Have you ever used a recipe and it didn’t turn out exactly how you imagined it? This happens to me especially in baking. I expect to make 2 dozen “gooey, soft chocolate chip cookies” but I actually end up with 15 rock solid ones! Some recipes are also hard to duplicate. You have to have exactly 612g of flour, 11g of baking powder and what the heck does “a pinch of salt” even mean? If amateur chefs like me end up having to eyeball everything, what’s the point of looking for a recipe in the first place?
This dilemma haunted chefs for a long time and scientists began wondering if they could use the science behind food to create the perfect dish every single time. A new branch called “molecular gastronomy” was born and people began coming up with new recipes and methods of cooking. Molecular gastronomy aims to understand the physical and chemical processes that occur in cooking. For example, the reason why an egg goes from transparent to translucent is because heat “denatures” or changes the structure of the proteins in eggs. Understanding these proteins and what temperature denaturation occurs determines how long one should cook an egg for while keeping it “sunny side up”. Some people despise molecular gastronomy because they think it takes away from the art of cooking. Previously it would take years for a chef to perfect the simplest cooking techniques but now anyone who is literate can produce the same results.
I see the perspective both sides are coming from. I respect the work and creativity of chefs but I am also interested in the research done in molecular gastronomy. The best option would be having molecular gastronomical techniques serve as a tool for experienced chefs.
In my upcoming articles, I will be exploring the fascinating world of molecular gastronomy from debunking cooking myths to looking at the types of equipment or ingredients used. Maybe one day I’ll even develop a foolproof chocolate chip cookie recipe!