May 26

Cook’s Illustrated: a magazine that brings the STEAM into cookery

Have you heard the library is pivoting into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) events?  As part of that push, I asked for us to get this new magazine and Make: which I reviewed earlier.

When I say this to people, the connection between STEAM and Make: is pretty straightforward, but they don’t quite get what I’m saying in regard to Cook’s Illustrated, so let me take a minute to explain.

A lot of cookery writing is woeful.  Heaps of it is gastroporn rubbish. Some of it, though, uses applied biochemistry it make cooking better. Cook’s Illustrated try out hundreds of varieties of some recipes, and then explain what they’ve tried, what the results were, and what’s happening to make their final result great. Once you understand the underlying science, it lets you reuse each technique in other contexts. You tend to see their findings repeated as maxims in the work of other cooks.  If anyone’s ever told you to use vodka in pie crust, or that pasta should be boiled in water that starts cold, that’s because of these people. The same organisation produces the America’s Test Kitchen TV program.

It’s really  worth a look if you’re into serious cookery.  As a flag, the James Beard Foundation, which pushes a similar line, has released their annual media awards. I’ll be reviewing some of these books in the coming months.