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Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,594 ratings  ·  187 reviews
Why, exactly, do we cook the way we do? Are you curious about the science behind what happens to food as it cooks? Are you the innovative type, used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Do you want to learn how to become a better cook?

Cooking for Geeks is more than just a cookbook. Author and cooking geek Jeff Potter helps you apply curiosity, i
Paperback, 412 pages
Published August 12th 2010 by O'Reilly Media (first published April 1st 2007)
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Elaine Nelson
I love food science stuff: two things I miss very much from having actual TV is Good Eats and America's Test Kitchen, both of which get into why things work in the kitchen.

This book does that, with the extra twist of assuming a (computer) geek audience. It's smart and charming in the process. Lots of interviews, a whole section of really weird cooking techniques, and recipes too.

I've only used one of the recipes so far: Bechamel Sauce, which turns out to be the first time EVER that I've made a c
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Perpetually curious people and/or foodies
Recommended to Kristina by: Ralitsa
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ That's rather an unusual book.
It's neither a cookbook nor a science one. Actually, it's more of an interesting mixture of both blended with some salt, pepper and a great amount of fun. I would recommend it to everyone that feels even a bit like a foodie.
There are many smart tips to remember and recall when you cook next time. It also consists of delicious recipes and a few interviews with chefs and scientists.

The book provides satisfying answers to "How" and "Why" to some cooking question
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I've read a fair number of books, websites, and magazines about cooking over the years. Prior to this book, though, NONE of them discussed using 3D printing technology to create cookie cutters/molds for cookies in the shape of the Linux mascot. Now, most of this book isn't nearly that hardcore, but it does give you a bit of insight into the mindset that went into developing it.

Cooking for Geeks knows its target audience well, and is full of content to appeal to geeks across all levels of experi
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-enjoy-again
If I were new in the kitchen, or if I wanted to give my son a 'housewarming' gift, or my husband a 'retirement' gift, I'd buy this book. I am on the wait list for a cheap used copy already.

Lots of excellent science, and lots of encouragement to the pizza and Hostess snack cakes crowd.

Also lots of stuff I'm not, at least for now, at all interested in.

I liked Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking better.

But this one has a Mean (as in arithmetical average) Chocolate Chip Coo
Kimberly Hughes
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is not a cookbook as there are very few recipes. The title is misleading as you would think it would delve into the science of cooking and how to manipulate recipes and it doesn't do this either. It's really a basic overview of how cooking works for those that come to it knowing absolutely nothing about cooking past a box of macaroni and cheese.

It's actually a very simple book filled with information on how to perform basic cooking experiments that would be good for 12-year-olds if it were
Nov 16, 2011 rated it liked it
An excellent book! Learn how to make your own seitan! Learn how to make your own green olives. I no longer think of food as being cooked, I think of its proteins as being denatured. Every cocktail made at my house from now on will be sure to feature homemade ginger, mint, or lemon syrup. And whiskey, of course, I won't forget that part. ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I've been interested in the science behind food and cooking for years and this is my first attempt at understanding what goes on in the kitchen.

The book was all over the place for me, some of it was interesting other parts not at all. The first two chapters seemed geared towards readers who have never cooked before, the middle chapters seemed to be fore people with an understanding and curiosity about cooking and the final few chapters were for serious foodies. I debated putting the book down a
Sep 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
This read like a Cliff Notes version of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

If you are new to cooking or are curious about the why and how of cooking, Cooking for Geeks is a great introduction. If you're already comfortable in the kitchen, you might get more from On Food and Cooking.
Tim Daughters
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was great. If you like to cook and you like science, you'll love this book. It is full of detailed scientific explanations of the reactions that go on in your kitchen combined with practical advice about how to make adjustments to get the results you want. There is a good dose of humor as well.
Then, there are the experiments. Some are quite practical, and you will learn something useful. Others are whimsical like making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, or cooking meat in your dishwashe
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I forgot to review this, which is funny because I read it, raved about it, and then ended up buying copies for some of my friend's Christmas gifts.

This book really appealed to me. But I am the type of over analyzing person that this book is aimed at. I like to know how something works and then go from there. With cooking, I've been uninterested in relying on recopies. Just explain the chemistry of a cake, and then I'll go off and play with stuff and see what I can make. In that respect this book
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First read-through, I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet.

My great annoyance when attempting to work with other cookbooks was that I didn't really understand what was going on, or why certain steps had to be done in a particular order, etc. And this book has cleared up many things that may be obvious to people who grew up doing lots of cooking, but wasn't to me (too many things to count). While the "modernist cooking" section is interesting, the very well written focus on what actually
Jan 22, 2013 marked it as to-read
So, I was reading this article about cookbooks at a lady blog SHUT UP DON'T JUDGE ME and then I was like hey, I'm a geek and I eat, maybe I should read this. ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the sort of book most likely to be enjoyed by people who watch(ed) MythBusters on television. In fact, Adam Savage, one of the two "stars" of MythBusters provides one of the many interviews in this text. [There is also an interview with Jacques Pépin, for balance, I guess.] Despite its wide variety of lexical choices (more than any other language), English is plagued by ambiguities. There is ambiguity in the title. Does it mean that this is a book about how to cook foods to be served to ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly covers the basics. Oddly organized. Did help me figure out my oven calibration and remind me to get my knives sharpened however :)

Also had some fun food experiments to try with kids.
Jessica Strider
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Pros: a lot of extremely detailed information about cooking methods, equipment, reactions, etc., interviews with people who cook creatively

Cons: not many recipes, some information is well beyond what most cooks will use/need

This is an interesting cookbook. I would consider the first 5 chapters worth reading if you plan to do any cooking and want a better understanding of what's happening or if you like experimenting.

If you REALLY like experimenting the last 2 chapters will be perfect for you. If
Adam Wiggins
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is a great combination of two things: (1) assuming you are intelligent and (2) assuming you know absolutely nothing about cooking.

Which gives choice quotes like:

"We eat for two physiological reasons: to provide our bodies with food to break down into energy (via catabolism), and to provide our cells with the necessary building blocks to synthesize the chemicals that cells need to function (called anabolism)."


"Cooking is the application of heat to ingredients to transform them via ch
Peter Schott
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Geeks who are interested in cooking.
This is not a cookbook. If you’re looking for a new collection of recipes, this is not the book for you. If you like shows like Good Eats or enjoy seeing how food is prepared and served, you’ll almost certainly love Cooking for Geeks. If you like experimenting in the kitchen and knowing why food turns out the way it does, pick up this book!

As a geek, I loved Jeff’s analogy: Recipes are code. Follow a recipe as written and you generally get good results. Forget the where clause and you could have
Jack Jacobson
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Cooking is chemistry. With maybe a little physics thrown in on the side. You know, temperature control, stuff like that.

You may think you don't like to cook. Too boring, too restrictive, you have to follow the recipe - or else. If so, this book is for you. It answer questions that most cook books don't think about asking. And if you have any curiosity about why recipes turn out like they do, and are interested in experimenting, using a knowledge of chemistry and physics to improve your dishes, t
May 22, 2013 added it
Okay, this book wasn't exactly what I expected. In some ways, it's almost a textbook for a food science class and a "cooking for dummies" book in one, with some fun geeky things tossed in. To say it's textbook-like is to say that at times it felt long-winded and unnecessarily detailed.

But of course, that's just where I'm coming from, as a somewhat-interested-in-food-science person and a knows-plenty-about-cooking-already person. I can imagine people who really want to know so many things about t
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best cookbook for a geek and/or otherwise analytically minded person! It doesn't just tell you what to do, but why you do it, so you actually learn something about cooking. ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fun and surprisingly instructive. I now know exactly what temperature melts sugar, and I'm glad I do. ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading this book on and off for almost a decade. I have always loved to cook but this book helped me to move beyond following recipes down to the letter. The author encourages you to try new things, have fun, and risk making mistakes. If your dish doesn't work out, just order a pizza.

In addition to helping change my attitude, there is so much food science jammed in here. I learned something new everytime I picked it up. The chapters on leaveners, temperature and flavors were particul
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbooks
Cooking for Geeks is a fun book with actually a fair share of recipes included, most of which are tasty. The congee recipe was incredible and very informative, and I loved how the author is right about it being a concept. Once you read the recipe once, you know the backbone of the recipe and from there you can move on to make your own congee recipe. The book includes tons of fun projects, information, and interviews.

The most important thing I learned from this cookbook was to never follow a coo
Bryan Whitehead
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
I’ll admit to being in the obvious target audience for a book with this title. It started on my good side by sharing some insights on the psychology of cooking, and I found several other sections absolutely fascinating. However, more tedious passages were sprinkled in with the good stuff. I got so grossed out by the fanatical detail of the food safety section that I had to skim most of it. And half of the final chapter is devoted to sous vide cooking, something I’m not likely to try (expensive? ...more
Amy Cutting
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-cooking
Very much enjoyed this seriously in-depth, hardcore geek cookbook. Almost makes Alton Brown (who I love!) look like a lightweight ;)

I actually loaned my copy that was won as a prize at the Maker Faire to a friend who I though would enjoy it and hadn't seen it since so when I ran across it for sale at my local library, snatched it up and decided the loan would then just be a gift and we could both enjoy the book!

I particularly enjoy the Sweet Corn and Miso Soup, Japanese-style Marinade, Duck Conf
Dawn Drain
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I was hungry for an annoyingly large fraction of last year... and my friends kept making fun of me for being terrible at cooking. I don't think I got much better after reading this book, unfortunately :/. Ha, honestly the main takeaway was how much I've been depriving myself by not eating eggs. At this point I'm sticking with a couple go-to recipes (and frozen meals..., and catering at work!) and holding out until I have some housemates to apprentice myself to. ...more
Anna Katarzyna
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a tough one to rate. It's a good, thorough, interesting book- 4.5/5- for meat eaters. If you don't eat meat, about 60% of the book won't be of use to you, and if you're vegan, about 80% will be irrelevant. I wish someone told me this before! ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so much of cooking finally makes sense! the chapter in food borne illnesses is terrifying
Jeff Norris
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book for geeks that are interested in cooking. Give some cool experiments to try in the kitchen.
Feb 12, 2018 added it
Shelves: cookbook, 2018
I learned a number of new things about cooking from this book which has information on every type of cooking.
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Jeff Potter is curious about the science of food and loves finding answers to why ingredients and recipes work the way they do. By bringing science to food-minded people—and food to science-minded people—he blends genres to educate the public about how to master the kitchen. He’s been featured in USA Today, the Today Show, and is a regular guest on Science Friday. He’s even had the pleasure (and t ...more

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
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“Hackers, makers, programmers, engineers, nerds, techies — what we’ll call “geeks” for the rest of the book (deal with it) — we’re a creative lot who don’t like to be told what to do.” 3 likes
“The modern geek is more than just a refined version of the stereotypical movie geek from the ’80s.” 1 likes
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