The Science Behind “Molecular Cuisine”

A cook without science is not a good molecular cook

  One day in 1980, Deiss, a scientist who loves food, planned to make a soufflé (traditional French dessert known for its “cloud-like” fluffy taste) according to the recipe. According to the recipe, it is best to add egg yolks one by one, but he thought this was a trick, so he poured several egg yolks into the ingredients at once. He was dumbfounded when he took the tray out of the oven—the soufflés were limp, like popped balloons.
  A few days later, Thies decided to try again, but this time, he carefully incorporated the egg yolks one by one. Unexpectedly, just such a small operation change made the souffle soft and soft, and everyone was full of praise.
  Tice began to wonder about the mechanism behind this operation. He wanted to know why adding a small amount of egg yolk many times would make the soufflé “reborn”. He also wanted to know whether cooking techniques could also be explained and developed by relying on scientific knowledge. Later, he cooperated with a physicist who was also passionate about gastronomy. In 1989, the two proposed the concept of molecular and physical gastronomy. In 1998, they renamed it molecular gastronomy, which is often called today. “Molecular Gastronomy”.

laboratory? kitchen!

  The addition of the words “molecule” and “physics” has changed the style of the kitchen. Cooking no longer relies solely on “hands and ears”, but looks at the essence through phenomena, uses modern instruments to study changes in food during the cooking process, and adds various edible substances to cause various physical and chemical changes in food, deconstructing Reorganize food to make delicious dishes that subvert traditional cooking techniques and food appearances.
  No matter in the past or now, some people are skeptical about molecular gastronomy. Some people think that in the past, the culinary circle paid attention to talent, and delicacies and delicacies were often obtained by chance, while molecular cuisine overemphasized the rigor and scientific nature of cooking, and the mysterious kitchen fun may be over; some people did not think so much , I just feel that molecular cuisine is too difficult and complicated for ordinary chefs, and those dazzling scientific terms seem unattainable.
  However, the sense of taste is honest. As long as many people taste it once, they will immediately become fans of molecular cuisine and become its admirers. With the blessing of science and technology, the orange-red “salmon roe” can dissolve the sweetness of mango in the mouth; the yellow-brown transparent noodles can wrap the vacuum-boiled broth…
It’s not magic, it’s molecular cuisine

  The practice of molecular cooking is very particular, and the processing methods are different. Low-temperature slow cooking, spheroidization, foam cooking and liquid nitrogen quick freezing are the four basic methods of making molecular cuisine.
Low temperature and slow cooking: slow work produces meticulous work

  Low temperature and slow cooking, in simple terms, is to sum up the temperature and duration of cooking protein ingredients through scientific experiments, and the taste of the ingredients is the best. The method of low-temperature slow cooking is generally to marinate the ingredients first, then put them into a high-temperature-resistant packaging bag, vacuumize them, and finally put them in a constant temperature slow cooker to cook the ingredients slowly.
  The biggest feature of slow cooking at low temperature is that it can not only retain the delicious taste of protein raw materials, but also retain the nutrition of ingredients to a large extent. For example, when cooking protein-rich ingredients such as meat, if traditional cooking methods are used, the ingredients will lose 15% to 20% of their weight, most of which are water, so the food may taste a bit “old”, and if Improper heating will also cause a large loss of nutrients such as myoglobin in the meat. In contrast, when cooking at low temperature and slow cooking, the water loss of the ingredients is only 5% to 8%, so the food is particularly fresh and tender.

Beef cooked at low temperature and slow cooking is especially tender
Spherification: making food “explode” in the mouth

  Hold water in place without freezing it – sounds cool? In fact, it is not so mysterious. The jelly we eat is the product of locking water with polymer compounds so that the water cannot flow freely. This kind of semi-solid substance is called gel.
  Sodium alginate can quickly react with calcium ions to form a polymer with a network structure, and then combine with water to form a gel. Therefore, if a liquid food material containing calcium ions is dropped into a sodium alginate solution (or a liquid food material containing sodium alginate is dropped into a solution containing calcium ions), the surface of the food droplet will quickly gel, while the inside The liquid that has not yet “reacted” will be wrapped in a gel film, and eventually “popping beads” will be obtained.
  The “popping beads” made with spheroidization technology have an appearance similar to caviar, but when diners squeeze it with their lips and teeth in anticipation of the unique salty taste of caviar, the aroma it bursts out is unexpected. Unexpectedly, either the sweet and fruity aroma, or the rich and mellow aroma of broth, it will give the diners a “heavy punch” that cannot be avoided, and make all the diners fall under the “pomegranate skirt” of molecular cuisine.

Make “Pop Beads”
Foam Cooking: Soups Turn Bubbles

  Diners ordered a soup at the molecular cuisine restaurant, but the waiter brought a plate of bubbles. Is the dish wrong? In fact, it is not. The soup turns into bubbles because of the clever use of the principle of emulsification. Emulsification refers to the phenomenon that two originally immiscible substances are mixed together to achieve a relatively stable state. You may have heard that when making chiffon cakes, under the action of egg yolk, edible oil and milk can coexist harmoniously and be stirred into a liquid with a uniform texture. This is a phenomenon of emulsification. The reason why egg yolk can emulsify milk and oil is because it contains lecithin. This thing is like detergent, one end is hydrophilic (milk), and the other end is lipophilic. It combines oil and milk to form a relatively stable mixture.
  Having said all that, what does this have to do with bubbles? have! The essence of foaming is the emulsification of air and liquid, in other words, it is to mix the immiscible air and liquid into a relatively stable substance. In molecular cuisine, soybean lecithin is often used to make foam, which is similar to lecithin in eggs, and can also hold water-based substances at one end and non-aqueous substances such as oil and air at the other end, allowing the two to “shake hands and talk” and”. Molecular cooking chefs only need to add soybean lecithin to liquid ingredients and stir quickly to make the food appear foamy. The application of the foam cooking method is very diverse. It can turn various soups into delicate foam that melts in the mouth. It can be said to be both delicious and beautiful.

Liquid nitrogen quick freezing: freeze the ingredients while they are “not paying attention”

  In the hot summer, if ordinary ice cream is not refreshing enough, then liquid nitrogen ice cream is a better choice. Liquid nitrogen can be obtained by cooling nitrogen to -196°C. This liquid will boil and evaporate at a very high speed under normal temperature and pressure, allowing the food submerged in it to cool down rapidly, causing its internal structure to change instantaneously, changing the original texture and shape of the food, adding a layer of texture and taste experience. Foods made in this way can show bright colors and maintain original nutrition.
  In molecular gastronomy, liquid nitrogen is often used to make frozen foam and ice cream. The liquid nitrogen quick-freezing technology changes the traditional ice cream refrigeration process, directly freezes the cream with liquid nitrogen, and then filters the liquid nitrogen dry before eating. Liquid nitrogen ice cream tastes silky smooth, with almost no icicles. Liquid nitrogen can also condense the moisture in the surrounding air to form a white mist, making the food look “fairy-like”.
  In addition to making ice cream, there are also chefs who skillfully borrow the extremely low temperature of liquid nitrogen to freeze spirits that are difficult to solidify by ordinary means. Once the spirits are in the mouth, they will melt instantly at the temperature of the mouth and disappear without a trace, leaving only the aroma of the wine in the mouth, which changes from strong to light.

Liquid nitrogen ice cream “fairy” fluttering
Hungry scientists take aim at ginger and milk molecular cooking can be made at home

  Doing molecular cuisine seems to have a high threshold, requiring expensive instruments and numerous food additives, but don’t forget that the original intention of molecular cuisine is to clarify those unclear techniques in the cooking process in a scientific way, so that cooking is reasonable. Reliance, scientific innovation, and using advanced technology to increase the “value” of food is not an end in itself.
  In fact, many affordable traditional delicacies, such as ginger milk and marinated tofu, have inadvertently used molecular cooking technology. It’s just that people used to know it but didn’t know why. They just accidentally discovered various phenomena in the cooking process and used them without exploring the scientific principles behind them. The emergence of molecular cuisine is an opportunity to enrich various traditional culinary theories and guide food innovation.

When ginger juice meets milk, the liquid becomes solid

  In Cantonese-style desserts, ginger and milk is a delicious and interesting existence-only simple ginger juice and milk are needed to collide with a tender and smooth dessert with a pudding texture. Mixing two liquids together can produce a semi-solid. This change may be very mysterious to the ancients, but it is not difficult for today’s scientists——Martin, a Norwegian. While being conquered by the delicious taste of ginger and milk, he also studied The mechanism of “liquid solidification” is understood, and some tips for making ginger milk are also summarized to benefit the “handicapped party” in the kitchen.
  Martin is a Ph.D. in chemistry who likes to delve into molecular cuisine in his spare time. One day, he accidentally discovered ginger milk, a magical dessert made from three simple ingredients: ginger, milk, and sugar, on the Internet. He was very interested, so he searched for many recipes for making ginger milk. However, these recipes can be said to be different: some say to use young ginger, some say to use old ginger; some say to boil the milk, some say not to boil the milk; some say not to use pasteurized milk, Some say it doesn’t matter whether pasteurization is used; others say that ginger juice should be soaked and used immediately, milk should be raised higher and then poured in quickly at one time, more sugar can make the finished product firmer, and adding a few drops of vinegar will help In forming…
  So, what is the right way to do it?
  Martin consulted the literature and found that the reason why ginger milk coagulates is because ginger contains rennet called ginger protease. Ginger protease can only work on the casein in milk at a temperature of 60-65°C (63°C is the best), and the ginger protease will be rapidly inactivated if the temperature is too high or too low. Therefore, when making ginger milk, it is best to control the temperature of ginger juice and milk within the range of 60-65°C. It is necessary to use an accurate kitchen thermometer.
  Secondly, after being “baptized” by ginger protease, cow casein needs calcium ions to “bridge and match” and connect with each other to form a gel. Therefore, using milk with higher calcium content to make ginger milk has a higher probability of success.
  Thirdly, even if ginger protease is at room temperature, half of it will be inactivated after 20 minutes. That’s because ginger also contains polyphenol oxidase—yes, the same “pesky” that causes apple flesh to turn yellow quickly after peeling. With the help of polyphenol oxidase, oxygen in the air turns the bisphenols in ginger juice into diquinones, which destroy ginger protease. Many people know that vitamin C is an “expert” in preventing apple pulp from turning yellow. Some vendors who sell fresh-cut fruits will soak apple slices in vitamin C solution before packaging. Vitamin C blocks the formation of diquinones, preventing further damage. In the same way, vitamin C can also be used in the production of ginger milk – if you can’t make ginger juice for immediate use, you can add a few drops of vitamin C after soaking the ginger juice to keep the ginger protease fresh.

Vitamin C is an “expert” in preventing apple pulp from turning yellow

  Martin also mentioned that kiwifruit and papaya also have their own unique rennet, which is different from ginger protease, which likes an environment of 63°C. Their optimum temperatures are 40°C and 70°C, respectively. With these scientific data, you can not only make ginger milk, but also kiwi fruit milk and papaya milk.
  For the suggestion of “raising the milk higher and then pouring it quickly at once”, Martin thinks it is reasonable: on the premise of avoiding stirring, raising it higher and pouring it faster may make the raw materials mix faster and more evenly , which favors gel formation. As for choosing old or tender ginger, whether pasteurized milk can be used, whether sugar and vinegar affect the molding process, and what is the golden ratio of milk and ginger juice, Martin has not yet had time to study. Perhaps, you can try to be a molecular cooking chef, experiment in the kitchen yourself, and find out the rules behind making ginger milk.
  Molecular cuisine technology combines food science and culinary art, which can change the shape, taste, and appearance of food to a large extent, and bring people a good food experience. . Today, domestic chefs have developed some “molecular Chinese cuisine” with the help of molecular cuisine knowledge. In the future, Chinese food and science are bound to spark more and more sparks!