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Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking [Hardcover]

Hervé This , Jody Gladding
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 15 2007 Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History

An international celebrity and founder of molecular gastronomy, or the scientific investigation of culinary practice, Hervé This is known for his ground-breaking research into the chemistry and physics behind everyday cooking. His work is consulted widely by amateur cooks and professional chefs and has changed the way food is approached and prepared all over the world.

In Kitchen Mysteries, Herve This offers a second helping of his world-renowned insight into the science of cooking, answering such fundamental questions as what causes vegetables to change color when cooked and how to keep a soufflé from falling. He illuminates abstract concepts with practical advice and concrete examples—for instance, how sautéing in butter chemically alters the molecules of mushrooms—so that cooks of every stripe can thoroughly comprehend the scientific principles of food.

Kitchen Mysteries begins with a brief overview of molecular gastronomy and the importance of understanding the physiology of taste. A successful meal depends as much on a cook's skilled orchestration of taste, odors, colors, consistencies, and other sensations as on the delicate balance of ingredients. Hervé then dives into the main course, discussing the science behind many meals' basic components: eggs, milk, bread, sugar, fruit, yogurt, alcohol, and cheese, among other items. He also unravels the mystery of tenderizing enzymes and gelatins and the preparation of soups and stews, salads and sauces, sorbet, cakes, and pastries. Hervé explores the effects of boiling, steaming, braising, roasting, deep-frying, sautéing, grilling, salting, and microwaving, and devotes a chapter to kitchen utensils, recommending the best way to refurbish silverware and use copper.

By sharing the empirical principles chefs have valued for generations, Hervé This adds another dimension to the suggestions of cookbook authors. He shows how to adapt recipes to available ingredients and how to modify proposed methods to the utensils at hand. His revelations make difficult recipes easier to attempt and allow for even more creativity and experimentation. Promising to answer your most compelling kitchen questions, Hervé This continues to make the complex science of food digestible to the cook.

Frequently Bought Together

Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking + Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor + On Food and Cooking
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From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Curious Cook Harold McGee will relish the latest from This (Molecular Gastronomy), a French chemist and foodie hero who has helped to usher in the current restaurant world vogue for turning the kitchen into a laboratory. This uses simple questions and observations about food (Does hot pepper burn a hole in the stomach?; Why must infants not be fed sausages?) as springboards for delightful explorations into culinary scientific principles. In brief, confident chapters, he moves through assorted ingredients (milk, vegetables, cheese), cooking methods (steaming, roasting, deep-frying) and whole categories of food and drink (bread, cake, sauces, salad) in his quest to explain kitchen phenomena. The book is more practical than theoretical, as This often breezes over much of the science, focusing not on the experiments and equations that answered his questions but rather on what they mean for the cook: how to ripen tomatoes properly, why to cook a roux for a long time, and so on. He distances himself even further from typical scientific writing with his charmingly enthusiastic tone, which keeps his prose from sounding dry even when he goes into more details about enzyme properties or protein varieties, so that even those who might be turned off by the thought of food chemistry will quickly be drawn in by his obvious love of food and eagerness to apply his research to helping people cook better. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Fans of 'Curious Cook' Harold McGee will relish the latest from This ( Molecular Gastronomy), a French chemist and foodie hero who has helped to usher in the current restaurant world vogue for turning the kitchen into a laboratory.... Even those who might be turned off by the thought of food chemistry will quickly be drawn in by his obvious love of food and eagerness to apply his research to helping people cook better.

(Publishers Weekly)

This has made invisible processes visible, revealed the mysteries, and the bread has risen, baked, and been enjoyed.

(Claudia Kousoulas Appetite for Books)

Cooks who want to learn more about the chemistry and physics that make their efforts possible will discover useful things here.


This's molecular gastronomy is garnished with the author's own rich philosophy of food and flavor.

(Peter Barham Nature 1900-01-00)

An exuberant paean for the role of science in cooking... This's book performs a great service.

(Len Fisher Times Higher Education Supplement)

This book should be in every kitchen.

(Christine Sismondo Toronto Star)

[An] eye-opening book.

(Kate Colquhoun Portsmouth Herald)

Witty and humorous... [readers] whose eyes glaze over at the very mention of electrons may find themselves becoming entranced by This' graceful descriptions of essential chemical reactions.

(Lynn Harnett Seacoast Sunday)

Well crafted, sprinkled with insight, and containing a menagerie of information, Kitchen Mysteries is a wonderful trip down a stellar buffet line.

(J. Edward Sumerau Metro Spirit)

Kitchen Mysteries is another tour de force for the French scientific chef... Highly Recommended.


This's book offers expert explanations that give the reader a better understanding of both cooking and cuisine. As such, it is enticing.

(Pierre Laszlo Chemical Heritage 1900-01-00)

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kitchen mysteries: revealing the science of cooking April 26 2009
This book is a breezy run through some chemistry basics, there are some good advice and some funny parts. Maybe this fills a gap between the really serous stuff and kitchen lore but I prefer the serious treatments. This book very often leaves me wanting more as the author (for space reasons? for reasons of not believing that the audience can take more chemistry?) stops when things get really interesting.
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