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Looking for a good book about cooking

I am looking for a good book about culinary technique - not necessarily a traditional cookbook with recipes, but rather something that might fill in knowledge about the underlying principles of cooking. I don't want a book for total novices; I am a good cook, but sometimes feel as though I'm flying a bit blind, never having learned about food in any rigorous, structured way. I'm looking for the type of knowledge I might get from a good intensive cooking class, if I had the time for that. A book is no substitute, I realize, but the world is an imperfect place!

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  1. May I recommend "Essentials of Cooking" by James Peterson. Beautifully illustrated with photos, clearly explained technique and a glossary or terminology. My go-to how-to book.

    2 Replies
    1. re: WCchopper

      Absolutely, "Essentials of Cooking" is the one to teach you how food comes together. After that you may want to look at more specialized books on knife skills and other kitchen techniques but for the big picture, Peterson's book is great.

      1. re: inuksuk

        Thanks to both of you. this book sounds like exactly what i'm looking for. If anyone has any other suggestions, chime in! I have plenty of room in my bookshelves for good food books!

    2. I find Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques to be a great resource. When I am wondering about the how of a particular technique, I can almost always find it in there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Megiac

        I agree wholeheartedly! Excellent books.

      2. If you don't mind a coffee-table book the size of a coffee table, Julia Child's last great tome "The Way to Cook" is exactly that - each section starts with outlining a technique, then applies that technique to a variety of dishes, then you get a lot of very useful sidebars discussing variations on the theme. The cover price is kinda high, but less than a year after it came out I scored one in an antiques mall for $17, and have seen copies at flea markets for even less.

        The Ruth Reichl-edited NY Times cookbook (yellow cover) has a lot of very useful technical information put into sidebars, too, including an egg-boiling technique that's both considerably less elaborate and more consistently effective than Julia's.

        I don't have any of Shirley Corriher's books, but after hearing her speak those are on my must-have list. She told me more about the use and abuse of cast-iron pans in twenty minutes than I'd learned in fifty+ years of using them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          I agree with Will and also want to suggest Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking. Another book I cannot imagine not having in my kitchen and on hand is the late Sharon Tyler Herbst's Food Lover's Companion.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Would you be willing to share Shirley Corriher's use and abuse of cast-iron pans?

          2. Another one that might be handy: Culinary Artistry by Dornenburg and Page.

            1. All the suggestions are great! I would add "The Inquisitive Cook" by Anne Gardiner and Sue Wilson to the mix. This book, part of The Accidental Scientist series, gives you the science behind the cooking. Now, when something doesn't go right, you can find out why. (Sometimes I find myself reading this book waaay too often.)