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Bought these for my wife who loves to cook and experiment with her cooking. these books provide a great scientific approach to cooking and why things work or don't work when you cook. They have become her go to for just about anything she wants to try. I would highly recommend this set for anyone serious about taking their cooking to the next level or serious cooks who want to understand when something works - why. Or if something didn't work then you can find answers here as well. Very comprehensive and detailed with fantastic photographs to illustrate their point.
By far the biggest, heaviest book I have ever owned. And it’s 5 volumes, so carrying it in its box is like a work out. Comes with a 6th book in a ring binder called Kitchen Manual which is like a condensed and summarised Recipes book with no photos. It’s like an Encyclopaedia slash Coffee Table Book slash Cook Book all in one. As a Scientific person with heavy background in Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry, I am very satisfied with this purchase!
Spending £400 on cookbooks might seem like utter madness (and I was lucky enough to pick up a near mint set for £300 from Amazon warehouse), but I assure you these are worth every penny.
First thing; these are not ‘normal’ cookbooks. There are no step-by-step recipes, these books are largely about the science and technique of cooking. They are aimed squarely at the professional chef or seriously keen amateur. That said, much of the hard science is explained in an extremely accessible manner (I wish science classes at school had been so informative), but you will still be slightly bemused by at least some of the legion of graphs that populate the first two volumes and in places the books are not an easy read. And herein justifies the exorbitant price tag for these books: these are a true labour of love.
The amount of scientific research and rigour that has gone into producing these tombs is astonishing, matched only by the lavish photography and presentation. They are beautiful, almost breathtaking in places. One can only imagine how much they cost to produce given the amount of high end culinary equipment was literally sawn in half for some of the stunning cut-away illustrations. The books cover almost every facet of cooking you can imagine from Wok technique, to the best setting agents for given fluids, to BBQ, smoking, equipment, ingredients, flavour matching...the list is endless. And never once do you feel like the authors are trying to be so generalist in content that they become master of none of it. Some will not be relevant to the home chef - unless you intend to turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab and start buying centrifuges, but what remains is still more than worth the ‘professional only’ elements. I’ve run out of bookmarks highlighting information I’ll want to return to. The smaller kitchen manual alone has more useful information contained in its numerous tables than all my other cook books combined.
I’ve now spent hours reading and re-reading the books and it’s all been a pleasure which has fundamentally changed the way I look at cooking and prepare dishes. Its allowed me to be truly creative rather than trying to replicate dishes as I now understand WHY things do and don’t work. They are also simply beautiful books in their own right which will draw in even neophyte cooks - although they will need arms like a heavyweight boxer to lift them as each volume is a rigorous weights session in its own right!
If you are the kind of person utterly addicted to Great British Menu and Professional Masterchef and aspire to replicate that level of cooking and understanding then these books will be your bible. Just don’t be surprised to find yourself trawling second hand catering equipment eBay as a result of reading it!
This is an incredibly information-dense set of books. The photography is stunning, the discussion of modernist techniques such as spherification and gels for different temperatures/alcohol contents/acidity levels/etc is thorough, and the coverage of physics, chemistry, and occasionally even philology add greatly. The authors have really created something spectacular.
The primary reason I'm giving it four stars is physical aspects. The binding on volume 4 is falling apart after reading it once and referencing it twice. The bookmark strings in each volume left permanent imprints in their original position, damaging the pages. Volume 4 also arrived with dents on the bottom of the front cover. Secondarily, the chapter on nutrition was largely a credulous rehashing of the work of a discredited contrarian, and the book was the worse for including it. The deliciousness of the recipes also varies; they don't always improve on classics, though they certainly get credit for trying.
I received this today and the bindings especially on book 5 were already coming away. I’d like to return it but with the size it’s not really feasible to do so. For such a costly product it’s really disappointing. The books themselves look good content wise though.
Edit: also book two is falling apart a fair bit too, and these are new books
Its THE cookbooks you need. It explains in large letters and amazing photographs, what happens to the stuff you stick into oven or boil or freeze. And it makes you better cook just by reading, since now you know.
Its cheaper than a food course at a college, and probably more informative on theory of food science. This along with Harold McGee's books, and the Oxford Companion to Food will act as the library for any food professional who needs 'go to'.