What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

by Robert L. Wolke
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What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained by Robert L. Wolke

"Wolke is Martha Stewart with a PhD." —American Scientist"Wolke, longtime professor of chemistry and author of the Washington Post column Food 101, turns his hand to a Cecil Adams style compendium of questions and answers on food chemistry. Is there really a difference between supermarket and sea salt How is sugar made? Should cooks avoid aluminum pans? Interspersed throughout Wolke's accessible and humorous answers to these and other mysteries are recipes demonstrating scientific principles. There is gravy that avoids lumps and grease; Portuguese Poached Meringue that demonstrates cream of tartar at work; and juicy Salt-Seared Burgers.... With its zest for the truth, this book will help cooks learn how to make more intelligent choices." —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393329421
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/19/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 175,897
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.16(h) x 0.93(d)

About the Author

Robert L. Wolke, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, received his doctorate in chemistry from Cornell University. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his wife, noted food writer Marlene Parrish.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Sweet Talk3
What is raw sugar?
Is refined white sugar unhealthful?
How can you soften hardened brown sugar?
What are treacle, sorghum, and sulphured molasses?
What's the difference between cane sugar and beet sugar?
How do you dissolve two cups of sugar in one cup of water?
What does "caramelize" mean?
How are starches and sugars related?
How do they get corn syrup from corn?
What is Dutch process cocoa?
Why does chocolate melt in the mouth?
How do they make white chocolate? ... and more
Chapter 2The Salt of the Earth39
What are all those special salts and tenderizers in the supermarket?
What are salt substitutes?
Why do we add salt to the water for boiling pasta?
What's so special about sea salt?
Kosher salt?
Freshly ground salt?
Can a potato remove the excess salt from over-salted soup?
Why do recipes tell you to use unsalted butter and then add salt? ... and more
Chapter 3The Fat of the Land65
What's the difference between a fat and a fatty acid?
Why are oils only partially hydrogenated?
Why do we clarify butter?
How do they make corn oil?
How do the various cooking oils compare?
What can you do with used cooking oil?
How do nonstick cooking sprays work?
What noodles contain fat?
Is heavy cream really lighter than light cream? ... and more
Chapter 4Chemicals in the Kitchen93
What do home water filters do?
What's the difference between baking powder and baking soda?
Is aluminum dangerous?
What is baking ammonia?
Sour salt?
Cream of tartar?
Artificial vanilla?
Why is there "no calcium" in cream cheese?
Why does lasagne dissolve metal?
How is vinegar made?
Are green potatoes poisonous?
How is lye used in our foods? ... and more
Chapter 5Turf and Surf124
Is a rare steak bloody?
What makes ground beef brown?
Is prime rib prime beef?
Why is the meat near the bone "sweetest?"
What do bones contribute to a stock?
What's the best way to skim fat from a stock?
How do they make all those different hams?
How does brining work?
How long is "overnight"?
What makes gravy lumpy and greasy?
Why does fish cook so quickly?
Why does fish smell fishy?
What is surimi?
Are oysters on the half-shell alive?
Should lobsters be boiled or steamed? ... and more
Chapter 6Fire and Ice177
What is a calorie?
How is cooking different at high altitudes?
Why does water boil?
Why does it take so long to reduce a stock?
What do the Btu ratings of ranges mean?
Does the alcohol boil off when you cook with wine?
Can you really fry an egg on the sidewalk?
Is charcoal or gas better for grilling?
What's the best way to defrost foods?
Why do bakers roll out their dough on marble?
Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?
Can eggs be frozen?
What is freezer burn?
Why does blowing on hot food cool it? ... and more
Chapter 7Liquid Refreshment215
Is coffee acid?
Does espresso contain more caffeine than American coffee?
How is coffee decaffeinated?
What's the difference between a tea and a tisane?
What makes soft drinks so acidic?
Does belching contribute to global warming?
Can soda go flat in an unopened bottle?
How can you open a bottle of Champagne with aplomb?
Why do some wines have plastic "corks"?
What do you do with the wine cork when the waiter gives it to you?
How much alcohol is there in various beverages? ... and more
Chapter 8Those Mysterious Microwaves250
How do microwaves make heat?
Why does microwaved food have to stand for a while?
Why do microwave ovens cook so much faster than conventional ovens?
Why mustn't one put metal in a microwave oven?
Can the microwaves leak out of the box and cook the cook?
What makes a container "microwave safe"?
Why do some "microwave safe" containers still get hot in the oven?
Is it dangerous to heat water in a microwave oven?
Do microwaves change the molecular structure of food?
Do microwaves destroy the nutrients in food?
Why does microwave-cooked food cool off faster than food cooked in a conventional oven? ... and more
Chapter 9Tools and Technology269
Why doesn't anything stick to nonstick cookware?
What's the "best" kind of frying pan?
Does a magnetic rack affect the sharpness of your knives?
What's the difference between a pastry brush and a basting brush?
How can you get the most juice out of a lemon or lime?
What's wrong with washing mushrooms?
Does tarnish affect the properties of a copper frying pan?
What's the easiest way to clean silverware?
Why are there separate measuring cups for liquids and solids?
How do "instant-read" thermometers work?
How do pressure cookers work?
How do induction-heated ranges and light ovens work?
Why do crackers have those little holes in them?
What are the pros and cons of food irradiation?
What are all those special compartments in your refrigerator? ... and more
Further Reading321

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"With its zest for the truth, this book will help cooks learn how to make more intelligent choices." —-Publishers Weekly

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What Einstein Told His Cook 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert L. Wolke's book, "What Einstein Told His Cook", is much better that those previous views listed on this site let on. I am a medical doctor with an extended education in biology, chemistry and physics, who is by no means insulted by Wolke's casual writing style. His book is not intended as a boring postgraduate text book. It is a fun to read book directed to everyday people with common understanding of the basics of science. I also have read Alton Brown's books. They also are to be recommended, but the topics covered are different-apples vs oranges in fact. Look again at "What Einstein Told His Cook" it was a pleasure to read and covered many interesting questions most people do not know the answer to; including arrogant professional cooks and medical doctors.
WordsofTruth More than 1 year ago
I asked my culinary-interested teenager what he thought of this book and whether or not he would like to have it in his library. His reply was, "Sure, the information is interesting, and the recipes are great too." The book really is an entertaining read. One of the most humorous sections is the "primer on crackerpuncture", i.e., - Why crackers have holes in them. Professor Wolke's book should be viewed more as a scientific "appe-teaser" that stimulates a thirst for more knowledge, but also satisfying to the hungry who diet on smaller portions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
OK, so I'm not a professional chef, nor an arrogant biochemist, but I think Robert Wolke's style of writing in this book adds some fun to what could be a real boring read. He doesn't just answer the questions, he explains why it is so. I don't want to become an expert in the field - I just want to know quick answers, so I think this book is terrific!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those aggravating tomes that uses a lot of pages to say very little. The writing is way too precious a lot of the time. I was interested in the subject matter going in, but I found the author's cutesy style to be extremely distracting. The author has some expertise, but he lets his smug prose ruin what could have been a very engaging, informative book. What a waste of time. Buy Alton Brown's book instead--he treats his reader with respect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author of this book is Robert L. Wolke. This book is called What Einstein Told his Cook. Throughout the book, the author answers common cooking questions while providing a thorough explanation. The author is currently a chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh. I am writing this review for my chemistry class. The purpose of this book is to answer common cooking questions and teach a little about food science. I believe that this book is very interesting as well as extremely informative. This book is broken down into chapters about broad topics, each with answers to many selected questions. Chapters include topics such as sweet foods, salt, fat, meat, seafood, liquids, and microwaves. The questions are submitted by real people, and the answers range from opinions to complicated concepts about chemistry. I believe that this book provides a lot of information that is useful in real chemistry and is learned in actual chemistry classes. For example, to answer one question, the author explains that aluminum is an active metal and is easily damaged by acids. Even the tomato sauce from lasagne can eat holes in aluminum if they are exposed to each other. Furthermore, the author also explains why you shouldn’t put metal in the microwave. He says that metal reflects microwaves, and this can cause damage to the inside of the microwave. He adds that there must also be something inside to absorb the microwaves. I also believe that this author is very experienced and helps people become better cooks with this book. One example is when the author talks about adding flavor to a stock. He explains that if you add bones to a stock, collagen, water, fibers, and marrow can be absorbed, adding additional flavor. A second example is that one question asks if you should boil or steam a lobster. The author explains that boiling is a good way to cook the lobster, but some people believe that it extracts too much flavor. The author explains in the end that they are equally good, and it is mostly up to the cook. This book is extremely helpful, both for cooks and for chemists. The author dives deep into the mysteries of cooking, and he gives informed, credible answers. Whether you’re a cook or a chemist, and whether you’re a beginner or a professional, this book will greatly expand your knowledge.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great idea poorly executed. If you have a college education and a sense of humor that transcends pop culture, I suggest you look elsewhere for good reading. The book is written in the all-too-common short-section format, popular with the attention-span impaired, and the ideas are wedged between Wolke's loquacious commentary (which, by the way, teaches you nothing). However, there are some interesting tidbits, if you are willing to mine a ton of ore to get the ounce of gold. Furthermore, although the author is clearly not condescending, he is informal to a fault, leaving the reader with rhetorical questions where there should be answers-raising the question: was this book even edited? Take more than a cursory look in the bookstore before paying the exorbitant price for this pedestrian work, and, if you have curiosities about science and food, look to Alton Brown of 'Good Eats' fame-he gets it right where Wolke just gets clueless.