Done. A Cook's Guide to Knowing When Food Is Perfectly Cooked

James Beard Award-winning cookbook author James Peterson (What's a Cook to Do?) aims to expand the new or intermediate cook's ability to assess the doneness of food beyond toothpicks stuck into cakes and spaghetti thrown against the fridge with Done, a hybrid reference-recipe book. First, one must grapple with Peterson's occasionally contrary opinions. For instance, while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and most cooking guides advise that poultry is safe to eat once it has reached 160º F, Peterson prefers 140º F. A two-pound lobster, he says, will be cooked to perfection after only four minutes (compared to the standard 20 minutes, and after a knife-delivered coup de grâce). But Done surveys far more than birds and crustaceans. After an introductory section that explains various cooking methods, the book marches pithily through sauces, eggs, side dishes, entrées (organized by protein type) and desserts.

Peterson explains how precise cooking times and the cook's eyes, ears, nose and fingertips--or a humble dipping spoon or wooden skewer--can be deployed as effectively as a standby thermometer. The attractive color photographs illustrate preparation steps and exactly where to place a probe when necessary. While Done would make an excellent primer for an omnivorous beginner who wants to prepare sophisticated yet streamlined Eurocentric cuisine, almost every entry contains a tip, technique or insight that would edify cooks who already know their roux from their choux. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

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