Comments: The 100 included recipes are mostly chosen to elucidate scientific cooking points, but of course, one doesn't buy a book like this for the recipes. It's the 1,600 entries on science, nutrition, equipment, techniques, agriculture, etc., that make up the heart of this book.
A book of this nature is necessarily inconsistent. You could not fit all the meaningful cooking reference information – even all the cooking science – into a dozen books. But the inconsistencies are present at various levels. There is a paragraph on poured fondant but nothing on rolled fondant. There are discussions of two major sources of food spoilage – bacteria and mold – but nothing comprehensive on the third – yeast.
You can occasionally tell there are three authors (one of whom is a food scientist), because words creep in that only a food scientist or a dictionary would know – humectant, for example, has to do with moistening. (Perhaps you knew that; we had to turn to the dictionary.)
With all due respect, this book really should have been a Web site. On nearly every other page, there are six to 12 cross references, sending you to another section on another page, like some out-of-control phone book's yellow pages. With online hyperlinks, you could click directly from subject to subject, without ceaseless page turning and hunting through long articles for the subtopic you're seeking. We understand there are huge economic considerations in the decision to publish online vs. in print, but this book is an obvious candidate.
Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking still claims the top spot in the books on food science (and there are many books in the loosely defined category we love), but this is certainly a great addition for anyone who wonders how and why things happen in cooking. You'll have to muster the discipline or some system to work your way through the book, because at just under 4 pounds and more than 600 pages, it is nearly impossible to read from cover to cover. But if you don't, you will miss a lot of fascinating information.