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The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

If you're interested in learning not only how to cook a dish, but also why certain steps are taken, you'll do no better than The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science ($50) by J. Kenji López-Alt. A 960-page book filled with more than 300 recipes and 1,000 photos, it is as much a reference material as a cookbook thanks to López-Alt's meticulously tested recipes and scientific breakdowns of what exactly is going on during the cooking processes involved.

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