For This Food Writer, Cooking Is a Science

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For J. Kenji López-Alt, cooking is a science. The author studied at MIT before becoming a cook and, later, a food writer for the website Serious Eats. In 2009, López-Alt launched “The Food Lab,” a column that breaks down the basic chemistry and physics of everything from why certain ingredients work so well together to the "correct" way to boil an egg or toast bread. By understanding how heat, energy, and molecules interact, he argues, you can make a better meal.

Last week, López-Alt, now Serious Eats’ managing culinary director, released his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. The nearly 1000-page collection of recipes, charts, and photos helps readers harness the scientific method to add extra sizzle to their stovetops, offering primers on everything from grilling an extra juicy steak to whipping up creamy macaroni and cheese.

For instance, ever wondered why salting ground beef before molding it into patties makes your burgers as hard as a hockey puck? The salt dissolves the meat’s proteins, causing them to bond together and form a tough texture. Tidbits like this make you think twice about the little mistakes you make while cooking, which end up greatly affecting a dish's overall taste.

Want to toast, fry, salt, and simmer your way to culinary—and scientific—greatness? Read an excerpt from López-Alt’s book over at Serious Eats.

[h/t San Francisco Chronicle]

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