How many of us know how to cook? And not just nuke a frozen dinner or whip up that one recipe we’ve perfected for when guests come over, but truly cook?
As evidenced by Samin Nosrat’s wildly popular Salt Fat Acid Heat, the principles that guide good cooking elude many of us. We flounder through dinners, picking up on best practices only after suffering the consequences of our own inexperience.
Salt Fat Acid Heat is excellent in its scope, but beginners may still find the 400 pages a bit ambitious. A better starting place is Jennifer Clair’s Six Basic Cooking Techniques: Culinary Essentials for the Home Cook. Her book, produced by all-Beacon talent, serves as a guide for anyone overwhelmed by words like “sauté.”
The clarity of Clair’s book has three sources: her 16 years as a teacher and owner of Home Cooking New York, her expertise as a recipe writer, and the book’s plentiful photography. There is no struggling to understand instructions or visualize chopping methods; chapters are divided into techniques like knife skills, cooking meats and pan sauces, and roasting vegetables.
Scattered throughout are helpful question-and-answer columns with some of the most popular queries of Clair’s teaching career. Many of the answers are fascinating, even for knowledgeable home chefs. For example, peeling ginger is optional, and honing steels do not actually sharpen your knife: rather, they straighten the blade.
Invest an hour reading this Sunday, and you’ll taste the return on investment in your next meal.
112 pages, HCNY Press, $19.95 (pb)