The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking


Michael Ruhlman’s groundbreaking New York Times bestseller takes us to the very “truth” of cooking: it is not about recipes but rather about basic ratios and fundamental techniques that makes all food come together, simply.When you know a culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly knowing a thousand. Why spend time sorting through the millions of cookie recipes available in books, magazines, and on the Internet? Isn’t it easier just to remember 1-2-3? That’s the rat…

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Cooks and chefs of reddit: What food-related knowledge do you have that the rest of us should know?(r/AskReddit)

There is a lot of technique advice in here, which is all well and good. But these are all really basic things. First, buy these two books:


Cooking is chemistry and art. It is chemistry not just in mixing things, but in how meat is cooked, and veggies brown. Those two books present the science of cooking, basic techniques, as well as some very advanced techniques. For the reddit crowd, they’re perfect.

Learn what temperatures oils smoke at. (Smoke means turn dark and start smoking… oil at this point tastes nasty and makes whatever you’re cooking in it disgusting.) Learn how much fat by weight is in butter, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, etc. Learn how much moisture is in each. These factors affect how they affect your recipe. So if you replace them, you will have different results.

A key example of this is cookies. A very basic cookie recipe is 1 part sugar: 2 parts fat: 3 parts flour. So this means 1 tablespoon of sugar to two tablespoons of butter to three tablespoons of flour. Adjusting this ratio in minute ways produces dramatically different cookies.

Add a bit more fat(in poppyseeds which are 75% fat by volume, and the fat renders out in the oven…) and the cookies become creamier.

Add some more flour, and they become stiffer.

Add more sugar and they become gooey.

Change the butter to lard, and it will be like increasing the fat.

Spices are volatile and under heat, they break down. So for stuff that is cooked for a long time, add the spices at the very end of the cook time.

Understand the physics of heating things. When you apply heat from the outside in, this creates a heat gradient. The length of time you apply the heat is how the meat becomes cooked. This is how you can burn a steak and still have it be raw in the center. It takes time for that heat to move, especially in thick steaks.

Learn the science behind techniques, and you will become a better cook. For example, to make a clear carrot-based stock, don’t expose it to sunlight. Or, duck confit: the fat molecules are too big to get into the meat so all you’re really doing is dry-cooking the meat with an efficient heat conductor. Cartilage and connective tissue turn to gelatin under heat and moisture. Absent moisture, the connective tissue becomes brittle.

My favorite recipe I made using science I learned: Three day roast beef or: Pulled Beef. -Marinate the roast in a 1:3 ratio of acids and oils. Only hot spices will be absorbed by the meat at this point, like pepper or garlic. Onion is too delicate. Do this for 24 hours in the fridge.

-Braise for another 8 hours on low in low-salt beef stock. Add some wine, shallots, carrots, garlic, and other spices. I like using dry mustard at this point for an added accent to the meat.

-Let the roast cool and chill in the fridge overnight. Reserve and chill the braising stock for gravy.

-Preheat oven to 300f

-Roast the beef for about 3-4 hours or until the center is hot.

-The braising stock will now have solidified lumps of beef fat floating on top. Use these with an equal amount of flour to make a basic roux. Brown the roux on medium, and add the braising stock on high, stirring vigorously. Add as much or as little stock as you need to the gravy. The gravy will thicken as the water boils off.

-Serve with side dishes such as roasted potatoes in thyme and rosemary.

What this does is produces fully cooked and flavourful beef, which retains its shape(isn’t soggy), but is never tough to chew. This is because the cartilage has become gelatin, and chilling it overnight sets the gelatin. The gelatin helps the beef hold its shape, but is significantly less chewy than the original connective tissue. Learn how to make basic sauces. Every sauce has as its base, a roux. Roux is basically a mixture of flour and oil, and browned or not browned. Add your desired liquid (1 tablespoon of flour = 1 cup of liquid) and stir.

Dairy will form a ‘scum’ if you heat at too high of a temperature. This is the origin of the word ‘scum’. So heat it at low temperatures, with lots of stirring.

Always sear your meat on a very hot pan before you roast or broil your meat. This produces thousands of amazingly tasting chemicals that will add some flavour to your end result.

You rest your meat because its like a vessel of water under pressure. Heat = pressure. As the pressure lets off, the juices settle and won’t squirt out as soon as you cut the meat. This ensures your meat will stay moist and flavourful.


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Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

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Cooks and chefs of reddit: What food-related knowledge do you have that the rest of us should know?

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