A blog for odd things and odd thoughts.

Journal of Experimental Cooking

I was thinking today, as I chopped some vegetables. Follow my train of thought, from the mundane to the inspired.

I’m an okay cook, but I could be better. (This statement is probably more a statement of the self-beliefs of all cooks in the 10th-75th percentiles, than it is a reflection on my actual cooking.)

I try experimenting to improve my dishes. When I cook a dish it again – weeks later – I try different things. Sometimes several different things at once. I don’t really know what helps and doesn’t. I need to become more scientific and rigorous if I expect to improve.

Keeping a diary would be a good idea, so I know what I did, what I tried, how it turned out and I could compare.

I’ll never be able to manage all the variables, even with a notebook. What if the cooking is affected by the cut of the meat, the freshness of the snowpeas, the brand of the butter, the weather, etc. I couldn’t write down, let alone control for, them all.

How can I really tell if this meal tastes better than the one I tried 3 months ago? Especially as I believe the best way to improve the taste of home-cooking is to not eat anything else for 12 hours before serving. Taste is subjective to hunger, tiredness, weather, alcohol etc.

What I really need is a giant kitchen where I can try A/B testing of recipes, with no variation except in the carefully-controlled items under study – garlic or no garlic? 180°C for 30 minutes, or 200°C for 20? Red or green capsicum? Roasting rack or no roasting rack?

That means making huge amounts of food – I’ll need some tasters too to help consume it.

I can’t be the only one who wants this. There must be a few of us.

Hmmmm… I bet it would be even more if I started promoting the scientific method to the best amateur and professional cooks in the country. (Sure, the professionals experiment with their cooking, but how much more efficient could it be if could learn from the physical scientists?)

It is just like my old complaint about experimental dance – I am all for the experiment, but you should state your null hypothesis before you start… and be sure to publish your result, even if it is negative.

So, all I need to do is to create a giant kitchen, with dozens of ovens and microwaves, and different blades on the food processors – oh and lots of timers. Then teach the top cooks about the experimental method and invite them to hire my kitchen.

I’ll also profit on the publication of the Journal of Experimental Cooking, where their results will be published, and bought by all the people who love to read about cooking.

But that’s not the genius part. Here’s the genius part.

I will be one of the tasters, meaning my every meal will be cooked for me by a top chef, and I can stop trying to become a better cook myself.

Who’s in?

3 CommentsCategories: Thoughts from the Shower
Tags: cooking


  1. Good enough reason to move to Australia. I’m in.

  2. Your second paragraph reminded me of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, an in turn of this nice summary of the theory and common misconceptions about it. Also comments from Dunning himself!

  3. This is great in result, but misses one vital step.
    The joy and fun that can be had in cooking, and experimenting. 🙂

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