Articles & Recipes

Where Do Food and Science Meet?

September 29, 2014

Cuisines change. A new ingredient, cooking technique, nutrition study, piece of kitchen equipment, or the latest dish from a trendsetting chef is enough to evolve the way we think about what we cook and eat. One of the most powerful changes in food in this century has been propelled by the transformative effect of science on haute cuisine.

Award-winning chefs and cutting-edge restaurants from Spain to Singapore to the United States have become famous for harnessing the principles of chemistry and physics to create mind-blowing taste sensations. Their early innovations have already filtered down to adventurous home cooks, who are experimenting with foams and using vacuum sealers to cook sous vide (“under vacuum”).

The convergence of food and science may seem new, but in fact food and science have always been closely aligned. Candy is a vivid example. The original candies were medicines made by medieval apothecaries. A little honey or other sweetener helped to mask the awful taste of the medicine. By the 1800s, candy makers abandoned any medicinal benefits and focused instead on the pure pleasure of sweetness, developing all manner of sugary confections, from multicolored lollipops to rich-tasting toffee. But you can still see the medicinal origins of candy in throat lozenges and chewable vitamins.

In the new millennium, innovative chefs began to use that knowledge to create more exciting dining experiences. They took industrial ingredients like transglutaminase, an enzyme that binds meat into hot dogs and chicken nuggets, and used the enzyme’s capacity as “meat glue” to form shrimp “noodles” and to pull pork shoulder from the bone, glue it back together, and cook it under vacuum to create a single piece of meat, richer and more succulent than any pork raised on a farm.

Chefs discovered that they share the same goal as food product scientists: to create pleasurable sensations through food and to discover new ones by combining or juxtaposing flavors, textures, shapes, colors, temperatures, and aromas. Ultimately, home cooks also share the same goal of making great-tasting food. And science can help.

The Science of Good Food simplifies the complex science of food for home cooks and chefs alike. Organized from A to Z, it contains more than 1,600 entries that clearly explain the physical and chemical transformations that govern all food preparation and cooking. Entries touch on a variety of sciences and disciplines, including chemistry, physics, botany, zoology, biology, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, flavor science, psychobiology, agriculture, animal husbandry, food safety, and food product development.

 

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