Nov. 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM ET
If you're into cooking, you've probably heard about Nathan Myhrvold's "Modernist Cuisine" series. There's the monster $525 6-volume book set for pros, and the $115 "at home" version, an oversized book and spiral-bound reference companion that still weighs in at a hefty 10 lbs. On Wednesday, "Modernist Cuisine at Home" arrived in a much lighter rendition on the iPad. Though, at $80, the cost remains higher than most downloadable content, there's a free sample chapter that is, in itself, a great little tool for home cooks.
The title is available in two forms: a free-standing app in Apple's App Store, or a book you purchase through Inkling, a digital library platform that focuses on textbooks and visual how-to books, including a nice lineup of culinary titles.
As I mentioned, the sample chapter, "A Modernist Meal at Home" — only available if you check out the book through the free Inkling app — is worth downloading and registering with the service. Without spending any money, you get invaluable tips about working with a pressure cooker, tightening up hot cheese sauces and keeping chicken moist in the oven, among other things.
The book is not only crazy in its sheer size, but also in its ambition: applying chemistry and physics in the kitchen in order to improve on food people have been cooking for decades. Yet what you'll notice is what I've already discovered from the print version — that as extreme as many of the recipes seem at first, most of the information and techniques conveyed are within reach of anyone with some cooking experience and a desire to get better in the kitchen.
The book's interactive format — with cross-linking and a pop-up glossary of unusual terms — helps in ways that the cumbersome paper version just can't, and there's even a calculator for adjusting yields: Cooking for 10 instead of six? Just say so, and all of the carefully allotted ingredients shift accordingly. I used the calculator myself over the past weekend when cooking the crazy-rich, and not exactly heart-healthy, caramelized carrot soup, and was glad to have it. There are also videos showing off various techniques that may not hit home when you look at the book's (glorious) still photographs.
I am not going to say much more because either you're into this stuff or you're not, but here's one last cool thing for people like me who already own the book: If you registered your copy using the QR code in the back of the book, you can get buy the new Inkling digital edition for just $40. Pressure cooker sold separately.