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Book Review: Kitchen on Fire! Mastering the Art of Cooking in 12 Weeks (or less)

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I got married at 18 and the only things I knew how to cook were hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Needless to say, it didn’t take long until I taught myself to cook.

I grabbed a few cookbooks from tag sales and began searching for recipes that seemed easy enough to make with my limited cooking skills. That task wasn’t as easy as you’d think. A number of the recipes seemed straight forward until I ran into unfamiliar cooking terms and utensils. What exactly was the difference between a saute pan and a skillet and did I have one? I was quite certain I had no idea how to dock bread and wasn’t clear on the differences between saute, fry and sear.

Of course, I’m 45 now and have been cooking for a long time. I’ve mastered all but the more complicated types of cooking in the past twenty-seven years. However, now I’m faced with an eighteen-year-old daughter that will some day need to prepare meals for herself or her family and I’d like to make sure she has an easier time of it than I did. Kitchen on Fire! Mastering the Art of Cooking in 12 Weeks (or Less) is just the thing she needs. Kitchen on Fire! isn’t really a cookbook although there are recipes included. It’s really more like a cooking school all rolled into one book.

The book is broken down into twelve weeks. Each of the twelve weeks has its own chapter or lesson to focus on. Chapters include:

  • Knife Skills and Mise en Place,
  • Sauteing, Stir-Frying, and Searing,
  • Stocks, Soups, and Poaching,
  • Frying and Confit,
  • Stewing, Braising, and Steaming Sauces,
  • Condiments, and Dips,
  • Roasting and Broiling,
  • Grilling,
  • Yeast Breads, Quick Breads and Batters,
  • Starches, Grains and Pastas,
  • and The Incredible Egg.

In addition, you will find chapters on The Basic Science of Cooking, Cooking Ingredients, and a Master Tool List. There is also a handy conversion chart.

Each chapter is broken down into the very basics of what’s being taught. Any unfamiliar word is in bold with a red number in parentheses after it. This indicates that the word is demonstrated by a photograph on that page to help you identify what it is. As an example, in the lesson on the various types of knives, cook’s or chef’s knives are identified with a (1). The photograph below shows a variety of different types of these knives so you can identify them in your kitchen. Each word is also well defined so it’s quite easy to turn to the appropriate chapter and figure out exactly what a recipe in another cookbook is talking about. There are tons of photographs and diagrams so it’s really quite simple to follow along and understand each lesson.

This book goes far beyond the basics of cooking and really gives you a firm grasp of what you need to know. As an example, in the section on knives, you learn about different types of knives, different parts of each knife, the different materials knives might be made of, knife safety, how to hold the knife, sharpening and honing the edge, cutting boards, cutting sizes, cutting motions, tricks to cut herbs, cutting by shape and structure, working mise en place when working with proteins, silverskin and fat removal; slicing, carving and boning meat; pounding out proteins, trussing, and roulade; and brines, marinades, rubs, and barding. Then, at the end of most chapters will be chapter exercises that allow you to practice the skills that you just learned that week.

There’s a really nice selection of recipes included as chapter exercises. Some are fairly basic like tomato sauce and fresh pepper scrambled eggs but there are quite a few more challenging recipes like grilled stone fruits with goat cheese and honey or vegetable egg rolls with sweet chili sauce. There is definitely something for everyone in Kitchen on Fire!: Mastering the Art of Cooking in 12 Weeks (or Less)This is a great resource for not only the beginning cook but for the person who knows how to cook but wants to expand into areas she may not already be familiar with.

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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.
  • Add to the above the Vitamix 5000 series food processor. Just add the fruits and veggies ( whole in some cases). A high fiber mix is produced with virtually no waste. The unit cleans with a simple rinse and you are done. Mix such things as celery, radish, apple, mint and many other exotic combinations for a strong antioxidant cocktail.