“You’re not going to be happy,” Bill said. Bill was the editor of Ruhlman’s Twenty, the guy who more or less line-drived it into play. I was meeting him at Chronicle’s offices for the first time.

“Why not?”

Twenty‘s going to be sold out.”

“I thought you printed a lot of copies.”

“Not enough.”

“It’s December 1st, Bill—this is, like, the biggest book-buying month of the year.”

“I know.”

Which is why he said I was going to be unhappy. It wasn’t even on Kindle yet (which is how I usually read my copy today, because of the search function).

And which is why I’m printing one of my favorite recipes from the book below. And re-promoting it as a Superlative and Timeless Work of Culinary Artistry, as fun to read in bed as it is to cook from. Watch the video some woman I don’t know posted to Amazon (no, she’s not my mom), better than anything I could do. Or read the unsolicited praise below.

This is a book I cherish. If you want to win a free signed copy, you have to watch the public service announcement video. Can only ship within the U.S., sorry. But you still have to watch the video. Just kidding. Not really.

Sample comments from Amazon mainly 5-star below (though there was one really snippy one not included here, obviously, by a woman who was offended, yes, offended when I responded to her comments; as though she’s allowed to review me but I’m not allowed to review her. Sheesh, some people.)

I am a big fan of his books and his blog. Time and again, I have seminal moments of my life as a cook that involve his work. So it is no surprise that I stayed up late one night to read TWENTY and then immediately started in on the recipes. The book is nothing short of brilliant.

Ellen Malloy, restaurant publicist and trained chef

As a cookbook reviewer, I occasionally come across exceptional cookbooks. Ruhlman’s Twenty is a truly exceptional one. Whether you are a total novice or an advanced home cook with an extensive library, this book is a superb addition to your kitchen shelf. This is not really a cookbook, rather a cooking instructional text with great supporting photo illustrations. If you learn all about the 20 techniques Ruhlman carefully describes and D. T. Ruhlman illustrates, your cooking is likely to improve by several levels. 

George Erdosh

Each chapter focuses on a key element of cooking, and then culminates in pertinent recipes that reiterate the chapter. Each recipe has pictures that are step-by-step. The “teach and then do” approach is not much different than the way a traditional high school Chemistry book would be set up. However, this time it is much more colorful and tasty!

For fans of Ruhlman, the book is much more colorful than Elements of Cooking, and more thorough than Ratio. This makes it my favorite book by him so far, and probably one of my favorite books to use in the kitchen. For everyone short of a professional chef, this book has something to teach them.

A. Bell, Raleigh, NC

I’m a fairly experienced cook, and wanted to improve my skills. Additionally, my daughter, who’s 20, is learning to cook. I bought both of us a copy, and have found it to be a virtual cooking class for nearly every aspect of cuisine.… I’ve enjoyed not only my new skills and recipes, but also seeing her skills blossom. This is, without a doubt, the very best cookbook in my collection.

“Uncle Easy”

As a professional chef, cookbook collector, and someone who just cooks for fun this is the most intriguing book about food I’ve read in 20 years. Today was my day off, and I went into the kitchen with a different way of thinking about what I was cooking. Thank you–I had so much fun, and great imagination.


As an obsessed cook and amateur musician, I’m struck by how often good cooking and good music seem to follow the same rules. Yes, we practice until our arms ache and our taste buds rebel, and yes, we sweat the details over and over. It’s hard work, and we can get jaded—so we need a shake-up now and again: we need regularly to be pulled out of our practice routines and told, as my teacher patiently tells me, “Listen to what you are playing—don’t just listen for mistakes, listen for music!” When Michael Ruhlman tells me to “THINK” I’m reminded to pay attention, ask questions about things I think I already know, and taste mindfully. And that makes for better food and a lot more fun in the kitchen!

And, by the way, the cured salmon is brilliant.


I rent most books from the library and have culled my significant cookbook collection down to just those that actually make it to my kitchen to help me learn more about cooking. I’ve been cooking professionally since 1999 so I read a lot of cookbooks and I try a lot of recipes. One of my pet peeves is poorly written recipes; and they abound. I’m already a fan of Michael Ruhlman since meeting him personally at a convention for personal chefs that I hosted as CEO of Personal Chefs Network in Charleston, SC. I’ve been an avid fan, following him like a stalker online and learning so much more about my craft. His first book, The French Laundry Cookbook, changed my idea about cooking and sits on my desk today as a reminder of the profound effect it had on my cooking career.

As soon as Ruhlman’s Twenty came out, I purchased it and was amazed at what I found, and Donna’s photography is simply amazing. To me, this book is equal to attending culinary school for the price of a book. My Cookbook Club is now cooking our way through it and I’m proud to say one of my friends actually made bacon! Everyone should be able to say, “I have a friend that made bacon!” The Dutch Oven Bread has led to an obsession and I can’t stop making it. What I love most about his writing is well. written. recipes. that actually WORK in the home kitchen! Thank You. Thank You.

Michael, thanks again for supplying the culinary scene with another great work. You are indeed a lucky man to have found your niche so successfully. Cook on!

Sharon Worster

Thank you, all commenters, even Ms. Snippy. I always try to comment when I like something because honest, crowd-sourced comments really are valuable in the aggregate, and we need enough of them to counterbalance the paid-for, vindictive, competitor-written, and plain loony-tunes comments.

Happy holidays and happy cooking!

My favorite India dal, using mung beans and black-eyed peas, inspired by an Indian chemist who moved to Cleveland and opened a restaurant, The Saffron Patch.

Lemon-Cumin Dal

This thick bean dish is in the style of Indian preparations that often use red or yellow split peas or lentils. Here, I combine mung beans and black-eyed peas because I particularly like the earthiness of the peas. Adapted from a recipe by an Indian chemist turned restaurateur I once wrote about, it’s a staple in our house. The dal takes an hour to cook but only about five minutes of prep time. It is finished with a serious dose of acidity, in the form of lemon juice, but if you have access to tamarind pulp, use that in place of the lemon. I like the smokiness of the kala jeera, also called black cumin (available at Indian food markets), but the dal is delicious without it. In addition to demonstrating the impact of acidity, this recipe cooks the spices and aromatics in butter before they are added to the beans. Once you’ve seen how powerfully this technique works, it is open to many interpretations and different spice levels. A traditional dal would use ghee, or clarified browned butter, another option. The dal makes a hearty vegetarian meal with some basmati rice and fried bread, my favorite being pappadams.

  • 1 cup/200 grams mung beans, rinsed and picked over for unusable beans or inedibles
  • 1/3 cup/50 grams black-eyed peas, rinsed and cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kala jeera (also called black cumin, optional; see note)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less depending on your preference)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 1/2-inch/12-millimeter piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or as needed
  • 1/4 cup/20 grams cilantro/fresh coriander leaves, torn or chopped (a delicious garnish, but optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the beans and peas. Add 3 1/2 cups/840 milliliters water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the water has reduced to the level of the beans and the beans are tender, 45 minutes.
  2. In a small dish, combine the cumin, kala jeera, turmeric, cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, garlic, and ginger. In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook until the frothing subsides and the butter has browned slightly. Add the spice mixture and sauté for 20 seconds or so. Stir into the dal. Bring the dal to a simmer, remove from the heat, and stir in the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and add more lemon or salt as needed. Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

The shopping links for the week:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


60 Wonderful responses to “Holiday Gifts:

  • Anthony Duncan

    Hi Michael,

    I love Acid.

    I’ve been recently trying to cook moreso without recipes, as my Indian friends want me to cook dishes like their Mom does. I had been cooking Indian food here and there with recipes, but the absolute best dish I made was from memory- a variation on Butter Chicken.

    I think what really set it off was the addition of tamarind and lemon juice. The dish wasn’t lemony at all, but without those ingredients, it wouldn’t have had that bright, mouthwatering flavor.

    Now, I am fascinated by “souring agents” and am eager to try more, especially exotic ones like sour plums and verjuice.

    Thanks for writing such great books!

  • Lance Jacobs

    I love braising. Nothing tastes as good as braised pork shoulder. Nothing makes the house smell better.

  • E. Nassar

    Salt. It has to be salt and salting ingredients. Why? Because I believe without it there is no cooking, or at least delicious cooking. No charcuterie, no preserves and no flavor. Salting a chicken ahead of time is one of the key techniques to make an amazing roasted bird. Salting a brisket the night before along with other seasonings and some spice and it is ready to be smoked slowly and get that delicious unique bark. It’s like a magic ingredient, just shred some veggies and toss them in salt and let them sit for a while. You got a lovely preserved relish…

  • chad

    I think it’s awesome that there’s a technique called “onion”. I’ve been trying to incorporate the many flavors of onion into my everyday cooking, and I’d love to have a copy of Twenty so I can learn more about how to do that.

  • Scott M

    My favorite technique is the Stock. The overnight method is so easy. Not much to do. After we eat dinner, I put the chicken bones, and scraps in a pot, then into the oven. Next morning add aromatics and I have a great stock. The gentle temperature makes a clear stock, a problem I had with using the top of stove method. It has been a great technique, because it has helped in other areas, my sauces are better, soups are better. And the best thing, it is easy.

  • Kristin Lubben

    Well, I don’t cook much because a) I usually mess it up and b) my hubby is a CIA grad and usually cooks for us instead (the kids are thankful)… but my favorite technique that HE does, is grilling. I’ll take the grill over all else any day! Nothing like that charred taste… and always over charcoal.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Carla B.

    THINK (first). It’s the most important rule for a successful meal. It also transforms the act of cooking from the tedium of slavishly following a recipe into an exciting, creative act. It saves you from those awkward moments when you realize you haven’t prepped an ingredient that has to hit the skillet in the next 30 seconds. I have had to kindly-but-firmly impress it on my loved ones that I must have quiet at this stage of the preparation. I cannot hear myself think while others are telling me stories that compete for the same mental resources I need for the cooking. Hopefully, at the table, they’ll still remember what it was they wanted to talk about.

  • natalie b

    I love acid and onions! Its amazing how a small amount of something acidic, like lemon juice (my personal favorite acid) can really bring a dish to life. And onions, God help me if I ever run out of onions! I would add them to icecream if it was socially acceptable! Well maybe not, but I’d probably try it once.

  • Nancy

    I love technique cookbooks. Cookbooks that are all recipes are fun to take inspiration from, but technique makes the difference in what turns out well and what doesn’t. So, I think that Think is probably my favorite technique.

  • ArmyMum

    LOL! Always entertaining….
    My “AHA” moment from “Twenty” was water… we dont typically think of water as an ingredient….
    My favorite technique I’ve tried so far from “Twenty”…forgive me, I’m at work and dont remember which one it was under, was for the apple cinnamon doughnuts…It got me to finally make choux paste, which I always wanted to try but was afraid of for some reason…. It was so easy!!!!
    Next on the list…. I HAVE to try making my own bacon……

  • Jon

    Egg. I have not bought store bought mayonnaise since learning how to make my own.

  • Todd

    I don’t really need a signed book…I already have one! (I guess I could give it to someone) I did want to share the “20” technique that changed my cooking – Think. And yes, your chapter on thinking was broad, but for me it was about the freedom to cook on my own and not be bound by merely tweaking recipe here or there. Best example: I loved the mushroom sauce on page 201. Made soup with it as you suggested. Superb.Then thought: “I wonder what that would be like in risotto?” Only the best mushroom risotto ever. So much depth that you don’t get from plain ol’ seared mushrooms. Looking for pairings, trying new things, …thinking… makes my cooking much more fun and rewarding.

  • Doug Hiza

    I love braising! The melding of flavors and the tenderness of the succulent meat… What more can I say.

  • Lisa Rogers

    I love your recipes, and am always looking to expand my culinary knowledge and new recipes. I haven’t read Twenty yet, but LOVED Ratios. I love reading the recipes and always look at how I can make them gluten and corn free so that I may enjoy them. I have way too much fun in the kitchen I think. 🙂

  • Jason Gillett

    The first chapter… Think… has had the most influence on my cooking. I am strictly a hobbist and never having any training outside of a television show, a book or Youtube I was unaware of the importance of “mise en place” – since I got your book my fun in the kitchen has multiplied! I do wan’t another copy as my first was dropped and the cover torn off – and this is a book I would like to keep out on display in my kitchen. Until I get a suitable copy I guess it is John Besh holding on to your spot. The Lord loves food porn! Amen.

  • Chrissy DeVono

    I think Butter is my favorite technique! Butter got such a bad rap for so long and now I’m very happy to see that not only is it not bad for you, but it better than the alternatives that are out there & for Michael to pay it proper homage is fantastic!!

  • Cathy

    I *love* dal, so thanks for posting that recipe. As an enthusiastic but still novice cook, I looking forward to learning “The Twenty”!

  • Heather Olsson

    Stock. One of the healthiest things you can make in your kitchen. It costs so little and tastes loads better than anything you can buy on the market. And time? Pretty much the same amount as opening a can of the over processed, salt saturated stuff. Looking forward to adding this book to my shelf but hope for a kindle copy. I have created a nutrition/cooking class for my children (I teach them at home) that involves Ratio. Ruhlman’s Twenty will be added to the curriculum!

  • Jeff C

    Salt! Such a simple, basic thing that has tripped me up in my cooking and so many dishes that I’ve tried, either from someone else’s cooking or even at restaurants!
    And it’s such a fine balance – too little or two much and the dish isn’t good. The perfect amount, and it’s not noticed, but all the other flavors are.
    Definitely salt!

  • Rick G

    I’ll go with stock. It’s so simple, and you use more of the creature that you’ve eaten (ok that sounds morbid, but kinda true). I love the different flavors imparted from chicken, beef and pork. Also love messing with dashi broth too.

  • Karen Bellnier

    Hmm… since we just fired up the smoker this weekend, I will have to go that way — low.. slow.. smoking (though braising is right up there). The magic of taking large, hard to eat meat and through lots of time and very little actual attention, creating a delight is always a surprise.

  • Brian Vo

    My favorite technique has got to be acid, because it was such a revelation when I discovered its power. Before then, it was more salt, more butter, more something else to really bring a dish to life. And then when I found out just a little bit of lemon or vinegar could really make something sparkle, I was hooked.

  • Micah Stark

    I would have to say that my favorite is “Egg”

    Mostly because breakfast is the one meal that I do prepare every single day for my son Kaleb. We have a small chicken coop in the backyard and everyday we check for eggs and enjoy them with our breakfast. Its the simplest form of an egg but its a bonding food and its making memories!

    As far as cooking, eggs rule as a binder, say in a cesar salad or a hollandaise sauce.

  • Kyle

    I love the technique of “Stock”. Stock is quite possibly the best vessel to build and carry the flavors of the ingredients. How else could you concentrate the flavors of that leftover chicken carcass, or those aromatic scraps of veggies and create something that can be added to virtually any savory dish or sauce to give depth, viscosity, and mouthfeel? Stocks are very economical, very easy to do, adds unmatched flavor, and truly rely on a technique every cook should add to their repertoire.

  • shelley butler

    I will go with ‘think’; I teach alot of friends cooking tips; and am always trying to get them to think more thoroughly about WHY a recipe asks you to do things a certain way or in a certain order. If you take in that information, really, then you can branch out on your own and get creative and don’t always have to rely on recipes (think Ratio – which I have and love!). I have looked over ‘Twenty’ in the bookstore several times, but have been unemployed and couldn’t afford to purchase. Would love to win a copy, and then share it with friends.

  • Beth

    Salt! If I had to choose only one, I would have to say that this chapter has had the most profound effect on my cooking. From seasoning throughout the cooking process, to generously salting a chicken before roasting (different chapter but I had to include here) and heavily salting boiling water for blanching green vegetables (another chapter??), the breadth and importance of this technique/tool cannot be understated. Did I mention salted caramel sauce? I’m pretty sure it’s in the “Sugar” chapter… it’s a bit ironic that my favorite examples are actually spread throughout the book, but it just goes to show how undeniably pervasive salt is, and why mastering its use is so critical…

  • Nichole

    Sauce was great… always great to get a reminder to use all the good bits left in the pan!

  • Joaquim Jardí

    My favorite technique is pressure cooking. I love gelatinous cheap meat cuts like shank or tripe, and braising or stewing doesn’t release the gelatin quite as well. I also love how the kitchen doesn’t smell, so I know all those precious aromatics stay in the cooking water for amazing and cristaline broths.

  • Tim Donahue

    My favorite technique is braising. Love the flavor, the smell in the house, the texture, and that the food is better reheated. I grew up with a dad who did wonderful pot roast and, in his later more adventurous stage, stuffed veal breast and stuffed lamb breast, both braised. There is little in this world more satisfying to eat than a braised lamb shank.

    That being said, the biggest surprise, learned late in my cooking life, is the use of acid to correct seasoning. I tell friends, if you think a soup, a gravy, etc., needs salt, taste it again and ask do you taste salt. If you do, a little acid, just drops sometimes, will fix it.

  • Rich

    I love to grill. The whole outdoor experience is like going back ten thousand years – split wood, build a fire, and watch it burn down to coals. Fast forward to today – thaw a protein from the freezer, marinate some veggies, crack an IPA, and stand by the grill while the fire transforms these ingredients like no other method can.

  • Terry Alexander

    I’m thinking the technique I get the most mileage from is Grill. I mean let’s face it I’m a guy. FIRE! MMM. Good. Nothing is better at getting people together than that one word- Grilling. I love the social aspect and camaraderie that is always associated with grilling. If I were ever put to task and required to jot down my fondest memories in life, over 80% of them could probably be associated with a grill or a smoker. It’s just what we do in my family. Peace and great book. Wether I win one or not, it will be on my Christmas list. I guess the personal note from you would be the Bonus.

  • ChristyMN

    Braising- makes the home smell wonderful and the finished product is great.

  • Alan


    I’ve seen that almost nobody has mentioned it, but as a scientist (Chemical Engineer) the fact that water, that beautiful triatomic molecule has such an impact in the way we cook is amazing. The fact that we use it to diffuse the heat – or to maintain it in order to cook something slowly. The fact that it can dilute flavors – or add to them, depending how it is used! And also, the fact that most of the dishes that look complicated or painful are actually pretty easy, and that is because of water.

  • Kevin Nichols

    Roasting, braising,eviscerating, curing. Using absolutely every piece of everything in my fridge and not wasting a bit. For me the challenge of planning, scheduling and executing a coursed meal using all twenty techniques in order to create a full spectrum experience of texture and flavor, well, it keeps me on my multi tasking toes. Ruhlman is simply my favorite writer on the subject of modern food preperation in school and restaurants, and now at your own home. For all of you who are kitchen hobbyists, or are just willing to spend the extra time in a kitchen for something very delicious, I recommend this book in particular, but advise you to read Michaels many other books on the subject, and see if your kitchen skills don’t grow exponentially.

  • csilverberg

    ! think you are some sort of meat demigod and I am fairly religious so for you sir Ruhlman I am being blasphemous to the other one god I believe in that’s, how much of a demigod you are to me.

  • SethH

    Oooh..tough question. I love Braise just because of short ribs. But then there’s Butter. Because…butter!!!!

  • Tristan A

    “Think” is my favorite technique. It makes me be present when I’m cooking and also encourages me to be creative. What would this spice add? What flavor profile do I want and how do I achieve it?

  • Pam

    Think! Think a recipe through before you start and after you’ve made it. I’ve learned as much from my mistakes as I have from instruction.

  • ben

    my favorites are think and salt. I think they are the two most important aspects of cooking and the ones that are also the most misunderstood by most people. Being able to plan out how you are going to approach making a meal is the first and most important step towards success. Salting correctly and at the right time is the only way to get the flavor to make the meal enjoyable.

  • Vince

    I have been cooking for a long time and I am still a student, because I am curious to know the ‘why’. Food is both science and culture to me. I guess my favorite techniques are simple ones that I can teach to a friend to feed their friends and family well, and with love. So perhaps my favorite is a standby saute, ‘my moms marinara’ which can become so many dishes. I love your work and am a devoted reader of your blog, so thank you for your work and your sharing. All the best this holiday season to you and yours.

  • Ben

    I’ve learned to think of salt as a technique or a tool. I grew up thinking it was just a condiment on the table. It was a revelation to me how proper salting under proper conditions can have such important influence overall.

  • Erin

    My favorite technique would have to be the braise – there’s no better way to turn a tough cut of meat into a savory, delicious meal. Adding Twenty to my Christmas list now!

  • RanchoDeluxe

    Grill. Definitely. It is the way to win friends and influence people. I love being the grill wench!

  • Ryan

    Water. Specifically, the bacon-in-waterbath technique, which is life-changing. Our farmer was out of slab bacon recently so we got a giant hunk of jowl instead, which is flavorful, sure, but extremely tough and in need of a thorough cooking. The water method produced the most perfect bacon I’ve ever eaten, and I can’t for the life of me picture any scenario in which it could be cooked better.

  • Elisa

    It’s hard to for me to pick just one technique. I guess my favorite would be salt, because as soon as I started to understand it, my food started to taste a whole lot better. I’m now a big advocate of salt, and not being afraid to use it on real food (not processed, of course).

    My second, newly favorite technique is acid, as it’s something I only had that “aha!” moment for recently. Now that I understand the effect acid can have on food, I try to go out of my way to play around with it so I can learn even more.

  • Garrett

    Onions—every great cuisine in the world uses them, in dishes traditionally eaten by both the poor and the rich. It’s hard to imagine cooking without them!

  • Katrina

    Dough – baking cookies was the very first thing I ever did in the kitchen, and baking is still my favorite thing to do in a kitchen.

  • Dierdre

    Hard to pick just one, but I think I’d say that dough is my favorite technique. I find working with yeast dough very therapeutic and I love the smell of bread baking and the satisfaction of cutting into a still steaming loaf of bread.

  • david squires

    I love BRAISE, because when I learned that I learned I could transform an intimidating piece of dead animal into the comforting dishes I cherished as a child. Learning to braise made me feel like I’d finally learned to cook.