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Culinary Reactions

The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking
Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Length: 4 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Technology
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Summary

When you're cooking, you're a chemist! Every time you follow or modify a recipe you are experimenting with acids and bases, emulsions and suspensions, gels and foams. In your kitchen you denature proteins, crystallize compounds, react enzymes with substrates, and nurture desired microbial life while suppressing harmful microbes. And unlike in a laboratory, you can eat your experiments to verify your hypotheses.

In Culinary Reactions, author Simon Quellen Field explores the chemistry behind the recipes you follow every day. How does altering the ratio of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, butter, and water affect how high bread rises? Why is whipped cream made with nitrous oxide rather than the more common carbon dioxide? And why does Hollandaise sauce fall for "clarified" butter? This easy-to-follow primer even includes recipes to demonstrate the concepts being discussed, including Whipped Creamsicle Topping (a foam), Cherry Dream Cheese (a protein gel), and Lemonade with Chameleon Eggs (an acid indicator). It even shows you how to extract DNA from a Halloween pumpkin. You'll never look at your graduated cylinders, Bunsen burners, and beakers the same way again.

©2012 Simon Quellen Field (P)2017 Tantor

Critic reviews

“With information advanced enough to interest the well-seasoned, hard-boiled home cook, the information in this book is written in such a friendly and approachable manner that even beginner kitchen-chemists will be delighted to learn from it." ( San Francisco Book Review)

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-04-19

Interesting facts

Interesting book. Definitely learned a lot of new interesting things related to how small adjustments in food can make big differences in the end product.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Vicente Gard
  • Vicente Gard
  • 06-06-19

Culinary Reactions - The Chemical Formulas to Cook

Creating food has been something I’ve enjoyed ever since I realized I could do it because anyone could, and having learned to cook only through experience, the link between science and cooking became more and more apparent. Being particularly keen on understanding why or how things occurred, everywhere, even in the kitchen, I began seeking a deeper understanding as to why things functioned a certain way and therefore this audiobook seemed like a good starting point, but I was disappointed by its execution. As a listener, the information was overwhelming and difficult to retain, and the topics were truly interesting but also truly difficult to follow. Putting the contents of this book into practice remains borderline impossible, partially because I could not even retain half of the things that I heard and at this very moment cannot think of one chemistry concept I have learned about that can improve the way I cook. This audiobook is, in essence, a valuable recollection of knowledge on chemistry, which abruptly links to examples cooking, for the sake of exemplifying this knowledge with mundane situations, and that is where it goes wrong. The author begins by telling the reader that “[their] mother was a chemist”. After listening to the entire book I came to the conclusion that the author goes wrong by trying to tackle too many things at once, right from the start. It is then when this audiobook transitions from the possibility of being a great tool for a home cook, to an unnecessary collection of information that belongs in chemistry textbooks, plus a series of rapid-fire connections to actions that transpire in everyone’s kitchens. Some topics are over-explained, while other basic principles are left understated; whether that is because the author presumes some knowledge of the topic, or due to the variety of topics the author tries to tackle being too broad, it most definitely reduces the effectivity of the audiobook’s capacity to transmit information. For example, the author can be focusing on an issue the likes of “which proteins denature at certain temperatures when you cook a steak”, but go on a tangent and begin to explain “differences between acids, bases, and pH”, all the while jumping back and forth to explaining chemical formulas that the target audience truly has no true use for and will not remember. Although the audiobook presents information that holds an explicit value throughout its entirety, discussing everything from acids and bases, and what happens to proteins when they are cooked, it's disorganization is problematic and causes a great loss of value for the audience of the book overall. The fact that it is an audio recording and not a printed text further detracts from the quality of the book, as with printed texts there can be images and charts and diagrams alongside (in fact, in the print version of the book there are), and that makes following along more possible given that the reader can go back and forth to understand.

Despite all of that, it was an interesting audiobook to listen to for the purpose of entertainment but simply put, the audiobook had the potential to be a great tool but its execution was not up to par, and I, therefore, do not recommend it to anyone, at least in its audiobook format.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Yoshida
  • 21-08-18

Kitchen Science

The book contains a lot of kitchen science (atoms, electrons, protons, particles, and ions) but it provides the basics to understand cooking reactions and components of food (such as the difference between bread flour, cake flour, and all-purpose flour). It's technical and goes deep into each topic. Some chapters are more interesting than others. For example, the author should have left out the chapter on making cheese (really, how many people are going to make cheese at home).

6 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Kyle Thomas
  • 13-06-17

This book is a repeating thrill with its knowledge

I repeatedly return for the beautiful wisdom that explains a great deal of phenomena in food's preparation. The performance could have been more captivating with appropriate doses of excitement.

4 of 15 people found this review helpful