Modernist Cuisine is a scientific book about cooking using science rather than tradition to develop the best quantitative parameters and methods for cooking. A teaser for the book describes cooking poached eggs at 144 degrees rather than the usual boiling water. It takes 25 minutes but the eggs are perfectly consistent with a smooth soft texture throughout the white and yolk.

It turns out that egg coagulates at just over 140 degrees. The violent boiling water disturbs or breaks the whites before they are cooked; when water doesn't boil, the whites don't break, and it is enough to cook the egg.

There are a number of other foods that also can be cooked at lower temperatures such as steak which needs 138 for a consistently perfectly cooked medium rare steak evenly through the entire cut. The steak is cooked in temperature controlled 138 water inside a sealed bag to the correct temperature. Then just brown the exterior to seal it on the bbq or pan and to add flavor. Special equipment helps such as the Sou Vide cooker.

Dylan Distasio writes: 

I have been lusting after a copy of Modernist Cuisine since it was released, but have been unable to convince the wife to let me blow $450-500 of hard earned cash on it as an amateur cook, It's truly a labor of love. Nathan Myhrvol, one of the co-authors, was the CTO of Microsoft before moving on to pursue his love of food science. You may be interested to know that Modernist Cuisine at Home was released earlier this fall. It is one oversized volume as opposed to four separate ones and is geared to recipes and techniques that are a bit more feasible for a home cook.

It is also significantly less expensive and probably does not sacrifice too much for the home cook at a current price of $105 on Amazon. I have a copy sitting here waiting for me under the Christmas tree that my wife was kind enough to give me, but that I had to promise not to open ahead of time. If you're interested, I'll post my impressions to the list after I open it and have a chance to peruse it and cook from it.

Jim Sogi gives us an update:

Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold just arrived. Reading his CV is astounding. He has multiple degrees, Phds and has worked with Stephen Hawking. He made millions at Microsoft early on and after an early retirement, he devoted his genius to cooking. This book is to cooking what Ed Spec is to investing, using the scientific method to cook.

He used sealed pouches to seal in foods while cooking. He uses pressure cookers to bring out smooth caramelly flavors in vegetables which require higher temperatures than boiling water allows. The expensive part is buying the additional equipment such as the sealer, the sous vide bath, the induction stove. One could get by with a digital thermometer on a budget. If I ever get to another Spec Party I promise to demonstrate the techniques.


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