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New books offer to bring the food science lab home
You may not aspire to the culinary theatrics performed by the wizards of modernist cuisine — transparent ravioli? edible balloons? — but your cooking probably still could benefit from a few lessons from their labs.
And learning those lessons will get a lot easier this fall when food science becomes far more home-friendly. Riding the buzz of science-driven cooking shows and hot modernist chefs like Ferran Adria and Grant Achatz, publishers are releasing two books this fall that demystify the secrets of everyday food science, such as searing meat, scrambling eggs and measuring flour.
"The Science of Good Cooking," from the test kitchens of Cook's Illustrated magazine, joins fifty basic concepts — why salt makes meat juicy, why high heat develops flavor — with 400 recipes that show you how to put those principles into practice.
Meanwhile, "Modernist Cuisine at Home," from the laboratory that produced "Modernist Cuisine," a six-volume encyclopedia of molecular gastronomy released last year, promises a bit more flair, urging home cooks to turn their blowtorches and meat injectors on comfy fare such as cheeseburgers and roast chicken.
"It used to be this obscure geeky thing, to talk about food science," says Jack Bishop, editorial director of America's Test Kitchen, which publishes Cook's Illustrated. "But now people see there's a real connection between that and the kind of cooking they do at home."
Bishop's goal is to harness this interest to create better cooks by putting the "why" behind the "how." Older, more experienced cooks may be using proper technique, but may have no idea why it works or where it comes from, he says. For young people, who may not have grown up watching someone cook, the concrete explanations will provide a foundation.
"Somebody who's been cooking a lifetime, like your grandmother, might have internalized these concepts and might have known intuitively that a roast will continue to cook when it comes out of the oven," he says. "It helps you draw those connections that you might not intuitively see unless you've been cooking for 30 years."