Introducing: Harold McGee's The Keys to Good Cooking

>> Friday, August 20, 2010

Good morning, everyone! We've hit 500 posts! How cool is that? Anyway, today I'm going to be a big tease. Well, here's the deal: I was asked to participate in an online book tour. I'm incredibly honored, because the book sounds absolutely fabulous. The first round of posts is a brief glimpse into the book. It's by Harold McGee . . . and it's called The Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.


Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking. He’s the author of the award-winning classic On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, and writes a monthly column, “The Curious Cook,” for The New York Times. He has been named food writer of the year by Bon App├ętit magazine and to the Time 100, an annual list of the world’s most influential people. He lives in San Francisco. (from the book tour website)

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The table of contents reveals that the book is divided by food types. Anything ranging from fruits, nuts, and eggs to breads, pastries, and chocolate is covered. There's also info on kitchen tools I particularly like. (You may remember our post on Vegetarian Kitchen Essentials and another one about Useless Kitchen Gadgets.)

McGee writes in his introduction that this book is "not a cookbook." Instead, it is meant to help readers with comfort and method. He writes that there's an "abundance" of recipes online and elsewhere . . . and that it's "all too easy to get lost along the way." I surely know what he's referring to. I mean, how many times have you read through one of our recipes (or recipes elsewhere) and found that maybe some small part about HOW TO was missing. Like how LONG to whisk. How MUCH to mix. How SCANT to fill your measuring cup, etc.

In the section of the book that we were offered to review for this first teaser post (because I will be reviewing the book in full on October 26th), there's a chapter on "Vegetables and Fresh Herbs." McGee offers several tips for how to pick the best, freshest produce:
  • Fresh vegetables and herbs are alive and breathing and should look like it. The best-quality fresh vegetables are the most recently harvested and most carefully handled.
  • Precut vegetables are convenient but more vulnerable to spoilage than intact vegetables and are often wilted. Refresh them in ice-cold water before using.
  • Frozen vegetables can equal or better the quality of fresh, especially vegetables that lose flavor and tenderness rapidly after harvest. These include green peas, lima beans, and sweet corn.
  • Potatoes are starchy storage tubers. There are many varieties, most of which keep well for weeks at cool room temperature or refrigerated. “New potatoes” are harvested before they’re mature and should be used promptly or refrigerated.

There's also a great section about vegetable/food safety. Specifically:
  • You can’t always recognize contaminated vegetables or herbs by their appearance or smell, or by their apparent cleanness, even in prepacked bags.
  • Washing can’t eliminate all microbes from vegetables and herbs. The only way to guarantee their safety is to cook them.
  • Don’t serve raw vegetables or herbs, including salads, to people who are especially vulnerable to illness.
So, already you can see that this book is jam-packed with some great information. What I like most so far is McGee's writing. It's approachable. Comfortable. Friendly. But don't just take my word for it -- check out the other stops on the tour.

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According to, the book is set to release October 28th. Don't forget to check back with us on October 26th for our review in full! If you'd like to reserve a copy now -- or just learn more about what's in the book's 576 pages -- feel free to go check it out.

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