29 Jan 2007

Five cardinal rules in cooking

Inspired by Martin's blog entry "Ten tips for practical molecular gastronomy", I came to remember Östen Dahlgren's five cardinal rules in cooking:

  1. Be critical of recipes
  2. Stop and think - should I really do [it like] this?
  3. Keep in mind how the heat is distributed/transferred
  4. Keep in mind what is soluble in what
  5. Taste while you're cooking - often
(my translation)

Dahlgren has written the book "Laga mat - Hur man gör og varför" ("Cooking - How to do it and why"), which is a Swedish counterpart to McGee's "On food and Cooking".
Dahlgren's list is a simpler version of the ten rules that Martin lists up. Although less comprehensive, the short list is easier to keep in mind whenever you're cooking, and I think that's a virtue. I could have commented further on each point, but I think I'll keep it short this time.
What is soluble in what? Blueberry juice in chili oil
(Photo: Erlend Krumsvik)

Furthermore it seems to me that the various tips in Martin's list demand quite different degrees of knowledge and experience. "Learn how to control the texture of food" and "Learn how to control taste and flavor" demand quite a lot of either knowledge or experience (or both) from the cook. On the other hand, "Know what temperature you’re cooking at" doesn't demand much more than the skill of using a thermometer. Of course, Dahlgren's list also operates on different levels, but maybe less so than Martin's. Or is it maybe me seeing things a little too much through my own eyes here, being more accustomed to Dahlgren's rules knowing them for a longer time?

One of my personal favourites is by the way Martin's 9. tip, being imperative in science and science education: "Keep a written record of what you do! ".

Maybe should we go for a happy marriage, making one complete list for the Molecular Gastronomy enthusiasts and a shorter one for everyone else? A future post, either here or at Martin's blog, should certainly have two such differentiated lists. A joint venture?



  1. I agree that you do need to have knowledge and experiance as not to get slightly confused by Martins list but for those who have the knowledge and experiance it will be really helpful I know i found it helped and made a lot of sense.

  2. James: I perfectly agree, and I also think that Martin's list has some important points that are missing in Dahlgren's. In my perspective, as a lecturer for students wanting to become primary/secondary school teachers (and also the average home cook), I think a rather short list combining points from the two lists would be ideal. In fact, I think I'll start thinking about making such a list for my students. If you're a professional cook or have a more-than-average interest in food, Martin's list is great. I guess it all boils down to finding the right level of detail when communicating with different groups of people.

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  4. Hi Erik,

    These rules are the key in cooking. Learn more from ATA blog.

  5. Erik, how beautiful you summed up in 5 rules. Great.


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