Finally!  The Elements of Cooking, my guide to the language of the kitchen, has been published in the form it was meant to be in—paperback, an edition affordable for students (just $10 from Amazon), light and bendable for stuffing into backpacks or knife kits.  Eric Ripert, chef-owner of the 4-star restaurant, Le Bernardin, calls it “simply the best reference book and educational tool available for anyone interested in the basics of the culinary arts.”

I’ve always felt this was a required resource for all young cooks or new cooks, except for its hardcover price tag. Wonderful Scribner and the visionary editor Beth Wareham, have now changed that.

Sam Sifton, NYTimes restaurant critic, said this about the book in the The NYTimes Book Review:

A deeply opinionated rundown of the essential knowledge all cooks and food people need, the book also contains three of the most important sentences anyone reading about cookbooks may see this or any year. They are found under the entry for “recipes.” “Recipes are not assembly manuals,” Ruhlman writes. “Recipes are guides and suggestions for a process that is infinitely nuanced. Recipes are sheet music.” [I posted the entire entry for “recipes” here.]

Sifton was, at the time, cultural editor at The Times.  After reading The Elements of Cooking, he became the paper’s restaurant critic.  Coincidence?

Choosing it as a book of the month for when it was first published in 2007, Brad Thomas Parsons, wrote this:

Inspired by the Strunk and White classic, Michael Ruhlman’s The Elements of Cooking will quickly prove to be an essential culinary reference for both seasoned cooks and novices who might not know gravlax from gremolata. After a thorough “Notes on Cooking,” Ruhlman, a prolific cookbook author and popular blogger, settles in for an opinionated and informative A-Z roundup (from Acid to Zester) of cooking terms, lessons, and techniques reduced to their essential essence. Even with only one recipe (for veal stock), it’s a must-have for every kitchen library–a book that will help you re-think your approach to food.

As part of my mission to get this information, if not this actual book, into the hands and heads of everyone who cooks, I’m giving away signed copies to five randomly chosen people who leave their favorite culinary term below (please leave a working email—it won’t be published—to ensure I can contact you).  Winners will be chosen via Twitter on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. or so, Cleveland time.

Please spread the word! I truly am excited that this book is available for such a low price.

Update 4/20: More than 600 people have commented as I write this, more than I expected.  I will give away TEN signed copies, if I get more than 1000 unique comments!

4/21: Time for commenting is concluded.


838 Wonderful responses to “The Elements of Cooking,
Paperback At Last! 5-X Giveaway!”

  • Bill B

    Mis en place, definitely. So simple, yet so fundamentally important.

  • Ed

    “Hang em and bang em….” not in the book but if anyone who has worked a line and heard the incessant rattle of the ticket machine knows what I am talking about. Great Book!

  • Lynn

    This book is on my “go-to” list for foodie gifts (and gifts for the 20-somethings in my life). We need an app for this!

  • Eric

    Dough hoe. For some its an insult to others while being acompliment to to them selves.

  • Juli

    Baste -cover it over and over with succulent juices or rich rich fat
    Michael, I posted before and didn’t leave my cooking term.

  • Doug

    Sweetbreads. Not really but it got my son to try them and now he orders them all the time.

  • David Bringle

    I need to go look at this one. Over the last few years I have learned a reasonable amount about cooking. I wonder if this book could expand that knowledge even more?


  • Rachel

    My favorite instructions in a recipe are “cover and simmer over low heat.” It implies that I will be eating something warm and comforting in a few short hours. It also allows me to focus on other important tasks such as studying for finals or cleaning my apartment. But most of all I get the satisfaction of knowing that, unlike the majority of my classmates, I don’t have to rely on “the Subway diet” as my sole source of nourishment!

  • Phillip

    “Brine” – I use this technique to give flavor to otherwise bland cuts and to preserve the shelf life of the protein if I’m not sure when I can cook it. A good brine also make poultry forgiving. For a gallon of water I use 1.5C of kosher salt, 5 pressed garlic cloves, 1/4C of dried oregano and 2TBSP of red pepper flakes.

  • Jesse Coleman

    Maillard Reaction. So huge for developing flavor, and I’m still not sure I know what it means. If I don’t win, I will be buying this book. Love Ratio, Mikey.

  • Guy Zavodny

    Cure – I pretty much learned it from you… bacon, duck prosciutto, working on the salami as suggested. Love it.

  • Heather Jones

    My younger sister who is making her way in the world of food could certainly use this.

    My favorite term…”sear” whenever I see or hear the term a perfect scallop or a great steak comes to mind.

  • Michael


    I know it’s a term in wine-making, rather than in cooking, but I find that it applies so well to food.

  • Adam Wealer

    I love this book! I made the mistake of letting my mother-in-law begin to read it on a recent visit, and now need another copy as mine has vanished!

  • Rick

    “Reverse Sear” Because there is no easier way to perfectly prepare a nice thick steak on the grill and/or smoker.

  • Michael Fong

    Nappe (Np): the perfect enrobing consistency of a properly made sauce

    By the way, I love your periodic table. It’s so clever!

  • Cary Stein

    Already picked but a favorite for me to, mis en place, second only to the martini always a part of a meal prep set up.

  • Laura S.

    flambe…it just gets me envisioning a grand dish and the anticipation of something amazing that comes with the show of the flame.

  • DK

    Vichyssoise. Such an elegant name for a so humble (and delicious) soup.

  • Melissa S

    Confit, amuse-bouche and raft (picked that one up from your Mastering the Heat book which I am just finishing – thanks)

  • Matt Kopans

    “Emulsion” is probably my favorite technical term (I make wicked good dressings). But I’m also fond of the less technical “Seconds”

  • Katherine Deumling

    Hot food hot! As in, eat folks, don’t let it get cold while you’re gabbing and dawdling towards the table. If the cook intended it to be hot, eat! It’s one of my favorite sayings and used daily.

    Will have to buy the book if I don’t win it!

  • Chef Bradley

    86 the special!!! Is my favorite term. Means we did our job, 😉

  • JD

    “Fire” as in “fire 3 steaks!” being yelled across the kitchen

  • diana

    Brine, baby, brine!

    also – dry-aged gets my buds going …

    and smoked and cured and low and slow and oops!

    I believe my meat loving tendencies are showing.

  • Erin

    I think my favorite term is emulsion, because to me it embodies the magic of cooking.

  • andrea

    Order up, punctuated with the sound of a bell. Waitressing is the only job I ever held where working harder, faster, smarter and with style resulted in immediate monetary recognition!

  • Ed Thereault

    Ganache – Chocolate immitating silk – just give me a spoon.

  • JimD

    En Papillote that and en croute they just have the Je ne sais quoi!

  • tyronebcookin

    “in the weeds”

    its classic…although it depicts where you are in service, to me it’s the epitome of a culinary term.

  • Kathryn

    mise en place – I like top pretend I’m cooking on TV – everything in pretty little ramekins ….

  • Mike

    my favorite term is “saute” — sounds mysterious and sophisticated

  • Hettar7

    “well seasoned”. I used that term in an English paper once to describe experienced soldiers. My teacher wrote in red ink on the top of the paper and asked if i was planning on cooking them. Yeah, I won’t forget that.

  • Megan

    Reduce. The first reduction I ever made professionally was when I made pomegranate molasses. I drizzled it over some dry roasted macadamia nuts out of boredom. The taste was incredible. Tangy, sweet, salty, buttery…mmm.

  • Daniel

    Mise en place. You can’t cook properly if you have to stop in the middle of cooking to cut some veggies or meat.

  • Kyle

    Salt to taste. Often tagged on the end of recipes as an afterthought, but so important.

  • Anthony C

    Quenelle- I made pate for the first time last week and it didn’t break!

  • Alison

    Mis en place – speaking French makes me feel so “chef-like”

  • Katherine

    “zest” – I love using my Microplane zester to add delicate flavors of lemons, lime, etc. to my dishes and desserts!

  • Rob

    Stew. Not the prettiest word in the world, I know, but it brings to mind the smells of stewing, the amazing food with almost no effort. In short, happiness.

  • Andy

    Fabricate. Such a bizarre word for breaking down meat. For that matter “breaking down” is a great term as well.

  • YC

    “oishi” or “delicious”


    is there anything better than tasting something and all those flavors come together to form something…utterly delicious! or when someone who tastes your food (like an elderly japanese woman) and exclaims “Oishiiiiiiiiiiiii!”

    culinary nirvana!

  • Alex

    I’ve got to say mise en place – it’s had the biggest effect on raising my game.

    However, I do like chiffonade – I challenge myself to get even thinner and more precise each time I do it.

  • Michael D Johnston

    “Mis en place” as well.

    If you’re not organized, it turns into a Three Stooges movie.

  • Leah

    When you get to deglaze your pan you know you have a damn tasty sauce on the way. (not to mention a delicious protein!)

  • Victoria

    Marinate. It requires some time for things to develop and it also makes me think of thinking about what to do next. “I’m marinating on what to make for Sunday dinner.”

  • Andy

    macerate — mostly because it sounds much harsher than the process actually is. in my mind, it’s a combination of massacre/eviscerate. poor berries.

  • Ben

    Over-caramelized. It’s a polite way of saying you need to start over again.

  • Rick

    Rectified by calling it “Blackened” and/or “”Cajun style”.
    Not really good or favorite terms, but ones used often, unfortunately, in the kitchen.