Cookbook Review: The Encyclopedia of Cooking

The Encyclopedia of Cooking, a house-warming gift, has languished on the bookshelf - safely tucked away from cooking splatters. The behemoth by Günter Beer and Patrik Jaros, containing 750+ pages of recipes, information and photos, just seemed overwhelming. Motivation for its use finally arrived when I decided to make salmon for a dinner party.

It’s surprisingly easy to find information: the Contents page lists various categories with Freshwater Fish and Saltwater Fish the logical sections to start. The Freshwater Fish section contains a further breakdown - success, there are three salmon recipes!

The recipe’s layout is understandable and sensibly laid out: an ingredients listing with pictures (in case the appearance of salmon is foreign to you) on top and three-star difficulty classification system on the bottom. Simply written procedures with corresponding numbered pictures, a food-porn worthy final product photo and box of suggested changes round out each recipe.   

Settling on the slow-roasted salmon, I followed measurements carefully despite the 2/3 cup of whipped butter seeming more than pictured. Luckily, it wouldn’t matter, as the butter simply melted off and pooled into the baking dish anyways.

The instructions instructs me to “place each [of the salmon portions] in an individual buttered soufflé dish.” Ramekins I have, but the oblong small casserole dish pictured in the book I didn’t. Instead, the entire fillet went into a baking dish and I hoped for the best. Alas, after the prescribed 45 minutes the salmon was still rare. Not wanting my guests to wait, I increased the temperature from 185°F to 250°F and the fish finished cooking in 20 minutes. It appears individual portions are required to meet the allotted cooking time.

Sautéed potatoes seemed like a fitting side. Oddly, more instructions accompanied it than the salmon. The potatoes recipe instructs to “wash the parsley, pluck the leaves, and chop them finely”, whereas the salmon recipe mentioned a simple, “wash and finely chop.”

Overall, the cookbook is smartly laid out and an ideal choice for beginners or those who crave simple recipes. Categories include basic information, such as the official names or various cuts of potatoes, allowing readers to delve deeper into the ingredient. But an encyclopedia has limits given that it contains a lot of varied information - if you’re looking for 50 ways to cook salmon: this isn’t the right cookbook.

Rather, the Encyclopedia of Cooking is a great all-purpose cookbook and gift if you don’t know someone’s culinary interests. The perfect house-warming gift to receive, as I’ve finally discovered now that I've just taken sit off the shelf. 

More Information on the Cookbook
 Publisher: Parragon Inc.
 Year: November 2010
 To Buy: Go to Amazon 

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