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October 7, 2008

Ruhlman Rules

Filed under: Cookbooks — Mr. Henry @ 10:31 am

Most of Mr. Henry’s friends don’t yet own a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s The Elements of Cooking, but soon enough they will. ruhlmancooking.jpg

Borrowing the format from The Elements of Style, Ruhlman’s book is an instant classic. Its prose has been lovingly reduced to a pure, essential cook’s stock. Essays on heat, sauce, and the egg are delightful. A short essay on the veal stock in itself is worth the price of the book.

 The essay on salt as the critical kernel of any cook’s knowledge, however, was the most surprising and most enlightening.

Do you really understand an emulsion?

Can you make sauce á la minute?

What is a “mother sauce?”

Should you salt meat ahead of time?

Do you understand the fundamental distinction between dry heat and moist heat?

How many knives do you have in your kitchen? (You only really need two.)

Should you cook tomatoes in your cast iron pan? (No.)


If you know the answers to these questions, you are already a genuine chef. In that case you will be pleased to read Ruhlman’s eloquent distillation of rules you learned the hard way. For the rest of the us, The Elements of Cooking is a free semester at cooking school.


  1. Mr. Ruhlman is such an elegant writer on a variety of subjects. Have you read his book on remodeling his house? Terrific.

    Comment by Casey — October 8, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  2. Indeed, his prose displays the easy eloquence of someone who really works at it.

    Thanks for the tip on the remodeling book. When Mrs. Henry remodeled the apartment, it was like the Seven Years War.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — October 8, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  3. Am I to presume you will not be writing about your renovation experience? Remember how very successful Ma and Pa Kettle were.

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — October 9, 2008 @ 6:01 am

  4. I’ve not read this book, which sounds excellent. I will only add that “The Elements of Style” is infinitely inferior to “Style: Towards Clarity and Grace” by Joseph Williams. The acid test: Mr. Williams’ book is a joy to read, while Messrs. Strunk and White’s book reads like a grocery list. From whom would you rather learn to write?

    Comment by Josh — October 14, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  5. Thanks for the tip about Joseph Williams.

    Mr. Henry, however, has always been fond of lists. Moreover, because they assemble disparate subjects in fresh, sometimes surreal order, grocery lists are a particular favorite.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — October 14, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

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