8 Cooks on Why “Salt Fat Acid Heat” Is Such a Special, Unlikely Hit

published Sep 19, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh/Kitchn

Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat is Kitchn’s September pick for our Cookbook Club. See how you can participate here.

It is hard to believe that Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat was published less than three years ago. Its impact on food and cooking during its short time out in the universe is profound. Samin’s joy is infectious and palpable on the page (and of course in the equally popular Netflix series), and her ability to teach in a humble and thoughtful way is really unparalleled.

But even still — the fact that this book was even able to become a bestseller is surprising when you look at it in relation to the other top-sellers on Amazon. Most of the popular cookbooks are health- and diet-focused (keto and Paleo), related to the Instant Pot, or are from a celebrity. Samin was a relatively unknown entity before the book was published, and the cookbook could feel opaque if you didn’t know what it is about. Also: There’s no photos! So, what is it exactly that sets Salt Fat Acid Heat apart? To better understand, we asked 8 cooks why they think this book is so special.

“People love Samin Nosrat’s cookbook because it offers real, actionable instruction on how to make good food! The format, illustrations, and voice of Salt Fat Acid Heat do what so many of us try to do: actually teach folks how to cook, as opposed to how to execute this or that particular recipe. Samin, and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, show us how it’s done by creating an eminently accessible source for those who are cooking for reasons other than sheer convenience (see: Instant Pot) or health-related dietary concerns (see: keto, Paleo, fill in the blank-free).

Furthermore, as real-life experiences become increasingly rare, occasions when we actually make something that isn’t a .docx or .xlsx or an .html, something  that we can hold in our hands, smell, and taste become profoundly valuable. We realize that it’s not about learning a formula, or about dinner that’s easy and quick, it’s about taking time to do a thing well, and then enjoying it. ” – Cal Peternell, cookbook author and podcast host

” We think that the combination of Samin’s down-to-earth personality and the warm, instructive tone of the book along with synergy of the excellent Netflix series adaptation has really pushed her over the top and introduced Samin to an audience of multitudes. On top of that kind of lightning in a bottle, the fact that there are no highly stylized (i.e., “perfectly intimidating”) pictures of the dishes but instead charming illustrations by Wendy MacNoughton really conveys a sense of approachability. “— Ken Concepcion and Michelle Mungcalowners of Now Serving, a cookbook and culinary shop in L.A.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh/Kitchn

“This is one cookbook that truly made me a better cook (and I went to cooking school in Korea!!). Samin made good cooking accessible to so many. From teaching us how to shop at the grocery store to teaching us how to taste, this book is pure genius. I’ve become so confident using salt, acid, and herbs as a result of the book that anything and everything I make now tastes so much better.” — Eileen W. Cho, food writer and photographer (follow her on Instagram and Twitter!).

“I think the notion of Salt Fat Acid Heat has hit home with so many people because Samin does an incredible job of explaining how these elements can transform the simplest thing into something amazing.  She makes it simple to understand and yet complex if you want to dive deeper.  The book gives the confidence to cook rather than just a selection of recipes.” – Dan Kluger, chef and restaurant owner

“I think a lot of it has to do with her (she’s so approachable and friendly!) as well as the book. But the book itself is really scratching an itch a lot of people have to learn about their food — it’s not just about cooking, people want to know where their food is from and why techniques work the way they do. She speaks to both of the things in some really unique ways.” — Julia Skinner, food writer. Follow her on Instagram!

“I am fairly certain Samin is the best friend I have not yet met — and I think everyone who loves to cook and eat must feel the same way. In a warm, personal, and accessible way, she lays out her four “cardinal directions” of cooking, and assures us that if we understand them, we can do anything in the kitchen.

The first half of Salt Fat Acid Heat is like the best, most delicious textbook I have ever read — and I gobbled it up as my bedtime reading. The second half applies all her sensual science in recipes — and you just know every one will work as it should. But what I love most about the recipes is that each is a foundation, a springboard for readers’ own creativity in the kitchen.” – Marge Perry, cookbook author and writer. Follow her on Instagram!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh/Kitchn

“I think I love this book so much because Samin is so open and curious about her own culinary mistakes, and so happily forgiving of hers and ours! It gives us permission to laugh off when a dish just really fell flat and helps us examine where it went wrong. The warmth in her teaching makes a world of difference in how her lessons stick, and I find myself making small tweaks to my everyday cooking that makes each meal better in ways I didn’t know it could be.” — Kristin DeMarco Wagner, writer. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

“Samin’s book fits such a unique niche in the realm of cookbooks. It’s almost more like a textbook — or maybe just what I always wished a textbook could be? Every page has at least one sentence that leaves you feeling changed and inspired. She dissects all these everyday situations (like salting meat or heating a pan) in the most interesting way, and makes you really understand exactly what’s happening, why it needs to happen in that way, and how to use what you’ve learned to your advantage. The everyday-ness of what she teaches allows for a very casual word-of-mouth buzz around the book — it’s exciting to be able to naturally apply the learnings, and to tell other people where they can learn more too.” — Kaitlin Garske, Senior Social Media Manager for Kitchn