Which technique book?
I'm the owner of an embarassing number of cookbooks which turned me into a moderately skilled home cook. So far my culinary education has consisted of picking ideas here and there. There are many things that I don't know how to do. I want to take my skills and understanding to the next level. Problem is I don't really know how.
Looking around Amazon I found a few books that appear to be what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for recipes so much but for a book that with a fair amount of practice will give me skills and a better understanding of cooking. I'm also looking for the most in depth and comprehensive one.
On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (4th Edition) by Sarah R. Labensky
The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America
Le Cordon Bleu's Complete Cooking Techniques
Professional Cooking, College Version by Wayne Gisslen
I've read most reviews but it's hard to tell how they compare with each other.
Any ideas? Has anyone compared any of the above?
over the years I've at least glanced at a number of "professional" oriented books (once had a roommate in "hospitality school"). Most of those really are oriented to professional kitchens and not much use for the home cook (unless you want recipes geared for serving 500 at a time.) Larousse Gastronomique, at least the older editions, is a worthy reference, but more "academic" than home-kitchen useful. For pure technique, I like Jacques Pepin's book (can't think of the name offhand) and if it's still available, I think there was a video set that might be even more useful. Unusually for me, I have no idea where I think I've heard that the Cordon Bleu book is very good for the type, but that's probably worth looking at. Lastly, Julia Child's "Way to Cook" is pretty good though I rarely refer to it, and the former mostly co-author/visible-ghost-writing Dorie Greenspan's books are probably good though I don't own any of those nor recall perusing them in person. Bottom line: probably a good idea to go to a brick & mortar bookstore and check a few out, maybe see if there's anything you hadn't thought of in the section of the bookstore where you find the others...
I do not have personal experience with any of the books other than The Professional Chef (CIA). I find it to be a very thorough reference, for everything from fruit/veg/seafood/shellfish/dry goods identification to knife cuts and various techniques for cooking and baking. Many of the recipes are hard to reproduce at home (e.g. most of the sauces are in gallon increments, six pounds of dough, etc.) but the techniques are there. I paid that price on Amazon and would happily pay it again for this book. Of course, if you fall in love with a technique (braising, for example, as I did), you'll need something like "All About Braising" in addition. I would recommend going to the bookstore and comparing a couple yourself, if you can find them.
Don't you just love all those wonderful books out there? I own well over 400 and am always on the look out for more. I have each of the books you mention and love them all - my favourite would be Larousse - I read it and read it and read it! in addition to the above for more practical purposes I use my "Fundamentals Techniques of Classic Cuisine". It is a beautiful book and great for reference. You may find Julia's books too simplistic at this stage. If you are interested in sauces Pearson's "Sauces" is an excellent book.
If you are at all into cooking with herbs and spices (I am absolutely CRAZY about it!) the Spice and Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill is excellent as it details tons of herbs and spices in almost an encyclopedic format. It discusses those interesting unique ones such as achiote, sumac, calamus, ajowan, etc. It inspired me to make another huge order from Penzey's recently. Excellent for combining flavours with foods and also offers a recipe or two per entry. I use it often.
Thanks for everyone's replies and suggestions!
MikeG thanks for suggesting the Pepin book. It's exactly what I was looking for and relatively cheap. I'll try that and the Professional Chef for now, but I'm definitely adding the Larousse on the wish list.
I wish I could but I can't go to a bookstore and browse the books. Unfortunately I'm in a rural, far away place and the internet is all I have... Which is not a bad thing considering the great suggestions I got here :)
chefathome, you're so right, one can never have enough cookbooks and they are so many wonderful books out there!
I graduated from the CIA in 1976 the year Pepin's Le Technique was published and received it as a gift. Actually, the first French chef I worked under worked with Jacques early in their culinary careers in Paris at the Plaza Athénée so I got to meet him. I loved this book but now think this and most other “how to” books are obselete. Video (YouTube, etc.) & the Internet has replaced books as the best source to learn cooking skills. I have not bought a cookbook in ten years. There is no need anymore.
No comment on which one you should buy, but just so you know, you have an older edition of "The Professional Chef" linked there. Here's the newest, as far as I can tell:
I have an older edition, which was at the time called "The New Professional Chef," and it's pretty good for knife skills and other foundational topics. I haven't cracked it in several years but I should probably drag it out and re-study some of that stuff. Thanks for the reminder :-)