Here it is: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. An idea that germinated more than 10 years ago, an idea I have been secretly obsessed by since then, is now a book.

Here is how Alton Brown describes Ratio:

“Cooking, like so many other creative endeavors is defined by relationships. For instance, knowing exactly how much flour to put into a loaf of bread isn’t nearly as useful as understanding the relationship between the flour and the water, or fat, or salt. That relationship is defined by a ‘ratio’ and having a ratio in hand is like having a secret decoder ring that frees you from the tyranny of recipes. Professional cooks and bakers guard ratios passionately so it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Michael Ruhlman is forced into hiding like a modern day Prometheus who, in handing us mortals a power better suited to the gods, has changed the balance of kitchen power forever.

“I for one am grateful. I suspect you will be too.”

Braided Bread_3
I feel confident in saying there is no book like it, that it’s among the first to explore cooking in this way, cooking by understanding not a cup of this and teaspoon of that but how the proportions of major ingredients relative to the other ingredients make one preparation pasta and another preparation cake.

I like the bread dough ratio mentioned in the video (5 parts flour, 3 parts water) because it shows how a ratio takes the mysterious art of bread baking, and by paring it down to the essential balance of two ingredients, renders it the opposite of mysterious, and therefore, I hope, not so intimidating. With this bread dough ratio, you don’t have a single recipe, you have a thousand. Ratios are the launching point for infinite variations.

13-Gougere
Of course, you need more than just those two numbers, you need a little technique as well. Which is why Ratio is a book, not a poster (though Donna is creating an artful 11-by-14 chart of the baking and pastry ratios as an experiment—anyone interested in this, please email me. I may offer it with signed copies of the book).

We have been trained in America to believe that we can’t cook unless we have a recipe in hand. I am not saying recipes are bad or wrong—I use them all the time; there are plenty of recipes in the new book—but when we rely completely on recipes, we cooks do ourselves a grave disservice. We remain chained to the ground, we remain dependent on our chains. When you are dependent on recipes, you are a factory worker on the assembly line; when you possess ratios and basic technique, you own the company.

America is cooking as never before. With our spreading curiosity to know the source of our food, our desire to be less reliant on processed food and expensive boxed mixes, with our growing recognition that cooking at home nourishes our body and soul, and that such food is not only more healthful, economical, and satisfying to eat, I believe we’re ready to truly begin to cook.
Crepé for blog

From the review by Booklist: “This revealing and remarkably accessible read offers indispensible information for those ready to cook by the seat of their pants; with a handy grasp of these ratios (and a dash of technique), willing chefs should have no excuse to remain tethered to recipe cards and cookbooks.”

Hear, hear!

I’ll be promoting Ratio and further exploring the ideas contained it during the next couple of weeks. I’ll be happy if the book can continue to deepen our appreciation of cooking and most gratified if it can bring more people into the kitchen. Questions and comments here—on the book, on the idea of ratios, and on cooking generally—are especially welcomed.

Update: I’ve gotten such an enthusiastic response have decided to reduce the price and eliminate shipping for the first 50 people who buy a signed copy of the book through my site (click on “Buy a signed copy” here, and don’t forget to tell me who you want it signed to!). Cover price is $27. I can offer a signed copy for $25 flat for the first 50 orders. Not as good as Amazon at about $22 (with shipping) but I’m not set up to do bulk! Those who have already placed orders will get a rebate. (I can only make this offer for folks in the US, sorry.) That fifty went by too fast! I’ve had to move it back up to cover price plus $4.95 Priority Mail shipping. Sorry I can’t be like amazon!

Also, great response on the poster idea so we will be moving ahead with that. Prototype being finished today, but not sure on specifics. If we do offer free with book, this will happen retroactively for people who order the book now. And thank you everyone for your encouraging responses!

UPDATE 4/10: Thanks for your initial reponses, those who have recieved books. I will be getting the rest of the books out first thing Monday, sorry for the delay.

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69 Wonderful responses to “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking”

  • Col

    Just got the book, spozed to be for my son, but I’m reading it before sending it to him ;-). Would really love to have the chart as well if that came to be and is available.

    Thanks for this book!

  • Mel

    That was very encouraging… I don’t know how many times I’ve failed from making pizza dough… Thank you!

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  • Carol Peterman

    Over the last year I have been working on building cooking technique through an online program at http://www.rouxbe.com and with mastering basic skills find I am naturally letting go of recipes. Ratios is a perfect complement to what I have been working on and I can’t wait to get my copy. I suspect Ratios will inspire all sorts of fun culinary experimentation!

  • Jesse

    Mr. Ruhlman,

    I received my copy of “Ratio” a few days ago, and tonight I enjoyed my first ever self-made bread!

    Baking has remained a terrifying and mysterious realm to me for years, and while I often will tackle a challenging recipe from most kinds of cookery, I have bordered on being outright scared to bake.

    I’ve messed up bread with a bread machine. From a box. More than once. If that’s not discouraging, I’m not sure what is.

    I have ton of bread recipes. Having recipes wasn’t the problem– it’s that they just seemed so mysterious, pulled out of thin air somehow. None of them made any sense to me, until I read the the description in “Ratio”. It really has explanatory power, and made a few things “click” for the first time.

    It practically goes without saying that my first effort wasn’t the best bread ever, but you know… it really turned out pretty well, tasty, crusty (like I wanted!), and with decent crumb– and was great with rillets (from a certain other book) or butter.

    The power of understanding ratios is already beginning to become clear, and I’m excited like I haven’t been in years.

    Thanks!! :)

  • David

    I got the book Michael. It’s awesome. Can’t wait to get the poster. I think it’s a wonderful idea.

  • StumptownSavoury

    I read it in one sitting and enjoyed every moment. It’s brilliant and freeing, it confirms my experience, and it sent me into the kitchen to improvise. Thanks for all the hard work nailing down those ratios!

  • Elmer

    Michael,
    Received my copy of Ratio in the mail yesterday. Thank you for getting these out to everyone so quickly. Now I have some reading to do this weekend.

  • Heidi

    Just wanted to say “thank you” for the book. So speedy and the autograph makes it extra special. Now, to read and put it to good use in my kitchen. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • Darcie

    I already ordered the book on Amazon, but I second the request to come to Minneapolis for a book signing.

    This book aligns perfectly with what I’ve been doing on my own recently – I hate being tied to a recipe, and want to be able to make good food without relying on someone else to develop a recipe. This book should help greatly. Thanks for undertaking such a worthwhile task.

  • GregL

    er, sorry, just realized that there were multiple pages of comments so I didn’t see mine from yesterday. I’m covered in shame.

  • Angry Brit

    I haven’t gotten my hands on this one yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. The poster sounds like a great idea. I love Donna’s photography, so I’m excited to see her poster.

  • Bridget

    Reading your books opened my eyes to a world of food I never knew exsisted and made me fall in love with cooking (it only took 40 yrs). Your writing and passion for the subject has given me confidence to try new things (hello, cabbage and peanut butter anyone?). But your post today hit home. I am one that is chained to recipes. Being a new cook, it scares and overwhelmes me to think of cooking without a recipe. Visions of bad chemistry experiments dance in my head. Your book Ratio has me very excited that maybe, just maybe, I can take a step towards putting down the cookbook and trying something on my own. Thank you.

  • JimD

    Thanks for writing this one – as a chef it is nice to have one stop resources – easoer than keeping up with all those bits of paper notes!

  • luis

    Rhulman, This one is a bit outa place. But how would you feel if your electric bill just dropped by 25-30%?
    True story… answer?
    Other than running the oven once in while. I have been strictly running on Microwave and Induction.
    Lowest electric bill I have ever received…Haaaaaaapyy… all that trial and error and testing of different materials and things has actually shown me a significant improvement in my fixed costs. Anyway sorry if I am a bit out of school… but I am soooo happy….
    Just got a UPS ticket… I can only wish its your book coming to me….hope hope… Ratios is right. Last night I did your simple bread 5:3 ratio and this morning the home made pizza was very good. The bread better than average for me. And I didn’t even use a scale…. thanks for all your books man.

  • GregL

    Michael: are there options for those of us living overseas (I’m in Switzerland) to buy a signed copy directly from you instead of getting something via amazon?

    The poster would, of course, be interesting, but mainly I’d like to support you directly.

  • Leslie

    I just found out about you, and ordered my first (of probably many) copy of one of your books. I can’t wait!

  • Michelle

    Alton put it most eloquently, I for one am grateful, too. The last thing I need is another cookbook full of recipes. You’ve done the world a great service by providing this book. I work for a gourmet kitchen company, and something tells me we’d better stock up on scales.

  • Cucumber Pandan

    Do you know when (if?) this book will be available in Jakarta, Indonesia? Your “Elements of Cooking” was one of the last two books I bought in the U.S. before I returned to my native country. I enjoy your blog and your books (not just the cooking-related ones) and I really, really want to get my hand on a copy of “Ratio”! (what are my chances of even getting a signed copy?)

  • luis

    I am waiting on my copy of ratios. Very exciting book. I imagine myself freed to focused on big FLAVOR rather than on scaling a recipe.
    But striping that onion of one of its layers…may just be the liberating force that really allows me to really cook and not mimic. Love the thought of a graphic to post on my fridge… Can you make it magnetic so it sticks to my fridge??.. I will place an order for it. Or I will use the book.. either way thanks for this book Michael.

  • Allison

    About that poster — I like the idea but would never display something like that in my kitchen. Could I convince you instead to make it into several laminated sheets that could be tacked inside my cupboard doors? That way they’re readily available but not throwing off my kitchen design. And you wouldn’t have to try to make it work with an array of different styles. Those who want the information displayed on a wall could put them in beautiful picture frames.

  • D.Nash

    This sounds great! I can tell you that once I finally read the bit in Julia Child’s classic first book where she explains that vinaigrette is just 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, I stopped buying bottled salad dressing. The only dressings I generally get are vinaigrette variations anyway, so now I just make my own in small batches so I don’t get bored with the same one for weeks. Now it’s olive oil plus “pick a vinegar,” plus “what herbs do I have around?”

  • Beanie

    Just ordered one for me and one for my new foster daughter, who wants to be a chef (that’s supposed to tug at your heartstrings ;)

    I hope your hand gets tired from selling so many signed copies. Good luck!

  • ruhlman

    GregL, overseas is expensive and a headache due to customs forms for me. but just buying the book is supporting me! and thank you. thank you every one for these encouraging comments!

  • allen

    Thanks Mr. Ruhlman for another great book. I own a cheap scale I bought from Harbor Freight, will upgrade to a nicer one now that I see the light and use it all the time; used it to make root beer, measuring the roots and wierd hard to find herbs. A must have now in my kitchen tools.

  • GregL

    Michael, is there any chance for those of us who live abroad (I’m in Switzerland) to directly support you by ordering a signed copy (hopefully with poster?) instead of going via amazon?

  • e. nassar

    Just ordered my signed copy and looking forward to it. Any plans for a book tour? Specifically to Houston, TX?

  • Joanne

    I would love to have a signed poster AND book. Do we get these right from you? Also… I saw your book on another site. It’s exciting.

  • joyciel

    Omg, this perfect! I also wondered what the ratios were for all these things and was too lazy and mathematically inclined to calculate them. This is absolutely fantastic!

  • Paula Maack

    Congratulations on this, Michael! How exciting!!!

    I just ordered my copy, and I can’t wait to receive it, along with the poster! Thanks!!

    Cheers,

    ~ Paula

  • Forrest

    I’m so glad there are people like you pushing out real knowledge about cooking. The poster idea sounds fantastic too.

  • JBL

    Genius!!
    Exactly what I’ve always wanted in a “cookbook” to which “Elements” is a perfect companion. Bravo Mr. Ruhlman on a genius idea. Thank you for this book.

    Would you now consider: “Process: How Permutations of Equal Ratios Yield Different Results”

    Examples: Pound Cake vs. Sponge Cake

    What do you think?

  • Maria

    Love the concept of Ratio, and just added a signed copy to my cookbook collection.

    I think I’ll use this book a lot, since I often cook intuitively (usually cherrypicking favorite elements from several recipes).

    Very exciting!

  • James Miscedra

    Michael,

    Will you be doing a signing at the CIA this time around?

    Jimmy

  • Jon Gales

    Just ordered mine from Amazon, can’t wait! I use my kitchen scale all the time and it looks like it will get even more use now.

  • stephanie

    Thanks so much for offering signed copies! I just ordered mine, and can’t wait to get my hands on it!!

  • Brenda

    I am looking forward to adding to my Ruhlman Library, Love your books. Just ordered my signed copy.
    Thanks!!

  • Laura

    I cannot wait to work with this! Thank you, Michael.

    I am already mentally making room for the bakery/pastry chart. Since Donna is designing it, I assume it will look better framed and matted on the kitchen wall rather than laminated on the refrigerator and held up by a magnet. Please let us know how we can get it.

    You are changing our lives.

  • Mary Lynn

    Michael, I would also be interested in the baking chart, but I am having Ratio delivered to my Kindle. Any other way to get the chart besides having a copy of the book signed?

  • JoP in Omaha

    Great video. I’m buying the book today. I love your enthusiasm about it, and it’s very cool that in this book, as in Elements, you’ve provided information to help home cooks and pros alike. Will you be doing a book tour?

  • Coyne

    Ruhlman, you’ve nailed it. I’ve been waiting my whole life for a book like this, going so far as to note ratios within recipes I’ve tried.

    Now it’s all here in a book, and I’m very grateful. I think you’ve hooked on to something serious.

  • darla

    Just ordered my copy. Thanks for filling a real need!

    I never went to culinary school but when I started my business and suddenly had to cook without recipes in front of me, I found myself gradually relying on ratios. After that, I felt like I could really fly in the kitchen. I’m so excited about this book.

  • Katie

    I have been needing this book. And, I’m excited about recipes by weight! You’re a good one, Michael.

  • Kate in the NW

    This is AWESOME.

    I love food, and often love to cook, but I H-A-T-E recipes as anything other than inspiration. I have an incorrigible need to mess with them.

    I am blessed with an absolutely brilliant cook for a mother – one who “gets” the ratio thing, albeit on an intuitive level – and that’s who I learned to cook from – and maybe why I have the hubris to get creative in the kitchen. I’m no where near as good as she is, but maybe your book will help push me closer. My poor long-suffering family will thank you!

    I hope you do go on tour to Seattle so maybe we can battle the lines and come thank you in person. Go to Third Place Books! And be sure to stop by DaPino’s on 65th St.NE to talk salumi with a master (try the wild boar salami – amazing!).

    As always, congratulations on the reviews. Well done!

  • Benjamin Wolfe

    I’d be quite interested in the baking/pastry chart – I’ve already got the habit of plastering kitchen cabinets with recipes and such, so it’d be rather useful.

    The book itself is on the list for “buy-as-soon-as-I-get-paid.”

  • Cameron S.

    @Tags – true, I am planning a trip to Cleveland this year to eat at Lola and a few other restaurants and see the post-industrial apoca…. er sights. I won’t be visiting Skyline Chili that Ruhlman and Bourdain visited in No Reservations. :)

    Anyways, looking forward to the book and I liked the video.

  • Vivian

    Congratulations on your new release! I hope it brings you great success.

    The video is awesome and I am glad that Alton gave you such a great review, although I hope you never have to go into hiding! I can’t wait to get my copy in the mail and definitely must get a copy of Donna’s chart.

  • Tags

    -
    Don’t go on a promotional tour. This book is so good pilgrims will flock to Cleveland to get your signature (and augment the local economy with their money.)

  • Devon

    I’ve always been fascinated by ratios in baking, but what are some of the other specific disciplines discussed in the book and when are you coming to NYC?

  • Marlene

    I just want to say that not only do the recipes in the book work well, but Michael takes the concept of a ratio and breaks it down so it is very easy to understand.

    Well done Michael!

  • William Thompson

    Already ordered my copy from Amazon and can’t wait!

  • Natalie Sztern

    I am speechless at that video and how fabulous it is to meet you and your family.

    From the description in the presentation I think this book might become a formal school text for any cook.

  • Arundathi

    Loved the video. Wish these were available in India, but I hear they’re going to be here only in the summer!

  • Russ

    So when are you coming to Minneapolis so I can get my copy signed ?

  • dadekian

    Thank you, Michael. I for one cannot wait until tomorrow to own this book. I’ve learned a lot of ratios over the last ten years, but to have a definitive guide in one book is a wonderful idea. Thanks.