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Book Review: Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen

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Book Review: Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen
Image courtesy Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen

By Alton Brown

Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008

$17.95

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Fans of Alton Brown's geeky-but-informative television show, Good Eats, will feel like they're getting a personalized kitchen makeover from the cooking guru himself when they read this comprehensive guide to cooking equipment.

Brown begins by outlining a kitchen purge, describing to readers how they can spend 60 days determining which equipment they actually use, and getting rid of those they don't. It's a good exercise for anyone who thinks their kitchen is too small.

Brown then delves into the world of kitchen equipment with exhaustive commentary on choosing and using everything from pots and pans to cutlery to small appliances to gadgets. His advice is candid and practical; he's quick to point out where you can save money by buying a less-expensive product, or which products or product features are unnecessary marketing ploys. In some instances, the information gets somewhat technical and scientific, such as a section explaining the composition of metals used in cookware and their various cooking properties, or a brief digression into the history of the thermometer. But for the most part, you'll pick up plenty of tips on everything from choosing the proper knife for your needs to learning how to season your cast-iron skillet.

The book is sprinkled with handy tips on using the right piece of equipment for the job. For instance, there's a chart that indicates whether you should use your blender, food processor or mixer for accomplishing certain tasks, such as whipping cream, grinding nuts or pureeing soup.

There's a recipe in the book for nearly every type of cooking equipment: chorizo sausage for a meat grinder and sausage stuffer, potato leek soup for an immersion blender, and burnt peach ice cream for an ice cream maker. Helpfully, the recipes not only include the usual list of ingredients ("Software"), but they also include "Hardware," which is every single piece of equipment you need in order to prepare the dish. After all, there's nothing more annoying than getting halfway through the preparation of a dish before discovering that the next step requires the use of a tool or piece of equipment you don't have.

Finally, the last chapter of the book is devoted to safety and sanitation, a topic addressed in few other books, besides culinary-school textbooks. Alton addresses kitchen first-aid, proper hand-washing technique, tips on keeping the kitchen clean and bacteria-free and techniques for thawing and cooling food to avoid contamination.

The quirky humor that has made Brown's show so popular shines through in this book. Because of its witty tone and interesting trivia, you might be surprised to discover that a book about cooking gear could become compelling bedtime reading…not to mention, an indispensable resource in the kitchen.

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