As Nathan is fond of saying, Modernist cuisine doesn’t bring science into the kitchen; science has always been in the kitchen. Modernist cuisine takes the ignorance out of the kitchen. Watch the video above to see the latest episode of MDRN KTCHN, in which our Director of Applied Research, Scott Heimendinger, explains the ins and outs of Modernist cuisine.
The Microbiology of Raw Cookie Dough
In May 2009, an outbreak of foodborne illness sickened at least 80 people across 30 states; it put 35 people in the hospital. The source of that outbreak was raw, store-bought cookie dough.
To better understand the risk of getting sick from undercooked foods, its important to know a little about the mechanics of foodborne illnesses. They almost always fall into one of three categories:
- The first category is a non-invasive infection. This is when pathogens from the food get into your gut and continue living there, but without penetrating the lining. Tapeworms are typically non-invasive, as are certain kinds of bacteria, which may nevertheless secrete toxins that make you ill.
- The second variety of foodborne illness is an invasive infection. This occurs when pathogens migrate from the gut into the blood or other organs where they can wreak havoc and secrete toxins. Some delightful examples include the parasitic trichinella worm and many strains of bacteria including Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli.
- The third category is food poisoning. People sometimes apply this term broadly to any kind of foodborne illness, but food poisoning actually refers specifically to the poisoning of the body by toxins that bacteria have released inside the food before you eat it. Because these toxins are already present before you start cooking, food poisoning typically sets in quickly following a contaminated meal, whereas foodborne infections take a bit of time for bacteria to reproduce inside your body. Botulism, the biggest fear of home-canners everywhere, is one well-known example of food poisoning.
E. coli, the invasive infection responsible for the May 2009 outbreak, lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Like other bacteria, E. coli are tiny, being about one-thousandth of a millimeter across and only two to three times that in length. It would take 1.5 trillion of these germs to balance a small paperclip. But what E. coli lacks in size, it makes up for in notoriety. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but one in particular, E. coli O157:H7, has become infamous for its role in foodborne outbreaks, including contaminated milk, ground beef, spinach, and alfalfa.
Another common source of invasive infection is salmonella, which, although it wasnt to blame in the 2009 cookie-dough outbreak, really is as dangerous as most people imagine. But here, too, confusion reigns over the true source of contamination. Salmonella bacteria do not live in chicken meat (muscle tissue), the source most commonly fingered as the culprit. Instead, the bacteria normally live in the intestinal tracts and feces of chickens and can contaminate the meat during slaughter and processing (except S. enterica, which can infect hen ovaries and contaminate intact eggs regardless of fecal contact). The poultry industry has made enormous strides in containing contamination, and chickens are far from alone in spreading the disease. In 2008, for instance, U.S. investigators traced a major outbreak of salmonella to tainted peanut butter and other peanut-containing foods.
Certain brands of raw cookie dough, which are labeled for raw consumption, such as cookie dough chunks in store-bought ice creams, are safe to eat raw. But even when safe handling practices are followed, eating homemade raw cookie dough, or store-bought cookie dough that is intended to be baked, will always carry some risk.
If you want to avoid a stomach acheor worsemuster all your willpower and wait for those cookies to emerge from the oven.
For more on the microbiology of food and food-related illness, check out our tips on Food52.com.
Our Guide to Picking the Perfect Pan
Are you looking for a new set of pans this holiday season? Scott Heimendinger, our Director of Applied Research, explains the science behind heat diffusion in stove-top cooking on MDRN KTCHN on CHOW.com. The end result: Thickness is more important than material, no matter how shiny and expensive those copper pans may be. He also gives you a few work-arounds for uneven stoves.
Puffy Snacks You Can Make at Home!
Everyone loves the crunch of a tasty puffed snack, but we don’t see many of the homemade variety. In our newest video from MDRN KTCHN on CHOW.com, we bring you an easy recipe for puffed rice snacks using your microwave. Watch the video above as our Director of Applied Research, Scott Heimendinger, demonstrates the method and explains how and why it works.
For another slightly more involved recipe for puffed snacks, including tips for puffing success, take a look at our Cheese Puffs recipe in the recipe library, which can also be found in Modernist Cuisine alongside other puffed-food recipes such as crab crackers, chickpeas, and chicken feet. Our new book, Modernist Cuisine at Home includes recipes for puffed pork skin and chicken skin too!
Get Gourmet Pizza in Your Home Oven
Have you ever waited six hours for pizza dough to rise, only to have the pizza burn in the oven while the crust remains stubbornly uncooked? This week on MDRN KTCHN, Scott Heimendinger, our Director of Applied Research, and CHOW.com bring you tips for saving time and circumventing just such disasters. Scott explains one of our favorite tricks: baking on a steel sheet. He also shares his own recipe for pizza dough using an encapsulated leavening agent. In Modernist Cuisine at Home, we include many recipes for pizza dough, sauces, and ideas for toppings. With all the different combinations, you could eat pizza for a month and never eat the same thing twice!
Interested in trying out Scott’s technique? Click here for information on using encapsulated leavening agents.
What to Expect from Modernist Cuisine at Home and the Modernist Cuisine Team
It has been an exciting two weeks since the debut of Modernist Cuisine at Home. We have been happily overwhelmed with the photos and first reactions that readers have shared on eGullet, Twitter, Facebook, and our own site. Whether you are a proud new owner of the book or interested in learning more about it, we want you to know that we’re here to help.
The fundamental idea behind Modernist Cuisine at Home is the same as that in Modernist Cuisine : The Art and Science of Cooking, we believe that to achieve the best tasting food, it really helps to understand what happens to food as it cooks and what kitchen equipment provides the most precise results. In the book, we walk you through a wide range of modern equipment, ingredients, and techniques. You’ll find over 400 recipes, including all-new approaches to culinary standards, such as crispy Korean-style chicken wings and microwaved beef jerky. You’ll also find in the new book a few of the greatest hits from Modernist Cuisine that we adapted to be simpler for home cooks. If you haven’t yet tried our caramelized carrot soup or pistachio gelato recipes, you’re in for a treat. Every recipe in the book passed our stringent taste tests.
Once you start cooking, be sure to come back to modernistcuisine.com to share your results, get tips, and post any questions you have to our forum in the Cooks portion of the site. You can see modernist techniques in action on our MDRN KTCHN video series on CHOW.com. Our blog and e-mail newsletters will address common challenges and provide peeks behind the scenes in our cooking lab. We’ll also inspire you on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
We hope our books continue to bring the benefits of modern cooking into more homes and restaurants all over the world. Even though Modernist Cuisine at Home has only been on sale for two weeks, it is already in more than 8,000 kitchens, so the word is clearly spreading about the delicious results you can get from Modernist cooking. In fact, with more than a quarter of our print run sold, we are starting to wonder whether we underestimated how many others share our passion. We hope, but cannot promise, the book will be available through the holidays. What do you think?
The Amazing Pressure Cooker
In the third installment of MDRN KTCHN, our very own Scott Heimendinger and CHOW.com team up to bring you a video all about pressure cooking. Discover how it works, when it was invented, and how baking soda caramelizes root vegetables in 20 minutes.
Now that you can’t wait to dust off your pressure cooker, get the Caramelized Carrot Soup recipe and watch a demonstration by Scott here. Other pressure cooker recipes in our recipe library include Garlic Confit and Vegetable Risotto. For even more recipes using pressure cookers to make everything from stocks to carnitas to marinara sauce, check out our new book, Modernist Cuisine at Home!
Sous Vide Run Down on MDRN KTCHN
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.
More Modernist Cuisine Videos from Chow.com
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.