Cooking 101: Molecular Cuisine

by Lori 27. January 2011 11:22

So, you thought Cooking 101 was all about dicing and proper boiling technique? Not quite! If you are truly looking to "take it up a notch" in the kitchen, you need to take part in Molecular Cuisine.

Molecular Cuisine is the scientific approach to creating foods. This term can be confused with Molecular Gastronomy which means looking at how science impacts cooking through chemical and physical changes. Molecular Cuisine takes these known scientific changes and uses them to create unique dishes. Food items usually prepared certain ways are created into something completely different with the help of additives and tools. Molecular Cuisine can take food from simply edible to sensationally entertaining.  

It is believed the term "molecular cuisine" was born around 2004-2005 and these Avant-Garde cooking styles were adopted by some chefs like famous Spanish chef Ferran Adria, head chef of El Bulli in Spain. Using these techniques, Adria is known for taking foods like meat, beetroot, and mushrooms and making culinary foam out of them by simply taking the ingredient and adding air. The ingredient and air are mixed inside of a siphon bottle that contains a nitrous oxide cartridge.

Traditional culinary experts are less enthused with these outside-of-the-box cooking techniques proclaiming this style is not a serious driver of culinary advancement. In 2010, the Italian government banned the use of the chemical additives in restaurants. These chemical additives or "powders" are available from several retail outlets. Adria markets his own line of powders for molecular cuisine called Texturas. Some of these additives include: Agar Agar, a vegetarian alternative for gelatin; Xanthan Gum, a gluten free substitute or thickener; Calcium Lactate, a baking powder and found in sugar free food items; amongst others. While there are some opponents to the use of these additives, any of them can be found in various products sold in grocery stores.  

There are numerous restaurants around the globe that focus on creating exquisitive dishes using Molecular Cuisine techniques. In the United States, restaurants such as Alinea in Chicago, Illinois and AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean in Costa Mesa, California, offer uniquely developed plates that fuse this modern style of cooking with cultural and local ingredients. 
 
If you are looking for ways to wow dinner guests, but are not close enough to a restaurant offering dishes like these, you can become a Molecular Cuisine at-home chef. Companies like ThinkGeek.com are offering Molecular Cuisine Starters Kits that will provide you the supplies you need to churn out Argula Spaghetti or Beef Foam. There are many ways to get creative while still enjoying some of your favorite foods.

Resources:

"Molecular Gastronomy". wikipedia.com

"Ferran Adria". wikipedia.com

"Top 10 Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants". gayot.com

"Italian Government Legislates Against Molecular Cuisine". caputmundicibus.com