Book Review: SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT


“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” is Nosrat’s first book and it carries the name of New York Times Bestselling, winer of James Beard Award and subject of a Netflix series. It’s a clear-eyed, conversational, often strikingly funny explication of the fundamental principles of good cooking, drawing on her years as a professional cook and cooking teacher.


Samin Nosrat is an American chef, TV host and food writer. She is a regular food columnist for The New York Times Magazine and has a Netflix documentary series based on her cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Samin Nosrat took a detour into the kitchen at Chez Panisse as an undergraduate who studied English at UC Berkley. Since 2000, she pursued her twin passions of food and words with equal vigor, aiming to create work that inspires, creates community, and raises cultural, social and environmental awareness.

Nosrat learned to cook at Chez Panisse, in Italy alongside Benedetta Vitali and Dario Cecchini, and at (the no longer extant) Eccolo in Berkeley. She studied poetry with Bob Hass, Shakespeare with Stephen Booth, and journalism with Michael Pollan. Alice Waters and farmer Bob Cannard have taught her more about land stewardship than anyone else.

Samin Nosrat portrait for The Boston Globe


“Everything, and I mean *everything*, you make will benefit from the things you learn here.”
J. Kiffe
“This is the most comprehensive and practical book I've bought on cooking.”
“So, if you want a cookbook that will make you look good and make it look like you really know what you are doing, buy it.”
L. Bernstein



First section consists of four chapters, where each one covers one specific aspect of cooking. This way Samin Nosrat tries to bring readers closer to the reactions behind the processes of cooking.


First chapter starts with the basics like what is salt and builds on more layers of information. Which type of salt should you use, how should you take into account the shapes and sizes of your particular salt and how do you correct if you’ve used salt incorrectly? are some of the examples. Nasrat does this in a very clear and concise way.


Second chapter includes everything on fat, from it’s definition, it’s effect on flavor to it’s usage. In this chapter are also shown different fats that have different flavors and in which cuisines they are commonly used.


Third chapter covers acid. There are information on what acid represents, how it tastes, some of the acids are mentioned (vinegars, citrus, pickles), how it works and how to use it. The title on how acid works consists out of acid’s influence on color and texture of the ingredients as well as a way of producing  acid.


In this chapter we learn that heat is the element of transformation, that it is flavorless and intangible.

There are also titles that go through the science of the heat, it’s interaction with water, fat and carbohydrates, titles going through different cooking methods and techniques


This second half of the book are recipes (100 of them), but not your regular recipes. This section is intertwined with graphs, tables and further explanations. In this section, before the recipes you will read about kitchen basics, choosing tools and ingredients and a few basic how-tos. Before diving into recipes using onions, Nosrat explains the different ways to cook them (blond vs brown vs caramelized). When you come to vegetable recipes you will see a chart of how to best prepare a range of vegetables.


“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” is refreshing in its respect for encyclopedic culinary knowledge and for the more intangible pursuit of sensory satisfaction. Rather than inundate aspiring cooks with an index of glamorously photographed recipes, this book offers Nosrat’s readers something much more substantial which is a cooking philosophy. It consists out of two sections, the four elements + recipes. The first section consists out of four chapters, where she discusses the role and importance of salt, fat, acid and heat. Alongside 150 whimsical watercolor illustrations done by Wendy MacNaughton and a foreword from Michael Pollan, Nosrat’s guide emphasizes an intuitive, elemental approach to cooking. With this book, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone. Refer to the canon of 100 essential recipes (that start from the halfway of the book) 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.

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