Book review: The Food Lab
When I was first learning to cook, fear was a big obstacle: mainly, fear of investing a bunch of money and time into something and 1) having it not work because I couldn’t figure out how to do it right, and 2) doing it right, but the recipe itself just wasn’t very good.
What I found then, as a baby cook, and what I find now, as someone who still can’t afford to waste very much time and money on stuff that doesn’t work, is that a good recipe is worth its weight in gold, and finding good recipe developers/writers is the best way to find good recipes.
For me, those writers have been the great Julia Child, and Kenji Lopez-Alt. They both put mountains of time and effort into recipe development, working out the flaws and debunking the myths so that by the time the recipe gets into my hands, the results are virtually guaranteed. And in the process of learning to do things the right way, I pick up tips, tricks and techniques that I apply to all of my cooking, whether it’s one of their recipes or not.
If you’ve followed this blog for very long, you know that I’m been waiting very impatiently for YEARS for Kenji’s book to come out — and it finally has!
(Kenji, sorry for always nitpicking at you on Serious Eats about the release date! I promise to stop for a while, at least until the next volume is due out!)
I haven’t had time to do more than skim it once or twice, but it is everything that I expected: the writing, the science, and the recipes are all top-notch, and I was thrilled to see that it includes three of my already-beloved Kenji recipes: basic red sauce, grilled naan, and the leg-of-lamb that I make on Easter! (My recipe notebook is full of recipes entitled “[name of food] a la Kenji” for brevity’s sake.)
It is a HUGE book at 6+ pounds, but it was supposed to be two volumes originally, so I guess they compromised. When I get a new book, I usually like to carry it around with me for a few days to read in spare moments, but this one is a tome. That didn’t actually stop me from carrying it around to classes the first day, though… And for the record, this is not the most unwieldy cookbook on my shelf; that honor goes to Julia’s The Way to Cook. So phooey on whoever left that 1-star review because it was “too heavy.”
The only tragedy is that I’m too busy now to just start cooking through it, one recipe at a time. (I guess I still could, but it will take longer.) But I’ve already noted TONS of recipes I want to try, and I know that they will all be amazing.
Bottom line: if you cook, want to cook, are learning to cook, need more practice cooking, or just enjoy reading intelligent, funny prose, buy this book!