With the astounding number of cookbooks being published each year, it's amazing how few of them really bother to explain why you're doing what you're doing when making a recipe. While having a grasp on food science is not the goal of most people when they go to bake a cake or make dinner, possessing a basic understanding of the chemical processes of cooking can actually make you a better cook. Nobody knows this better than the food scientist, New York Times columnist and author Harold McGee. His first book, On Food and Cooking, is considered a must have for all professional chefs. While this book is a bit technical and definitely a dry read, it is undeniably a fantastic reference for all things food related.
Well, for those who would like to know more about how cooking works, but don't have the patience to read all of the nitty gritty details, Mr. McGee has just released a more reader-friendly, accessible book called Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.
This book is great when used along with your cookbooks and provides answers and information as you prepare recipes. The book's chapters cover everything from kitchen tools and food safety to soups, candy making and even some fascinating information on cooking food in water.
I'm the type to sit down and read this book from cover to cover because there is much to be gained from doing so, even for the most advanced cooks. But, I also know that I'll be returning to this reference over and over, just as I do McGee's other books and his NY Times column, because I know that having an understanding of the hows and whys of cooking, can only help me in the kitchen and can make me a much better cook.