Alton Brown, mind extraordinaire!

Alton himself:
Food TV’s Good Eats:

Okay, so just another television cook show host and an American at that, right?


Alton Brown’s cable channel program Good Eats is not only entertaining, this host goes to the trouble of teaching the chemistry and physics behind cooking, a sort of Bill Nye the Science guy meets Julia Child.

Alton appeals to the engineer in me. Instead of memorizing recipes or collecting them on cards, I have always attempted to understand the principle behind the ingredient, mixture or preparation I am using.

Then I can walk into a kitchen with no recipe book and cook something good. (And, I have on numerous occasions to delight of my hosts.)

What is the difference between using yeast leavening and baking powder (yeast breads versus quick breads)? Why does it work to put wine into a sauce but not grape juice? Why should I never cook cabbage or artichokes in a raw aluminum pan? Why does melted chocolate seize up when I add the tiniest drop of water and what can I do about it? Why can’t I thicken a sauce I have thinned too much? Etc.

Alton explains the why behind almost everything he does. If you can begin to grasp the why, then you won’t need the recipe book to spell it all out for you:

“Ooh: Mua’dib no longer needs the weirding module!”
                (—obscure reference to di Laurentis’ movie Dune)


America’s Test Kitchen  

Sort of New Yankee Workshop Cooks (with more New England Yankees to boot!), this is PBS’ best cooking show because it tends to give explanations as to the why as well as reviews on the best kitchen appliances, foodstuffs (best vinegar, mayonnaise, graham crackers, etc.) and some easily realizable recipes.

In Utah, see this show on Saturday Public Television. The hosts are the staff at Cook’s Illustrated magazine:

“America’s Test Kitchen is a real place: a no-nonsense, fully equipped test kitchen located just outside Boston, MA, where a team of highly qualified test cooks and editors perform thousands of tests every year. The goal? To develop the best recipes and cooking techniques, recommend the best cookware and equipment, and rate brand-name pantry staples for home cooks. America’s Test Kitchen is devoted to a collegial approach to cooking—teams of editors, writers, and cooks engage in side-by-side comparisons, blind taste tests, and rigorous equipment performance tests to determine which pans work and which ones don’t, which brand of ketchup tastes best, and so on.”

“America’s Test Kitchen accepts no advertising. We are a private company with no affiliations with large publishers, cookware manufacturers, or food purveyors, which means that our content is unbiased and objective.” Gotta love it!