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Molecular Gastronomy Debunks Food Myths

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Molecular Gastronomy is the science of the chemical and physical processes that occur while cooking. It is used to study and explain the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic, and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general. In 1992 molecular and physical gastronomy, later to become known as molecular gastronomy, was invented by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French chemist Herve This (pronounced Tees). Together the two set up workshops in Erice, Italy that combined scientists with professional cooks to explore and investigate gastronomical proverbs, sayings, and "old wives' tales". In 1998 Kurti passed away and This continued on.

Some of those "wives' tales" that This went on to prove to be wrong include adding salt to water when cooking green vegetables. Some of the myths were that adding salt to boiling water will keep the color of the vegetables, make the water boil faster or become hotter or cooler, and seasoning the vegetable. He went on to prove that adding salt does none of this. The color issue was proven to be coming from the acidity and hardness of tap water. Neither of which salt has much affect on. A quick fix to this problem, try using bottled water. Through testing, This also proved that adding salt does not make water boil faster, that quick rush of bubbles is not the water boiling. The fine salt crystals carrying air bubbles on them that quickly release in the hot water cause it. Adding salt only raised the temperature about 1/10 of a degree, not enough to make a noticeable difference. And for the seasoning, This proved that almost all the salt drains off with the water, then whatever is left mostly evaporates leaving a trace amount. To try this at home, cook three pots of green beans, one with no salt, one with a pinch of salt, and one with a handful. See if anyone can tell the difference at dinner.

Another myth proved wrong is that searing meat will seal in the juices. What really happens is that muscle fibers contract at about 60oC and squeeze all the water out, no matter how you cook it. What really happens when searing meat is that around 140oC a chemical reaction occurs in the proteins and sugars to make new molecules that give a "meaty" aroma. This is known as the Maillard reaction. So what searing meat really does is it creates flavor, not seal in juices.

One last myth we will look at that molecular gastronomy also proved wrong is that you must separate egg yolks and egg whites when making a meringue, and that no yolk whatsoever can be in the mixture. This is one that every cookbook out there will tell you. But it's not true. This disproved this by looking at a recipe, in the same book that tells you to separate, of a Genoese sponge cake. In the sponge recipe they tell you to take the whole egg and sugar and beat until it is 10 times the volume and when you turn over the bowl, nothing will



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