Ryan Kelly, Jennifer. 2021. jpg file.
The term “molecular gastronomy” was created in 1988 by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist, Hervé This. Each of them have made interesting discoveries in their field. Hervé This, for instance, found the perfect temperature at which to cook an egg (149 degrees Fahrenheit, if you were wondering) and enhanced the flavor of smoked salmon using electric fields. Kurti used a microwave to create a seemingly impossible dish called a Frozen Florida (a play on Baked Alaska), that’s cold on the outside and warm on the inside!
The duo wanted to differentiate this unique area of cooking from the larger field of food science. At the time, food science mostly had to do with large-scale food processing, dealing with production, nutrition, and food preservation, not the actual science behind cooking when it comes to restaurants and all of us cooking at home. When we cook at home for our friends and family, we tend to use recipes passed down to us by relatives or recommended to us by friends. Molecular gastronomy offers a whole new approach.
Molecular gastronomy is based on the principles of chemistry, the interactions that happen between different ingredients which creates different effects. Have you ever made a dish a few times and been frustrated that it comes out a bit different each try? By fully understanding those ingredient interactions in chemical, biological, and physical terms, we can create the exact dish we want, again and again.
There are many techniques used in molecular gastronomy cooking, many of which are used in chemistry as well.
This can be done by rapidly stirring air bubbles until they turn into a liquid, and then keeping it in this state with an emulsifying agent, a substance that absorbs the newly mixed liquid and keeps it from separating back into its original state. An example of this kind of emulsification is foamed balsamic vinegar on top of mozzarella and tomatoes, a futuristic caprese salad!
ChefSteps. 2019. jpeg file.
Salty Seattle. “Not Yer Mama’s Banana Split.” 2020. jpeg file.
Turning Liquids Into Powder
Lebovitz, David. “Molecular Gastronomy and Playing with Powder.” 2009. jpeg file.
Molecular Recipes. “Aperol Paper and Gel Cocktail.” 2013. jpeg file.
Telegraph. Nicoise Salad Recipe. 2011. jpeg file.
Ketchupp. 2016. jpeg file.
Smith, Ryan Matthew. Modernist Cuisine LLC. 2011. jpeg file.
Hielscher Ultrasound Technology. 2021. jpeg file.
LeSantuaire. “Gastrovac.” 2020. jpeg file.
A Gastrovac is an interesting device that is a cross between a Crock-Pot, a heating plate, and a vacuum pump (a device that vacuum seals a package). The interior of a Gastrovac has no oxygen in it, and is low pressure. This allows the device to cook food faster, and at lower temperatures, which helps maintain the food’s nutrients, color, and texture. At the end of the cooking process, you can add pressure back into the chamber, which allows liquid to surge back into the food, creating more flavor.
Ketchupp. 2021. jpeg file.
Molecular gastronomy is a fascinating field, and a great way to have fun in the kitchen. Though it sounds complicated, there are a lot of simple, affordable kits out there to get you started, like a spherification kit, or simply buying some agar agar to create spaghetti made of arugula or a batch of disappearing transparent ravioli! You can even use a smoking gun to simply smoke your beer, and add any flavor of your choosing to it. During these times of quarantine, when you’ve tried every recipe in all of your cookbooks, molecular gastronomy is a hugely entertaining reason to get in the kitchen and try something new and interesting.
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