Sunday, September 6, 2020

150 Food Science Questions Answered by Bryan Le

150 Food Science Questions Answered: Cook Smarter, Cook Better
150 Food Science Questions Answered by Bryan Le
ISBN-10 : 1646118332 - Paperback $17.99
Publisher : Rockridge Press (July 21, 2020), 198 pages. 
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program and the publisher.

The blurb:

Cooking isn’t just an art, it’s a science―150 fascinating food facts to make you a better cook

Does cold water come to a boil faster than warm water? Why does fat taste so good? What makes popcorn pop? Most of the processes that occur during cooking are based on principles found in biology, chemistry, and physics. 150 Food Science Questions Answered is an intriguing look into the science of food, from the eyes of a food science Ph.D. candidate and recipient of the James Beard Legacy Scholarship.

Learn food science―how controlling heat, moisture, acidity, and salt content can magically transform the way flavors are developed and perceived. Understand the food science behind the few hundred milliseconds that creates our sense of taste. With increased knowledge will come increased mastery, no matter what you’re cooking.

Inside 150 Food Science Questions Answered you’ll find:

  • Can you control garlic’s intensity by the way you cut it?―Garlic’s signature burn is released when its cell walls are cut into. Whole garlic will impart mild flavor; garlic crushed into a paste will deliver the strongest punch.
  • Does alcohol burn off when cooked?―Quick processes like flambé eliminate only about 25% of alcohol, while long-simmering can remove almost all of it.
  • Does searing a steak seal in the juices?―No, but it does develop delicious flavors through a process called the Maillard reaction.

Learn food science and you’ll be on your way to truly understanding the chemistry of cooking.

My review:
I've been cooking more with the covid pandemic and our family's eating habits have changed over the last few years.  For health reasons, we've become vegan and I've had to unlearn how I used to cook and learn new habits.  

I was particularly interested in Bryan Le's 150 Food Science Questions Answered: Cook Smarter, Cook Better for several reasons: 1) his blog Science Meets Food relays helpful and interesting information with beyond the basic glossing over. He gives scientific reasons for everyday cooking knowledge. 2) Brian Le's credentials as a James Beard Legacy Scholar and his PhD background in Food Science at University of Madison Wisconsin and 3) Personable young Asian American scholar writing his first book.  4) the tagline he uses "Cooking Isn't Just an Art, it's a Science"  had me hooked.
I recommend his book for adults, college students learning how to prepare their own meals, and smarter teens and kids because it is chockfull of practical information that can help you cook better, eat healthier and  thus improve your day to day life.   

There is far too much to name, but here are some of what you'll find inside 150 Food Science Questions Answered. These were particularly helpful for me:

-Does adding oil to cooking water keep pasta from sticking? - because I never add enough water, I'm always rushing to cook the pasta and can't be bothered to heat up as much water as the recipes and instructions say. 

-Why do foods brown (the Maillard reaction)? Why do foods brown (caramelization)? Can you increase browning? - because we've been roasting vegetables regularly and I love the brown bits.

-Is oil really necessary in cooking? - because my dietitian suggested I substitute water for oil when cooking.

-What are emulsions? Why are emulsions prone to breaking? Does it matter what thickener I use?

-What factors can affect the way we experience flavor? Are taste and flavor the same thing?

-Is there a scientific reason why certain foods and flavors complement each other?

-Why does salt make food taste so good? Does it matter what kind of salt I use? 

-What makes fat so tasty? 

-Is terroir really a thing in food and wine?

-Can a marinade infuse a food with flavor?

-What gives black pepper its punch? What gives ginger its heat and spiciness? Why is Saffron so highly prized? What gives nutritional yeast its distinctive flavor?

-Is it better to use herbs fresh or dried? When should I use lemon zest versus lemon juice?

-What is the difference between tender and tough cuts of meat and how they cook?

-Does it matter whether you cook bacon in a cold or hot pan?

-Should I bring meat to room temperature before cooking it?

-Why does meat stick to a hot pan?  Why does meat dry out?

 -Does temperature matter when beating egg whites?  

 -What cauess the shell to stick to my hard-boiled egg when I try to peel it? 

-Can I substitute milk for half-and-half or heavy cream and vice versa? 

-Why do some cheeses have strong aromas and others don't?  Why doesn't the mold in blue cheese make you sick?  Can I freeze cheese?

-What happens when fruit ripens? Does putting a banana with an underripe fruit help make the fruit ripen faster?

-Why does my tongue tingle when I eat pineapple?

-Is there any real difference between red, white and yellow onions? How do onions and garlic transmit flavor to a dish?

-Does the way you cut garlic affect how strong it is in a dish? Why does the flavor of garlic but not chilis mellow out when cooked?

-Do beans get tough if you add salt or tomatoes to them at the beginning of cooking?

-Is there really a difference to between adding potatoes to cold water versus adding them to boiling water?

-Why does bread harden when it gets stale but cookies and crackers get soft?

-Does it matter where I bake my cake in the oven?

-Why does honey crystallize?

-Do I really have to cook my steak well done to be safe?

-How does e.coli end  up on romaine lettuce and other produce? Can the dirt on my mushrooms make me sick?

-What keeps fermented and pickled vegetables from going bad?

-Can I still eat a potato if its skin is green?  Are apple seeds and peach pits poisonous?

-Can peanut butter ever go bad?

-Is it safe to reuse oil after frying and cooking?

-Is MSG safe to eat?

-How seriously should I take expiration dates?  

-Should I store my bread in the fridge? Why do vegetables wilt in the fridge? 

-What is freezer burn? Why does ice cream sometimes develop ice crystals in the freezer?  What's the best way to defrost meat - on the counter, in the fridge or under running water?


 Intelligent, science based and interesting, 150 Food Science Questions Answered is a keeper and a good book to share with friends and family.  It would make a good gift as well. 

About the Author:  BRYAN LE is a Ph.D. candidate in Food Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the VP of digital and social media for the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association and manages, edits, and writes articles for their official blog, Science Meets Food. Le is a recipient of the James Beard Legacy Scholarship from the James Beard Foundation.

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