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Everything posted by nathanm

  1. Our preferred approach to chicken is to cook it even lower, in a 145F oven (ideally a combi oven, but it really does not depend on being a combi). You are right to worry about whether your oven will be accurate. Many ovens (home and commercial) are not terribly accurate at any setting, but are particularly bad below 300F. However, a bit of variation is OK as long as it fluctuates around the correct value. If you check the tempertaure over time you can tell, but it is a bit laborious.
  2. A couple general comments. Canada has not recieved any books yet, but will in the next shipment in late march, so should ship by early April. I am glad the mac and cheees is a hit! It is absolutely true that somebody on hot line in a steakhouse, can develop great skills for cooking meat without a thermometer. They still won't be as accurate as a thermometer (i.e. plus or minus several degrees) but they will be accurate enough. However, I don't think that there is something wrong with a steak cooked using a themometer. The steaks won't taste any better if doneness is determined by poking with a finger or using a timer than with a thermometer. Actually, a timer is another example of a useful tool - you can cook without one, but a lot of things turn out better if you use a timer.
  3. I just put a new post on the Modernist Cuisine blog explaining some of the factors behind the current shortage of MC.
  4. I am ordering a second printing this week. The first printing will sell out fairly soon.
  5. I want to ask everybody who has MC to report any typos that you find to us. So far we have found a couple ourselves, and just today somebody from eGullet reported another one. Obviously in a 2438 page book there will be some, and it would help a lot to get them reported. Just send me a personal message via eGullet if you find any.
  6. I want to ask everybody who has MC to report any typos that you find to us. So far we have found a couple ourselves, and just today somebody from eGullet reported another one. Obviously in a 2438 page book there will be some, and it would help a lot to get them reported. Just send me a personal message via eGullet if you find any.
  7. It is a convienent choice. Heat transfer rate is proportional to the tempertature difference. If you put cold food into a 55C bath, then as a matter of principle it would take INFINITE time to reach 55C. So in practice you need a bath that is slightly hotter than desired final tempertaure. Using a bath that is 1C hotter than the desired core temperature means that you get pretty close to the desired core temperature in reasonable times, yet at the same time the danger of overshooting is minimal - you can't get more than. Finally, if you want to use a temperature probe, then when the core reads the final temp, you are done. There will be some slight overshoot, but it is guaranteed to be less than 1C (and typically more like 1/2 degree C). You could choose any temperature that is hotter than the desired final temp, but the hotter you get the more you have to worry about overshoot. If you use
  8. The process of cooking is definitely important to the cook. But I don't see why the process of these new techniques is intrisically unsatisfying to the cook. The diner values the end result, and frankly most cooks do too because they want to create a great result. I don't know many cooks who say "well, it makes a mediocre result, but I still love to do it that way". Of course if you do love a process regardless of the results then go for it! (i.e. abandon that steel knife and flintknap your own) I think it is a mistake to mix the love of process with convenience. Love of a traditional process is one issue. Convenience is quite different. Sous vide can be slow, and if you want immediate gratification then it may not be a good technique. But if all you want is speed then a microwave oven is hard to beat. The comment about "two days for meat" versus "I want it for dinner now" is a bit disengenous. You are not making a fair comparison. The recipes where you cook meat for 48 hours are typically for slowly cooking tough (and cheap) cuts of meat that you want to make tender. The traditional approach to these cuts of meat is also slow - you braise them for 6 to 8 hours. That is faster than sous vide, but it is hardly a case of "I want it for dinner now". If you want to cook meat now then you are cooking a more expensive, tender cut of meat, which would never be cooked for 48 hours. In that case you are talking about cooking it sous vide for say 1 hour (and maybe as little as 20 minutes if it is thin) versus say 10 minutes on a grill or pan. It is still longer but not the tradeoff you are suggesting.
  9. A professional chef in Seattle that I know is recovering from 3rd degree burns he got from accidentally opening a pressure cooker. It splattered hot liquid all across his waist, through his clothes and apron. But that's because he opened it before the pressure had gone down. It didn't explode on him - he deliberately opened it at the wrong time. This is the equivalent of putting your hand into a gas flame, or reaching your hand into a deep fryer, or cutting your finger with a knife. Modern pressure cookers are very safe, but ANY kitchen tool can hurt you. You are made of meat! Anything that cooks or cuts meat could cook or cut you if you are not careful. The key rule is, don't open it up while there is still pressure inside. The typical way you relieve pressure is to either let it sit for a while, or to put in under running water in a sink, or to press a release valve on the pressure cooker. As long as you do this they are perfectly safe.
  10. I don't believe that taking a human being and having them act as a thermostat is in any way a process of soulfulness, or skill or creativity. A lot of traditional cooking does exactly that - turns the cook into a thermostat. The truly old school way you don't even use a thermometer. It is possible to judge the heat with your hands, or pressing a metal skewer to your lips. With lots of effort you can judge temperatures without a themometer, but why do this? The results will be uneven because even the best human themometer is no match for even a cheap digital themometer. And that is when it works - learning how to judge temperature takes lots of time. To what end? Why invest lots of time (and ruined food) trying to learn how be a bad version of a $10 digital themometer? It's a task you will never master as well as the thermometer. Most chefs (both home and professional) would agree that it is silly, so they use themometers. So the next step is to say OK, once you use a thermometer, the human chef is still acting as the control loop - still trying to be a human thermostat, by turning the heat up or down, or knowing exactly when to take the steak off the grill. So why not use a digitally controlled device to regulated the tempertaure - a PID controller in a water bath, combi oven or CVAP oven. This kind of temperature control works better if you cook with low thermal gradients - i.e. with low temperature in a water bath or steam oven. That's the essence of sous vide cooking. Once you realize this, you also tend to cook in two steps rather than one. Grilling a steak means you must carefully balance the timing and intensity so that you get the right level of browning on the outside, but then get the right doneness in the center, and not have too much overcooked meat in between. You are trying to find a happy compromise between two factors that are fundamentally in opposition. Why not cook the steak one method (at low temperature) so that the interior is perfect, then use very high temperature to get the ideal crust? This is actually a very traditional approach for some kinds of cooking. Most recipes for braising call for a searing step at high heat prior to the braise. Or you pan sear then finish in an oven. Sous vide cooking uses this same two-step approach. It is a theme that runs througout my book - rather than making one cooking process try to compromise between two different methods, you use two steps, each one of which is better at achieving a goal. Usually that means cooking at low temperature (via sous vide or a steam oven, but not always) then doing the searing step separately. This is a much better way to achieve many common cooking goals than trying to do it in one step. It is quite suprising to me that people view this as taking the "soul" out of cooking. By using lower temperatures and a digital thermostat you get more accurate and reliable temperature control. So you ruin less food. You put less effort into being the human thermostat. By cooking in two steps you get a better and more reliable result. I don't doubt the passion and sincerity with which people will say that these simple steps "takes the soul out of cooking", but I am really mystified. I could ask why use a steel knife - why not chip one out of flint? Or forge the knife yourself? I have done both of these things - flintknapping is fun, and so is using a forge to make a knife. But the reality is that a decent chef's knife is a great tool and it does not take the soul of what you cook if you buy one rather than make it yourself. The same goes for pots and pans, and ranges or ovens... and sous vide equipment... I think that much of the reason for this "soulfulness" debate is that people don't understand that the steps are as simple extensions of what they already do.
  11. Venting occurs in two forms. When you are canning, the recommended procedure is to run the pressure cooker with the vent open for a while to remove air. This helps ensure the temperature is correct. This venting procedure is not really needed in non-canning situations. There are two ways pressure cookers work - one is to have a spring loaded valve, the other is to have a "jiggling weight". The weight is usually recommended for canning because the spring could break and mislead you while the weight won't. ALL pressure cookers have some sort of pressure regulator which will vent steam above a certain temperature. The jiggling weight kind is typically operated so that it vents constantly, but if you turn it down a bit it won't. The problem with this is that you don't know whether you turned it down too much or two little. A Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker (or Fagor or many others) has a spring valve. It will not vent until the valve exceeds a certain pressure. The Cooking Issues guys (Dave Arnold and Nils Noren) found that any venting - whether the pre-venting approach or a jiggling weight style pressure cooker - can take some of the aromatic compounds out. That is correct, but in practice I don't think that this is a serious issue. I very much prefer the spring valve type (I use both Kuhn-Rikon and Fagor, but also own a Presto), but you can cook with the jiggling weight variety if need be.
  12. Just to be clear, this book is NOT for everyone. It is very different from traditional cookbooks, and I have never suggested otherwise. Trying to please everybody usually winds up pleasing nobody. MC is for people who really love food and are curious about it. eGullet is actually a very good example of who the book is for. There are plenty of professional chefs who read and post here, but there are even more amateurs. Everybody on eGullet loves food, although not necessarily in the same way. I don't mean to presume that everybody on eGullet will love the book. They may not, but the people here do share a passion for cooking and will to experiment. So even eGulleters who don't like or want my book are an example of the profile of person I am hoping will enjoy the book. I won't get all of them, but that's OK. This isn't an accident. The book was born directly out of my eGullet posts, especially in the sous vide thread. The people on that thread were not (and are not) all high professionals. There were college students cooking sous vide in their dorm rooms that were learning about sous vide at the same time as chefs in famous restaurants. I figured that people with that spirit would want a book like this. By the way, I doubt that the editors of the NYT think that they are writing for the "lowest common demoninator" - they consider themselves to be quite highbrow. They serve a different market than the NY Post, for example. But this whole debate isn't about whether the book is high end or not - it obviously is high end (at least for a book.) The NYT Dining Section reviews restaurants where dinner for two costs more than my book, so the price shouldn't be a barrier. The NYT is not an esoteric chef's publication, but NYT does write about sous vide (indeed Amanda Hesser's article in NYT Magazine was a landmark for the technique in the US.) Another article on the cover of NYT magazine introduced Ferran Adria to the US. The dining section is also home to a column by Harold McGee, who has been bringing insights from science into the kitchen for many years. The Science Section of the paper discusses food science - and in fact they were the first section in the paper to cover my book.
  13. Kuhn rikon is very good, but there are many other good makes of pressure cooker like Fagor and Presto. Alex and Aki at Ideas in Food like the Cuisinart electric pressure cooker. There is no minimum size. Kuhn Rikon makes some very small ones which are nice for people with small apartments etc. However, I generally use a big pressure cooker and then cook in a bowl or canning jars or other containers inside of it. That makes it even easier to clean, plus it is versatile so you can cook big quantities when you want to make stock.
  14. Perhaps I was being unfair. It is hard to say. One way to view is as you suggest, that he was genuinely stating how advanced the book is and that he can't personally vouch for all of it. Another way to view is as I suggested - a way to estabish his credentials. His supposed inability to review it didn't stop him from being very critical. A third way to view it, which some folks have suggested to me is that it is damning with faint praise - i.e. a way to say that the book is so complicated that even somebody with a degree from cullinary instute of America who has written lots of books can't understand it. I am sure there are other interpretations. The tenor of the rest of the piece makes me think my interpretation is correct. He didn't really need to trot out all of his credentials the way he did. Given that Ruhlman is a professional writer, edited by a professional editor at NYT, I am not that inclined to think that the nuance and direction is something that they shape actively. A professional's prose isn't supposed to accicentally make a point. But hey, maybe I am wrong.
  15. I find the NYT review to be very disappointing. On one hand, one could excerpt sentences from it would surely rank among the most postiive things every printed in an NYT book review. On the other hand one could also excerpt sentences which are among the most mean spirited and damning ever put in an NYT book review. As a result, you can come away from the review with nearly any point of view you want ranging from dismissive and condemning to praiseworthy adulation. If you point at the positive parts, then I have nothing to complain about. Indeed, given those comments it may seem petty that I even bring it up. Of course if you point at the negative parts then it's quite a different story. Part of the issue is what a book review is about. There are at least three goals that most book reviews have. The first and most direct is that it describe the book to people so it can be a guide to their purchase decision. But book reviews are themselves a kind of literature and many are written at least in part to be an entertaining piece of writing. The third goal of many book reviews are a paen to the ego of the reviewer, and the glory of the publication (The New York Times!), establishing how superior they are. Ruhlman's review can't seem to make up its mind about the first two. It says lots of positive things, but also many negative. That may be in part an effort to make it fun to read: that's how I interpret the comment about how many thousands of milligrams of asprin are required to read the book straight through. (safety note: don't take that much asprin at once, it would be an overdose!) Mostly the schizophrenic nature of his comments make it seem like he wants to have it both ways. To people who love the book (for example, the professional chefs that have seen it) he can point to the positive comments and talk about how miraculous our stock recipe is, or other very positive comments. To people who have a different take he can moan about how bad the text is, how expensive the equipment is, and how much asprin he had to take. The false modesty of how Ruhlman is not qualified to review the book is quite telling. He's "just" a trained chef, food journalist, author of multiple books referenced by MC, and has written about the world's best modernist chef. That's all. But even he isn't qualified to review the book. Oh please! If he really thinks he couldn't do the job then he shouldn't have accepted the assignment. But nobody would say he isn't qualified. Of course he is. And if he does accept the assignment why spend the text to remind us of his resume. It's often true that a book review tells us more about the reviewer, than about the book, but that is said in a figurative manner ; in this case it is literally true. Another telling point is that in his own blog post he doesn't throw the barbs. So maybe it is some rule at the NYT that you have to do that to pass muster. Several people have told me "what do you expect from the New York Times, they always have bitchy, holier-than-thou book reviews". So maybe his editor made him do it. Given other posts in this thread, let me be clear that Ruhlman is certainly entitled to his opinion, and the most damning things he says about the book are mostly that - opinion. It's up to him whether found the book "mindcrushingly boring", as evidently he did. Naturally, I'm disappointed because we went to a lot of effort to make the text clear and easy to read. We've gotten high marks from others on explaining difficult concepts in a simple clear manner. But hey it's his opinion. Maybe the text did crush his mind with boredom, but I take some solace that many others don't feel that way. Plus, you can always skip those parts. In fact, based on some of the rest of the review, that may be exactly what he did. Some of his other comments are more subject to question. He says that we are "Sometimes overly proud of itself, at other times it is recklessly (and admirably) opinionated.". He then proceeds to quote sentences about food saftey, and about epidemiology studies linking saturated fat to heart disease as examples of our "reckless" opinion. Really? In the revelant sections of the book we go WAY out of our way to support every single thing we say with both explanations, and academic references. It isn't my "reckless opinion" that there is no large study linking saturated fat - we document it. In fact, us going overboard on explaining this (because it is sure to be controversal) might be the part he found mindcrushingly boring. So, which way do you want it? Documented and through (but possibily boring if you don't find food saftey or nutritional epidemiology interesting). I also have a problem with the "recklessly (and admirably)". It's another example of trying to have it both ways. Depending on the audience he can point at either word. The same "have it both ways" thing crops up in the faux-populism. He complains (incorrectly) that we have nothing but sous vide for meat. But he is the author of Under Pressure, a book solely about sous vide! What is up with that? Another comment panders to the natural food movement "Much of this revolutionary cooking is based on ingredients and techniques long fundamental to the processed food industry. Are we to embrace the ingredients and techniques of modernist cuisine at the very moment industrially processed food is being blamed for many of our national health problems?". Well Michael, you tell me. You're the author of a book on sous vide which is precisely one of those techniques. Of course, he knows that. He also knows we address this issue in the book. We go to great lengths to explain that this is a false dichotomy. Using unfamiliar techinques and ingredients is not the cause of our health problems. We are no friends of the processed food industry, we condemn it for falsely advertising dubious health benefits, among other things. We explain that the techinques and ingredients are safe. Raising this as a question lets him pander to people with those fears, and keep his credibility with them. It seems so thoughtful to pose this question, but it seems to me another way to try to have it both ways. A post above questions Ruhlman's statement that there are no recipes for meat that don't use sous vide. Of course that is totally wrong. We have a chapter on combi-ovens, CVAP ovens and microwaves and have meat recipes for each of them. We have a big section on smoking meats that uses a smoker. We have a big section on raw meat that doesn't use heat at all. We have a big section on sausage and cured meats. Our section on cooking tough meats has pressure cooking times for all manner of tough meats - including a pressure cooked carnitas. We even have microwaved meats - including a very cook and super fast beef jerky, and a tilapia recipe from the mother of one our chefs. I have not counted them up, but I suspect that we have more non-sous vide meat recipes in the book than a typical cookbook has recipes of any kind. We certainly have more non-sous recipes than Under Pressure does. An odd thing about this assertion is that Ruhlman emailed me with questions EVERY DAY for the last week or so, so even if he couldn't find any of the recipes, he sure could have asked. So anyway, those are my thoughts on the review. I hope that Ruhlman liked the book - if I average the postiive and negative comments it seems so but it is hard to be sure. It seems that he found it useful in the ways that I most want it to be used - as a reference work that opens up new culinary vistas.
  16. Michael Ruhlman has just written two things on the book. The first is a post on his blog, and the other is the official New York Times review of the book.
  17. Several people from this thread contacted me privately to mention that the Amazon page was not allowing reviews to be posted, since it still listed the book as pre-release. That has now changed, so you can post a review if you want to.
  18. Alas, the boat does not update me on where it is....
  19. [Moderator note: The original "Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: "Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 1)] I wouldn't pay much attention to the Amazon estimated shipping dates. It is unclear to me that they have any real basis. All of the books in the first printing will ship from China to in the US, Canada or Europe in the next 3 weeks, and a few thousand are currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. So far about 2/3 of the first printing has been pre-ordered. So everybody currently on order ought to get books from these shipments. A second printing is being ordered. You'd think that traveling thousands of miles by boat would be the majority of their journey. But that isn't really the case. So far they have had several snafus in getting the books out. Some distributors shipped books to the wrong distribution center. Some decided to ship books by train from Seattle to various places in the middle of the country. Some shipped to one distribution center, then decided that the books were too heavy for the equipment at that center, so they proceeded to ship them by truck to another distribution center. One distributor seems to have lost track of 150 books - hopefully this is just a computer error. It is frustrating, and I am trying to get it all fixed for future shipments. As as result, the first batch of books has been in the US since early February but took another 3 weeks or so to reach customers. I'm sorry about that, but there is not much I can do. In principle the remainder of the books ought to reach customers in March, but I suspect that it will take until some point in April due to various silly delays in the book distribution system.
  20. I think you have a typo. It takes about 1.5 hours to get from 5C to 55C (in a 56C bath). It takes about 45 to 50 minutes to get from 55C to 62C (in a 63C bath). So, it is just about half of the cooking time of going all the way from the refridgerator. Yes, it is definitely counterintuitive. That is why the cooking tables are important.
  21. Main issue I can see with that approach is that it would double the total cooking time. Not the end of the world but I figured taking a steak from 55C to 62C would be pretty quick in comparison rg I rather recommend Matthew Kayahara's way: cook her steak first at 62°C, then either quick-chill it in ice/water 50/50 and store in the fridge until cooking for both at 55°C, or continue directly by lowering the temperature to 55°C and adding your steak. In contrast to fish, with beef there should be no significant danger of mushiness with 3-4h instead of 1½-2h. Heating time from 55°C to 62°C will not be tremendously shorter than from 5°C to 55°C, see Douglas Baldwin's table 2.2: for a 35mm steak heating from 5°C to 44°C takes 1h30, from 5°C to 60.5°C it takes 1h36. Why? Heat transport is directly proportional to the temperature difference, so with only 7°C temperature difference heat transport is much slower than with 50°C temperature difference. How would you keep your 55°C steak warm while your wife's steak is heated another 1½-2h? You might pre-cook several steaks for your wife in advance and quick-chill them, eventually even store them in the freezer. There are many ways to do this. In Modernist Cuisine, my new book, the sous vide tables are organized by delta-T - the change in tempertaure you are trying to get. So we give times for things like going from 55C to 62C. For a 1.5" steak that time should be about 50 minutes. The time to go from 5C to 55C for the same meat would be 1.5 hours, or a bit more than twice the time it takes to go from 55C to 62C. You have several options: 1. Use one bath, cooking to 55C first, then take one steak out and cook the other to 62C. This is what was originally suggested and it will work fine. The main problem is how to keep the 55C steak warm while the other one cooks. 2. Use two water baths. The time to go from 5C to 55C in a 55C bath is almost the same as 5C to 62C in a 62C bath. 3. Cook the 62C bath first, then once it reaches temperature, pour out the water (or throw some ice in) to get it down to 55C and then cook the 55C steak. This will effectively double the cooking time, but the good news about this approach is that both steaks will be held at 55C and will be done at the right time. You can then sear them together. It will not hurt the 62C steak to be held at 55C for the amount of time it takes the 55C steak to cook. 4. All of the cooking times decrease a lot if the steak is thinner. If you cut the steaks to be 3/4" inch thick (2 cm) rather than 1.5" (4cm) then it would take about 12 minutes to go from 55C to 62C, versus about 21 minutes to go from 5C to 55C. The reason is what Pedro says - heat conduction
  22. The reason to do it is that most vegetables have at least some air pockets in them, and by putting it in a vacuum you force the air out and brine in. This speeds brine penetration. In the case of an apple, which most people would think of as having fairly dense flesh, you can actually double the weight by vacuum packing. I don't think we measured the density of cucumber, but they float, which means that their density is less than that of water. This means they must have air in them. In fact, that is you you must put a weight on them to brine them in a jar. This site says the density of pickles (after brining) is still only 0.665 grams/cc. So that is why we use vacuum packing. However, I will also admit that once you have a chamber style vacuum packer in your kitchen, you use it for everything - it is very convienient. That said, I am sure that if you put them in a jar with a weight it will certainly work. You may find that you will need to increase the time, or slice the cumcumber a bit thinner if you do this. Recall that the amount of time it takes brine to penetrate scales roughly as the square of thickness, so slices that are half as thick will brine in about 1/4 the time. That is because it is a diffusion process.
  23. It depends on how done you like your shrimp. I like them at 45C for 25 min. 55C for 1.5 hours would be overdone to my taste, but has some food safety advantages. I think this is overcooked. I think that 60C for 2 hours is WAY overcooked, but it is a matter of personal taste. We also have a recipe in the the book where we use much hotter water for a short period of time - in that case we want the surface layers to be a bit firmer, while the interior is nearly raw. I don't have that time/temp handy at the moment.
  24. Yes, but get the powder rather than trying to grind up tablets. Also, check to be sure that the powder is pure vitamin C and not something that has flavorings etc added. It should be easy to find.
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