Cocktails in ice spheres. Caviar made of olive oil. Disappearing transparent raviolis. Sound cool? Well these are all examples of Molecular Gastronomy. Molecular Gastronomy blends physics and chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food. The result? New and innovative dining experiences. The term Molecular Gastronomy is commonly used to describe a style of cuisine in which chefs explore culinary possibilities by borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry. Formally, the term molecular gastronomy refers to the scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. Molecular gastronomy seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena.
Many modern chefs do not accept the term molecular gastronomy to describe their style of cooking and prefer other terms like "modern cuisine", "modernist cuisine", "experimental cuisine" or "avant-garde cuisine". Heston Blumenthal says molecular gastronomy makes cuisine sound elitist and inaccessible, as though you need a degree in rocket science to enjoy it. In the end, molecular gastronomy or molecular cuisine - or whatever you want to call this cooking style - refers to experimental restaurant cooking driven by the desire of modern cooks to explore the world's wide variety of ingredients, tools and techniques. Molecular gastronomy research starts in the kitchen where chefs study how food tastes and behaves under different temperatures, pressures and other scientific conditions.
THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
Molecular gastronomy experiments have resulted in new innovative dishes like hot gelatins, airs, faux caviar, spherical ravioli, crab ice cream and olive oil spiral. Ferran Adria from El Bulli restaurant used alginates to create his system of spherification which gelled spheres that literally burst in your mouth. Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck restaurant discovered the ability of fat to hold flavor and created a dish that had three flavors -basil, olive and onion - with each taste being perceived in sequence. The potential of molecular gastronomy is enormous. It is revolutionizing traditional cooking and transforming dining into a surprising emotional and sensory experience. Watch the video below to get an idea of the endless possibilities!
IS IT SAFE?
When people hear the words molecular gastronomy or molecular cuisine for the first time they often mistakenly view it as unhealthy, synthetic, chemical, dehumanizing and unnatural. This is not surprising given that molecular gastronomy often relies on fuming flasks of liquid nitrogen, led-blinking water baths, syringes, tabletop distilleries, PH meters and shelves of food chemicals with names like carrageenan, maltodextrin and xanthan. My wife's first reaction when I surprised her with a liquid pea spherical raviolo was to say "Can I eat this? Is this safe? Why don't YOU try it first?". The truth is that the "chemicals" used in molecular gastronomy are all of biological origin. Even though they have been purified and some of them processed, the raw material origin is usually marine, plant, animal or microbial. These additives have been approved by EU standards and are used in very, very small amounts. The science lab equipment used just helps modern gastronomy cooks to do simple things like maintaining the temperature of the cooking water constant (water bath) , cooling food at extremely low temperatures fast (liquid nitrogen) or extract flavor from food (evaporator). There is still some debate out there about the healthiness of molecular gastronomy but I personally believe there are far bigger health issues in the everyday food we consume. In the end, you are not going to be eating liquid pea spheres every day anyway.
WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ENJOY MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY?
Are you passionate about cooking? Do you have a creative mind? Are you analytical and logical? Then molecular gastronomy could likely become your passion. Molecular gastronomy cooking requires a good balance of left and right brain thinking. Most of the molecular cuisine recipes need to be followed precisely. Steps need to be followed in a very specific sequence or the whole dish may be a disaster. Quantities are measured in fractions of a gram or fractions of a percentage. Slight variations in food acidity levels could be disastrous for some dishes. I learned that the hard way when making caviar for the first time as I replaced melon with pomegranate. At the same time, molecular gastronomy is about experimenting, being curious, using intuition, playing with emotions and creating a multi-sensory dinning experience with artistic dish presentations, textures, aromas, flavors and even sounds. The plate is your canvas! Then again, do you even need a plate? How about serving soup in a tea cup or a sphere in a bended spoon or a salad in a parmesan basket or a bruschetta on a titanium mesh? Ok, maybe the titanium mesh is too much. We’ll leave that for the expensive molecular gastronomy restaurants.
MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY SHOULD BE ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE
If you are not a professional chef with a fully equipped kitchen you can still enjoy molecular gastronomy at home without spending too much money. Many molecular cuisine recipes don't require special equipment or "chemicals". With as little as $50 you can get some basic molecular gastronomy substances to start making spheres, airs and gels. Want to cook with liquid nitrogen? That gets a bit more expensive but is a lot of fun. You'll have to spend about $500 and carefully follow some safety procedures.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Want to try some molecular gastronomy? The major challenge is finding good molecular cuisine recipes with complete detailed explanations and good photos that show how finished dishes are supposed to look. Once you learn the basic principles behind each recipe and technique you can be creative and come up with your own dishes.
MOLECULARRECIPES.COM – YOUR COMPLETE MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY RESOURCE
As you’ll discover, many molecular gastronomy chefs are protective of their creation and will only give you truncated versions of their recipes.That's why I created this molecular gastronomy website. We’ve tested these recipes at home and after quite a bit of trial and error have come up with some pretty exciting results. We’ve also been able to adjust some of the recipes so that you can re-create them affordably with inexpensive equipment and ingredients. We’ve also perfected some tips and techniques to get the best results with molecular recipes and successfully create your own signature dishes. Best of all we have affordable ways of acquiring or substituting molecular gastronomy equipment and substances and beautiful pictures of finished dishes to inspire your creativity. I welcome professional chefs, amateur cooks and scientists to use this molecular gastronomy website to collaborate in building this community to make molecular gastronomy more accessible and affordable to everyone. People should not be deprived of the multi sensory pleasures of molecular gastronomy.