Sunday, February 19, 2006

Molecular Gastronomy

I read in the February 2006 issue of Discover Magazine, an article called "Cooking for Eggheads", about a relatively new, cutting edge, science called molecular gastronomy. This science studies how the process of cooking changes the structure and taste of food, a kind of melding of the physics and chemistry of food and cookery with the mutual aspects of eating, the physiology and taste. I learned several things, one of them being that cooking an egg in boiling water is not ideal, as it is far higher than the temperature at which the egg whites and yolks coagulate. You end up with rubbery egg whites and grey yolks. Better to cook it at 158F/70C, or, if you prefer it firmer, 167F or 176F. This new science has spawned radical chefs, like Heston Blumenthal, owner of the Fat Duck in England, at one time named as the best restaurant in the world. Other things that are not necessarily true that have been found out, include whether it's better to salt a roast before or after cooking, it makes no difference as the salt is not absorbed in either case; and searing meat at high temperatures does not seal in the juices. But what to do with this knowledge? Cooking is a combination of knowledge, technique and art. Molecular gastronomy provides us with that knowledge, how food is altered by cooking, why things turn out the way they do, why one thing works and another doesn't. New foods are starting to appear, new gelling agents and combinations of foods. It's starting to be of interest in various magazines and blogs, so keep your eye out for it.

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