Molecular Gastronomy: What Science Can Bring To The Kitchen Table
Your grandmother and her mother before her would scoff at the idea of taking something as pure as intuitive cooking and adding to it something as cold and calculating as science. If you can get past the image of playing Dr. Frankenstein with your kitchen as your laboratory, you can see that what molecular gastronomy lacks in traditional culinary values it makes up for in droves by producing really delicious food. You might have come across this relatively new style of cooking in your online cooking classes or happened to see some people walking into a molecular gastronomy restaurant. Here’s what you have been missing out on:
Molecular gastronomy is a subgenre of the branch of food science. It takes into account the physical parameters of the ingredients you use as well as the chemical transformations that take place during traditional culinary operations like boiling, frying, freezing and drying, to name a few. By understanding the scientific ground rules of cooking, you can adjust flavor or textures or alter the dish into an entirely novel creation.
Scientists had an experimental interest in food long before the advent of molecular gastronomy – Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier studied the process of stock preparation in the mid 18th century. This enduring interest in the condition of food after the application of time and circumstance gave rise to the full-blown experimentation using a variety specific techniques and specialty tools.
Equipment and techniques
Equipment and processes of the molecular gastronomic chef can be found in every well-stocked traditional scientific laboratory. You should not be surprised to find:
- a heated bath apparatus which would be used in low-temperature cooking.
- Meats packed in plastic, vacuum-sealed pouches can be placed in the heated bath in a process called sous-vide. This allows the juices and flavoring to be absorbed by the meat while evenly cooking it to just the right temperature.
- A Rotary evaporation machine is commonly used by high school and college chemistry students but it finds a second home in the kitchen by being a valuable tool for preparing distillates and extracts from basil, lemongrass and Thai chiles.
- Chefs have been known to use carbon dioxide to create use bubbles and foam
- liquid nitrogen (to flash freeze and shatter),
- syringes (for injecting a plethora of flavors) and even use
- oscillating sound pressure via ultrasound