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Get a crash course in kitchen science

March 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Did you know that blowing on your coffee cools it down faster than if you stir like crazy? One of the many fun facts found in the study of molecular gastronomy, a sassy sounding name for kitchen science. But the truth is, scientifically, knowing techniques and how they work with ingredients can certainly help us all.

Chef Mathew Zborzy of California School of Culinary Arts says seasoned chefs understand kitchen principles often by trial and error. But there's an actual study on the chemistry and physics of ingredients, preparation, even utensils that create unique adaptations of tried and true methodology.

"There's the ability to create new textures, new flavors, new sensations, new aromas," said Zborzy.

This often translates to lower calories and cost for various meals.

For example, when eggs whites are whipped to their highest peak, adding a certain amount of water to them creates more volume and therefore fluffier pancakes when folded into the batter.

In lieu of making a rich Hollandaise, creating an orange sauce with emulsifiers like lecithin, methocel or agar (often found at natural food stores like Whole Foods), all natural ingredients offer a unique low cal flavor profile for breakfast. Just a small amount, less than a teaspoon when whipped into liquid, can make a big difference.

"So you would maintain the awesome flavor of say orange juice, but you would thicken it slightly and use it as a sauce. And it actually would be a low calorie condiment to use on your food," said Zboray.

Opposed to broccoli and string beans, asparagus contains compounds that are water soluble, so they are actually better tasting when stir fried in oil rather than cooked in water, as this leaches their flavor. Something most cooks don't realize.

Then there's the science of appearance. Rather than a rubbery often green tinged hard boiled egg, Zboary says if you cook eggs in a pan of water in the oven at 160 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, you'll get a custard-like egg which some find look and taste more attractive.

And while molecular gastronomy has been around since the 1800s, Zboray sums it up for today.

"Basically it's a hip, trendy thing to incorporate scientific principles into cooking," said Zboray.

It's popular at restaurants, but just as practical to try at home.

--- There are two books on Molecular Gastronomy by Hervé This.

  • Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor
  • Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking
---- California School of Culinary Arts
Pasadena, CA
(866) 230-9450
www.csca.edu

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