If you looked at my book purchases over the last couple of years, you might think I started Twice as Tasty as an excuse to expand my food library. I’d be hard-pressed to dispute it. As my partner and I increasingly returned to basic ingredients and making what we eat from scratch, one of my greatest joys has been learning from people with far more experience, training, and knowledge about food. Although there is a wealth of helpful information online, many of my favorite sources sit on a shelf, ready to be pulled open when I’m looking for answers or ideas.
Earlier this year, I shared some of my go-to books on canning. They’re the inspiration for many recipes on this blog, and my favorites tell me not just how to best can something but also why the process works. When I want to write about other kitchen processes, I often have a different stack on my desk: books on the science of food.
I share information I glean from other sources in every post on this blog, and I’m always happy to answer questions posed in post comments or the Twice as Tasty Facebook group. But if you want to learn even more about the whys of food, I suggest seeking out some of my favorite resources.
The Science of Good Cooking
The conglomeration that began with a black-and-white magazine in the 1990s has grown to multiple magazines, cookbooks, TV shows, websites, a cooking school, and more. America’s Test Kitchen, now the parent company and dominant brand, offers science tidbits, but I prefer the in-depth explanations in the Cook’s Illustrated titles. My favorite is still the first science book written bowtie-wearing founder Christopher Kimball, science editor Guy Crosby, and their team. (Both left ATK a few years back and have a new project called Milk Street.)
Kimball once told the New York Times that he believes home cooks fear humiliation yet won’t follow recipes precisely, so he designed the heavily tested style of Cook’s Illustrated to counter both. I still don’t stick to the recipes in The Science of Good Cooking, but the longwinded explanations of how they were created let me take my own path to a good meal.
Favorite Cook’s Illustrated discussion: Bloom Spices to Boost Their Flavor
Twice as Tasty recipes and workshops: Indian Spices: Marvelous Masalas, Feeling Saucy: Sauce Basics and Variations
J. Kenji López-Alt
The Food Lab
I’ll admit it: I don’t yet own a copy of Kenji’s tome. After ordering it through the library, I was too shocked by the weight of its nearly 1,000 pages to buy the book. Fortunately, Kenji’s entertaining tales and well-tested recipes are at the heart of the Serious Eats website. The book evolved out of his Food Lab columns, which means his writing is more blogger than academic and his experiments are akin to those of your favorite high school chemistry teacher, eager to show you the best way to build a bottle rocket. I recommend that you start learning from the Serious Eats’s “culinary nerd-in-residence” online and then grab his book once you’re hooked.
Favorite Food Lab discussion: The Food Lab: 5 Steps to the Best Grilled Shrimp
Twice as Tasty recipes and workshops: Wasabi-Marinated Shrimp, Grilled Goodness: Getting Fired Up about Vegetables
All other food-science writers bow to Harold McGee. He first published On Food and Cooking in 1984, starting a movement that puts technique ahead of ingredients in home kitchens. The newest edition is from 2004 but is still considered the must-have bible of kitchen science.
Long before I began Twice as Tasty, I was introduced to this book by one of my writers when I was editing food articles for websites. There are no recipes in its pages; it’s all about practical, approachable science useful for both curious home cooks and pros. This book started my food-science collection and is still the volume I reach for first whenever I want to learn why something works—or doesn’t—in my kitchen.
Favorite On Food and Cooking discussion: The Evolution of Cheese
Twice as Tasty recipes and workshops: Cheesiest Mac and Cheese, Fraternal Twins: Making Lemon Cheese and Yogurt
I discovered Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio when I was starting Twice as Tasty, and it was an ah-ha moment. It aligned with my homegrown, self-taught approach to making good food year-round. I was already cooking in ratios so that I could use what’s in season or preserved on my shelves. With this book, I found someone with far more experience and knowledge who could help me refine my approach.
Streamlining my recipes became both easier and harder with Ruhlman’s little book: easier because it provided some key information and explanation, but harder because it meant a lot of testing and tweaking to pull my ideas into sharable recipes. Hopefully you’ve benefited from the effort. You’ll find even more explanation behind my ratio and improv recipes in Ruhlman’s work.
Favorite Ratio discussion: Vinaigrette
Twice as Tasty recipes and workshops: Fresh Improv Soup, Dressed for Success: Classy Salad Dressings, Riffs on Risotto: Risotto Basics and Variations
Like what you’ve learned here? Twice as Tasty is teaches these techniques in workshops held in your own kitchen, among friends—and with my personal help. Click here to learn more.