J. Kenji López-Alt teaches home cooks how scientific know-how leads to tastier food. Read our review, and hear López-Alt speak at the Bay Area Book Festival.

Review by Kristina Sepetys

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
by J. Kenji López-Alt
(WW Norton, 2015)

James Beard Award winner J. Kenji López-Alt is an MIT grad and the managing culinary director of SeriousEats.com, author of the column The Food Lab, and a columnist for Cooking Light. Lopez-Alt spent 11 years in restaurant kitchens, and The Food Lab was not only a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2016 James Beard Award for General Cooking, but also won the IACP Cookbook of the Year Award. A prolific blogger, San Francisco resident López-Alt was motivated by space limitations to write this massive manual to describe simple science for cooking better food at home. As he writes in the Introduction, the cookbook “represents the culmination of not just a decade and a half of cooking and studying the science of everyday foods, but of years of learning how to apply this science in ways that can help home cooks cook everyday food in better, tastier ways.” Drawing on his science background (he comes from a family of scientists), López-Alt explains how to cook just about everything better. For example, try these directions for boiling up a perfectly soft egg: drop the egg into a boiling pot of water, turn off the heat, and cover to encourage the egg to cook from the outside in, making for a perfectly pliable white with a just-right soft center.

In The Food Lab, López-Alt focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food. In hundreds of easy-to-make recipes with extensive explanatory detail and over 1,000 full-color images, he shares secrets like how to make foolproof Hollandaise sauce in just two minutes, how to transform one simple tomato sauce into a half dozen dishes, and how to make the crispiest, creamiest potato casserole ever.

Kenji López-Alt in the Bay Area

Intrigued by López-Alt and and food science? You can hear him speak in person on a panel at the Bay Area Book Festival on Saturday June 4th 11:45am-1:00pm at the San Francisco Chronicle Stage at the Freight & Salvage. His panel will address “Science in the Kitchen (and Why it Matters!) with Adam Rogers and moderated by John Birdsall. The group will discuss whether technical books about cooking and booze can have a soul and other topics related to the expressive possibilities of food science.