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Publisher's Summary

Why is red meat red? How do they decaffeinate coffee? Do you wish you understood the science of food but don't want to plow through dry, technical books? In What Einstein Told His Cook, University of Pittsburgh chemistry professor emeritus and award-winning Washington Post food columnist Robert L. Wolke provides reliable and witty explanations for your most burning food questions, while debunking misconceptions and helping you interpret confusing advertising and labeling. A finalist for both the James Beard Foundation and IACP Awards for best food reference, What Einstein Told His Cook engages cooks and chemists alike.

©2002 Robert L. Wolke (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"With its zest for the truth, this book will help cooks learn how to make more intelligent choices." (Publishers Weekly)
For the kitchen nerd with a sense of humor. An absorbing read. (Food & Wine)
Wolke...is one of the great demystifiers of scientific information. (BusinessWeek)

What members say

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Everything you want to know about Kitchen Science

If you're a chef, you'll like it... if you're a scientist, you'll like it... if you're a curious person, you'll like it... if you're a food chemist or have done and enjoyed any food chemistry course, you'll LOVE it! I blame the latter fact as to why I took to this title so much. I really enjoyed this title and everything about it, it had a little biology, some biochemistry and a whole lot of chemistry. The bonus in this was the reference material (recipe guide).

The narration of the title was done well enough, not extraordinary but I do think that to narrate anything such as this it would be hard to truly blow me away. It was done very well though, enough to hold your attention for the entire title itself. The narrator didn't droll on and on, but engaged you well enough to keep you interested throughout the title.

The knowledge gained through listening this entire title was well received. As someone who did Food Chem in college I do remember a lot of the concepts that were mentioned. It also was not done in a way that requires any previous knowledge regarding chemistry or any basic science to really understand. All you need is an open mind and you should be able to follow pretty well. I thought the cook book that was provided would have been a bit more relevant other than giving you some treats to make but it was a nice addition. If you actually intend to be a Chef, be in the Food Industry or do any sort of Food Chemistry course I would HIGHLY recommend this book because it provides some very useful information in a understanding form.

60 of 64 people found this review helpful

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  • colleen
  • ANCHORAGE, AK, United States
  • 05-26-12

It was actually pretty interesting

If you ever wondered about how your microwave works or what the best way to liberate juice from a lemon check this book out. I learned way more that I planned on about what is in my kitchen and how I've been using it wrong. :)

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Jared
  • Wake Forest, NC, United States
  • 04-23-12

Cooking + Basic Chemistry/Science = Great Book

What Einstein told his cook is a great book if you have any background in science and would like to bridge some (or a lot) of gaps to cooking. Even if you don't have a big background in science or chemistry, I believe if you're some what intelligible you can still pick up on a lot of whats covered and comprehend it (though, you may have to look a few things up depending on your background). It is very interesting and it helps you avoid common techniques or procedures that are taught and used in the kitchen frequently which are almost completely baseless which shows the lack of education and knowledge some cooks actually have of cooking.

You don't have to have taken organic chemistry to think this book is great, but if you do have a background in chemistry/basic science you will probably really enjoy this book. Even if you don't have a background, the author is good about keeping it on a simple level, and explains concepts before discussing them further.

I'm just getting into cooking regularly and have found that this should be an essential read/listen for any one that enjoys or is beginning to enjoy cooking.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Sharpen your BS detector in the kitchen

If you are like me, a person who loves to cook and loves science, then this book is for you. What happens, at the molecular level, when you make caramelized onions? What is the difference between mineral salt and sea salt really (there is none), and does it matter which one I chose (no)? What is the fastest way to thaw something? Can you fry an egg on the sidewalk?

Read this book and you shall find answers to these, and many other questions. You will also gain a much better understanding of what it is you are doing when you are cooking. What is a carbohydrate and what is the difference between carbohydrates and sugars? How can you measure the calories in food? Does it matter when you put the salt in the water when you boil pasta? Acquiring this knowledge comes at the expense of being called a nerd, but there is nothing wrong with being a nerd.

The author deserves special praise for his fearless criticism of some BS products that are being aggressively advertised. For example, salt is salt wherever it may come from. If you want to pay a hundred times more for Himalayan salt that has some dirt in it, then be my guest, but know that you will only get a negligible amount of minerals (or perhaps pollutants is more correct term). To ingest a significant amount of minerals by eating salt you would have to eat several kilos which, needless to say, would not be very healthy.

Overall a good and funny book with a good mix of anecdotes and science to back up the different points made. Recommend it.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Tommy
  • NEWPORT NEWS, VA, United States
  • 09-13-13

More than a textbook for me

Ok, this is a bit like a textbook but if you are really into the science of food or just wonder about some if the myths/facts about what you eat this is a really good listen.
Look, it is not a story. If you are looking for a story you really need to look elsewhere. If you love to cook you may find this book as fascinating as I did.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating... and practical!

What made the experience of listening to What Einstein Told His Cook the most enjoyable?

I loved the fact that there were not only interesting bits of trivia, but plenty of common facts that will actually make me a more savvy shopper at the supermarket.<br/>

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

There were quite a few things I've learned such as simply knowing the basics of salt...Sea Salt, Kosher, Table and sodium free salts.

Any additional comments?

I think this would be a great start for a series of similar practical science such as "What Einstein told his... Housekeeper, gardener, etc.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Delicious tidbits of information

Would you listen to What Einstein Told His Cook again? Why?

What Einstein Told His Cook serves up a smorgasbord of kitchen science in bite-sized, easily digestible pieces. The author explains the workings of everyday ingredients and equipment used in food preparation and WHY they work the way they do. It is not only an entertaining read, it is a great reference book! A compendium of culinary information, it can be consumed as a meal or simply nibbled upon from time to time with no loss of flavor.

What was one of the most memorable moments of What Einstein Told His Cook?

Not only is it good information, it's a great resource in resolving kitchen arguments! Most memorable for me was the moment of victory I enjoyed when I read the official word of a scientist why it's not good to put my Calphalon pot in the dishwasher...even if that means my husband won't wash it...

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Alton Brown's alter ego

Any additional comments?

This book is enjoyable even for the non-cook; it gives concise, understandable information about the foods we eat every day.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Hollace
  • ODESSA, FL, United States
  • 01-30-13

A Delight for Foodie Nerds

Any additional comments?

If you like Alton Brown's "Good Eats" or "Iron Chef," this is your book. My husband and I enjoyed it on a car trip. Then, my in-laws listened and share it with the grandkids one chapter at a time on the way home from school. The science has captured the interest of our 9 year old nephew.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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The reason for paper

This is a terrible choice for audio! It is a reference book, plain and simple - as a printed book, you can look up whatever you need to know, when you need to know it. That doesn't work with audio, and since there is no story it's a major yawn. Imagine listening to the dictionary...

45 of 52 people found this review helpful

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A "Pot Boiler" of information

Chemistry intimidates me, cooking comforts me, and information fascinates me...and every chapter explains in easy listening terminology the myths and myth-takes about things we prepare to feed ourselves and our families. There are many good tips on what's fact and what's fiction in products, as well as resources for further information.
An included PDF provides the details you might want to write down if you hear them on the Southbound 405 heading toward Orange County, CA on the day before the 4th of July.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful