Science is not for everyone. The only problem is that science is EVERYWHERE! So many times you’re forced to jump on the nerd bandwagon, especially if you’re interested in cooking because food and science go hand in hand!
Food science has been around since the beginning of time, but more recently much more modern techniques and really, really old (read retro) techniques have become very trendy. Recently I have picked up three books that cover different aspects of food science that were written for the “non-scientist”.
The Food Lab by J.Kenji Lopez-Alt discusses the very basics of food science in home cooking. Molecular 50 Course Meal is published by Molecular-R, a company that brings basic molecular gastronomy to everyone, breaking it down so it is not nearly as daunting as it seems through there premeasured step-by-step kits and their easy to follow recipes. Fermentation published by Mortier Pilon features easy to make recipes using the fermentation process with the company’s glass fermentation jars. I hope you are as excited about these as we are,
Lopez-Alt is a grad of MIT turned chef. The Food Lab features a great introduction to the author and has amazing and clear information throughout the book. Lopez-Alt goes through the science of breakfast, stock, fast cooking foods, vegetables, ground meat, roasts, pasta, salads and frying.
The book is an amazing intro to cooking and a great easy to follow recipes, food safety tidbits and beautiful pictures. Aside for the amazing textual information, there are great recipes, food safety tidbits, and beautiful pictures.
Molecular 50 Course Meal feels like the avant-garde cuisine it showcases with a mix of white text on black paper and vice versa. It goes through molecular techniques, which includes deep freezing, siphon whipping and powderizing, just to name a few. It then teaches techniques under the categories of gelification, spherification and emulsification, and then other transformations. The book gives short but clear explanations about the different ingredients and processes used to achieve the super cool foods that molecular gastronomy is famous for. The recipes are clear and easy to follow and shows difficulty level and tips for the scientific technique for each dish.
Fermentation similarly teaches about home fermentation and why it is beneficial over store bought varieties. There are great yet easy recipes from dressings to pickles, to kombucha (which gets an entire chapter by itself!), Bi Bim Bop, and sauerkrauts. It explains the science and methodology at the beginning of the book beautifully and clearly.
Food science has been around for ages, and it just keeps becoming more and more advanced- ask anyone in the food science industry, it is nearly impossible for one person to know it all now a days (and by all I mean ALL). But these books, and companies are making it easier, more accessible, and more approachable for the home cook.
“Science is not about big words. It’s not about lab coats and safety goggles,….The scientific method is based on making observations,…” (Kenji-Alt 21), and that is what we do whenever we cook. We make a recipe. We taste it. We change it (or we don’t). So if you ever think that any of this science stuff is what you left behind in your school days, think again. And maybe try it out.