Part Art Part Science

One of the things I love about cooking is that it’s part art and part science with just enough math thrown in. But you don’t even have to know that to be a good cook. You may visualize taste and instinctively know what to throw together. You may have apprenticed with your grandmother, mother or dad and have a visual reference for the thickness of pancake batter. There are so many paths that lead to great cooking!

If you don’t have much experience and cooking doesn’t come naturally to you, the book SaltFatAcidHeat by Samin Nosrat can bring you knowledge and confidence. Even if you’re an experienced cook and are good in the kitchen, you may improve your game using this tool. Besides that, the book has pleasing illustrations and quirky fold-out pages. It also includes pages on which to write notes. I always appreciate those.

While it’s not a traditional cookbook, this book does contain recipes – delicious ones. The Vietnamese Cucumber Salad (page 226) is so good, I could eat it every day for a week!

And speaking of salads, there’s a whole section in SaltFatAcidHeat on dressings. I’m fond of throwing together dressing rather than buying bottles of it from the store. I feel the same way about barbecue sauce. There’s less waste that way, and I’m rarely without the raw ingredients to make a dressing or sauce on a whim.

You may think there’s no way you’ll ever prepare your own salad dressing, but reading this book will make you a more likely explorer in that you will come away understanding the basic elements of good cooking. It shares the kind of knowledge that can bring more confidence and freedom in the kitchen. You’ll have read how to cook onions. And not just soften them until they’re clear, but how to brown or caramelize them. You’ll know how to fix a broken mayonnaise and create a dough that’s chewy and rich or one that’s flaky or tender.

I’m going to delve more deeply into the dough section while I adapt some recipes to make them dairy-free. Swapping out another liquid for milk changes a dough more than you might expect. And the fact that my dairy-free doughs are also gluten-free adds another layer of complexity. Understanding the science of dough helps me design artful ways around the obstacles presented by combining nontraditional ingredients.

If you want to delve further into the science of cooking, there’s literally a book entitled The Science of Cooking: Every Question Answered to Perfect Your Cooking. This book is filled with facts and has a very different feel than SaltFatAcidHeat. But both are great learning tools.

There are other books that approach cooking from a scientific perspective: Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking and The Science of Spice: Understand Flavor Connections and Revolutionize Your Cooking are two of those. If one of these doesn’t suit you, just look around a bit and you’re sure to find a guide that will.

Whether you enjoy the art or science of cooking, there’s always more to learn and more delicious dishes to make. That makes cooking the perfect job for me.

If only there were someone else to do the dishes!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”