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Modernist Cuisine - The Art and Science of Cooking ... less per pound than Parmigiano Reggiano (it is almost 50 lbs)

rworange Feb 16, 2011 07:41 PM

Do the math ... $467.62 at Amazon ... but the shipping is free

Who is buying this six volume, 2,438 page cookbook with 1,522 recipes by Nathan Myhrvold?

Any good links to excerpts? There is a Chowhound post about cooking perfect fish that was interesting

Yes, I don't cook much, but I love knowing the science behind cooking and the fish post got me interested.

I'm a huge fan of Harold McGee who was a contributor to the book. He writes in the Amazon blurb

"Modernist Cuisine is a landmark contribution to the craft of cooking and our understanding of its underlying principles. Its scale, detail, and eye-opening graphics are unmatched by any other book on the subject. It will be an invaluable resource for anyone with a serious interest in cooking techniques, whether the professional innovations of the last few decades or the long traditions on which they build."

I'm also interested in the Sections for Food Safety (Simplifyig food safety with science) and Microbiology for Cooks (Protists and viruses and prions, oh my!)

There are recipes from fish and chips to a 30 hour hamburger.

It is cool that the Techniques and Equipment includes microwaves (and slightly dangerous tricks you can do with it).

Potentially iInteresting stuff to me from that part of the book which "pro­vides a new view inside the old approaches—from grilling to smok­ing, stir-fry to saute—to reveal what is really going on. This view through the sci­en­tists’ eyes debunks many long-held mis­con­cep­tions about tra­di­tional ways of cook­ing. The authors show, for exam­ple, why:

1.boil­ing often cooks faster than steaming;
2.adjustable grills cook just as hot as fixed grills;
3.expen­sive pots and pans are not worth it;
4.bak­ing is really all about dry­ing the food;
5.deep-fried food tastes best when the oil is older"

I'm just kind of disappointed there is no ebook version. More than the price, the thoguht of lugging this around and having it take up shelf space is sort of a negative for me.

Here's the table of contents from the website

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  1. w
    wattacetti RE: rworange Feb 17, 2011 03:19 AM

    Pre-ordered for under $400 when it first became available. I don't think that it's intended to be lugged around, but chances are good that there will likely be some sort of e-book extension to the tome.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti
      rworange RE: wattacetti Feb 17, 2011 06:40 AM

      I know that. It is just I see a few moves in my future and the thought of packing even more books, especially 50 pounds worth, puts me off.

      Hope you'll report back when you get it. I'll probably just hang out in some books stores and browse through it to see how lug-worthy it is.

      1. re: rworange
        wattacetti RE: rworange Feb 18, 2011 10:45 AM

        You know, if you buy it, you wouldn't need to invest in a home gym since you could use the books as free weights. Amazon.ca indicates March 7 so that's another 2.5 weeks before the UPS guy starts talking hernia.

    2. chefathome RE: rworange Feb 17, 2011 08:25 AM

      Man, on Amazon.ca it is $529.99 CDN. I would be all over it if I could only get it for $400. Cannot wait to hear your report on it, wattacetti. I really, really, really want it! The 50 lb doesn't put me off at all - in fact, the more encyclopedic and weighty the better. I consider anything under 400 pages thin! :-D

      As an aside, it is very frustrating that books are SO much more expensive on Amazon.ca than Amazon.com when our dollar is pretty darned close. Just a rant...

      4 Replies
      1. re: chefathome
        wattacetti RE: chefathome Feb 18, 2011 10:52 AM

        Interesting; the Canadian list price jumped from $625 to $700 in the last couple of weeks. It also seems to have jumped by 200 or so additional pages. So at the price I ordered at, I'm getting this thing at a paltry $0.16 per page.

        Not all books are more expensive on Amazon.ca; Blumenthal's Further Adventures in Search of Perfection (the one with the Blumenburger recipe) is considerably cheaper on this side of the border. I guess they're just targeting the high-profile titles.

        1. re: wattacetti
          chefathome RE: wattacetti Feb 18, 2011 12:35 PM

          You're right - not all are more expensive but I'd say the vast majority always have been (maybe 80% or so??). The reason I know is that I always check the reviews on Amazon.com as there are more of them there and the price is almost always lower, too...

          Man, I could stomach $400 or so but $700 is a little much. My birthday is coming up, though. I'll have to drop some subtle hints around the house.

          1. re: chefathome
            wattacetti RE: chefathome Feb 18, 2011 05:19 PM

            $700 is SRP; Amazon.ca's running $530, which is still a bit steep. You could sell this by say, reminding everyone that it's only 10,600 deposit cans for them to collect. And it's way cheaper than any recent bottle of Pétrus en primeur.

        2. re: chefathome
          hsk RE: chefathome Jan 7, 2012 09:00 AM

          Amazon.ca had a one-day Boxing Day deal for $395.99 and since I'd been eyeing it for some time I took the plunge. It just arrived yesterday, it's stunning. Five large hardcover volumes in a clear acrylic case and a coil bound kitchen manual.

        3. p
          Pappy RE: rworange Feb 17, 2011 09:18 AM

          You may be refering to my post Feb 14. No replies of yet. I may have jumped the gun. I'm going to copy it here in hopes of some more banter.

          Myhrvold's Fish Technique Saturday's Wall Street Journal had an article about Nathan Myhrvold's new cookbook series Modernist Cuisine. If you haven't heard about it, I would encourage you to read about it. They also had a brief Q and A. See part of it below. Has anyone tried this? Did it work? How long did it take?

          PROBLEM #4: You can't make perfect fish.
          SOLUTION: Broil it in wine.
          In an oven-proof pan, lay a piece of fish on a bed of onions, fennel or another aromatic. Pour wine to nearly cover the fish, leaving only the skin uncovered. Place the pan under a hot top-heated broiler and cook until the skin is crisp; the exact timing will vary widely depending on the thickness of the fish and other factors. Remove from broiler, insert a digital thermometer and wait until the fish reaches the desired temperature (somewhere between 120 and 130 degrees is often optimal). If the fish does not reach temperature, heat the pan gently on the stove top until it does. The fish will be tender, with crispy skin.

          WHAT'S GOING ON: "Evaporative cooling" is at work here. The alcohol in the wine evaporates so rapidly that it cools the wine, keeping it from getting too hot and overcooking the fish. Meanwhile, the broiler crisps the skin to perfection.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pappy
            rworange RE: Pappy Feb 17, 2011 09:54 AM

            Yes, that's the post I linked to, thanks for reposting. I was hoping someone had tried this. I wonder though how wine-soaked the fish tastes.

          2. Gio RE: rworange Feb 17, 2011 09:45 AM

            I first read about this set of books, being called The Most Important Cookbook Ever, last Thursday here:

            Today the following article appeared via the Serious Eats blog:

            Absolutely fascinating in every way.

            1. Servorg RE: rworange Mar 7, 2011 11:25 AM

              What's the Kindle price? ;-D>

              8 Replies
              1. re: Servorg
                runwestierun RE: Servorg Mar 7, 2011 11:36 AM

                Myrhvold doesn't expect to produce an e-version. It's huge, the photos and graphs are important, and the 6 volumes constantly cross reference each other. My book has been delayed until April but I am still very excited to see it.

                1. re: runwestierun
                  thew RE: runwestierun Mar 7, 2011 12:40 PM

                  funny - those sound exactly the reasons it would be perfect in an e-version

                  1. re: thew
                    Servorg RE: thew Mar 7, 2011 12:47 PM

                    Not to mention that it's rather ironic that Mr. Myhrvold wouldn't produce an e-version...

                    1. re: thew
                      emannths RE: thew Mar 9, 2011 10:49 AM

                      According to the authors:

                      "Eventually, there may be [an electronic version], but we have no cur­rent plans to offer an elec­tronic ver­sion of Modernist Cuisine. We began this project before the mar­ket of e-books developed—at the time we started design­ing the book, the Kindle had not even shipped yet. Kindle is a won­der­ful e-book plat­form (we love ours!), but it is not the best medium for a book such as this that offers so many large, color pic­tures. Our use of dra­matic pho­tog­ra­phy is a large part of how Modernist Cuisine makes the art and sci­ence of cook­ing acces­si­ble. Although the Apple iPad has a color dis­play, its screen size is still very lim­ited, and by the time it shipped, we had designed a thou­sand pages for print. We decided that a large-format, high-quality printed book is still the best plat­form today for deliv­er­ing this kind of content—particularly our pho­tographs and illus­trated step-by-step procedures—to the major­ity of the peo­ple who will want to use it. Eventually we would like to spend the time and resources to make an e-book edi­tion that offers new and inter­ac­tive fea­tures, but that is a lot of work and is prob­a­bly a cou­ple years away."

                      Generally, it seems that the MC team thinks that paper's advantages in dpi, color depth, and size outweigh any convenience gained by an ebook version. Note that they do have a searchable electronic index. Of course, that does little to diminish the apparent irony of the lack of ebook...

                      1. re: emannths
                        thew RE: emannths Mar 9, 2011 01:17 PM

                        nook has color. ipad screen is larger than the kindle's. these reasons don't hold much water. but it's their to do or not

                        1. re: thew
                          emannths RE: thew Mar 9, 2011 01:30 PM

                          But what's the dpi? Or color depth? And all these screens are much smaller than the printed book (the page is 16.5" diagonal). And this is assuming there are no formatting challenges (e.g., footnotes don't work well on a Kindle).

                          Could you consider high dpi, color depth, or page size to be luxuries? Sure. But if those are your goals (which for the MC people they clearly were), paper is the only option at the moment.

                          1. re: emannths
                            thew RE: emannths Mar 9, 2011 02:50 PM

                            the ipad has a ppi of 128, which is the same as a 15" macbook pro

                            i believe it has a color depth of 24

                            1. re: thew
                              emannths RE: thew Mar 9, 2011 03:33 PM

                              And the book uses an apparent resolution much higher than 200 ppi (converting between offset printing techniques and fixed pixel displays is not necessarily straightforward, but this is a reasonable lower bound). It's a little harder to evaluate color gamut and contrast comparatively, at least given my lack of knowledge on the subject, but may experience is that a well-printed page will best even excellent displays. Here's what MC says about their printing process: http://modernistcuisine.com/printing-...

                              Anyway, I think it's reasonable to say that objectively, the large, high-res, colorful pages of MC surpass the images that current ebook readers can render. Whether this outweighs the conveniences that ebooks provide is a much more subjective question...

                2. paulj RE: rworange Mar 7, 2011 01:12 PM

                  Jeff Potter in Cooking for Geeks has an interview with Myhrvold, part about this project.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: paulj
                    Servorg RE: paulj Mar 7, 2011 01:16 PM

                    As does John Heilpern in the latest issue of Vanity Fair...

                    1. re: Servorg
                      c oliver RE: Servorg Jun 5, 2011 07:52 AM

                      The latest issue of Discover magazine has an article about him and it.

                  2. r
                    RudyH2O RE: rworange Mar 13, 2011 08:18 AM

                    I'm intrigued by he book and I hope it does well. My questions about are as with any other cookbook: what can I do with it? I am skeptical about these large generalist works. I have found them to be outmoded by more modern specialist works. For example, I seriously doubt that this book will give me the kind of value and insight about bread that Peter Reinhart's Breadbakers Apprentice gave me, or the value that James Peterson's book Sauces gives me about sauces.

                    I look forward to a good credible review by somebody who really knows food, and is not as gullible as the newspaper reporters have been.

                    The examples I have seen remind me of the old LaRousse Gastronomique, which has value, but doesn't interest me because I can get better information elsewhere.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: RudyH2O
                      rworange RE: RudyH2O Mar 13, 2011 09:14 AM

                      What about the tip from the book about cooking perfect fish that pappy posted in a separate thread and repeated here

                      Absolutely no one has picked up on that.

                    2. s
                      stomsf RE: rworange Mar 13, 2011 11:12 AM

                      Hmm, I'll have to try the technique of fish broiled in wine. Sounds great!

                      I have been following progress on another board as people explore the MC tome -- one of the big winners so far seems to be their recreation of Mac and Cheese -- basically making their own version of Velveeta with emulsifiers but a much more intense cheese flavor. Sounds interesting but I haven't yet made the foray into using thickeners and emulsifiers yet. Just standard Sous Vide for me so far...... :o)

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: stomsf
                        rworange RE: stomsf Mar 13, 2011 11:32 AM

                        I don't even know what to think of homemade Velveeta. Made me laugh though. If you try the fish thingy, hope you report back.

                        1. re: rworange
                          runwestierun RE: rworange Mar 13, 2011 12:48 PM

                          rworange, it's not velveeta exactly. What it is is processed cheese. Velveeta is processed american cheese.

                          For the Modernist cuisine method, you choose the cheese, it can be anything. You take it through a 20 minute process involving iota Carrageenan (readily available on the internet) and then you have processed cheese. That means it's a cheese that can be heated to a sauce and it won't break. You don't have to make a bechamel to stabilize it, so you get a cheesier flavor that isn't dulled by flour, and it's a flavor of a cheese you like. You want a perfectly smooth brie+gorgonzola sauce for your macaroni? No problem.

                          But that's just one example. There is a parametric custard table that tells you how thick your custard will be depending on how many eggs you use and how long you cook it.

                          There's a quick method for making stock in a pressure cooker. There is a "bulletproof" buerre blanc.

                          I think it will be an invaluable tool.

                          1. re: runwestierun
                            carbonaraboy RE: runwestierun Mar 13, 2011 03:07 PM

                            I gave up on traditional bechamel for M&C a while ago. I use the same technique as for quatrro formaggi: cook the pasta (small ziti/penne works best) just short of al dente; in a heated baking dish; mix in some reduced cream or reduced cream veloute (even richer); then the cheese in tiny cubes; put on topping if desired; bake at 500 until melted. Nothing to break, real cheese flavor. It does lack the gooeynish factor, but if you use high quality pasta and cheese, you won't miss it.

                            OK -- this is from wikipedia - -so it's not authoritative -- but maybe this justifies Ruhlman's criticism of embracing the techniques of the processed food industry:


                            1. re: carbonaraboy
                              emannths RE: carbonaraboy Mar 14, 2011 09:43 AM

                              I doubt any of the carrageenan or other ingredients associated with processed foods are any more harmful than things like alcohol, smoke, or French fries.

                              The book has over 100 pages on food health and safety which appears to be heavily based on scientific studies. Presumably this will allow the readers to make informed decisions regarding ingredient choices and cooking methods.

                        2. re: stomsf
                          achtungpv RE: stomsf Mar 14, 2011 06:45 AM


                          can you provide a link to this other board? Thanks.

                          1. re: achtungpv
                            emannths RE: achtungpv Mar 14, 2011 09:34 AM


                            1. re: emannths
                              stomsf RE: emannths Mar 14, 2011 10:32 AM

                              Yeah, that one. ^^^ :o)

                              Thanks emannths!

                        3. cowboyardee RE: rworange Mar 13, 2011 04:02 PM

                          Someday. I really want to pull the trigger on this series, but it's more than I can justify to spend right now. I'm hoping the price drops a bit after the first run.

                          For others who are in a similar boat - if you haven't already read it, I highly recommend the Fat Duck cookbook. It has the best and most detailed explanations of modernist cuisine theory and techniques that I have read up to this point (much better than the Alinea cookbook or Adria's guide to modern gastronomy or Herve This' book). At $30, it might hold you over for a while without breaking the bank.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cowboyardee
                            chefathome RE: cowboyardee Mar 14, 2011 10:21 AM

                            I agree. The Fat Duck is one of my favourite books of all time. Such an interesting and enjoyable read! Far better than NOMA, too, which is about 90% photographs (although they are beautiful). I like Alinea and sort of likeEl Bulli but LOVE Fat Duck.

                            1. re: chefathome
                              cowboyardee RE: chefathome Mar 14, 2011 04:17 PM

                              Just got Noma recently. There is surprisingly little explanation and theory in that book. Even the intro sections, where one would expect the chef's viewpoint to be more fleshed out, read more like an painters manifesto than a thoughtful and brilliant cook examining his craft. I have to admit though that the recipes are fascinating, even without explanation. Lots of great ideas buried in the back of that book.

                              Alinea is a little more helpful and elaborate on the process it uses. And most of its recipes are surprisingly easy to pull off at home, all things considered.

                              On the other hand, the Fat Duck cookbook (whose recipes are far harder to execute at home) is arguably the best book about cooking that I've ever read. I've never seen another source so clearly and thoroughly investigate what makes food enjoyable, what separates good cooking from bad. It's almost a misnomer to call it a cookbook - his recipes (and explanations and explorations thereof) read more as case studies than as directions to be followed.

                              1. re: cowboyardee
                                chefathome RE: cowboyardee Mar 15, 2011 04:34 PM

                                You summed it up so well - I could not agree with you more on all you said.

                                The Fat Duck cookbook is SO much more than a cookbook. No one could ever persuade me to part with that one!

                          2. greygarious RE: rworange Mar 15, 2011 05:21 PM


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious
                              rworange RE: greygarious Mar 15, 2011 05:56 PM

                              I tried that link in that topic to the New Yorker article, "The mad genius of “Modernist Cuisine.”by John Lanchester"

                              It failed, probably because it is the current issue. I was able to get into it by going to the "this Issue" tab. I'll put the New Yorkler link here anyway as it should work in the future.

                              This was interesting

                              "Notwithstanding its title, “Modernist Cuisine” contains hundreds of pages of original, firsthand, surprising information about traditional cooking. Some of the physics is quite basic: it had never occurred to me that the reason many foods go from uncooked to burned at such speed is that light-colored foods reflect heat better than dark: “As browning reactions begin, the darkening surface rapidly soaks up more and more of the heat rays. The increase in temperature accelerates dramatically.” The science is obvious, once it’s pointed out."

                              I hate science and cooking probably equally. Both leave me wildly bored. But put them together ... the logic is magic. Harold McGee is one of my favorite authors and if I had to give up every book I had about food and cooking except one, his is the one I would keep. So I just love explanations like the one above.

                            2. pikawicca RE: rworange Jun 3, 2011 04:54 PM

                              Received my copy as a birthday present today. The books are gorgeous and full of information; there are many recipes/techniques I want to try. I'm trying to be disciplined, though, and read the background information before diving off the deep end. It promises to be a most interesting summer in the kitchen.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: pikawicca
                                Gio RE: pikawicca Jun 4, 2011 08:07 AM

                                Pika... will you report what you make from that series of books, a la the Around My French Table thread?

                                1. re: Gio
                                  pikawicca RE: Gio Jun 4, 2011 12:47 PM

                                  I will, indeed.

                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                    celeryroot RE: pikawicca Jun 4, 2011 02:27 PM

                                    The mac and cheese is great

                                    1. re: celeryroot
                                      blue room RE: celeryroot Jun 5, 2011 09:51 AM

                                      Is this


                                      the mac & cheese recipe ?

                                      Sure is intriguing!

                                      1. re: blue room
                                        twyst RE: blue room Jun 5, 2011 10:56 AM

                                        Its pretty similar, but no, not the same recipe.

                                    2. re: pikawicca
                                      Gio RE: pikawicca Jun 5, 2011 07:07 AM

                                      Great, thanks. I'm wondering just how complicated the recipes are.

                                      1. re: Gio
                                        twyst RE: Gio Jun 5, 2011 08:13 AM

                                        The difficulty is all across the board. There are a lot of recipe's that are easily done at home, and then there are recipes that you could never do at home in a million years. Even if there weren't easy recipes Id have been satisfied with the set because of all the outstanding information in the books, but it turns out there are tons of things the average home cook can do. (especially if youve already taklen the plunge to get yourself a sous vide setup)

                                        Here's an excellent thread from another forum where you can folllow people's progress with the book http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

                                2. d
                                  dish RE: rworange May 26, 2012 07:13 PM

                                  We made the stabilized cheese product from this book. Recipe: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30276-mar.... We substituted equal parts asiago and fontina. The cheese did not quite solidfy. Either we did not wait for the initial mixture to thicken enough or the blend of cheese (water content) makes a difference.

                                  Does anyone know the adjustments for dryer or wetter cheese? Also does the fat content make a difference?

                                  1. honkman RE: rworange May 30, 2012 10:04 PM

                                    I was more hoping that they would already publishing their pastry work but based on the success of Modernist Cuisine this new book makes a lot of sense

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: honkman
                                      honkman RE: honkman Jun 28, 2012 07:11 AM

                                      A first look on the chapters and recipes of Modernist Cuisine at Home - looks like a must buy


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