Winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook and multiple ICAP Cookbook Awards
New York Times Bestseller
Named one of the Best Books of 2017 by NPR, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Rachel Ray Every Day, San Francisco Chronicle, Vice Munchies, Elle.com, Glamour, Eater, Newsday, Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Seattle Times, Tampa Bay Times, Tasting Table, Modern Farmer, Publishers Weekly, and more.
A visionary new master class in cooking that distills decades of professional experience into just four simple elements, from the woman declared “America’s next great cooking teacher” by Alice Waters.
In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything comes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat has taught everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan to cook using her revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy. Master the use of just four elements—Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food—and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.
Echoing Samin’s own journey from culinary novice to award-winning chef, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat immediately bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone. Refer to the canon of 100 essential recipes—and dozens of variations—to put the lessons into practice and make bright, balanced vinaigrettes, perfectly caramelized roast vegetables, tender braised meats, and light, flaky pastry doughs.
Featuring 150 illustrations and infographics that reveal an atlas to the world of flavor by renowned illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will be your compass in the kitchen. Destined to be a classic, it just might be the last cookbook you’ll ever need.
With a foreword by Michael Pollan.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Growing up, I thought salt belonged in a shaker at the table, and nowhere else. I never added it to food, or saw Maman add it to food. When my aunt Ziba, who had a well-documented taste for salt, sprinkled it onto her saffron rice at the table each night, my brothers and I giggled. We thought it was the strangest, funniest thing in the world. “What on earth,” I wondered, “can salt do for food?”
I associated salt with the beach, where I spent my childhood seasoned with it. There were the endless hours in the Pacific, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of ocean water when I misjudged the waves. Tidepooling at twilight, my friends and I often fell victim to the saltwater spray while we poked at anemones. And my brothers, chasing me on the sand with giant kelp, would tickle and taunt me with its salty, otherworldly tassels whenever they caught up to me.
Maman always kept our swimsuits in the back of our blue Volvo station wagon, because the beach was always where we wanted to be. She was deft with the umbrella and blankets, setting them up while she shooed the three of us into the sea.
We’d stay in the water until we were starving, scanning the beach for the sun-faded coral-and-white umbrella, the only landmark that would lead us back to Maman. Wiping saltwater from our eyes, we beelined to her.
Somehow, Maman always knew exactly what would taste best when we emerged: Persian cucumbers topped with sheep’s milk feta cheese rolled together in lavash bread. We chased the sandwiches with handfuls of ice-cold grapes or wedges of watermelon to quench our thirst.
That snack, eaten while my curls dripped with seawater and salt crust formed on my skin, always tasted so good. Without a doubt, the pleasures of the beach added to the magic of the experience, but it wasn’t until many years later, working at Chez Panisse, that I understood why those bites had been so perfect from a culinary point of view.
While bussing tables during the first year I worked at Chez Panisse, the closest I usually got to the food was at tasters, when the cooks made each dish for the chef to critique before service. With a menu that changed daily, the chef needed tasters to ensure that his or her vision was realized. Everything had to be just right. The cooks would tinker and adjust until satisfied; then they’d hand over the dishes to the floor staff to taste. On the tiny back porch, a dozen of us would hover over the plates, passing them around until we’d all had a bite of everything. It was there that I first tasted crisp deep-fried quail, tender salmon grilled in a fig leaf, and buttermilk panna cotta with fragrant wild strawberries. Often, the powerful flavors would haunt me throughout my shift.
Once I developed culinary aspirations, Chris Lee, the chef who’d eventually take me under his wing, suggested that I pay less attention to what was happening on the porch during tasters, and more to what was happening in the kitchen. The language the chefs used, how they knew when something was right—these were clues about how to become a better cook. Most often, when a dish fell flat, the answer lay in adjusting the salt. Sometimes it was in the form of salt crystals, but other times it meant a grating of cheese, some pounded anchovies, a few olives, or a sprinkling of capers. I began to see that there is no better guide in the kitchen than thoughtful tasting, and that nothing is more important to taste thoughtfully for than salt.
One day the following year, as a young cook in the prep kitchen, I was tasked with cooking polenta. I’d tasted polenta only once before coming to Chez Panisse, and I wasn’t a fan. Precooked and wrapped in plastic like a roll of cookie dough, it was flavorless. But I’d promised myself that I would try everything at the restaurant at least once, and when I tasted polenta for the second time, I couldn’t believe that something so creamy and complex could share a name with that flavorless tube of astronaut food. Milled from an heirloom variety of corn, each bite of the polenta at Chez Panisse tasted of sweetness and earth. I couldn’t wait to cook some myself.
Once the chef, Cal Peternell, talked me through the steps of making the polenta, I began cooking. Consumed by the fear of scorching and ruining the entire humongous pot—a mistake I had seen other cooks make—I stirred maniacally.
After an hour and a half, I’d added in butter and Parmesan, just as Cal had instructed me. I brought him a spoonful of the creamy porridge to taste. At six foot four, Cal is a gentle giant with sandy-blond hair and the driest of wits. I looked expectantly up at him with equal parts respect and terror. He said, in his signature deadpan, “It needs more salt.” Dutifully, I returned to the pot and sprinkled in a few grains of salt, treating them with the preciousness I might afford, say, gold leaf. I thought it tasted pretty good, so I returned to Cal with a spoonful of my newly adjusted polenta.
Again, a moment’s consideration was all he needed to know the seasoning was off. But now—to save himself the trouble and time, I imagine—he marched me back to the pot and added not one but three enormous palmfuls of kosher salt.
The perfectionist in me was horrified. I had wanted so badly to do that polenta justice! The degree to which I’d been off was exponential. Three palmfuls!
Cal grabbed spoons and together we tasted. Some indescribable transformation had occurred. The corn was somehow sweeter, the butter richer. All of the flavors were more pronounced. I’d been certain Cal had ruined the pot and turned my polenta into a salt lick, but no matter how I tried, the word salty did not apply to what I tasted. All I felt was a satisfying zing! with each mouthful.
It was as if I’d been struck by lightning. It’d never occurred to me that salt was anything more than pepper’s sidekick. But now, having experienced the transformative power of salt for myself, I wanted to learn how to get that zing! every time I cooked. I thought about all of the foods I’d loved to eat growing up—and that bite of seaside cucumber and feta, in particular. I realized then why it had tasted so good. It was properly seasoned, with salt.
★ 02/20/2017Publishers Weekly
In this excellent, accessible cookbook, Nosrat leads readers through the cooking process. She didn’t set out to become a chef, but was so moved by her first meal at Chez Panisse that she wrote Chef Alice Waters a letter asking to bus tables. Amazingly, she got the gig, and she jumped into the deep end of the culinary spectrum, soaking up as much knowledge as she could. In even, measured tones, she explains how salt—even the shape of the crystals—can affect a dish’s overall flavor as well as specific proteins, how fat results in a food’s crispness, how heat influences flavor via caramelization, and, perhaps most importantly, how to balance all these elements when composing a dish or a meal. Basic techniques and recipes, such as Vietnamese cucumber salad and pasta al ragu, prove her points. Over the course of the book, readers will learn how to make the perfect Caesar salad, break down a chicken, boil an egg to the desired doneness, and put those skills to use in creating many other dishes. MacNaughton’s whimsical illustrations, charts, and graphs add to the experience. This exceptional debut is sure to inspire greater confidence in readers and enable them to create better meals on their own. (Apr.)
"[This book] will be valuable for either a beginner or a seasoned cook. Unlike similar manuals, Nosrat’s volume has hit upon a theory not only easy to remember, but also fun to learn in practice. Even more fun: the accompanying art by Wendy MacNaughton, which illustrates flavor wheels and pairing matrices."Eater
"All you need to master the kitchen are the four elements laid out in this Joyfully illustrated book's title. Nosrat, who's been called 'America's next great cooking teacher' by Alice Waters and taught Michael Pollan how to cook, is a more than trustworthy instructor."Tasting Table
"Just reading Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will make you a better cook, adept at seasoning, balancing, understanding what it really is you’re doing and why... Make room on the bedside table—and the countertop."Bon Appetit Magazine Editors
"As Nosrat understands, the elements of good cooking couldn’t be simpler. Success in the kitchen depends on just four elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat...Culinary students and serious home cooks can discover from both text and drawings how to succeed through fundamentals of their craft."Booklist (Starred Review)
"As Nosrat understands, the elements of good cooking couldn’t be simpler. Success in the kitchen depends on just four elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat...Culinary students and serious home cooks can discover from both text and drawings how to succeed through fundamentals of their craft."Booklist
This beautiful, approachable book not only teaches you how to cook, but captures how it should feel to cook: full of exploration, spontaneity and joy. Samin is one of the great teachers I know, and wins people over to cooking with real food—organic, seasonal, and alive—with her irrepressible enthusiasm and curiosity.Alice Waters
Like the amazing meals that come out of Samin Nosrat’s kitchen, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is the perfect mixture of highest-quality ingredients: beautiful storytelling, clear science, an infectious love of food, and Wendy MacNaughton’s powerful art. Nosrat’s prose combined with MacNaughton’s beautiful illustrations are a perfect guide to employing the science of cooking for maximum deliciousness.” —Rebecca Skloot, New York Times bestselling authorof The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksRebecca Skloot
“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a wildly informative, new-generation, culinary resource. Samin Nosrat's wealth of experience comes together here in a pitch perfect combination of charm, narrative, straight-talk, illustration, and inspiration. Ticking all the boxes for new and seasoned cooks alike, this book meets you wherever you are in the kitchen, in all the right ways.Heidi Swanson
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a very important book not because it contains many excellent recipes, although it does, or because it is written by a Chez Panisse alum, although it is. It is important because it gives home cooks a compass with which to navigate their own kitchens, and it places trust in them that they will be able to use that compass. Samin’s easygoing, cook-by-feel approach is never condescending or elitist. It is a step towards cooking without recipes and true empowerment (and joy!) in the kitchen.John Becker and Megan Scott
Everyone was impressed when Michael Pollan managed to summarize the huge and complex subject of what we should be eating in just seven words: ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ Samin Nosrat has managed to summarize the huge and complex subject of how we should be cooking in just four words: ‘Salt, fat, acid, heat.’ Everyone will be hugely impressed.Yotam Ottolenghi
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a must for anyone wanting to be a better cook. Samin Nosrat, along with Wendy MacNaughton’s fun illustrations, teaches the fundamentals of cooking and dives into the four elements that make food taste great. So do yourself a favor and buy this book. I promise you won’t regret it.April Bloomfield
With 100 tempting recipes and vibrant illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton, this textbook offers insight, encouragement, and a new path to culinary mastery.Real Simple
"NPR once called Nosrat 'the next Julia Child.' Based on her first cookbook, we can see why. The Chez Panisse alum uses a simple philosophy: balancing salt, fat, acid and heat (temperature, not spice) to create a perfect finished product. But recipes aside, the illustrations alone are worth the price."PureWow
"The cookbook, with its instructive recipes and playful illustrations by Wendy McNaughton, is an enjoyable and approachable culinary master class."San Francisco Chronicle
You will become a vastly better cook. Learn to balance sweet and acid, choose between different types of fats, understand proteins and heat, etc. It’s all there for the curious, determined cook.Milk Street Magazine
Readers learn the nitty-gritty science behind best practices, like how to correctly layer salt and how heat affects texture. Enhance your cooking while learning why it's improving.Popular Science
"My favorite metacookbook...[Nosrat] offers a beautifully simple checklist for ensuring a dish ends up in a good place...This is the book of cooking grammar that so many novices would benefit from...Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is written smoothly and casually, and kept breezy via charming watercolors by the perceptive Bay Area artist Wendy MacNaughton...Nosrat’s book would be of value both to people who don’t consider themselves cooks and to people actively striving to become better ones."Atlantic
"A cookbook that will make you a better cook...with helpful, charming illustrations from artist Wendy MacNaughton."Boston Globe
"In the days after reading Samin Nosrat's new book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, eating felt like a new adventure...And when it came time to cook simple meals, the raw carrots and greens in my fridge looked less intimidating: I had new tools to tame them...Inspiring this sense of culinary liberation was precisely Nosrat's goal with her cookbook, which eschews formulaic recipes in favor of heartfelt stories, bits and pieces of science, and time-tested nuggets of kitchen wisdom (not to mention gorgeous and witty watercolors by the prolific Wendy MacNaughton)...boy, does Nosrat deliver."Mother Jones
"A gorgeously illustrated guide that will make you much more confident in the kitchen."Edible Manhattan
"Hundreds of cookbooks are published each year. Some are good. Others are exceptional. A few are essential. Samin Nosrat just published “Salt Fat Acid Heat — Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” and I daresay this one is essential...That’s the fabulous thing about this book — it teaches readers about cooking, how to employ various techniques, and how to grasp that any subtle variations in technique can have significant impacts upon our end results. It is possible to learn how to cook great food...This book is bound to become an indispensable addition to cookbook shelves throughout America."Dayton Daily News
"Nosrat’s beautiful, approachable book demonstrates how these four are the only elements necessary to make delicious meals anywhere, any time."Rapid City Journal
"California chef Samin Nosrat explains how these four elements affect everything we cook and eat, then rewards faithful science students with recipes for a perfectly balanced Caesar salad, a flaky pie crust, and fall-off-the-bone braised beef."Modern Farmer
"Rarely does a cookbook make you feel like its author is right there in the kitchen with you, teaching you not how to make recipes but how to actually cook."Heathlyish
"The book amounts to an incredibly engaging master class that helps free you from recipes so you can improvise like a pro. Nosrat’s approach is foundational yet innovative: distilling the essence of cooking into four main concerns. With a full understanding of how each element effects flavor and texture, a home cook can easily extrapolate and apply these principles to unfamiliar ingredients or dishes and still cook with confidence...The curious cook will eventually find her copy of this book stained and dog-eared, as she consults its essential kitchen wisdom for years to come."Cooking Light
"Most cookbooks are filled with recipes, with or without a central theme. That’s what a cookbook is for, right? A recent batch of cookbooks...have turned this notion on its ear, aiming, instead, to better prepare home cooks to build weekly menus and avoid food waste...the best book to come out of this new trend is, to my mind, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by chef Samin Nosrat, with whimsical illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton. The book tackles each topic in its title in turn, showing how they contribute to great cooking, then offers experiments, recipes, and other ways to apply your new knowledge. It’s not just a good cookbook; it’s a good book, period."Vox.com
"Ever wish an acclaimed, professional chef would reveal the building blocks of great cooking? Well, here you have it. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat got her culinary start at Chez Panisse restaurant and has schooled scores of people, including author Michael Pollan, on how to cook. Now she’s distilling her approach for us all."EyeSwoon
"Want to be not just a good cook, but a great one? Then this groundbreaking book from Samin Nosrat will help you master “the four notes of the culinary scale” giving you a whole new perspective on how you structure and create a dish."Fine Dining Lovers
"Inventively illustrated...ambitious...[Nosrat is] a talented explainer."Wall Street Journal
"An exhaustively researched treatise on the four pillars of successful cooking."New York Times Book Review
"Provides the cook with far more tools for branching out and exploring their own creative potential - and that makes it a standout."Midwest Book Review
"An excellent cookbook and culinary resource that pares down the idea that it only takes four ingredients to make food taste amazing."Belleville News-Democrat
"The kind of cookbook that will certainly make anyone who reads and absorbs all of her shared food tidbits a better cook and, perhaps, an engaging conversationalist."Chicago Daily Herald
"If there’s one cookbook that will make dad want to march into the kitchen and start cooking you amazing meals, it’s this one."Wired.com
"Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a refreshing break from [the] contemporary formula. Instantly recognizable as a reference book, Samin Nosrat's definitive technique-driven tome defies convention. This is partly because Nosrat's method of teaching via the book's four main pillars (salt, fat, acid, and heat) is a rarity...But what makes Nosrat's method so effective was her insistence that the book be illustrated.Saveur.com
"In the Bay Area, writer and chef Samin Nosrat has cult followings both for her pop-up dinners at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and her cooking classes, which friends swear have changed their time in the kitchen...This is a new kind of book. Lots of words to live by before you get to her kitchen basics and, finally, recipes more than halfway through. Wendy MacNaughton’s delightful illustrations capture Nosrat’s infectious joy for the subject. Just reading Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will make you a better cook, adept at seasoning, balancing, understanding what it really is you’re doing and why."BonAppetit.com
"Simplicity and knowledge and beautiful drawings. This book is approachable and inspiring and lays a strong, strong foundationJoy The Baker
Wonderfully illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton, author Samin Nosrat's exuberant-but-exacting cooking style comes through and is shared generously...It will instruct, cajole, delight, encourage, inspire, and motivate anyone who is even slightly interested in cooking. And it will make better cooks of those of us who are already spend a decent amount of time in the kitchen.The Kitchn
"Beautifully illustrated and super informative."Mic.com
"Nosrat’s lighthearted approach and whimsical illustrations in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking will teach you how to make delicious food anywhere with any ingredients, even without a recipe."Verily
"Part textbook (in the best way possible), part master recipe guideline and inspiration. And filled with Wendy MacNaughton’s cheeky hand drawn illustrations. The entire first half of the book is Samin being Samin – an incredible teacher and guide, with infectious enthusiasm for food, good cooking, and good eating. While I consider myself an adept cook, each section was filled with new easy ways to think about cooking – written in a manner that would teach and inspire novice and expert alike. How she *actually* manages to pull this off, I have no idea – this is so hard to do and it’s brilliant. "Second Lunch
"I talk about Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat the way people talk about beloved pets or newborn babies; like I was a different person before I read it – and I was. I liked to eat, but hated to cook. I was a huge proponent of what I called "snack dinner," basically whatever I had that didn't require a cooking implement. Samin Nosrat (and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton) set me straight. Together they debunk the concept of recipes, instead teaching you how to build food (and flavor) from scratch and by instinct. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat uses its eponymous guiding principles to chart a very delicious course toward never eating snack dinner again."NPR.org
"For those who'd rather wing it in the kitchen than follow a recipe, this book's a great way to learn how to do this with confidence...I loved this book. I mean, I LOVED this book, so much that I couldn't put it down."Dallas Morning News
"Chez Panisse veteran Nosrat has reduced her cooking philosophy to her first cookbook’s titular quartet of elements. The book’s core 100 recipes (and scores of variations) form an intuitive tutorial that can be applied to nearly any ingredient in the pantry."San Antonio Express News
"In her excellent first cookbook, Nosrat distills what she learned into a manual for intuitive and improvisational cooking, focused on the four key components in her title. In this vital book, Nosrat demystifies the kitchen, explaining in friendly, confident terms why and how salt and fat enhance and build flavor, respectively; the effect of acidity in balancing out a dish; and knowing how to control heat and thus, the finished dish. You’ll be empowered to cook bravely."Chicago Tribune
"From these four strands, the former Chez Panisse weaves a wholly original —- and highly idiosyncratic —- book, half of which is instruction, half recipes. The two-page spread on pasta alle vongole, for example, is both “a lesson in layering acids” and an exacting recipe. The whimsical but hardworking illustrations, by Wendy MacNaughton, are every bit as original."Newsday
"[Nosrat] writes with great wit. We need more cooks like her."Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A thorough but engagingly intimate graduate course in the four most transformative tools in the cook’s arsenal. Understanding how the elements of a dish aid in its metamorphosis equips cooks to make the most of any ingredients. Its thoughtful explorations make it impossible to read without becoming a better cook."Buffalo News
"Beautiful, useful, and filled with illustrations from Wendy MacNaughton, whose prolific illustrations are instrumental in demonstrating the intricacies of cooking."Eater SF
"If you're only going to buy one cookbook this year, let it be this so-much-more-than-a-recipe-book by Chez Panisse alum Samin Nosrat and illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton, guaranteed to turn even the most culinarily inept among us into kitchen proficient."Elle.com
"With Nosrat’s sharp insights and Wendy MacNaughton’s playful illustrations as a guide, the readers of this book will develop essential cooking instincts."Mental Floss
"Genius!"Rachael Ray Every Day
"Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is like going to culinary school through the pages of a book, learning from a really fun, smart, and brilliant teacher who imparts kitchen wisdom to last a lifetime. Once you read this special cookbook, your confidence level in the kitchen will skyrocket."Omnivoracious
"This book is basically a bible for novice chefs."Hello Giggles
"An approach to food science that's both accessible and entertaining."Shelf Awareness for Readers
"The perfect tool for ushering the culinarily curious but timid into the world of badass home cooking."Vice Munchies
"Salt, Fat Acid, Heat bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone. Featuring 150 illustrations and infographics that reveal an atlas to the world of flavor by illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will be your compass in the kitchen."Rumpus
"The best cooking primer since Julia Child’s famous tomes."KQED.org
★ 02/15/2017Library Journal
Working in the trenches of Chez Panisse's gourmet kitchen, Nosrat discovered the secret behind great cooking—not memorizing recipes, but knowing the balance among four key elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat. Nosrat invites readers to learn what it takes to master these components and take their cooking from good to great. This basic principle underscores the concepts and recipes presented throughout this book, and serves as the backbone for Nosrat's theory of cooking. Divided into two parts, the first half details each of the four essential ingredients and how to use them to their full potential. The second part includes a chapter on "Kitchen Basics" (a useful primer on tools and ingredients), followed by a variety of recipes to put Nosrat's theory in to practice. Alongside Nosrat's instructions, MacNaughton's illustrations add a touch of whimsy to the text, highlighting the techniques and skills presented in a clever manner. This is a visual story (with a heavy nod to food science) as much as a guide to healthy cooking. VERDICT A fun, educational addition to all collections. The recipes are varied, and the concepts approachable.—Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib.
…an exhaustively researched treatise on the four pillars of successful cooking. If you can train yourself to recognize the proper balance between salt, fat and acid, then apply the right kind of heat, you'll churn out simple, sophisticated fare in the spirit of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, where Nosrat started out. The recipes come almost as an afterthought to the teaching portion of the programthey officially begin on page 224and that's the point. Above all, Nosrat wants you to learn to trust yourself, to pay attention to sensory cues and not rely on the oven dial or the recipe's cooking time to decide when your food is ready.The New York Times Book Review - Jenny Rosenstrach