In the second installation of MDRN KTCHN on CHOW.com, our Director of Applied Research, Scott Heimendinger, focuses on sous vide cooking. Watch the video above to see Scott demonstrate the process and explain the science behind this technique. Want to try it out yourself? We have many sous vide recipes in Modernist Cuisine as well as Modernist Cuisine at Home. We also have a few recipes in our online Recipe Library, including ones for short ribs, rare beef jus, and light and dark turkey meat.
We’re proud to announce the brand-new CHOW.com video series, MDRN KTCHN, starring our very own Scott Heimendinger! Every Sunday, Scott will demonstrate a recipe or technique from Modernist Cuisine or Modernist Cuisine at Home. In the coming weeks, MDRN KTCHN will show you how to make perfectly melted nacho cheese, walk you through sous vide cooking, and much more.
We’ve also partnered again with CHOW.com’s series CHOW Tips. In this latest installment, Scott demonstrates how you can bake a cake in your microwave using a whipping siphon. For the recipe, click here.
The “stall” is widely known among serious barbecuers. Well into cooking, the temperature of uncovered meat stops rising and may even fall slightly before it climbs again. Most barbecue experts say this stall occurs when connective tissue in the meat softens and fat starts to render, which does occur, but it doesn’t cause the stall.
The stall is quite real, but it is not due to softening collagen as the graph below shows. We cooked two briskets side-by-side in a convection oven, which mimicked the air temperature in a smoker, but was much more consistent and thus better suited for the experiment. We left one brisket uncovered (blue curve) and vacuum sealed the other (green curve). Sensors measured the core temperature of each brisket as well as the dry-bulb (black curve) and wet-bulb (red curve) air temperatures in the oven.
The stall clearly occurred in the uncovered brisket 2-4 hours into cooking as the wet-bulb temperature in the oven fell. The stall ended after about four hours because the surface of the brisket had dried out enough that it was above the wet-bulb temperature. The temperature of the vacuum-sealed brisket, in contrast, rose steadily to the oven’s set point in about three hours. Any effect due to collagen or fat rendering would occur in both briskets, but we see the stall only in the uncovered one.
Early in the cooking, the wet-bulb temperature rose as the uncovered brisket evaporated, increasing the relative oven humidity to about 72%. But the humidity then began to drop as evaporation could no longer keep pace with the air venting out of the oven. By the eight-hour mark, the humidity was below 50%, and the wet-bulb temperature was down almost 10 °C / 18 °F from its peak.
The core of the uncovered brisket stalled. In this test, we left the brisket dry, but if we had slathered it with sauce periodically as many barbecue chefs do, we could prolong the stall by keeping the surface wet.
Sous vide cooking is, in our opinion, by far the best way to achieve the perfect cooking rate necessary for great barbecue. We barbecued in two distinct steps: smoking to impart the smoke flavor, followed by sous vide cooking to achieve the optimum texture and done-ness.
Smoking before a long sous vide cooking step has the advantage of proteins remaining intact and able to react readily with smoke. Smoked food continues to change while being cooked sous vide: its pellicle darkens, the rind becomes firmer, and the smoky flavor mellows.
The alternative, of course, is to smoke the food after cooking it sous vide. This also works well, but a longer smoking time is required to develop a robust smoked flavor and appearance. This is because precooking denatures a large fraction of the proteins in a cut of meat or a piece of seafood, which leaves the flesh less reactive to the smoke.
Whichever approach you choose to take and you should try both ways to judge the differences yourself the remarkable texture that is the hallmark of sous vide cooking, and the consistency it brings to smoking, makes it the best way to smoke meats and seafood. Alternatively, you could substitute for the sous vide step a combi oven, CVap oven, or low-temperature steamer.
You can find our recipe for Smoked Dry-Rub Pork Ribs here.
–This post was adapted from Modernist Cuisine. Too see what others think of our pastrami, see the Steven Colbert clip below, and click here to read about what Steven Raichlen has to say on The Barbecue Bible.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
BY MAX and NATHAN
Dear friends and fans of Modernist Cuisine,
It has been a long and amazingly fruitful 4 1/2 years here at The Cooking Lab. You’ll soon be seeing the release of our most recent project with Nathan, Modernist Cuisine at Home. I’m thrilled to share this new transmission of modern cooking with the passionate food world. I believe it will provide yet another shift in the perception of culinary education and the power of delicious food.
How incredibly fast time passes by. 3122 pages, 1927 recipes and over 230,000 photos later, Our projects have been gifted with more recognition and respect than we could ever have imagined. We’ve won the praise of some of our greatest culinary heroes: Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Heston Blumenthal, Grant Achatz, Ferran Adria, Charlie Trotter, Wylie Dufresne, David Kinch, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Marcus Samuelsson, and Alain Ducasse, among a very humbling list of culture changing icons. We’ve won Gourmand, IACP and James Beard Awards. We’ve built a community around the heart of the project; to embrace the many roles of food through a more precise and rigorous understanding of culinary art and science. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished.
With the completion of Modernist Cuisine at Home, this seems an appropriate time for me to move forward. As a team, we have accomplished everything, and beyond, what we set out to do with these comprehensive projects. Change is exhilarating and challenging, but this journey is all about the search for refining a meaningful vision of life. That can’t happen without accepting how important change is to that search. We are all responsible for our personal choices and I intend on taking this opportunity to explore the realm of possibilities that this fragile and precious life has to offer.
I have been the recipient of some profound lessons from some very patient teachers in this lifetime. I did just turn 30 after all and the most perceptible thing I have going for me is a pretty wild tangle of silvered hair standing atop my overstimulated brain. Wisdom indeed! …The road ahead is intrinsically connected to those lessons. Land IS food and needs to be protected. Food is our life-force and should be revered with far more consideration. Change begins in the mind and the heart but the mind cannot function without sustenance and the heart cannot grow without sharing the beauty of experience. I look forward to facing these challenges through my work with the culinary world. Every piece has its value, whether it’s high-end gastronomy, modern farming or ingenious solutions for basic nutrition.
I will always be part of this Modernist Cuisine family; a colorful mixture of open minded individuals, artists, scientists, knife wielding culinary crazies (chefs),engineers and people of the pen. I will miss the daily rituals with my team, “the routine of the unpredictable” as I like to think of it. I will remember the many discoveries that I’ve shared: the profound (centrifuged pea “butter”) and the absurd (tossing hot oil in a cut-in-half wok towards my face hurts!) and everything in between. I greatly look forward to witnessing their future successes.
Sam “The Man”, keep on cracking the whip and making the best gelato on earth. I am so proud of the leadership role you have grown into and embraced these past three years. Anj, don’t let those boys off the hook, you are the powerful “Lady of the House”, you have a beautiful palate and we’ll be sharing coffee honey in Kerala before long. Zhulander, continue to be resourceful and inventive. I can’t wait to see your full line of smoky pork product interpretations on supermarket shelves. Just promise me you won’t let anyone make you wear a costume. A-Ron, you have been a true example of what a young chef should aspire to. Keep your head down and stay true to the work ethic and passion you’ve demonstrated and you’ll be running your own show soon enough. Kimberly, you have an incredible vision for the future of food. I know you’ll find that perfect bridge between nutrition, taste and splendor. Mme. Krystanne, you keep that mighty engine running. You’re the coach from now on, but I hope you can let your smile shine sometimes too. Bruce, Carrie and Hatchess, thank you for being the remarkable guides of THE mission. Scott, Larissa and Ms. Lukach, good luck with the future of Modernist Cuisine and The Cooking Lab, I think they are in very good hands.
To the rest of The Cooking Lab team and for those who have already moved on, Smithy, Grant, Susan, Tracy, Christina, Biderman, Ben, Andy, Jameson and Melissa, your hard work has been so incredibly important to making this happen in the right way. Thank you. These projects could not have been possible without a tremendous amount of support and effort from many individuals.
Thank you to all of our friends at the lab who have worked alongside us since the beginning. Mike V., Ted, Nels, Laura, David N., David B., Chris L., Barcin, Zihong, Pablos, 3ric, Geoff, Ozgur, Sheing, Leo, Keith R. and all of the others, thank you for bearing with us during our learning phase. Thank you for meeting our obstacles with open minds and transforming our ideas into very real manifestations of art and education. Only at the lab could there be a day when a paleontologist fixes one of our ovens while a machinist with expertise in nuclear submarines cuts our microwave in half on a water jet.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without my external team of supporters and teachers, Kathryn and Gary, Lee, my parents, Mamie, John, Alina, Noelle, Katy, Stephanie, Albane and Marcus. Thank you for you guidance and love throughout this process.
Thank you to our readers. The people who have made Modernist Cuisine this successful are spread far and wide, across the vastest spectrum of backgrounds and geography. Without an audience of loyal people willing to invest in our books and look beyond the perceived value of food and culinary education, none of this would have been worth the effort that was put into it. You’ve been an essential key to shifting that paradigm.
Finally and above all else, I am forever grateful to Nathan. You are the very reason I’m able to share all of these memories, individual connections and future hopes. You’ve given me such an incredible combination of creative insights, resources and freedom. Thank you for giving all of us this unique possibility and trusting my ability to lead this team. Thank you for the opportunity to collaborate on this tremendous body of creative work and for all that I have been part of during my tenure under the wing of your greater vision. Thank you for your camaraderie. I will continue to grow and share from everything I have learned from you.
For the next month I will continue with my role at The Cooking Lab and try to contribute a few last worthy pieces to this eternal puzzle. We will be cooking at Charlie Trotter’s anniversary dinner on August 17th and my last official day will be September 1st, the day we perform at Bumbershoot. I hope to see you there.
À très bientôt,
About five years ago, after work had begun in earnest on my first cookbook, I reached a critical decision. It was clear that if I didn’t hire some more people to help me with it, I would never get it done. So I decided to start hiring a team that could help me expand the outline I had written into a complete book: Modernist Cuisine. Without that team, the project simply would not have been possible.
Of the many people who joined the Modernist Cuisine team, none made more of an impact than Maxime Bilet. Max became head chef for the project, and he threw himself into the work. He not only served as head chef but also touched almost every other part of the project. Modernist Cuisine and our forthcoming book Modernist Cuisine at Home were both group efforts, and without the skill Max showed in guiding recipe development and helping establish our distinctive visual style, the books would not have been nearly as successful.
Max was our go-to guy for culinary experiments. Hundreds of times over the past five years, an idea would come to me, like vacuum-distilling milk, or rendering fat in a pressure cooker with baking soda and my next move was always the same: contact Max. He took these crazy ideas in stride and worked with the team to try them out. Some turned out to be as silly as they sounded, but others worked or at least inspired new ideas that worked.
Once Modernist Cuisine was off to the printer, we started hosting dinners at our research kitchen for chefs and food writers. Over the course of the next year or so, many of our culinary heroes including Thomas Keller, David Chang, David Kinch, Wolfgang Puck, Pierre Hermé, Andoni Anduriz, Charlie Trotter, among many others came our lab to enjoy 25- to 30-course tasting menus alongside food critics, such as Jeffrey Steingarten and Corby Kummer, and legendary gourmands like Tim and Nina Zagat. It was of course a huge honor to serve such dignitaries, but it also gave us a taste of what it must feel like when the Michelin inspectors arrive on the night your restaurant opens.
I’ll never forget the first such dinner. As the guests were seated and the waiters brought our first dish, Max and I looked at each other, and I said, “Oh my God, what have we done?” It suddenly struck me that we were facing, together, a moment of judgment. Either we would show them that we can actually cook food that tastes as good as it looks in the photographs we have published, or we were about to make complete fools of ourselves. Max looked at me and swallowed hard. “It’ll be OK,” he said, but I could tell that he was just as daunted by the situation as I was.
In the end, Max was right; the food was even better than OK. Since then, I’ve been proud to cook many times alongside Max and the rest of our talented culinary team at The Cooking Lab. And I am proud, too, of our latest accomplishment together, a new book that makes it easy for home cooks to experience first-hand the amazing results that a Modernist approach to cooking unlocks.
You can’t work with other people without facing the fact that eventually they need to pursue their own dreams. Indeed, I myself was able to create the Modernist Cuisine enterprise only because, a number of years ago, I decided to retire from Microsoft. So, as much as I hate to see Max go, I know that it is the right move for him, and I along with everybody else at The Cooking Lab wish him the best of luck.
Amazing! Thats all I can keep repeating to myself after witnessing the result of our collaboration with Tom Douglass team and some very generous friends on June 21, 2012.
There were 40 guests, 30 courses, four brilliant guest chefs, and a team of 20 cooks, servers, and presenters. As a result, we raised more than $27,000 to be distributed among the organizations represented that evening.
Four years ago, the Modernist Cuisine team set out to write a document that captured the science of cooking so that chefs and home cooks could have a better understanding of one of the most fundamental acts of human existence: transforming food into something healthy, delicious, and beautiful. The project took on a much larger scope over the years, however, and we have had an overwhelmingly positive and open-minded response to Modernist Cuisine since it was published in March 2011.
The heart of the project was founded on the desire to enrich culinary education, eliminate boundaries, embrace interdisciplinary study, and demonstrate immense creativity.
Throughout the years, we have depended on some of the most talented chefs, scientists, farmers, community leaders, and artists to create a more complete, empowered experience of food.
There are currently two large and opposing movements in food in America. One is the detachment between food and cooking, wherein whole foods are replaced with inferior alternatives, a very real public health concern. The second is the movement toward organic, sustainable, and dynamic modern cooking, which is often inaccessible to most of the population.
A determined community of food organizations and social advocates has shown that bringing healthier, fresher foods to a larger proportion of the population is possible. Many incredible individuals and organizations are demonstrating the power of education as a means for change, including Alice Waters, FareStart, the Hunger Intervention Program, Community Kitchens, Teen Feed, Hopelink, Chefs Collaborative, Chefs Move to Schools, and more.
This past June, with the tremendous support of many individuals and organizations, we created a feast for the ages with the purpose of honoring these organizations and promoting awareness. Modernist Cuisine along with Tom Douglass team joined forces with chefs Bill Yosses of the White House, Jason Franey of Canlis, Jason Wilson of Crush, Matt Costello of the Inn at Langley, and Flynn McGarry of his up-and-coming Los Angeles pop-up.
The crowd featured 26 people who purchased tickets via an eBay auction. Special guests at the dinner were representatives of the organizations being celebrated: Katelyn Stickel from Teen Feed, Kate Murphy and Linda Berger from the Hunger Intervention Program, Dan Johnson from Farestart, Julia Martin-Lombardi from McCarver Elementary, and Kristina Kenck from Hopelink. All of them were able to address the dinners, tell their story, and share their ideas for meaningful change.
My sincere thanks go to our good friend Tom Douglas, as well as to Katie Okumura, and Alex Montgomery, all of who made this event possible.
Thank you to my amazing culinary team, Sam Fahey-Burke, Anjana Shanker, Johnny Zhu, Kimberly Schaub, Andy Nhan, Ben Hulsey, Scott Heimendinger, and Nick Gavin; our mixologists Jon Christiansen and Jonathan Biderman; our service managers Christina Miller, Maria Banchero, and Stephen Miller; and all of the dedicated stagers and volunteers that volunteered their time.
Thank you to the operational mastermind, Krystanne Kasey who helped make sure every detail was accounted for; to Tyson Stole and Rina Jordan for their beautiful photography; and to Paul Rucker for his brilliant cello improvisations during the evening.
Lastly, thank you to Nathan Myhrvold for giving our team time to collaborate with these wonderful folks and make this dream a reality.
With so much at stake in the food industry today, it was a moment of validation for so many individuals who push for pronounced and resolute change. If you can find the time, please go through the links below to read about what these different organizations are doing to educate our children and feed the less fortunate. They should be celebrated, protected, and supported with all of the resources we can offer.
We’ve taken the photos, tested the recipes, written the text, and shipped our files off to the printer. But there’s one element of Modernist Cuisine at Home we can’t do without you: we need your help selecting images for the four 8 x 10 prints we will be including with MCAH!
To vote, post one of the photos below to the social media site of your choice by clicking the button. You can vote as many times as you’d like, but remember we’re only going to include four prints in the end!
Voting will conclude at 12 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, June 22, 2012.
Voting has closed. The winners are:
Levitating Ice Cream
Camembert on Brioche
Thank you to everyone who voted!
Pressure Cooker Cutaway
Steel Oats Risotto with Snails
Levitating Ice Cream
Barley Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
Camembert on Brioche
When it comes to cooking techniques, the classics are well covered. But the latest and greatest techniques, developed by the most innovative chefs in the world, were largely undocumented until we and Chris Young, along with the rest of our team, published Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking in 2011. At six volumes and 2,438 pages, it wasnt an ordinary cookbook. Many people were skeptical that it would interest a wide audience.
As it turned out, Modernist Cuisine sold out of its first printing within weeks; it is now in its fourth printing. The book has been translated into French, German, and Spanish. It has been reviewed in thousands of news articles. Long discussion threads about the book on the eGullet Internet forum have been viewed more than 300,000 times.
We often get the question Isnt this book only for professionals? The answer is no; we wrote and designed Modernist Cuisine for anybody who is passionate and curious about cooking. As hundreds of blogs and forum postings show, many amateurs have embraced the book. Of the 1,800 or so recipes in it, probably half could be made in any home kitchen. That number rises to perhaps two-thirds or three-quarters for those willing to buy some new equipment (for cooking sous vide, for example).
The remaining recipes are indeed challenging even for professionals. We felt that many food enthusiasts would like to be on the front lines of culinary innovation and get a chance to understand the state of the art, even if they couldnt execute every recipe. At the same time, we realized that we had the right team and resources to bring the Modernist cuisine revolution to an even wider audience of home cooks by developing less complex recipes that require less expensive equipment. The result is this book, Modernist Cuisine at Home (in-stores October 8, 2012).
Although we kept Modernist Cuisine in the title, this new book is not a condensed version of its predecessor. If you want to learn about food safety, microbiology, the history of foie gras cultivation, or hundreds of other topics, Modernist Cuisine is still the book to turn to.
This book focuses on cooking equipment, techniques, and recipes. Part One details tools, ingredients, and cooking gear that we think are worth having. Equipment once available only to professional chefs or scientists is now being manufactured for the home kitchen; we encourage you to try it. But we also show you how to get by without fancy appliances, such as how to cook fish sous vide in your kitchen sink and how to cook steak in a picnic cooler.
Part Two contains 406 recipes, all of which are new. In some cases, we took popular Modernist Cuisine recipes Caramelized Carrot Soup (see page 178), Mac and Cheese (see page 310), and Striped Mushroom Omelet (see page 148)and developed simpler versions. In general, the food is less formal; youll find recipes for Crispy Skinless Chicken Wings (see page 254) and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (see page 318).
Whats the same as Modernist Cuisine is our focus on quality in both the information in the book and in the way it is presented. Youll find stunning cutaways of equipment, step-by-step photos for most recipes, and ingredients measured in grams (because every serious cook should have a scale). We use the same high-quality paper, printing, and binding that we did for Modernist Cuisine. The kitchen manual is again printed on washable, waterproof paper. We hope that in following the vision we set out to accomplish with our first book, we have created a great experience for home chefs who want an introduction to Modernist cuisine.
The late Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti is best known for conducting cooling experiments that came within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero (-459 °F / -273 °C), the temperature at which the motions within atoms cease.
A less-celebrated endeavor–but one of equal achievement in our minds–is the collection of essays on the science of food that he published with his wife, Giana, in 1988. But the Crackling Is Superb: An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society was one of the earliest efforts to bring the scrutiny of scientific minds to bear on the ordinary miracle of cooking. Along with Harold McGee, we can thank Kurti for insisting that the culinary arts are a worthy subject for science, a position that was unpopular before now.
And we do thank Kurti, by name, in a chapter we wrote for an anthology published earlier this year: The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking. Our chapter on cryo-cooked duck combines two of Kurti’s favorite themes: low-temperature physics and crispy, crackling skin. Although Kurti never visited The Cooking Lab, we couldn’t have done it without him.
Like our chapter on cryo-cooked duck, the book itself is an homage to Kurti, lovingly assembled by editors César Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden. I’m proud to say I knew César way back when he was getting a Ph.D. in food science at the University College Cork, Ireland. He applied for an internship at The Fat Duck’s Experimental Kitchen, where I was founding chef; and, even in our first brief phone conversation, his knowledge, commitment, and passion impressed me. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.
César and his colleagues collect a variety of essays and share myriad opinions. There are gastrophilic discussions of spherification, mouthfeel, and xanthan gum, along with treatises on the interactions among food, society, and ethnic cuisines, all of which integrate the senses into the eating and cooking experience.
For example, food physicist Malcolm Povey of Leeds University, who awakened me to the importance of sound in making delectable fish and chips, described the acoustical experiments by which he arrived at “the universal definition of crispiness.” Chemist and Khymos blogger Martin Lersch expounds on how and why to speed up the Maillard reaction.
Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa of Ideas in Food devote a chapter to the perfect chocolate-chip cookie dough (the secret ingredient isn’t an ingredient at all but a technique: vacuum sealing). In a closing chapter, Micheal Laiskonis, executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin, cautions against the fevered following of trends and gimmicks in science-based cooking and calls for a renewed investigation of basic processes and ingredients.
Other essay topics run the gamut from insights on familiar, beloved foodstuffs (e.g., grilled cheese, soft-boiled eggs, bacon) to explanations on more exotic fare (e.g., pig trotters, “fox testicle” ice cream). Needless to say about its 32 chapters, The Kitchen as Laboratory has something for every pastry maker, butcher, scientist, professional chef, home cook, restaurateur, and food enthusiast.
We are honored to have our work included among these fun and fascinating explorations. Kudos to César and his co-editors for building on Nicholas Kurti’s legacy, in print and in the laboratory of the kitchen.
When Wired magazine asked us if it would be possible to tweak our Olive Oil Gummy Worm recipe so that the finished product would glow in the dark, we knew we had to try. Research chef Johnny Zhu whipped up a batch that week, and when they were set, we all stood around nervously dimming lights and setting up a black light. What was there to be nervous about? We knew the science behind glow-in-the-dark success (quinine), but we always get anxious when we’re about to find out if one of our experiments is a success. We needn’t have worried though. They glowed: oh man, did they glow!
Check out the recipe on wired.com or in the June 2012 print edition to find out where we sourced the quinine. You might be surprised to learn that you have some already in your fridge or behind your wet bar.
For a step-by-step video on how to make the regular worms, see the recipe page in our library.
Nathan Myhrvold left his postdoc research with Stephen Hawking to write software and become Microsoft’s first chief technology officer. So after 14 years on the job, what could possibly pull him away from that? Nathan tells Big Think, “It is always an issue when you’re good at something to say, do I keep getting better at that thing or do I switch to something else?” Of course, for Nathan, it wasn’t just one thing. He founded a company, excavated dinosaurs, and, lucky for us, explored the art and science of cooking. Watch the video below or read the article on bigthink.com.