Skip to main content

Filet mignon with stilton butter is prepared by Eric Vellend on February 10, 2016.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Title
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
Author
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
Genre
Non-fiction
Publisher
WW Norton
Pages
960
Price
$58

In the hyperbolic world of food media, the words "perfect" and "best" lead recipe titles so often that they've been rendered almost meaningless.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is fond of using these superlatives when describing a number of recipes in The Food Lab, his culinary magnum opus published last fall. Yet despite my aversion to abused adjectives, I kept agreeing with his boasts.

"Why, yes," I thought as I tasted his creations, "this is indeed the best vegetarian chili I've ever had."

Story continues below advertisement

If you are unfamiliar with Lopez-Alt, it means you haven't Googled a popular recipe in the past five years. He's the managing culinary director of the website seriouseats.com, as well as an MIT grad and a former chef. He approaches recipe development with monomaniacal zeal, then shares the delicious results with the infectious enthusiasm of the coolest teacher you had in high school.

Speaking of high school, there is a textbook-like intimidation factor to the 960-page tome, which doesn't even cover baking or desserts. Ironically, the goal of this book is to take the fear out of home cooking by helping us understand the science behind it. It does so with aplomb, but that takes time. You certainly don't need to read the 52 pages on steak cookery that come before the recipe, as it stands on its own; but if you want to become a steak boss, it's not a lot of homework.

I definitely upped my filet mignon game using Lopez-Alt's brilliant method of roasting the tenderloin whole at a low temperature, then cutting it into steaks before a quick sear in a hot pan. The recipe, which I've adapted below, yields gorgeous, evenly cooked beef – and it's a lot more foolproof than pan-frying the steaks from a raw state.

And that's the beauty of this book: Lopez-Alt's relentless pursuit of perfection yields hundreds of unconventional kitchen tricks. They include soaking dried pasta in hot water, instead of boiling, for baked ziti, and making a Parmesan crust for next-level grilled cheese. He also celebrates underappreciated techniques, such as steaming vegetables in the microwave.

So don't let the science angle scare you. Whether you read it from cover to cover or only tackle a few recipes, you'll come away from this book a better cook.

-------------

Recipe: Perfect filet mignon with stilton butter

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter