few years ago, but I liked it better then, for some reason. This time around, I went from being totally impressed to completely overwhelmed in just a few pages. The book starts with bread. Well, I bake bread. So I know about that. But this went so far over my head, it was into the stratosphere. I was overwhelmed with a discussion of which kind of flour I needed, based on protein content. Then we got into the importance of add ...more
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the first time I've ever read a cookbook all the way through. The value of this book is that Corriher explains what happens chemistry-wise to your food when you cook it. I feel like I've come away with a better understanding of cooking in general and WHY recipes have you do certain things. However, I don't know how much of this knowledge I'll retain (there is a lot of information in this book, which isn't a bad thing). I also don't know how many of the recipes I'll use. Many of them are ...more
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wine-and-food, 2009
I think I've been too spoiled by Alton Brown and his Good Eats show. Shirley Corriher tells you what the different cuts of meat are on a cow, Alton gives pictures.

Overall, interesting descriptions on the science of cooking and looking at what makes food at a molecular level. There seemed to be a lack of quality control - some pages would detail measured amounts, others would skip it.

The organization was a bit curious to me - the book clearly opens with bread recipes, then dances around all kin
Lindsey Duncan
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A quick overview: CookWise is a guide to the hows and whys of cooking, the science behind why bread rises (or doesn't), what turns a juicy piece of meat into a tough lump ... and so much more. The book is fantastic on many levels. It's enlightening to read cover to cover (as I did); it's a great reference for specific questions. It's intriguing as an exploration of the conditions and chemistry that produce great (or terrible) food; it's useful for troubleshooting recipes both before and after co ...more
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I think there are two ways to cook: you can memorize recipes or you can understand what those recipes are doing. Cookwise is a great reference for the latter. Corriher does a great job describing how each ingredient and technique affects the final outcome. In doing so, we come to understand how we can get the effect we want (cripsy vs. chewy cookie) and figure out what we've done wrong (pastry creme coddling: add more sugar so that the egg proteins don't coagulate as quickly). I wish Corriher wa ...more
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Only the Kitchen Gods know how many ingredients I would have gone on throwing in the garbage had I not discovered this book and learned how to vet a recipe before even breaking out my bowls. This book isn't just for home chefs, however; I think it would be a fascinating read for your average science geek. If it weren't for her explanation of denatured protein I would never have arrived at the counter-intuitive revelations that skim milk is the best for a good sturdy cappuccino foam, or that usin ...more
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first heard of the author on 'Good Eats' where he uses her as a reference, normally admitting that she is more qualified than he.

It struck me to order the book online & I waited very impatiently for its arrival. I was not let down. It's filled with insight and science based explanation as to why food reacts the way it does depending on different variables. I especially appreciate the charts she laid out for "troubleshooting" a recipe.

One of my favorite tips was to use vodka for flaky pie
Stephen Simpson
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cookbook, own
A very good mix of recipes ("how") and detailed explanations of *why* things need to be done a certain way, as well as how ingredients and techniques interact (which let's you apply the lessons to other recipes/cookbooks, and fix the ones that look like good ideas but don't actually work in practice). The only drawback for me was the section on breads; there are techniques recommended by others (Peter Reinhart and Jeffrey Hammelman) that produce better results.
May 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All those who love to cook, or just need help
Shelves: cooking, non-fiction
This is an awesome book - She breaks down the mysteries of why one person can get a recipe to work fabulously, and for another it flops. Cooking is a science, and she reveals the basics in this textbook for working with what you have, and knowing why something turned out the way it did. Also full of recipes that illustrate her points, and choices in ingredients to affect the outcome. Big thumbs up.
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Outstanding cooking book. Sure, it's a recipe book, but that's beside the point. Shirley tells you the ins and out of making everything from perfect pie dough to wonderfully prepared meats and veggies.

It's a kitchen companion and up there with "On Food and Cooking". If you've ever wondered how cakes from scratch go together or what part egg whites and yolks play in a dish, this book is for you.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great information on food science for the non-food scientist. It explains how it all works and why recipes are put together the way they are. I found this helpful as I improvise and modify different recipes. There is a recipe or two to illustrate each point. I found the recipes not to my taste. I like to know how things work, but I cook rather simply and I am not a foodie that the recipes seem to cater to.
Benjamin Duffy
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not the kind of book you just sit down and read cover to cover - it is a cookbook, after all - and lacking the adorable, elementary school science teacher vibe she brings to her spots on Alton Brown's Good Eats, but still a pretty amazing book. As someone who would rather learn underlying principles and then be shooed out the door than master recipes by rote, this dense volume is right up my alley. You can see why Alton hero-worships her so fervently.
Apr 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who cook
I reference this book all the time for all kinds of reasons. It explains everything you've ever wondered about cooking; has lots of good tricks, tips and alternatives too.
It also has fun charts with the same recipe using different sorts of the same ingredient (like butter, shortening, oil, lard) so you can play lab at home for the sole purpose of inspecting the different ways the recipe turns out (and not at all as an excuse to make lots of chocolate chip cookies).
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely fantastic! It engages all foodies ranging from the most expert cook to true beginner. The awesome chemistry of cooking is revealed and gives great insight into those meals that went wrong somewhere. A Mr. fix-it among recipe books as well as a good guide to cooking everything from the perfect pie to a standing rib roast.
Mar 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
A fantastic reference I'll, no doubt, keep returning to when I forget the details. A book every serious home cook should have handy so they know why their hard work might run awry in the cooking process. I loved the in depth chemical explanations in particular.

I did feel like some of the recipes she listed detracted from the material, however.
Aug 01, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: food, nytimes
As seen in David Leite's "Perfection? Hint: It’s Warm and Has a Secret" from the 9 July 2008 NYTimes.

Also as seen in this webinar: scrub to ~15:00.
See my review for Bakewise and then compound that by the fact that I NEVER cook, nor do I enjoy it, so this is WAY out of my league. I really need to get the "I Hate to Cook Book". I think that will be more my speed.

That being said, I bet this would be a great book for the people in your life who really love cooking. And molecular biology.
Catherine Weller
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Food Nerds Unite!

Corriher's seminal book of food science is not to be missed. Knowing why things work the way they do frees a cook to experiment more and gives one great things to talk about at cocktail parties when the topic of polygamy is exhausted (ok that's unique to me). One of my favorite all-time books on food.
Larry Brennan
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: foodie-books
This is a cookbook you can read for the entertainment value, but it's all about the food. Shirley Corriher takes us through a wide swath of cooking techniques, teaching the whys of cooking, not just the hows.
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Awesome combination of recipes at a range of difficulty levels interspersed with fascinating tips and information about the science behind how and why certain cooking processes work as they do. Love this.
Jun 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
I'm actually trying to read this chapter by chapter. I skipped the first two chapters, both about baking, because Miriam does the baking in our family. But I'm in the part about frying right now. Very informative.
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book for those want to know the chemistry behind cooking. It has equally wonderful cooking tips and recipes. This book especially helpful for those desiring to master breadmaking.
Dec 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this one from the Library only to realize several pages in that I will want to own a copy and begin scribbling in the margins. Lots of great information and recipes... I can't wait to get started!
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