I really don’t like to cook. I realize that might be a character flaw, but the day-to-day task of preparing meals for the household aggravates me. I am eternally grateful that I live with someone who loves to cook and is willing to put time into looking up recipes and techniques in order to create delicious meals multiple times a day. So I decided to check out Jeff Potter’s book Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food to see if it might inspire me in the kitchen.

Product details

  • Length: 412 pages with Index
  • Formats: Paperback and ebook
  • Price: $34.99 (U.S. list price), $27.99 ebook
  • Publisher: O’Reilly Media
  • Chapter titles: Hello, Kitchen!, Initializing the Kitchen, Choosing Your Inputs: Flavors and Ingredients, Time and Temperature: Cooking’s Primary Variables, Air: Baking’s Key Variable, Playing with Chemicals, Fun with Hardware
  • Preview: If you want to get an idea of what is in the book, check out the Cooking for Geeks blog.
  • More details: Visit the Cooking for Geeks site or the Cooking for Geeks entry on the O’Reilly site. (Book cover image credit: Atof Inc.)

What I like

The best word to describe this book (which is billed as more than just a cookbook) is accessible. Jeff Potter writes in a conversational tone using language that is neither too lofty (which is often a habit among geeks) nor too simple. The flow matches the flow of geek conversation (or train of thought) in a way that makes the logic accessible without becoming distracting.

He offers tips on how to stock the kitchen, what extra equipment is nice to have, and how to maintain your cooking equipment. In this interesting read, the recipes and the information about the science of cooking are clearly explained, which made even me consider trying out some of the techniques. The scientific explanations involved in cooking will have the household gourmet expanding his or her skills beyond the recipes included in this book.

The features 21 interesting interviews with experts in various fields. For instance, MythBusters co-host Adam Savage talks about scientific testing and researcher Herve This discusses molecular gastronomy.

What I don’t like

The color scheme is blue, black, and white — there are no color photographs, which makes it difficult to see detail in the photos. Presentation is so important when you’re talking about food, so I don’t understand why this book doesn’t include attractive color photos.

Also, even though there is a recipe index in the front of the book, the recipes are scattered throughout the text, which makes them somewhat difficult to find visually when you’re flipping through the book. Give a little package of document flags with this gift, so the recipient can mark his or her favorite recipes and find them again quickly.

Geek gift bottom line

I recommend Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food for all geeks (even if they don’t love to cook) and for any household with children (kids of any age will get a kick out of the Brownies in an Orange recipe). This great book offers a lot of information in an accessible manner.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: *****
  • Overall: **** (I want to give this 5 for overall score, but the lack of color photos cost it a point.)

For more reviews of tech gadgets, gizmos, games, and books, download the PDF of TechRepublic’s Geek Gift Guide 2011.