In The Elements of Cooking, New York Times bestselling author Michael Ruhlman deconstructs the essential knowledge of the kitchen to reveal what professional chefs know only after years of training and experience.
With alphabetically ordered entries and eight beautifully written essays, Ruhlman outlines what it takes to cook well: understanding heat, using the right tools, cooking with eggs, making stock, making sauce, salting food, what a cook should read, and exploring the most important skill to have in the kitchen, finesse. The Elements of Cooking gives everyone the tools they need to go from being a good cook to a great one.
Ruhlman's slim 12th book, inspired by Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style, would more accurately have been titled "Selected Elements of French Cooking." Organized in dictionary format, the book offers short definitions of culinary terms most likely to be encountered in a Continental restaurant kitchen: la ficelle, jus li , lardo, mise en place, oblique cut, oignon piqu , rondeau, roulade. Entries for ladle, rolling pin and other common implements seem almost superfluous, while international items such as wok, tandoor, udon and cardamom are nowhere to be found (though to be fair, nam pla, kimchi and umami are included). An opening eight-page section announces, with finger wagging, that "veal stock is the essential" and discourses on eggs, salt and kitchen tools. Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) is an elegant writer and the entries he does include can be useful and sometimes entertaining. The real problem is the idiosyncratic, highly personal approach: you just don't know what you'll find in this book and what you won't.