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Do you find yourself let down by new cookbooks?


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Do you find yourself let down by new cookbooks?

chefhound | | Mar 19, 2013 11:06 AM

Let me start by saying that I'm not necessary unhappy with the ideas in the cookbooks but rather the writing/editing of the recipes.

My beef is with the instructions. Often I find the recipes are missing crucial information that either the writer assumes we all know or the editor is not a cook and doesn't realize that information is missing or the next logical step is just assumed.

Case in point: I just got Richard Blais' new book and I tried the brisket recipe. First off, I have to state that I am crazy about Richard and have no problem with the flavors in the recipe. But I have some technical issues.

The recipe doesn't provide enough information about how to handle the brisket. Do I need to trim it?
The spice mixture in the recipe makes too much. The recipe says to coat the meat with the spice mixture and then to brown/sear it. The spice coating was rather thick and would probably have fallen off when I browned the brisket but I rubbed the spices into the meat and left it overnight. When I browned it, I used a fair amount of oil so that it was actually kind of frying a bit, or else the spices would have just stuck to the pan and the meat wouldn't have browned at all.

The recipe called for the meat to be cooked for 10 hours at 300 degrees. I took it out at 8 hours and it was done, probably a little past done. If I had left it for 10 hours, it would have been very overcooked.

Now this is the first recipe that I have tried from this book and will definitely try others because I like the chef and I'm intrigued by his ideas. However, I think that the editor needed to think more like a cook and think about what questions will come up when actually cooking the dish and not just proofread.

Many years ago, I bought some cookbooks by Rob Feenie, a chef I greatly respect. I believe he's the first Canadian to win on Iron Chef. Anyway, it seemed like the recipe were more like outlines of recipes. The instructions were extremely brief and didn't explain anything. It was like chef was issuing orders to his sous.

Last night, I was thinking I wanted to make something Malaysian this weekend. I was looking through a Malaysian cookbook and again I was frustrated by the ingredient list which stated that I needed a pound of pork. What cut? I guess I have to make an educated guess.

I guess what I'm saying here is that I wish that cookbooks were edited by people who are cooks and that chefs/writers would write with the intent to actually show people how to make their dishes, not write recipes assuming we know things that we do not.

I guess it irks me more than most because I am a professional proofreader/editor and I always think of what I would have questioned/fixed if I had been working on that cookbook.

On a positive note, I haven't had any problems with recipes in Hugh Acheson's book. So far, everything has turned out great!