FAQs

Modernist Cuisine

About the Book

This is a 2,438-page book. Is there anything in cooking that it does not cover?

As we worked on the book, we kept adding more and more to it. We could have added more still, but then it never would have been done. In particular we did not cover pastry, desserts, and baked goods in Modernist Cuisine. Maybe we will do another book on those topics at some point.


Out of the 1,500 recipes in Modernist Cuisine, are there certain ones that you find yourself making again and again? Which are your favorites?

The recipe in the book that I use most is the one for scrambled eggs; I make them for myself several times a week. I never cook scrambled eggs on the stove anymore. For three scrambled eggs, I throw away one egg white (so I use two whole eggs and one egg yolk). I mix them, toss in some cheese, and then put them in a combi oven for 15 minutes at 64 °C / 165 °F. To my taste, they are perfect that way.


Is Modernist Cuisine only about exotic or unusually challenging food like you find at elBulli or The Fat Duck?

We cover a broad range of cuisine, including many familiar kinds of food. In the book you’ll find recipes for the ultimate hamburger, barbecue from the American South, curries from different regions in India, and many other traditional dishes. We do include recipes and techniques that are from (or in the style of) restaurants like elBulli, The Fat Duck, wd~50, Alinea, and others that are pushing the boundaries of cuisine. But people who ascribe to a very traditional food aesthetic should find plenty in Modernist Cuisine to engage their interests.


Can a home chef actually make the dishes in the book?

The majority of the recipes in the book can be made in a conventional home kitchen, especially if you get some fairly inexpensive additional equipment, like a digital gram scale or a water bath for sous vide cooking (the book covers what to look for when buying such gear). We decided early on, however, that we would not dumb down those recipes that illustrate the fascinating culinary applications of advanced ingredients, such as liquid nitrogen, and equipment such as centrifuges and rotor-stator homogenizers. As a result, the book offers recipes that will be exciting for anybody who loves food, regardless of whether they are an amateur at home or a top professional chef.


There’s now a digital edition of Modernist Cuisine at Home. Will there be an eBook edition of Modernist Cuisine?

Converting Modernist Cuisine into an eBook will be a massive undertaking (as if Modernist Cuisine at Home wasn’t big enough!), so we’ll allow ourselves time to learn from that experience before plunging straight into other eBook projects. We want to ensure that the Modernist Cuisine eBook experience will be as extraordinary and groundbreaking as the print editions.


Will you produce a less expensive edition, as Bloomsbury did with The Big Fat Duck Cookbook?

We have no plans to do that right now, or within the next couple years, but we would not rule it out.


Why is the book so expensive?

The six-volume set includes 2,438 pages, published on high-quality art paper (waterproof in the case of the Kitchen Manual) using advanced stochastic printing technology and including a sturdy slipcase. Such high production quality is costly to produce, but we set out to make a durable book that anyone would be proud to own. We believe that it is a good value for the price; we hope that you will agree.


Is Modernist Cuisine available in languages other than English?

Yes! Modernist Cuisine has been translated into French, German, and Spanish, and will soon be available in other European and Asian languages. We designed the layout from the start so that we can reuse the photos and tables. Nevertheless, translating a work of this size (more than 650,000 translatable words!) is a big task, and new translations will take some time to complete.


The making of Modernist Cuisine

Do you have any funny stories of experiments you tried that failed or times when something went unexpectedly wrong?

Part of the point of a book like this is that the authors failed, so you don’t have to. We tested lots and lots of things and some of it was not so great; failure is perhaps too strong a word, but we tried a lot of variations to arrive at the few that we think are the best. And in some cases we did try pretty radical things that failed at first. Nathan had this goal of making what he called an instant soufflé: a mix that you can store in an iSi whipping siphon and squirt out just before you are ready to bake it. That went through something like 150 iterations before we arrived at the final version that appears in the book [on page 4·297].

We also took some unusual approaches to photography; those really paid off, but they did involve trial and error. To get a dramatic photo of what happens when you stir-fry noodles in a wok, for example, we cut a wok nearly in half, Max put in oil and the food, and then he tossed the noodles in the air over the burner. But the oil kept sloshing out and catching fire! Hair on his arms got singed, but we got an amazing shot out of it.


A lot of experimenting was required for Modernist Cuisine. Did you make any surprising discoveries?

During the process of writing the book, we came up with explanations for many long-standing mysteries of cooking. It turns out that a lot of what goes on in cooking involves counterintuitive science. We were pretty puzzled to discover, for example, that most vegetables actually cook faster in boiling water than they do in steam. In fact, we ran some experiments to collect data for a chart that would show the opposite, that steaming is faster. But that is not what the data showed. We did the experiment several times, each time refining it to eliminate possible sources of error. Finally we convinced ourselves that boiling really is faster, and went digging through the scientific literature, where we found the answer of why this is: it has to do with a subtle phenomenon called film condensation, which we explain in the book [on pages 2·70–73].

A lot of chefs will be surprised by the results of tests we did that show that cooking meat submerged in fat, a technique known as confit, has no perceptible effect on the meat. You can steam the meat (at the same temperature and for the same time), then dress it lightly with oil, and no diner will be able to tell the difference [see page 2·129]. When Nathan tells chefs this, they invariably look at him like he’s crazy and say “You know, I don’t agree with you there.” But in this case, you don’t get to agree or disagree; it’s science!

Of all the discoveries we made, Nathan’s favorite is probably our explanation of the temperature stall (often just called the stall) that occurs when barbecuing meat. The shorthand version is that when you cook pork butt, brisket, or other large pieces of meat, the temperature rises for a while, but then stalls at a certain temperature for several hours. There is a lot of lore within the barbecue community that seeks to explain why this occurs. Some say that fat rendering is the cause; others say that it arises from the conversion of collagen to gelatin. But actually neither of these is correct. The true cause is evaporative cooling and its effect on the wet-bulb temperature, as we explain in detail in our chapter on Meat [see page 3·212]. Nathan has also written a post online that lays out the details of the mechanism behind the stall.


Purchasing

Are volumes available separately?

We wrote the book so that it is self-consistent and functions as a whole. Nearly every page includes references to material in other volumes. We have no plans to sell volumes separately.


Is Modernist Cuisine available in bookstores?

You can find online booksellers who carry the book at our Buy page and where fine books are sold.


Is Modernist Cuisine available in countries other than the United States?

Yes. Modernist Cuisine is available from Amazon sites around the world, as well as from Taschen bookstores and other retailers.


Registering Modernist Cuisine

How do I register?

Registering Modernist Cuisine is easy; have your books handy and follow click on this link. You’ll be prompted to answer a few quick questions. If you don’t already have a Modernist Cuisine account, we recommend making one on our site before you start the registration process. After you’re done answering the questions, a confirmed owner icon will appear on your member profile page on modernistcuisine.com.


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