In fact, many homebrewers enjoy cooking and many cooks enjoy homebrewing. That is why I wrote this post. There is a new cookbook on the market that I love and I think other homebrewers will as well. It's called The Science of Good Cooking.
Why I like it
There are thousands of cookbooks put out every year, so why is this one different?
As a homebrewer, you're always trying to find the best way to do things. Do any of these statements strike a chord?
- What's better for fermenting – a secondary or no secondary?
- How much roasted barley should I use in a stout?
- Does a decoction mash really improve a Czech pilsner?
TSOGC asks the same questions with cooking. Here are a few of my favorites:
- How long should I rest a steak after cooking it?
- Does acid really help in a marinade?
- What's the best way to use herbs?
The book answers these questions and many more though experimentation and the use of tasting panels. For a complete list of the concepts covered, check out this review (b/c Amazon doesn't list the table of contents).
If you're familiar with this book's editors, Cook's Illustrated, then this approach is not new to you. Testing recipes is in their DNA as is best illustrated by their show America's Test Kitchen.
What sets this book apart is 1) It's comprehensive. There are 50 concepts and over 400 recipes. It's huge. 2) There is an explanation for everything including sections called “The Science Behind It” and “Why It Works” for every concept. 3) It really does work, at least for what I've tried.
For example, my scrambled eggs went to a whole new level after reading that chapter. It says to use both milk and butter, add more yolk than whites, and move the pan from high to low heat halfway through cooking. The result? The fluffiest, most delicious eggs I've ever eaten. Brilliant!
If you're a homebrewer and you like to cook, you will love this book. The author, Guy Crosby, takes a scientific approach to cooking but never loses sight of the end goal – making something that tastes as good as possible. A fine credo for homebrewing as well.
As a word of warning, don't expect a visually appealing cookbook with full-page, gorgeous photos that make you drool. This is more like a textbook than a cookbook. There are some photos but they are black and white and are used more to show you comparisons (e.g. resting meat vs. not resting) as opposed to what the finished meal should look like. This may matter to some people.
Now, when will see a similar book for homebrewing?