Cooking for Geeks

Cooking for Geeks is one of the most fun books I have read in a long time. I don’t get lost in the kitchen, but I’m certainly no great chef either. What this book does that is different from typical cookbooks is that instead of presenting a list of recipes, it talks about the science behind combining foods to create tasty dishes.

The book starts with an introduction to the kitchen; to tools, equipment, organization, and a way of thinking about them that is clear and easy to understand in the geek mindset. What does that mean? Those of us who call ourselves “geeks” have a certain way of looking at the world. We like to break things down to their components. We are not satisfied with only knowing what things do, but we want to understand how and why things work the way they do. That is what this book excels in teaching.

Chapter topics include science-based discussions of flavors, ingredients, temperatures, cooking time, and more. These things are directly related in the text to results. The information is presented in a manner that is easily understood by people used to changing one parameter over iterations of a process to discover what effect that one parameter has on the outcome. I like it.

This is not a reference book, which is what I consider most cooking related books to be. You don’t pick it up and say, “Let’s look for a nice dessert to make for when Aunt Mardella comes to visit.” Instead, you get something more valuable; the ability to look in your cupboard to see what you have, understand how those things could fit together to make something wonderful, and pull something together based on your understanding of the ingredients, processes and interactions available. That rocks! For this reason, the book receives a very high recommendation from me for anyone interested in learning about the science behind cooking (and there are some very interesting recipes included as well, so if that is what you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed either).

My wife is a talented cook. She read the book after asking me why I was reading about cooking. She is not a geek, and she also loved the book. She found the information enlightening. After years of doing things “because this is the right way” she was thrilled to know some of the reasoning behind those “right ways” and to learn several new ideas and methods.

Disclosures: I was given my copy of this book free by O’Reilly as a review copy, I also write for O’Reilly.