The moment that the art of choice, preparation, serving and delight of good food becomes science.
The way of food preparation has not changed much during history. The kitchens are mainly equipped with the same cooking vessels that the cookers used centuries ago. Many people have heard the term molecular gastronomy. Although they were impressed with the term, none of them ever tried to figure out what it really means. Two physicists, Nicholas Kurti and Hervé This, applied the term for the first time in1988. The term refers to the science that studies the physical and chemical procedures that take place during cooking.
Nowadays, the term is very often associated with chefs that use liquid nitrogen, pipettes, edible jelly, kitchen blowers and similar kind of equipment, that is usually used in a laboratory. Molecular gastronomy, studies the conductivity and transfer of heat , the natural charachteristics of food and their interaction with liquids, the stability of flavour, the problems of dilution and the relation between texture and flavour. The comprehension of the cooking science may lead to apparently unsual dishes which are unexpectedly delicious. It is often about the creation of something completely new from the application of things that are already known. Some examples of molecular gastronomy dishes are an apple miniature that tastes of meat, iceball cocktails, fake caviar made of olive oil, transparent ravioli, vegetable spaghetti, instant ice cream and many others.
Although molecular gastronomy is based on science, it has still an interconnection with the art of cooking.
One technique is the creation of spheres. It is about a reaction between calcium alginate and salt of alginic acid, an ingredient which comes from seaweed and gives us some kind of jelly. For example, in order to make an apple caviar, we mix calcium alginate and apple juice. Then we mix salt of alginic acid with water and we let it rest all night long, so that the air bubbles will be removed. Finally, we pour slowly the mixture of calcium alginate and apple juice to the mixture of alginic acid and water. The ions of calcium alginate polymerize the alginic ones and a jelly is created.
One of the goals of molecular gastronomy is to bring down old cooking myths. For example: adding some drops of olive oil during boiling prevents spaghetti from sticking together. Wrong. Why? Because the olive oil is not united with the water , which means that the olive oil remains always on surface. Instead of olive oil, pour into it something acid, such as vinegar or lemon, which prevent the disconnection of the starch molecules and reduces the possibilities of sticking together.
So, from a scientific point of view, cooking is the molecular obedience of the ingredients, in well-known procedures, which describe the behaviour of the solids, the liquids and the gases. However, the chemical reactions that make food more tasteful or not, are still not well-known. That is why, we trust the traditional recipes and the criteria of smell and flavour, instead of scientific protocols.
With molecular gastronomy, the most fragile flavours can be maintained and improved with a small contribution of science. The subtle scent of the rose leaves for example, can be isolated, by using the distillation in air gap. According to this technique, which is used in labs, the liquid boils in low heat by using low pressure, that prevents the destruction of flavour molecules by heat.
Lyophilization is one of the latest methods that is used in experimental restaurants and it increases to a large extent the flavour and the texture in every bite. Food is frozen, without being shrinked. In that way, the strawberry maintains its shape and its texture is crispy and <<powdery>>, while when it comes in contact with our saliva, strawberry has quite a strong flavour.
Some other techniques that are used in molecular cuisine is the use of emulsifiers, aromatic elements-gases that are maintained inside the food, instant freezing, creation of new textures (such as jelly, foams, transparent food that looks like glass), dishes that are cooked in microwaves that are hot of frozen in the external and the opposite in the enternal etc.
This techniques make use of liquid nitrogen, centrifugation, food dehumidifiers, syringes, ultrasound, vacuum machines, phmeters, distilleries etc.
Some of the ingredients that are used are sugar substitutes, emulsifiers like soy lecithin and xanthan gym, enzymes like transglutaminase, or in other words meat glue, carbon dioxide for the creation of bubbles and foams, hydrocolloids like starch, gelatin, pectin etc.
Now matter how you may call it, the scientifically advanced cooking, enables chefs to present dishes that are entertaining, theatrical, creative and astonish with their appearance, their smell, but mainly with their taste.