O'Reilly logo

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Cooking for Geeks

Book Description

Are you the innovative type, the cook who marches to a different drummer -- used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Are you interested in the science behind what happens to food while it's cooking? Do you want to learn what makes a recipe work so you can improvise and create your own unique dish?

More than just a cookbook, Cooking for Geeks applies your curiosity to discovery, inspiration, and invention in the kitchen. Why is medium-rare steak so popular? Why do we bake some things at 350° F/175° C and others at 375° F/190° C? And how quickly does a pizza cook if we overclock an oven to 1,000° F/540° C? Author and cooking geek Jeff Potter provides the answers and offers a unique take on recipes -- from the sweet (a "mean" chocolate chip cookie) to the savory (duck confit sugo).

This book is an excellent and intriguing resource for anyone who wants to experiment with cooking, even if you don't consider yourself a geek.

  • Initialize your kitchen and calibrate your tools
  • Learn about the important reactions in cooking, such as protein denaturation, Maillard reactions, and caramelization, and how they impact the foods we cook
  • Play with your food using hydrocolloids and sous vide cooking
  • Gain firsthand insights from interviews with researchers, food scientists, knife experts, chefs, writers, and more, including author Harold McGee, TV personality Adam Savage, chemist Herv&eacute This, and xkcd

"My own session with the book made me feel a lot more confident in my cooking."

--Monica Racic,The New Yorker

"I LOVE this book. It's inspiring, invigorating, and damned fun to spend time inside the mind of 'big picture' cooking. I'm Hungry!"

--Adam Savage, co-host of Discovery Channel's MythBusters

"In his enchanting, funny, and informative book, Cooking for Geeks (O'Reilly), Jeff Potter tells us why things work in the kitchen and why they don't."

-- Barbara Hanson, NewYork Daily News

Table of Contents

  1. Recipe Index
  2. List of Interviews
  3. Preface
    1. How to Use This Book
    2. On the Web
    3. Acknowledgments
    4. How to Contact Us
    5. Safari® Books Online
  4. 1. Hello, Kitchen!
    1. Think Like a Hacker
      1. Functional Fixedness
      2. A Few Words on Nutrition
      3. Tips for Newbies
        1. Have fun!
        2. Know your type
        3. Avoid PEBKAC-type errors: RTFR!
        4. Taste == Feedback
        5. Don’t be afraid to burn dinner!
      4. Picking a Recipe
      5. Reading Between the Lines
    2. Cooking for One
    3. Cooking for Others
  5. 2. Initializing the Kitchen
    1. Approaching the Kitchen
      1. Calibrating Your Instruments
      2. Prepping Ingredients
    2. Kitchen Equipment
      1. Bare Minimum Equipment
        1. Knives
        2. Cutting boards
        3. Pots and pans
        4. Measuring cups and scales
        5. Spoons & co.
        6. Thermometers and timers
        7. Mixing bowls
        8. Bar towels
      2. Standard Kitchen Equipment
        1. Storage containers
        2. Strainers
        3. Mixers & co.
        4. Unitaskers
    3. Kitchen Organization
      1. 0(1) Retrieval
      2. Functional Grouping
      3. Uniform Storage Containers
      4. Counter Layout
      5. Kitchen Pruning
    4. Giving Kitchen Tools As Gifts
  6. 3. Choosing Your Inputs: Flavors and Ingredients
    1. Smell + Taste = Flavor
      1. Taste (Gustatory Sense)
      2. Smell (Olfactory Sense)
    2. Tastes: Bitter, Salty, Sour, Sweet, Umami, Others
      1. Bitter
      2. Salty
      3. Sour
      4. Sweet
      5. Umami (a.k.a. Savory)
      6. Others
      7. Combinations of Tastes and Smells
    3. Adapt and Experiment Method
    4. Regional/Traditional Method
      1. Rice, Wheat, Grains ≅ Congee, Cream of Wheat, Porridge
    5. Seasonal Method
    6. Analytical Method
  7. 4. Time and Temperature: Cooking’s Primary Variables
    1. Cooked = Time * Temperature
      1. Heat Transfer and Doneness
        1. Temperature gradients
        2. Carryover
      2. Methods of Heat Transfer
        1. Conduction
        2. Convection
        3. Radiation
        4. Combinations of heat
    2. Foodborne Illness and Staying Safe
      1. How to Prevent Foodborne Illness Caused by Bacteria
      2. How to Prevent Foodborne Illness Caused by Parasites
    3. Key Temperatures in Cooking
      1. 104°F / 40°C and 122°F / 50°C: Proteins in Fish and Meat Begin to Denature
      2. 144°F / 62°C: Eggs Begin to Set
        1. Hard-Cooked Eggs, Shock and Awe Method
        2. The 30-Minute Scrambled Egg
        3. Oven-Poached Eggs
        4. Pasteurized Eggs
        5. The 60-Minute Slow-Cooked Egg
      3. 154°F / 68°C: Collagen (Type I) Denatures
      4. 158°F / 70°C: Vegetable Starches Break Down
      5. 310°F / 154°C: Maillard Reactions Become Noticeable
      6. 356°F / 180°C: Sugar Begins to Caramelize Visibly
  8. 5. Air: Baking’s Key Variable
    1. Gluten
    2. Biological Leaveners
      1. Yeast
        1. Yeast in beverages
        2. Yeast in breads
        3. Pizza
    3. Chemical Leaveners
      1. Baking Soda
      2. Baking Powder
    4. Mechanical Leaveners
      1. Egg Whites
        1. Meringues
      2. Egg Yolks
      3. Whipped Cream
  9. 6. Playing with Chemicals
    1. Traditional Cooking Chemicals
      1. Salt
        1. Dry brining
        2. Wet brining
      2. Sugar
      3. Acids and Bases
      4. Alcohol
        1. Extracts for drinks
    2. Modern Industrial Chemicals
      1. E Numbers: The Dewey Decimal System of Food Additives
      2. Colloids
      3. Making Gels: Starches, Carrageenan, Agar, and Sodium Alginate
        1. Making gels: Starches
        2. Making gels: Carrageenan
        3. Making gels: Agar
        4. Making gels: Sodium alginate
          1. Spherification in shapes
          2. Mozzarella spheres
      4. Making Things Melt in Weird Ways: Methylcellulose and Maltodextrin
        1. “Melts” as it cools: Methylcellulose
        2. “Melts” in your mouth: Maltodextrin
      5. Making Foams: Lecithin
      6. Anti-Sugar: Lactisole
      7. Meat Glue: Transglutaminase
      8. Liquid Smoke: Distilled Smoke Vapor
  10. 7. Fun with Hardware
    1. Sous Vide Cooking
      1. Foodborne Illness and Sous Vide Cooking
      2. Sous Vide Hardware
        1. Water heaters
        2. Vacuum packers
      3. Cooking with Sous Vide
        1. Beef and other red meats
        2. Fish and other seafood
        3. Chicken and other poultry
        4. Sous vide chicken breast
        5. Vegetables
          1. Enhancing texture
        6. Chocolate
    2. Commercial Hardware and Techniques
      1. Filtration
        1. Stock, broth, and consommé
      2. Cream Whippers (a.k.a. “iSi Whippers”)
      3. “Cooking” with Cold: Liquid Nitrogen and Dry Ice
        1. Dangers of liquid nitrogen
        2. Making dusts
        3. Making ice cream
      4. Cooking with (a Lot of) Heat
        1. Blowtorches for crème brûlée
        2. High-heat ovens and pizza
  11. A. Cooking Around Allergies
    1. Substitutions for Common Allergies
  12. B. Afterword
  13. C. About the Author
  14. Index
  15. About the Author
  16. Colophon
  17. Copyright