Samin Nostrat is My Hero

I've always enjoyed cooking and loved baking, for as long as I can remember. When we were small my sister and I had to switch off helping my mom prepare dinner every night and were always invited to help bake, so I had an early understanding of the difference between a teaspoon and tablespoon, the importance of preheating ovens, and how long it took to boil water. As I got older, my mom released the reigns and I'd say by the time I was probably ten or so I was allowed to make cookies and such on my own (with the burns to prove it). I made plenty of mistakes. Sometimes I'd forego softening the butter and just melt the whole stick (groaaaaan). I'd decide salt was unhealthy and skip it completely or would drastically cut chilling times for dough. But that's how we learn, so no regrets (sorry mom).

Now as an adult I cook five or so nights a week and probably bake one recipe a weekend. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing more assembling than cooking on weeknights during the school year, but I do try to do something a bit more complicated Sunday nights. Sometimes I feel guilty, but it's still better than getting takeout, so I'll chalk it up to domestic survival. 

Also as an adult I've developed quite the love of cooking shows and documentaries, something that contradicts my sentiment that I could live without TV just fine. I don't know how it took me so long to discover Samin Nosrat, but now that I have I'm so excited. I heard her on an episode of The Armchair Expert and instantly wanted to be her student, friend, sous chef, personal assistant, whatever. She was smart, quirky, honest, and adorable. I quickly watched her four-part docu-series on Netlfix, Salt Fat Acid Heat and ordered her book of the same name. 

I have only read two other cookbooks in my life in their entirety, and both were Christina Tosi's. This one was much, much longer but Michael Pollan said that readers should start at the beginning, as does Nosrat, so I decided to take their advice. They are the experts, after all.

And over the course of a few days, I did, and I learned so much about the fundamentals of cooking, food chemistry, and how the four elements in the title really impact our cooking (and eating). After the obligatory introductions, Nosrat breaks her book into sections on salt, fat, acid, and heat, and the includes maybe a hundred or so recipes at the end. Each of the main sections include the significance of the component, how to work with it, how to avoid mistakes (and fix some), the scientific rationale behind her explanations, and suggestions on how to integrate the ideas immediately.

Some of my biggest takeaways:
- I under-salt my food, especially when it comes to things like boiling pasta and meat (I've already started correcting this and can taste a difference)
- the idea of adjusting heat at different stages for different reasons; I think this is something I do sometimes, but I never really realized why I was doing it
- the buttermilk chicken recipe (making next week)
the chocolate cake recipe (making next week)
- Her chart on how to use fruits and when to use them
- Why we add certain condiments naturally (because we need acid!)

I can't ignore the beautiful illustration by Wendy MacNaughton- I balk a bit at recipe and cooking books that don't have photographs, but this book proved to be a total exception. Her pictures are absolutely beautiful (I think I may embroider a few for myself), but her charts take the cake. You guys know how much I love charts. She is incredibly talented and a huge reason why this book works so well.

If you enjoy cooking, want to learn about the science in a super accessible way, or need an extra boost of confidence in the kitchen, I highly recommend this essential cookbook.


  1. Cooking really is a science, isn't it??? Sounds like a good book. I am a lousy salter myself. Finally figured out that a lot of dishes need at least 1/2 tsp of salt so now I start with that and add more if necessary. Let us know how that chocolate cake turns out!!!

  2. I feel you on the Tosi love: I have now checked out Christina Tosi's books from our local library so many times, that my fave librarian now teases me about it every time he sees one in my bag! I haven't read this one yet, but I loved the video Samin did with Bon Appetit's YouTube channel a little bit ago... I will definitely have to pick it up!