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The Kitchen As Laboratory

The Kitchen As Laboratory
by Cesar Vega, Job Ubbink and Erik van van der Linden
Columbia University Press, 2012

Let's call it "quantum cooking" - the application of physics and molecular bioscience and industrial technologies to the preparation of common meals and and familiar dishes with greater control and awareness of the processes involved.
The Kitchen As Laboratory

This is a culinary anthology of 33 essays by more than 50 contributing scientists engaged in the study of food presenting their findings with practical
applications for the kitchen.

"Industrial techniques such as freeze drying, centrifugation, inductive heating, and vacuum packaging, and 'new' ingredients such as native and modified starches, alginates, xanthan and gellan gums, carrageenans, and 'meat glues' are now frequently applied in the restaurant kitchen," the editors point out in their introduction.

"Their use, however, is often with only a superficial understanding of how they work," the editors point out in an introduction. We cannot truly control what we do not understand. Science helps us gain this control with answers to questions."


The subjects of these essays include the sound of foods (crunch!) as they are eaten
and how that impacts their taste and enjoyment, the taste and "mouthfeel" of soups
and sauces, how to cook poultry to perfect crispiness without overlooking, foaming
milk for espresso
, and strategies for restructuring pig trotters during cooking .

Recipes employing these new techniques and approaches are scattered throughout the
book, including Oven-Baked Meringues, Homemade Tomato Ketchup, Baked Alaska, Moussaka with Bechamel Sauce, and Gravlax.

Kitchen Lab Quiz

Sure you love a great grilled cheese sandwich but do you know the science behind
what distinguishes a good from a bad sandwich? Test your knowledge of the science and psychology with this quiz based on The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking. Click here for the answers.

1. What is the ideal pH for a good melting cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich?
a)    ~0–2.6
b)    ~2.7–3.4
c)    ~5.3–5.5
d)    ~6.8–7.0

2. The crunchy sound of an apple being bitten into is mostly transmitted:
a)    through airwaves
b)    through the skull
c)    through scent
d)    through touch

3. When onions are cooked to a dark color—resulting in a smooth texture, a sweet taste, and an intense scent—this is due to a chemical reaction known as the:
a)    tenderizer
b)    onion tears
c)    onion discoloration
d)    Maillard reaction

4. The ideal temperature range for the Maillard reaction to occur is:
a)    0–32ºF (–17–0ºC)
b)    90–98.6ºF (32–37ºC)
c)    113–158ºF (45–70ºC)
d)    230–340ºF (110–170ºC)

5. What term is used to describe the swelling of granules and an increase in
viscosity when starch is heated with water?
a)    gelatinization
b)    freezing point
c)    boiling point
d)    foaming

6. Foams are created when two incompatible phases are mixed together by dispersing one into the other. What are these phases?
a) gas into liquid
b) ice into gas
c) steam into water
d) oil and water

7. Before the invention of refrigeration, people routinely cured foods by drying, smoking, brining, salting, marinating, immersing them in alcohol, or fermenting them. What do all these techniques have in common?
a)    they kill microorganisms in food either by removing water or by changing the acidity
b)    they involve immersion in water
c)    they could be done only by specialists outside the home
d)    they were invented by the Vikings

8. Heat transfer refers to the motion of heat, a form of energy, through or near food. Which of these is a type of heat transfer?
a)    radiation
b)    conduction
c)    convection
d)    all of the above

9. What popular childhood treat is made by exploiting the concept of the “glass transition temperature” (Tg) of sugar?
a)    ice cream
b)    cotton candy
c)    licorice
d)    popcorn

10. Studies show that diners rate higher satisfaction with dishes that were
initially described to them with: a)    adjectives that suggest how the dish will make them feel (for example,
refreshed or nostalgic)
b)    details about the origins of the ingredients and the distance traveled (for
instance, from California)
c)    adjectives that identify the cooking process (for example, steamed or grilled)
d)    props or pictures that show the finished product (for instance, a dessert cart)
Advertise Here

The kitchen is evolving into a place where cooks increase their understanding of food by means of observation measurement and record keeping - in other words, a laboratory.
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Grilled Cheese Sandwich
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