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"On Food and Cooking" the best book on food science, and a must have for any serious cook

Updated on September 17, 2007

Harold Mcgee

On food and Cooking

While perhaps a bit too detailed for the casual home cook, "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee is a fascinating read for the inquisitive cook, and an absolute must have for any professional cook, or cooking school attendee.

Unlike most food books, "On Food and Cooking" has no recipes, but it is the most comprehensive and useful book ever written on the science and lore of food and how to cook it. Professional cooks can use the information within to better understand the chemical and enzymatic reactions occurring in the cooking process, and by better understanding the science of food, they can better manipulate it, better solve problems with food preparation, prepare food more safely and make food that just plain tastes better.

Once a cook has a real understanding of food science, they are far better able to manipulate, substitute and maximize the flavor potential in every basal ingredient.

I devoured this book, and have consulted it on many hundreds of occasions when looking for an edge to make better food. Incredibly dog eared, it's one of the most treasured books in my food book library.

Understanding bacterial reactions, both good and bad

How to keep fish from getting fishy

The science of a water bath

How to make tough meat tender through scientific cooking

Understanding why some oils make better deep fried foods

Understanding fermentation of foods, and why it makes things taste so good

How to cook beans so they'll be tender

Understanding the chemical action of yeast and baking soda

The science behind thickening a sauce

The science of sugar and caramel

Whenever in the kitchen and wondering what to substitute or why am I doing this, or…can I still eat this!?! McGee always has the answer.

An absolute must have for any professional cook, for anyone with a passion for cooking, and definitely for anyone in or thinking about culinary school. McGee's work is the seminal volume of food science and cooking, and you won’t find a serious chef in this country who doesn’t owe a debt to the laborious years of research McGee endured in the creation of this volume.

Although I (a real capital N food nerd) read this book cover to cover, most cooks will find it more useful as a reference manual, and the volume is easily subdivided into the major different groups of food. If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a food lover, you can never go wrong with "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee!


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    • healthyguy2 profile image

      Rob Shipman 

      6 years ago from Japan

      John, Great Hub!

      Harold Mcgee's second book "the curious cook" is also very good. It's got the same scientific approach although it explains things in layman's terms. Peter Barham "The science of cooking" is also a fantastic book for understanding food science.

      Best Regards Rob

    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the nice information

    • william.fischer29 profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for good information.


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