Generally speaking, cookbooks are a true guilty pleasures of mine. In fact, I have so many that my wife not-so-secretly donates some of them when tidying up the house. But recently I got a book that is like no other I have read before. Inspiration, technique and new skills come from many places, and this time it all came in the form of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt.
This is a book that tries to explain not just how to cook, or how to prepare certain items, but the “why” behind how food cooks the way it does, and why certain methods work better than others. I found that understanding why certain reactions are happening helped me think more about the recipes that I was making. I even believe that the things that I have been cooking for years, the tried-and-true recipes, are getting better. I find myself thinking about much more while standing in front of the stove. From how the food gets handled and prepped before I even start to cook it, to the temperature I am cooking foods at, to how I am searing foods and how long I should really be cooking everything.
All these things are making me a better everyday gourmet. We typically get better at cooking, and everything else for that matter, by getting slightly better each time we do that particular thing. We take baby steps and eventually realize that we have come a lot farther than we thought; this is how I view cookbooks. They offer a bit of insight here, and a bit of inspiration there, and by thumbing through enough, I realize that I have learned some things about cooking that I never realized before.
The Food Lab did that for me more times than I could keep track of, and that does not even include all the great recipes, either.