Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cooking for Engineers

At a young age, I read the Joy of Cooking. Back to Front. I've always had a love-love relationship with food and when I was of an age to be entranced by Mr. Rogers, it was mostly because he came on before Yan Can Cook, the Frugal Gourmet (I don't care, his recipes are awesome) and Julia Child. I read cookbook after cookbook, comparing recipes, writing my own notes and then writing my own recipes, trying to understand the science of it all. Why were my fried eggs soggy? Why didn't my pop-overs pop? I was good at math and science and cooking was like chemistry, there were things going on, food things, amalgams to compound, liquids to emulsify, energy to be released. I bought as many of the Time-Life "The Good Cook" series as I could, because they taught the basics: marinades needed an acid, an immersive, and a flavoring agent; chicken saut├ęs must be seared then tempered with vegetables then finished in a simmer.

Modern cooking shows like Alton Brown's "Good Eats" were such a godsend, because he put the math and science right next to the cooking. Finally, someone else got that teaching one to prepare food should not be about teaching how to follow a recipe, but how to understand food and how to experiment with it.

You don't have to have cable (or a TV for that matter) to learn the same thing. Enter, "Cooking for Engineers", a site built for analytical minds that like to cook aimed at demystifying the science of food preparation. In addition to their ingredients dictionary, catalogue of cooking tests, and notes on equipment and gear, at the end of each recipe is a Nassi-Shneiderman diagram (shown above for New England Style Chowder) which is simply the recipe at one glance. Now why hasn't Alton Brown thought of that?


  1. You might find this article from Nature of interest - written by the father of molecular gastronomy.

  2. I have to concur with your comments about Cooking For Engineers. With a background in science I find it a really interesting read.

  3. Also, your kitchen needs this

  4. I love 'Good Eats' and record it to understand not just how to make something, but why it works. When he brings out his starch molecule all those science classes come right back.