Inside The Lab with the Modernist Cuisine Kitchen Team: Trials and Variables - Modernist Cuisine

Inside The Lab with the Modernist Cuisine Kitchen Team: Trials and Variables

MCJanuary 4, 2011

In Parts One and Two of this three-part series, I described the processes by which we developed the recipes and captured the images for Modernist Cuisine. In this final post, I will explain how one of the most tedious aspects of our job turned out to be among the most useful.

With most cookbooks, a chef must usually spend a lot of time deciphering a particular recipe in order to break down its components to the essentials. Modernist Cuisine is different in that we furnish the chef with parametric recipes and tables that provide the crucial components of a dish, and then we offer some suggested variables.

For example, a typical sausage recipe will contain meat, fat, binders, and spices calculated to specific measurements. In contrast, Modernist Cuisine provides a table that shows a ratio of meat to fat to binder, plus any other components, for different styles of sausage. Providing a ratio allows the chef to introduce his or her own preferences and tastes to create their own distinctive dish without having to reverse-engineer it from a static recipe.

These tables require a large, sometimes exhaustive, amount of data. For example, just to fill out the additives portion of the sausage table, we set up and tasted 56 variations of additives, binders, and emulsifiers, all in at least three different concentrations! For the 14 temperature grades in our egg chart, we tested the entire range of 55-80 °C / 130-176 °F, degree by individual degree. The sheer number of variables became mind-numbing at times, but the utility of this raw data is invaluable.

The hot fruit and vegetable gels table.

This series has encompassed in a nutshell what the kitchen team behind Modernist Cuisine does all day. While our work can be wearing, we think it is definitely worth the results, and we hope that you do as well. We look forward to the forthcoming release of the book and to finding new ways of pushing the boundaries of cuisine. As we discover more new and exciting things, we will post the results right here, so check back again soon.

2 Responses to “Inside The Lab with the Modernist Cuisine Kitchen Team: Trials and Variables”

  1. 56 vari­a­tions of addi­tives, binders, and emul­si­fiers in THREE dif­fer­ent con­cen­tra­tions?!. This is mindboggling! This data is priceless for real! But I can understand what you’re talking about – it took me about 6 months of daily morning practice to master the preparation of what I consider to be perfect scrambled eggs lol

  2. simone lymbery

    wow i love the depths you go to to get all the relevant information out there for people to have a look at. It’s just right up my alley as i am a food geek like you guys are

    Speak soon