In the world of food-related academic subjects, we've got food literature, food math, food history, and even food anthropology. So how about food science? We've got plenty of books to cover that, too.
My introduction to food science was with Good Eats, Alton Brown's popular show that features a specific ingredient or type of dish in each episode. In his trademark corny, cheesy manner (no pun intended), Brown explains the physical properties of various foods and how they are affected chemically through cooking. If you've seen every episode and want more, he's got a few good books out that are just as informative as his show. But even this TV guru gets a lot of his info from other folks.
Shirley Corriher, Culinary Chemist
The next step up is Shirley Corriher. She's a former research chemist who has popped up as a consultant on Good Eats from time to time. Her books Cookwise and Bakewise explain the science of food preparation in an accessible way, and even offer some of her favorite recipes.
Harold McGee, the Godfather of Food Science
Moving on, Harold McGee is the author of On Food and Cooking, which is a fantastic kitchen resource, full of detailed information on culinary chemical composition and processes. McGee's experiments and results explain kitchen mysteries and debunk myths, such as the idea that you should quickly brown meat to seal in the juices. He explains that browning does nothing to create a seal, but it does create wonderful flavor through the Maillard Reaction. His tips on making beef stew explain how careful temperature control can convert the collagen from connective tissue into gelatin, resulting in an exquisitely tender dish. If this nearly 900-page tome seems imposing (it is more of a reference than a read-through), he has a more compact book, The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore.
More to Explore
Beyond the Big Three, there are plenty of others writing on the food science front. Here are some titles you might like to check out:
- The New Kitchen Science by Howard Hillman
- What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained by Robert L. Wolke
- The Science of Cooking by Peter Barham
- Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor and Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking by Hervé This
Loosen the belt on your smartypants, and get cooking!
Chris Gray is an Extra Help Librarian. When he's not reading science fiction, comics, or cookbooks, he likes to listen to all kinds of music, hang out in parks looking for animals, cook, and make abstract video art.