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ShaneH

"Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 3)

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I know, but you get caught up in your own wants/desires.

And the media blitz didn't help.

"THEY'RE CENTRIFUGING FOOD" and all.

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A number of people have asked for advice on how to "read" Modernist Cuisine. For the most part, I think you can jump in anywhere, with the exception of volume five. It's like looking in the back of the textbook to find the answers: it might be a temporarily helpful shortcut, but you don't learn a lot.

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I know we keep saying that, and it seems very friendly and all. But still, in my opinion your best bet is to start at page 1•1, and just read. You're going to need to read a lot of it a second or even third time (in my experience), but really: the team did a superb job of organizing the book so that you learn the things you need to know for each successive chapter as you read through. Yes, you can start anywhere. But I think you should start at the beginning. It's a very good place to start.

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I think it's a reasonable and fair expression of a point of view and goes back to something I posted earlier. To put that in a different way, if you are simply following admirably detailed and eminently reproducible directions, are you showing your own talents?

Except that, to me anyway, following a set of instructions is precisely what Modernist Cuisine is not about. This is nowhere more evident than in their naming of the recipes: the recipes scattered throughout the books are all explicitly called "Example recipes." Each of them is designed to highlight a particular aspect of the chapter, but these books are emphatically not a collection of recipes, they are a collection of techniques. They are designed to enable cooks to imagine a dish and then figure out how to create it. Just because I have to look up the ratios for gelling a particular fruit puree doesn't mean that I've drained the dish I create using that component of its creativity. Modernist Cuisine has enabled creativity, not stomped on it.

Definitely agree: The more I understand the chemistry, physiology, and physics of what happens in the kitchen, the less I rely on recipes for anything more than a starting point (sometimes, I'm just inspired to try something suggested their titles): The more I cook, the more what I put produce is 'me' (although frankly, I think a lot of so-called 'individualism'/'self-expression' are not actually unique, though we like to think they are.)

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Definitely agree: The more I understand the chemistry, physiology, and physics of what happens in the kitchen, the less I rely on recipes for anything more than a starting point (sometimes, I'm just inspired to try something suggested their titles): The more I cook, the more what I put produce is 'me' (although frankly, I think a lot of so-called 'individualism'/'self-expression' are not actually unique, though we like to think they are.)

Couldn't agree more. Understanding the how what and why of as yet untried techniques makes me much more likely to attempt them. When I first became aware of Nathan's sous vide book I wanted one - primarily because there were very few books on the subject and some (most?) of those had information which was suspect and at the very least the books didn't agree with one another. Thomas Keller's Under Pressure for instance suggests cooking temps much higher than I have found acceptable from my own cooking experiments. I gained much more useful information from the SV thread here on eG particularly those from Nathan and Douglas Baldwin.

Once the SV book morphed into the MC opus I became even more interested as snippets of its content were revealed. I've now had my copy for a few days and after browsing all the volumes I've decided to go back and start from page 1.1. There is too much information to miss if you only randomly access it - serial processing is called for :smile: . That said the book(s) is(are) set up very well for random access if you are looking for something specific.

I have printed a copy of the .pdf index (after a small hack) and have that with me so I can easily cross reference as I am reading. It is also good to scribble on - something I cannot bring myself to do to the original work.

I never really expected MC to be a cook book with recipes to slavishly follow. I expected a work which explained and displayed the science behind the various techniques and I have not been disappointed. In my opinion MC is like a post graduate course in cookery. Nearly every method (pastry chef magic aside) is explained and I have learned things about subjects I thought I knew well just from my initial browse.

I'm now just trying to manufacture enough spare time to get through the 2.5K pages!

Note to Nathan - It's better than I expected even given high expectations.

Peter.

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I agree about this originally being most fascinating to me as a large sous vide resource. Then came the hints it would explain the proper use of other kitchen equipment items. Now seeing the book and all the information has helped me re-think how I have used my kithen to produce even the most simple of dishes. Just the flipping of hamburgers was a great insight.

I am learning so much about food safety, different times for all the meat and vegetables discussed, how to successfully make gels, make me more adventurous about foams, properly use specialized ingredients and open my eyes to what others do and can do. It is a bit like when I was a kid and opened our World Book Encylopedia on one subject and then being drawn into another. For the most part, I probably will not replicate the recipes. However, I will use hints, strategies along with portions of recipes and further modify my own dishes by the best practices given.

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I have to say that I don't think the book is as easy to read as everyone else has claimed.

I have started reading the book from Volume 1. Page 1. The language itself is absolutely fine and clear and I have no problems at all understanding or intrpeting what has been written. What I find difficult is the layout. The prose is so often interspersed with histories and biographies that occupy two thirds of each page. These text boxes actually occupy more space on the page than the continuous prose that I had intended to read. A lot of the time the histories and biographies are not relevant to the other text on that page. It's a bit like a book with ADD.

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I have to say that I don't think the book is as easy to read as everyone else has claimed.

I have started reading the book from Volume 1. Page 1. The language itself is absolutely fine and clear and I have no problems at all understanding or intrpeting what has been written. What I find difficult is the layout. The prose is so often interspersed with histories and biographies that occupy two thirds of each page. These text boxes actually occupy more space on the page than the continuous prose that I had intended to read. A lot of the time the histories and biographies are not relevant to the other text on that page. It's a bit like a book with ADD.

I know exactly what you mean with this, and I think the key to dealing with it is to accept that you're going to end up reading the book more than once. When I had access to the review copy, I read through the first chapter looking only at the main text, ignoring the text boxes and such. I think that's the only way to do it if you're going to read it linearly. Since getting my physical copy, though, I've been reading individual sections on specific topics, and the text boxes become more useful at that point. But they can be very distracting if you're trying to take everything in at once.

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That to me is the true beauty of MC, with another cookbook you might have a recipe that contains a hot orange gel component to it.

Well if you want to make a hot apple gel, or a hot banana gel you can try it, but its going to take a ton of experimentation because you might not have a great scientific explanation of whats going on.

With MC they have a whole chart, with multiple fruits, and an explanation of the science and the Ph and the option to use different gelling agents, so it frees you to really create exactly what you want.

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I have to say that I don't think the book is as easy to read as everyone else has claimed.

I have started reading the book from Volume 1. Page 1. The language itself is absolutely fine and clear and I have no problems at all understanding or intrpeting what has been written. What I find difficult is the layout. The prose is so often interspersed with histories and biographies that occupy two thirds of each page. These text boxes actually occupy more space on the page than the continuous prose that I had intended to read. A lot of the time the histories and biographies are not relevant to the other text on that page. It's a bit like a book with ADD.

I know what you are saying and initially I had a bit of the same reaction but the more I dove into the book the more I realized that the journey was so much more interesting than the final destination. The side bars, the text boxes are so often even more interesting than the linear text. It's a bit like I pursue a google search. I know what I want but often learn a whole lot more as I take the circuitous route there. Follow the super hiways or the much more intereting rural routes. It all depends on you. Now I just relax and let the book be my guide - sort of like colouring outside the lines. :laugh:

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I have to say that I don't think the book is as easy to read as everyone else has claimed.

I have started reading the book from Volume 1. Page 1. The language itself is absolutely fine and clear and I have no problems at all understanding or intrpeting what has been written. What I find difficult is the layout. The prose is so often interspersed with histories and biographies that occupy two thirds of each page. These text boxes actually occupy more space on the page than the continuous prose that I had intended to read. A lot of the time the histories and biographies are not relevant to the other text on that page. It's a bit like a book with ADD.

I actually like this style of book quite a bit. Both me and my husband were giggling because Modernist Cuisine reminded us both of the World Book/National Geographic/Encyclopedias we both liked reading as kids. Lots of pictures! Interesting sidebars! Graphs and charts! The only thing missing are series of transparent pages that you can peel back to see various layers of things, like skin-muscles-organs-skeleton. I'm a bit disappointed Nathan didn't include anything like that, though the cutaways make up for it.

(and yeah, we're nerds. He wooed me over our shared childhood love of encyclopedias.)

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Yes another encyclopedia nerd! :rolleyes:

My best friend and I used to read them and quiz eachother on facts we found in there...sort of like trivial pursuit but we were in junior high. Now I liken this book to that same experience as I share facts and such with him though via the phone now. He doesn't cook but bought the books just for sheer nerdiness....but I think he'll start cooking soon!

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I grew up on World Book and National Geographic too... and our editor (Wayt Gibbs) and art director (Mark Clemens) were both from Scientific American.

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I ordered my book from Barnes & Noble back in mid February. My order kept getting delayed and today after emailing customer service they responded by saying that the shipment isn't expected until July 1st and so they canceled my order. I FURIOUSLY called B&N headquarters and asked why they cancelled my order without first consulting me. The women on the phone didn't have much information but she seemed to believe that everyone's order from B&N had been canceled. Does anyone know anything about this. Is this true? I have a feeling B&N messed up and is now trying to cover their tracks.

Did anyone else order their copy of MC from B&N, and if so, what is your current status?

If I have to reorder my book and wait another 3-4 months for this, I am going to be so upset!

Thanks,

Charlie

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I understand but if you look at Volume 1. Pages 62-71, you will see the amount of interspersed text boxes and the difficulty encountered upon trying to read the linear prose. This is just within a few hours of reading. Furthermore, this is Volume 1.

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You are correct, 24 weeks is too long. We are missing a hyphen between the 2 and the 4. The actual time is 2-4 weeks. We are preparing a complete list of corrections and clarifications, and will post that on modernistcuisine.com as soon as it is ready, probably later this week.

Johnny Zhu

Culinary Research Assistant

Modernist Cuisine

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It's quite readable with a Scotch instead (though I've already spilled on it once...)

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It's quite readable with a Scotch instead (though I've already spilled on it once...)

Yikes! I'm keeping my books a safe distance from all beverages and food.

I'm skipping around in the book, using the index PDF as a means of finding areas of interest. I'll sit down and read through most of it at length, but right now I'm just getting a feel for it.

I like the terse, compact format for the recipes. (shades of Le Guide Culinaire...) But when I try to cook from them I wind up puzzling over some of the instructions, and I hit snags in the execution. There's such a staggering amount of information in these books that it will take me , quite literally, years to begin to absorb it all.

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Well, I finally caught up with DHL today. Pictured below is my copy of Modernist Cuisine, at least according to Amazon.ca. I haven't even bothered to open it, because I already know what's inside. Yes, they charged me full price, and yes, this is the only shipment listed as part of my "closed" order. Question for others who received $400 kitchen manuals -- has Amazon.ca managed to find the missing portions of our orders yet? Trying to understand my options here.

modernistfail.jpg

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Michael Ruhlman was interviewed about Modernist Cuisine on a local NPR show today. He clarifies his statements in the NY Times a bit. It seems to me that he has immense respect for MC.

Ruhlman also plugs MC in his review of Achatz's Life, On the Line:

If you want more details on how the food is actually created, buy the Alinea cookbook and also invest in Modernist Cuisine, the awe-inspiring new multi-volume cookbook and manifesto detailing its every aspect).

It's also interesting to note that he uses "Modernist cuisine" as a generic term several times in the article -- an amazingly rapid transition from the title of a book to the label for a movement. How many years did it take Xerox or Kleenex (or Hoover for you folks in the UK) take to reach this status? MC has done it in less than a month!

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It's also interesting to note that he uses "Modernist cuisine" as a generic term several times in the article -- an amazingly rapid transition from the title of a book to the label for a movement. How many years did it take Xerox or Kleenex (or Hoover for you folks in the UK) take to reach this status? MC has done it in less than a month!

It helps that more or less everyone hated the other terms available ("molecular gastronomy", "technoemotional cuisine", etc.) And the book makes a very compelling case for the term "Modernist cuisine" in volume one: I suspect the uptake of the new terminology will be rapid indeed.

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I've enjoyed my sessions reading the book, so far distressingly few of them, with food nearby, and while I haven't spilled on it yet, that will surely come in time. But if I wait for food-free time to read it, away from the kitchen, dining room, or midnight snacks, it will take years to get through at present rates--not due to readability issues, it's more readable than most of my trade journals, but simply due to time constraints. And I want to get through that first reading ASAP, so I can start incorporating new ideas and techniques into my cooking. Just this weekend, I made some filled cookies, that might have benefited from a better knowledge of thickening agents to help solidify the filling a bit and preserve their shape better without the inevitable flavor dilution of cornstarch.

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I think the reconstructed cheeses may have changed my life. I made a grilled cheese for lunch today that might possibly have been the best I've ever had. Such a simple little thing...

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Well, I finally caught up with DHL today. Pictured below is my copy of Modernist Cuisine, at least according to Amazon.ca. I haven't even bothered to open it, because I already know what's inside. Yes, they charged me full price, and yes, this is the only shipment listed as part of my "closed" order. Question for others who received $400 kitchen manuals -- has Amazon.ca managed to find the missing portions of our orders yet? Trying to understand my options here.

Well, since there have apparently been reports of shipments without a kitchen manual (anyone here?), it seems likely the slipcases that were supporting our kitchen manuals were sent out to others and aren't just gathering dust in the warehouse. So, resolving it through Amazon.ca will probably mean waiting for them to get another shipment (are they even due to get another in the first printing?). I'm not sure if it will be faster, but you can e-mail info@modernistcuisine.com as per Wayt's post on missing kitchen manuals. Although that post relates to the inverse situation, they seem to be willing to help me out (though I don't know what form this will take yet - maybe just assistance dealing with Amazon.ca). In any case, getting help from the publisher can't hurt and could end up putting pressure on Amazon.ca from both ends.

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Found an error on page 45 of volume 2. The fourth paragraph begins "Certainly a thin the pan made from less..."

Don't worry.

I've alerted the proper authorities.

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      A. Temperature Settings
       
      Unfortunately, with every pan I tried, the temperature settings were wildly inaccurate for measuring the temperature of the food. I heated 2 liters of peanut oil in a variety of pots, disk-base, enameled cast iron enameled steel, and copper. I thought it might be useful to see how close to 350F and 375F the settings were for deep frying. The oil in a Le Creuset 5.5Q Dutch oven set to 350F never made it past 285F, and it took 40:00 to get there. I kept bumping up the setting until I found that the setting for 420F will hold the oil at 346F. A disk-based pot didn’t hit 365F until the temperature setting was boosted to 400F. The only pan which came remotely close to being true to the settings was a 2mm silvered copper oven, which heated its oil to 327F when the Panasonic was set for 350F, and 380F when set for 410F.
       
      The temperature function was a lot closer to true when simply preheating an empty pan. With a setting of 350F, all the shiny stainless pans heated to just a few degrees higher (about 353-357F) and held there. This is useful for judging the Leidenfrost Point (which is the heat at which you can oil your SS and have it cook relatively nonstick) and potentially for “seasoning” carbon steel, SS and aluminum, but not much else, since it doesn’t translate to actual food temperature. There’s also the issue of the temperature settings *starting* at 285F, so holding a lower temperature for, e.g., tempering chocolate or a sous vide bath, or even a simmer would be by-guess-by-golly just like any other hob—your only resort is lots of experience with lower *power* settings.
       
      With heat-tarnished copper, a 350F setting resulted in a wide swinging between 353F and 365F, which I attribute to the copper shedding heat far faster than the other constructions, once the circuit stops the power at temperature. Then, when the circuit cycles the power back on, the copper is so responsive that it quickly overshoots the setting. Aluminum, on the other hand, *undershot*, the 350F setting, registering a cycle of 332-340F.

      I conclude that the IR sensor is set for some particular emissivity, probably for that of stainless steel. If true, the Panasonic, even though it automatically switches frequencies, does not compensate for the different emissivities of copper and aluminum. And even if Panasonic added dedicated aluminum and copper IR sensors, there is enough difference between dirty and polished that the added cost would be wasted. Bottom line here: the temperature setting mode is of extremely low utility, and should not be trusted.
       
      B. Power Mode – Pan Material Comparisons
       
      Given the differences in power setting granularity and maximum power between the two frequencies, it is difficult to assess what X watts into the pot means in, say, a copper-versus-clad or –disk showdown. What is clear, however, is that Setting X under disk and clad seems “hotter” than the same setting under copper and aluminum.

      I will need to precisely calibrate the Panasonic for wattage anyway for the hyperconductivity project, so I will obtain a higher-powered watt meter to determine the wattage of every power setting for both frequencies. Until then, however, the only way I can fairly handicap a race is to apply a reduction figure to the ferromagnetic setting (2400W being 69% of 3500W). Given that we know the wattage at the maximum settings, we can infer that Setting 14 (actually 13.8) on the 20-step ferromagnetic range iis approximately the same heat output as the maximum setting (18) for copper/aluminum.

      The boil times for 4 liters of 50F water in 10” diameter pots shocked me. The 10” x 3mm tinned copper pot’s water reached 211F in 36:41. Not an especially fast time at 2400 watts. The 10” disk-based pressure cooker bottom? Well, it didn’t make it—it took an hour to get to 208F and then hung there. So that left me wondering if the Panasonic engineers simply decided that 2400 watts was enough for copper and aluminum. I have a theory why the copper pot boiled and the SS one didn’t under the same power, but getting into that’s for another time.

      C. Evenness Comparisons
       
      The wires which generate the induction field are wound in a circular pattern; when energized, they create a torus-shaped magnetic field. The wound coil is constructed with an empty hole at its center. As matters of physics, the magnetic field’s intensity drops off extremely fast as a function of the distance from the coil; a few millimeters above the Ceran, the field is so weak no meaningful heat will be generated. This means that most induction cooktops heat *only* the very bottom of pans, and in a distinct 2-dimensional “doughnut” shape.

      All of the above can result in a pan having a cooler central spot, a hotter ring directly over the coil, and a cooler periphery outside the coil. It is left to the cookware to try to even out these thermal discontinuities when cooking. Some materials and pan constructions are better at this than others: the successful constructions utilize more highly-conductive metals such as aluminum and copper, but unless the material is very thick, there can be a ring-shaped hotspot that can scorch food.
      Until the Panasonic arrived to market, hotspot comparisons between ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper pans depended largely on comparing induction’s flat, more discrete heat ring with gas’s more diffuse, 3-dimensional one. Dodgeball-style debate ensued, with few clear conclusions. But now, for the first time, equally-powered flat heat rings in two different frequencies allow us to directly compare evenness in ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper cookware.

      The simplest and easiest way to assess cookware evenness is the “scorchprint”, which does not require infrared or other advanced thermal imaging equipment. I’ve posted on how to conduct scorchprinting elsewhere, but basically a pan is evenly dusted with flour; heat is applied to the pan bottom. As the flour is toasted, any hotspots visually emerge, giving the viewer a useful general idea of evenness.
       
      I will later post the photos of scorchprints I made of 4 different pans run using the Panasonic KY-MK3500: (1) a Demeyere 28cm Proline 5* clad frypan; (2) a Fissler Original Profi disk-base 28cm frypan; a 6mm aluminum omelet pan; and (4) a 32cm x 3.2mm Dehillerin sauté. To make it a fair race, I heated all the pans at 2400W until they reached 450F, and then backed off the power setting to maintain 450F. I did this in order not to compromise my saute’s tin lining. As you will see, both the clad Demeyere and the disk-based Fissler did print the typical brown doughnut, with a cooler center and periphery. By far the most even was the thick, all-aluminum pan, which actually was even over its entirety—even including the walls. The copper sauté was also quite even, although its larger size and mass really dissipated heat; once 450F was dialed in, no more browning happened, even after 30 minutes.
       
      I conclude that the straightgauge pans were far more effective at shunting heat to their peripheries and walls (and also to some extent into the air) than the clad and disk-based pans. The latter accumulated their heat with most of it staying in the center of the pans. Eventually, even the “doughnut hole” blended into the scorch ring because the walls were not bleeding sufficient heat away from the floor. This was especially pronounced in the Fissler, the high wall and rim areas of which never exceeded 125F. The aluminum pan, in contrast varied less than 30F everywhere on the pan.

      D. Other Considerations

      The Panasonic’s fan noise at the cook’s position was noticeable at 63 dBA, higher than with the VMP’s 57 dBA. These levels are characterized as “normal conversation” and “quiet street”, respectively. Interestingly, I found two other, potentially more important differences. First, the Panasonic’s fan stays on, even after the unit is powered off, whereas the VMP’s fan shuts off immediately when the hob is turned off. Second, the Panasonic’s fan steps down from the louder speed to a much quieter (47 dBA, characterized as “quiet home”) level until the Ceran is cool to sustained touch, at which point it shuts off completely. I think the Panasonic’s ability to continue to vent and cool itself is a great feature, especially since a cook could leave a large, full, hot pan on the glass.

      The glowing circle is useless for gauging heat setting or intensity. And while it works to indicate a hot surface, it remains lit long after you can hold your hand in place dead center.
       
      VI. Summary and Lessons
       
      The Panasonic KY-MK3500 is a solid unit, well-conceived and rugged. It is extremely easy to use. It works well with both the common 24kHz frequency used with ferromagnetic cookware, and the 90kHz frequency chosen here for copper and aluminum. It effectively and automatically switches between the two.

      In my opinion, it points the way to expanding the worldwide induction appliance market to include dual frequencies. It also obviates the need to: (a) junk otherwise excellent cookware merely to have induction; and (b) retrofit designs to bond on ferromagnetic outer layers. In fact, in my opinion, my tests indicate that, in a dual-frequency world, adding ferromagnetic bottoms may well be a drag on pans’ performance.
       
      I also consider the Panasonic Met-All to be ground-breaking in what it can tell us about *pans*, because all metallic pans are now commensurable on induction. Clearly (to me anyway), watt-for-watt, the copper and aluminum pans performed better than did the clad and disk-based pans on this unit. Boil times were faster, there was less propensity to scorch, and the conductive-sidewall pans definitely added more heat to the pans’ contents. We may ultimately find that 90kHz fields save energy compared to 24kHz fields, much as copper and aluminum require less heat on gas and electric coil.
      In terms of heat transfer, the copper and aluminum pans came close to emulating the same pans on gas. And at 2400W/3500W it has the power of a full size appliance in a relatively small tabletop package.
       
      The Panasonic is far from perfect, however. It can’t really be considered portable. There are far too few temperature settings, and what few it has are not accurate or consistent in terms of judging pan contents and attaining the same temperature in different pans (and even the same pan unless clean). The luminous ring could easily have been made a useful indicator of intensity, but wasn’t. And it lacks things that should be obvious, including a through-the-glass “button” contact thermocouple, more power granularity, an analog-style control knob, and capacity to accept an external thermocouple probe for PID control.
       
      Most importantly for me, the Panasonic KY-MK3500 portends more good things to come. Retail price remains $1,700-$2,400, but I jumped on it at $611, and I’ve seen it elsewhere for as low as $1,200.
       
      The manual can be found here: ftp://ftp.panasonic.com/commercialfoo...
       
      Photo Credit:  Panasonic Corporation

    • By artiesel
      THE BOOKS ARE SOLD
       
       
      I have Volumes 1 ,2 and 4 of Jean-Pierre Wybauw's Great Chocolate books are for sale.
       
      The books are in great shape!  There is some tape on the corner of the front of volume 1 that I used to keep it together after a drop.  Volume 1 is also autographed by the author (See pics below).
       
      I'm asking $150 for the lot OBO.
       
      Let me know if interested or if you have questions
       
       
       



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