Cooking sits at the intersection of science and art. It is possible to produce dishes using precise measurements and processes, but truly great cooks also tend to be creative and artistic, using personal taste to fine-tune the seasoning and enhance the sensory presentation of each item. Many great chefs don’t mind sharing recipes because they know that measuring and assembling ingredients from a recipe isn’t enough; it’s the wisdom in human tweaking, alongside access to special kitchen tools, that will distinguish a pretty good home meal from a great, restaurant-quality experience.

Yet recipes — and the cookbooks that contain them — are critically important to understanding excellent food and beverages. And luckily for everyone on the planet, recipes can’t be copyrighted, which has inspired the some of the world’s most creative chefs to spread their knowledge far and wide instead of hoarding secrets. So after our first column on spherical ice for drinks and our second on temperature-controlled water baths for food, today’s Kitchen Tech is devoted to a foundational topic: smart modern cookbooks.

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Two of the cookbook sets I discuss inside are absolute monsters, so big and expensive that only the most serious gourmets would consider buying them. Although some of their recipes require special tools that are well beyond the budgets of most home cooks, I’ve included them because they are ingeniously assembled and provide collegiate-level insight into modern cooking at price points lower than taking a typical college class. Most of my recommendations are for cooks with entry-level or moderate kitchen skills, with relatively few and affordable modern kitchen tools.

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