About Molecular

What Is Molecular Gastronomy?
Molecular gastronomy is the scientific study of the chemical and physical processes that accompany cooking. In today's terms, it can also be described as a style of cooking that creative and forward-thinking chefs have adopted by utilizing 3 disciplines: science, technology and psychology.

Molecular Gastronomy – The Science
In 1980, Hungarian-born physicist and cooking enthusiast Nicholas Kurti coined the term 'molecular gastronomy' to describe the discipline of physical science as it is applied to understanding traditional cooking methods. At the same time, French chemist Hervé This (pronounced "tiss") used the term in his scientific investigation of cooking myths. By 1986, when the two scientists met, 'molecular gastronomy' was well on its way to becoming a specific scientific discipline.

Molecular Gastronomy – The Style
The experimental styles in culinary arts that both coincided with and followed the establishment of the science of molecular gastronomy soon were called by the same name. Because so much of this experimentation included new understandings of the science behind the cooking and the use of ingredients and processes that were the offspring of high-tech development, the name stuck. However, more chefs and gourmands than not would rather call this style "modern", "forward", "experimental", or even "deconstructionist".

So What's It All About?
Key to the challenge of cooking in this new style is the accomplished and creative use of ingredients, equipment, and processes that have come about through the application of molecular gastronomy principles. New-style cooks include an understanding of the physical and chemical properties of foods when they explore ingredient combinations. They also use both traditional laboratory and high-tech equipment to create their masterpieces. And they experiment with processes that have their roots in science labs and commercial industrial enterprises. When art, creativity, and the love of pleasing are added to the mix, new-style practitioners create amazing edibles that surprise, fascinate, and even astound.

Ingredients
Many of the seemingly novel ingredients in this new style have been mainstays in the commercial food industry for quite some time. Now, practitioners of this new style use these ingredients on a smaller, more intimate scale. Here's a sampling of some of these quite scientific-sounding ingredients.

  • Agar agar, a gelling substance derived from algae, used to thicken liquids
  • Sodium alginate, an emulsifying agent also derived from algae, used to create self-encapsulated spheres of liquids or purées
  • Tapioca maltodextrin, a food starch used to create powders out of fatty substances such as nut butters and bacon fat.

Equipment

The equipment used in this new style of cooking is an interesting mix of scientific laboratory tools and high-end kitchen appliances and utensils derived from their laboratory cousins.

Gas torch
used to caramelize sugars and brown meats

Ultrasonic bath
Iused to make mayonnaise in seconds

The Anti-Gridlle
which is exactly what its name implies, a space-age appliance that instantly freezes food placed on its super-cooled stainless steel surface

Rotary evaporator
for distilling liquids without heating them, thereby retaining the delicate aromas that are lost when aromatic liquids are subject to heat

Paco Jet
a food processor that transforms fresh ingredients into ready-to-serve sorbets and ice cream

Büchner funnel
for vacuum-filtering solids from liquids

Processes

Key to the challenge of cooking in this new style is the accomplished and creative use of ingredients, equipment, and processes that have come about through the application of molecular gastronomy principles.

New-style cooks include an understanding of the physical and chemical properties of foods when they explore ingredient combinations. They also use both traditional laboratory and high-tech equipment to create their masterpieces. And they experiment with processes that have their roots in science labs and commercial industrial enterprises. When art, creativity, and the love of pleasing are added to the mix, new-style practitioners create amazing edibles that surprise, fascinate, and even astound.

Spherification
where liquid is reshaped into a sphere whose "skin" is a gelled form of the liquid

Flash-freezing
either by pouring liquid nitrogen over a bowl of food or by placing food onto an Anti-Griddle

Sous vide
or cryovacking, where food is vacuum packed in plastic and then cooked in warm, temperature-controlled water to a desired doneness

Frothing
or foaming, where vegetable or fruit juice is mixed with gelatin or agar agar and then either propelled through a pressurized canister or aerated by hand