A revolution is underway in the art of cooking. Just as Nouvelle cuisine upended centuries of traditions and revealed to a delighted world the joys of innovating in the kitchen, Modernist cuisine has in recent years blown through the boundaries of the culinary arts. Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet scientists, inventors, and accomplished cooks in their own right have created the ultimate guide to this movement that embraces high-tech and science-inspired techniques for preparing food that ranges from the otherworldly to the sublime.
Volume 1 History and Fundamentals
Chapter 2: Microbiology for Cooks
Chapter 3: Food Safety
Chapter 4: Food and Health
Chapter 5: Heat and Energy
Chapter 6: The Physics of Food and Water
Volume 1 begins with a historical survey that places the emergence of the Modernist cooking movement in its proper context, as just the latest in a series of transformational shifts in the culinary arts. The volume continues with a practical and authoritative walk through the basic biology of foodborne illnesses, how they spread, and how careful cooks can exploit the latest slow-cooking techniques without putting themselves or their guests at risk. Next, a provocative chapter on food and health examines many of the most common beliefs about what we should and should not eat to stay healthy and finds disappointingly few that have survived careful scrutiny by the scientific community. The volume concludes with two chapters that every cook should read to understand the two most fundamental ingredients of all cooking: heat and water. In the kitchen, we use these every day, in every dish. Yet even the most experienced cooks find themselves occasionally frustrated or bewildered by the unexpected ways in which heat moves into and through foods, and by the genuinely odd chemical and physical properties of water. Written explicitly for cooks, these chapters present the fundamental science every culinary enthusiast should master. The engaging writing and highly illustrated format bring the subjects to life.
Volume 2 Techniques and Equipment
Chapter 8: Cooking in Modern Ovens
Chapter 9: Cooking Sous Vide
Chapter 10: The Modernist Kitchen
Volume 2 covers the methods and machines of cooking, from ancient to avant-garde. The Traditional Cooking chapter of nearly 150 pages provides a new view inside the old approachesfrom grilling to smoking, stir-fry to sauteto reveal what is really going on. This view through the scientists eyes debunks many long-held misconceptions about traditional ways of cooking. The authors show, for example, why:
- boiling often cooks faster than steaming;
- adjustable grills cook just as hot as fixed grills;
- expensive pots and pans are not worth it;
- baking is really all about drying the food;
- deep-fried food tastes best when the oil is older;
- traditional methods require both tremendous skill and good luck to achieve perfect doneness.
The chapter on cooking in modern ovens offers the first complete guide to cooking in combi ovens and watervapor ovens for both professionals and home cooks. (It also includes several fun and only slightly dangerous tricks you can perform with a microwave.)
Next come two comprehensive chapters on new approaches that give cooks far greater control over two crucial variables, heat and humidity, that separate success from failure in cooking. In Cooking Sous Vide, the authors present the first encyclopedic guide to this increasingly popular technique in which food is vacuumpacked in bags then cooked in a water bath or a watervapor oven. More than 80 pages are devoted to discussing the benefits of this highly flexible way to cook as well as its special safety considerations. Everything the advanced cook needs to know to get started cooking with water baths is included.
Chapter 10, The Modernist Kitchen, presents nearly 200 pages of highly illustrated explanations of specialized equipment that has moved from scientific laboratories to professional kitchens. Centrifuges, freeze dryers, rotary evaporators, homogenizers, vacuum filters, and many others are covered, all based on the first-hand experience of the authors and their team of research cooks in using such equipment to develop innovative dishes at the The Cooking Lab. Through example recipes and illustrated step-by-step techniques, the chapter opens the door to a whole new world of culinary possibilities, a world until now inhabited by just a handful of top chefs around the world.
Volume 3 Animals and Plants
Chapter 12: Plant Foods
Before it is meat, it is muscle. In the living animal, muscles convert chemical energy into mechanical activities such as running, swimming, or flying. In the kitchen, these activities have come to an end, but their influence lives on in surprising ways. The chefs primary goal when serving a meat or seafood dish is to maximize juiciness, tenderness, and flavor. But what is juiciness and what are the factors that determine it? What exactly is meant by flavor and where does it come from? As we will see, there are many common misconceptions based on an incomplete understanding of the unique biochemical and molecular nature of meat that can lead cooks astray, or at least prevent them from making the most of a cut or fillet. Chapter 11 on Meat and Seafood dedicates more than 250 pages to explaining the fundamental nature of muscle and other edible animal parts, how they are transformed into food, and what happens as they are cooked, cured, marinated, or smoked. Dozens of parametric recipes, example recipes, and step-by-step how-to features guide cooks through the best strategies for cooking and help them avoid common mistakes and improve their technique, thus empowering them further to experiment and innovate. Chapter 12 on Plant Foods is dedicated to poor, defenseless plants. Without hides or bones for fortification and anchored in the soil, it seems theyre no match for those of us who would make their tender shoots into a light lunch. But because they’re so vulnerable, plants have evolved elaborate physical and chemical blockades to dissuade us and other fauna from serving ourselves. They say it was a brave man who tried the first oyster, but who do you suppose first had the notion to try an artichoke? Or cyanide-laced cassava root? The very cells of most plantsbolstered by stiff, indigestible fiber, or protective toxinsput up a fight.Fruits are the exception. Theres a reason theyre sweet and ready to eat: they evolved so that animals will eat them, then disperse their undigested seeds. But usually people alter the foods that we classify as vegetables, starches, and grains before they serve them, whether by steaming or boiling them, salting or pickling, frying or microwavingor even giving them a quick plunge in liquid nitrogen. All these methods of preparing and preserving produce and grains are covered in this volume, which includes instructions for:
- cooking produce and meats sous vide;
- forming sausages and other forcemeats;
- making risottos and pastas;
- making batters and breadings;
- salting, pickling, fermenting, dehydrating, smoking and freeze-drying produce;
- brining and curing meats and seafoods;
- making puffed snacks, crispy skins, and fruit and vegetable chips;
and much more.
Volume 4 Ingredients and Preparations
Chapter 14: Gels
Chapter 15: Emulsions
Chapter 16: Foams
Chapter 17: Wine
Chapter 18: Coffee
Modern cooks use ingredients in ways earlier generations would never have imagined, and new ingredients such as gelling and thickening agents, emulsifiers, and foams have found their way into every corner of Modernist cuisine. In its 400 pages, Volume 4 goes beyond traditional ingredients to explain thickeners, gels, emulsions, and foams the real keys to both traditional and Modernist cooking at the highest level. Hundreds of parametric recipes and example recipesmany adapted from the worlds most famous and innovative chefsilluminate the best options for making classic dishes, such as stocks and sauces, in modern ways and for preparing Modernist creations that go well beyond what classical techniques can produce. Noodles made of gel, feather-light foams, mussles in transparent spheres of their own brine, eggless mayonnaise … the chapters in this volume unlock doors and point the way to endless possibilities. In keeping with the highly illustrated approach the authors have taken elsewhere in the book, each tricky step is not just described but also shown, through thousands of photographs. Step by step, photo by photo, readers who learned in volume 3 how to make the perfect hamburger patty (its all in the grinding) now see how to prepare perfect slices of their favorite cheese to top it. Ever want to infuse liquid smoke into lettuce or noodles? Or cook an egg to the perfect custard texture? The instructions are all there. Volume 4 includes parametric formulas, illustrated step-by-step techniques, and example recipes for:
- whole, pickled, and preserved eggs;
- custards; blended and separated egg gels;
- tofus and other protein curds;
- cold gels, coating gels, hot gels, and fluid gels;
- using prehydrated starches and hydrocolloids to thicken hot and cold liquids;
- making milks and creams;
- making edible films;
and many, many more.
Volume 5 Plated Dish Recipes
Chapter 20: Tough Cuts
Chapter 21: Poultry
Chapter 22: Fish
Chapter 23: Shellfish
Chapter 24: Eggs
Chapter 25: Starches
Chapter 26: Fruits and Vegetables
The recipes you’ll find in this book are quite different from those you see in most cookbooks. The point of Modernist Cuisine is that were looking at cooking from new angles, with a distinct interest in subjects not commonly covered in culinary books. So it stands to reason that our recipes look somewhat different from those in other cookbooks. The goal here is to break down recipes in such a way that you better understand not just the what (ingredients) and the how (methods), but also the why. To accomplish this, we needed a new format for presenting recipes.Think of this as a textbook, with recipes used in the way that other textbooks might use example problems or case studies. The compact, modular form in which we present our recipes makes them a broader resource for instruction and inspiration. They’re meant to help you both understand the practical applications of culinary principles and visualize how you might apply those principles in other contexts.In these four volumes, youll find a huge variety of recipes and foods. Although we are telling the story of Modernist cuisine, our recipes are not limited to cutting-edge dishes. Instead, we cover everything from American regional barbecue to innovative flavored gels. The point is not to tout modern approaches or science for its own sake but to illustrate how the principles of Modernist cooking can, and should, be applied across a wide range of recipes.