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 1: History
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 7: Traditional Cooking
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 approaches—from grilling to smok­ing, stir-fry to saute—to 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:
  1. boil­ing often cooks faster than steaming;
  2. adjustable grills cook just as hot as fixed grills;
  3. expen­sive pots and pans are not worth it;
  4. bak­ing is really all about dry­ing the food;
  5. deep-fried food tastes best when the oil is older;
  6. 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 11: Meat and Seafood
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 chef’s 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 they’re 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 plants—bolstered by stiff, indi­gestible fiber, or pro­tec­tive toxins—put up a fight.Fruits are the excep­tion. There’s a rea­son they’re 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 microwaving—or 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:
  1. cook­ing pro­duce and meats sous vide;
  2. form­ing sausages and other forcemeats;
  3. mak­ing risot­tos and pastas;
  4. mak­ing bat­ters and breadings;
  5. salt­ing, pick­ling, fer­ment­ing, dehy­drat­ing, smok­ing and freeze-drying produce;
  6. brin­ing and cur­ing meats and seafoods;
  7. mak­ing puffed snacks, crispy skins, and fruit and veg­etable chips;

and much more.

Volume 4 – Ingredients and Preparations

Chapter 13: Thickeners
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 recipes—many adapted from the world’s most famous and inno­v­a­tive chefs—illuminate 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 (it’s 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:

  1. whole, pick­led, and pre­served eggs;
  2. cus­tards; blended and sep­a­rated egg gels;
  3. tofus and other pro­tein curds;
  4. cold gels, coat­ing gels, hot gels, and fluid gels;
  5. using pre­hy­drated starches and hydro­col­loids to thicken hot and cold liquids;
  6. mak­ing milks and creams;
  7. mak­ing edi­ble films;

and many, many more.

Volume 5 – Plated Dish Recipes

Chapter 19: Tender Cuts
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 we’re 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, you’ll 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.