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How to Taste: The Curious Cook's Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond--with Recipes
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How to Taste: The Curious Cook's Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond--with Recipes

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  206 ratings  ·  34 reviews
This engaging and approachable (and humorous!) guide to taste and flavor will make you a more skilled and confident home cook. How to Taste outlines the underlying principles of taste, and then takes a deep dive into salt, acid, bitter, sweet, fat, umami, bite (heat), aromatics, and texture. You'll find out how temperature impacts your enjoyment of the dishes you make as d ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 13th 2018 by Sasquatch Books
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Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  206 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking, non-fiction
This book was really well written -- though I am not a big fan of the lighthearted, confessional tone the author uses during the book. (It's fine, just not my cup of tea.) Where this book shines is the thought and care behind breaking down the basic principals of taste - plus adding some additional concepts that are are also important to the enjoyment of food -- while providing not only proper recipes, but experiments that will allow the reader to figure out their own words for what she is descr ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everybody knows that humans can distinguish only four tastes: salt, acid, sweet and bitter. It says that in the Book of Leviticus. Then the Japanese, who think their palates to be congenitally superior to everybody else's, added a fifth taste: umami. Becky Selengut, who is a Seattle chef and a local teacher of cooks, says there are lots more than just those, maybe even eleven! In writing a book about how to taste food and how to make food taste good, she identifies ten "tastes" and a number of o ...more
Andrew Carr
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
In a similar vein to Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat this book talks about how food works, how to construct or change and adjust meals, and what the f*** 'season to taste' actually means.

This is a very handy book for aspiring cooks. It is well laid out, the experiments are interesting, and there are links to some video demonstrations online. Plus, the author has a punkish, self-deprecating style that makes it a fun book to learn from and never feel lectured by.

Recommended for those who hover over a dish o
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culinary, sensory
Skillful explanation of balancing flavor in a dish by trusting your own senses. Informative & casual style. Everyone who eats or cooks should read this.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Looking forward both to putting the author's flavour principles to work in my cooking and to finding out how many taste buds I have with blue dye! ...more
Alana McCool
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is about what makes food taste good. Most times, if happen your food is "meh" it is a problem with salt, acid, sweet, or bitter. Only when happen you fix these problems you can say, maybe it needs some herbs or other things. This book teaches when for to use which. I think it is enough this book taught me how to use salt and always cook perfect scrambled eggs, but all the other parts are good also. The experiments teach how different things change a recipe so happen you can't say after ...more
La Crosse Public Library
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How to Taste claims to be a cooking theory book, rather than simply a recipe book. The author clearly states that the intent with this book is to teach you how to cook using the basics of flavor and the science of taste, so that you can go on to apply these skills to anything you make.

I found the book to be an interesting, and quick, read. I have definitely put some of the ideas in it to use, especially using salt more readily. It does contain several recipes, and the ones I've tried were great.
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing! Have you ever cooked something that was fine but did not have that extra zing? Ever added too much salt? Too much fat? Becky Selengut explains how to figure out was is wrong with the dish and then what to do to correct it. Very easy to follow, with 'experiments' so that you can see how salt/acid/sweet/fat/bitter/umami/aromatics/bite/texture affect your dish. There are recipes at the end of each chapter that highlight the topic covered, but the real fun is with experimenting ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is hands down the best "how to cook" book I've read. Instead of teaching you things like how to cut carrots into stars it teaches you how to use flavor to its full potential. My cooking improved dramatically after reading this once I understood how to properly use things like salt. I'm a vegetarian so I didn't try most of the recipes as they were largely meat-based, but the advice was sound and still very helpful. This is the one cookbook I'd recommend to everyone. ...more
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-and-drink
I actually salted a cup of black coffee because of this book - and, as promised, it cut the bitterness. Worth a read if you're looking for fun and tasty experiments geared towards making you a more imaginative creator of delicious, well-balanced meals. ...more
Food will not taste the same after reading this book. Dining becomes an entirely new experience.
I am by far more a consumer than a preparer of food. I won't starve if left to my own cooking but I much prefer to be served.
This book has tempted me to experiment in the kitchen, as well as in my experiences dining in other places. After reading this book, I will be more aware of the entire environment and dining experience.
I enjoyed the explanations and discussion of experiments and results.
Rachel Rogers
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
We're big fans of Alton Brown's Good Eats (and reloaded) in this house so much of what Selengut touched upon was at least familiar to me. That said, she explained things clearly, in an entertaining and educational manner, and made me excited about playing with flavors while cooking. Reminded me of Ratio, but for cooking and not baking; they whys and wherefores of flavor and taste in your meals. Additional point:my father was recently put on a low/no-salt diet and the family is struggling to add ...more
Tom Bantle
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Selengut writes with humor and knowledge for ordinary folks who want to go beyond recipes and create delicious dishes that sing. Written in a down-to-earth style, Selengut allows the reader to analyse why she or he loves certain dishes. More importantly, it provides real-world solutions for mistakes, a real basis for making substitutions in recipes, and a guide to understanding how your individual taste is unique. Well worth reading by any cook who wants to understand flavors and to work to bett ...more
Brian Rogers
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This was enjoyable and full of worthwhile information, but for reasons I can't identify reading it kept putting me to sleep, whereas my wife flew through it in a day.

it's definitely something I'll be revisiting as I experiment with cooking, so long as I have a spotter to keep me from passing out on the floor.
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars because it will be a reference for the way I think about flavorings, troubleshooting dishes, and other fun things like garnishes or how to balance what each item adds. This was written in a conversational style, which I found delightful and makes it feel like you're in a 1:1 class with Chef Selengut, rather than being dictated at by some old, stuffy rulebook. ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I’ll keep handy for reference. I never knew a book about taste and food prep could be so HILARIOUS! I sometimes think I learned as much from this book as I did from culinary school! :D Through a creative take on culinary writing, Becky Selengut produces an all-inclusive view of how to make our food memorable and exceptional.
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Its nice to read a book about how to balance the elements of food, rather than just a book of recipes. This book tells you why certain flavors are needed, what to do if you have too much of one, what foods harbor those tastes, and how you can experiment. There are a few recipes but mostly its lessons about food, with loads of humor mixed in :)
Bussola Vespucci
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book from the library with the intention of flipping through it, reading highlights, and returning.

I was sucked into reading every word (even before I even got to the chapter with the South Park reference).

Now I'm going to have to buy the book.
Mar 18, 2020 rated it liked it
A fun read - she makes some good jokes and I enjoyed her writing style. The ideas are all things I’ve heard but it was a nice reminder to look at the balance of flavors and make sure there’s enough salt in my cooking. Didn’t do any of the activities but maybe I will later.
JoAnn M
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about adjusting the taste of your culinary creations, but the recipes in the book were too hifalutin' for me. ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, cooking
This was a great book. I learned much more than I expected and I think it's already improved my cooking. I would highly recommend it to anyone with any interest in cooking v ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's not so much a cookbook as it is a troubleshooting guide for cooking. ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick and fun to read. I learned things. Funny.
Ariste Egan
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Information that will change the way you cook!
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A decent book. I was looking for ways to not follow a strict recipe and this helps, but I need it in a card I can put on my fridge.
LA Smith
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for home cooks and mindful eaters alike, filled with wonderful insights and some dandy recipes worth a try.
Will Clemmons
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
A wee bit of information overload, but overall an informative read.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, entertaining, educational book that teaches one to recognize and use the essential components of flavorful dishes.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
She seems quite knowledgeable but she didn't format the knowledge in a way that made it easily actionable ...more
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book leveled up my cooking skills and gave me a new appreciation for food and how to properly balance ingredients. ALWAYS USE SALT!
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