Nitrogen-Dipped Burgers and Ultrasonic French Fries Stun the Senses


Modernist Cuisine Could Be Healthier

And, Beauchamp admits, the nitrogen-cooked hamburger might, in fact, be more nutritious and perhaps more appealing to "our sensory apparatus."

"The most fundamental thing about biology is that things are good or bad -- and it's much more important to avoid the dangerous than going after the good," he said. "It's good to be wary of something new."

Becky Selengut, a Seattle chef who blogs for Chef Reinvented, was skeptical after tasting pea soup prepared in a centrifuge at a tasting hosted by Myhrvold.

"I'm wary of intense manipulation of foods when it involves chemicals, expensive tools and gadgets that only .002 percent of the population has access to," she told the New York Times.

Still, after trying the pea soup, "my mind cracked open," she confessed to "It was one of the best pea soups I'd ever had."

Myhrvold's first foray into the professional food business was in 1991, when he was on the "team of the year" at the Memphis World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Later, he trained in haute cuisine in France.

His book, written with co-authors Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, is being inducted into the Gourmand Hall of Fame of Cookbooks during the Paris Cookbook Fair on March 3.

"We believe you can do a much better job of cooking when you understand science," said Myhrvold. "In some cases in the book, the science is there to satisfy curiosity. The main goal is to give insights useful in cooking."

Not only does the book explain how heat and energy work in the kitchen and the wattage of a burner or a toaster, one chapter includes a mini biography of James Watt.

"Did we need to do that? Maybe not," said Myhrvold, with the enthusiasm of a 5-year-old. "But it's kind of cool."

The six-volume, 47-pound cookbook could easily pass for a science book, dispelling many of the myths that pervade the kitchen.

Add oil to make healthier fry foods -- too little oil and the meat touches the pan and absorbs more grease. When food heats, water escapes and creates a layer of steam that lifts the food off the pan. Scrimp on the oil and the food will not make contact with the oil -- and, instead of frying, it steams and retains more oil.

He also notes that deep-fried food tastes better in when the oil is older.

Myhrvold chafes at high-end pots and pans, calling them a waste of money. The same goes for organic food.

With 3,500 photos and diagrams, the cookbook also explains why plunging food in ice water doesn't stop the cooking process; why raising the grill doesn't lower the heat; and when boiling cooks faster than steaming. And why coffee with cream stays hotter longer than when it's served black.

Modernist Cuisine Dispels Cooking Myths

An entire chapter uncovers the superstitions around food safety and government regulations.

"It is often claimed, for example, that you must cook beef, veal, or lamb to an internal cooking temperature of 63 deg C / 145 deg F to prevent food-borne illness," writes Myhrvold on his blog. "This statement is totally false. The FDA requires NO specific internal temperature for steak. Put simply, even the FDA balks at the idea of telling millions of meat-eating Americans that they cannot have their steaks pink and juicy."

Unless the meat has been punctured, the interior is sterile, according to Myhrvold. Cooks need only worry about the surface of the meat which can be contaminated with bacteria and sicken eaters.

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