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nathanm

Cooking with Liquid Nitrogen

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Can you list some of the safety precautions?

Thanks!


2317/5000

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we also are doing cocktails spheres that are liquid in the center and frozen on the outside........

This sounds very interesting. Can you explain how you do it?


--

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There are several web sites that have full safety info, such as this

The following is provided for information only, use at your own risk.

The basic things are this:

- Get a pair of Tempshield cryo gloves - these are available from scientific supply places like Fisher Scientific and others. You want the waterproof model (there are also non-waterproof), and I like the elbow length ones.

- Get a cryo apron, also by Tempshield

- Get safety glasses, or a face shield. I use a full face shield that I happened to have already from using oven cleaner. Here is a similar one that from Amazon

The gloves and apron are ridulously expensive - like $150 each. I know people who use much cheaper gloves, or no gloves, but these are the correct ones to have.

LN2 is VERY cold. If it splashes on your skin it could really hurt you - or not. Surprisingly, if it falls onto a a convex surface (i.e. the back of your hand) it just falls off. You hand is so hot compared to the LN2 that it boils at the bottom and a cushion of nitrogen gas lets it fall off harmlessly. In graduate school (I was in physics) we would sometimes play irresponsibly with the stuff and have hallway fights with it ect. I've had it on my skin many times without a problem - even had it run down my back under my shirt.

If you pour a bit onto a flat surface - a plate, or pan - droplets will float and dance on teh surface until gone, just like drops of water will do in a very hot saute pan, and for the same reason.

BUT that's only if there is a way for it fall off. If it falls onto a concave surface where it will collect instead of fall off, such as the palm of your hand, well that is BAD.

Your biggest risk is having it splatter into your eyes - hence the shield or goggles. Any saftey goggles should do, but I like the face shield because it does not fog up.

The other risk is soaking into clothing - that is BAD. There are plenty of lab rats who work with the stuff that will tell you that the best way to handle LN2 is naked.

An example of a really bad thing to do is to spill some so it goes in your shoes. You'll lose a bunch of flesh that way.

So, I use cryo gloves and cryo apron. However, if I didn't have those I would use waterproof gloves and a waterproof apron, and maybe rubber boots.

The other main hazard is that when LN2 goes from liquid to gas, the volume increases. So, you NEVER seal it in a container. A popular stunt for physics grad students is to pour a bit into an empty 2 liter plastic soda bottle, then throw the bottle into a plastic trash can half filled with water, or into a swimming pool. The whole thing will explode. I don't mean a little explosion either.

So, NEVER seal it in a container. Never pour it down a drain - it will freeze the water in the sink trap, and can make it explode.

This all sounds bad, but I do not believe that LN2 is any more dangerous that fry oil. You wouldn't want to fill your shoe with hot fry oil either. In fact, it is probably more dangerous spilling hot oil on your hand than LN2.

I use the gloves and apron for pouring between the storage dewar (container you store it in) and the container that I use to dunk food in -(a open mouth dewar, or small plastic cooler). However, once I am using it I usually have at least one glove off. because they are just too cumbersome.

In practice you use the same sort of tools you'd use for frying in oil - i.e. tongs and mesh strainers to catch the food and bring it out. For some purposes, like making a powder by spraying a liquid into LN2 a fine mesh chinois is best.


Nathan

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Chef Sean can reply on how he makes his cocktail spheres - I am curious too.

Here is a trick that may be similar. Take a mixture which normally does not freeze at typical freezer temperatures - for example something with lots of sugar in it (syrup), or lots of alcohol in it, or an oil that does not typically freeze.

You can use LN2 to freeze these things. Even pure vodka will freeze. Alcohol freezes at -117C, but LN2 is at -196C.

Once you've frozen the normally unfreezable liquid you can encase it in something else around it - say ice cream, mousse.... or a liquid which will stay frozen at normal freezer temperatures. Then you put the whole thing in the freezer and let it sit a while - usually overnight. Ironically the goal of putting it in the freezer is to WARM UP the core that was frozen with LN2, which then melts into a liquid. Obviously, the encasing should not leak.

Heston Blumenthal makes a mock egg this way that has a liquid yolk. The mock yolk has enough sugar and alcohol that will be liquid in a normal freezer. He freezes the mock yolk, then makes the mock egg white and molds it around the yolk and lets it stay in the freezer.

When the customer's spoon goes in, they find a liquid yolk.

This is a variation on things like Chinese soup dumplings where you freeze a liquid, encase it in something, then heat the something and serve with liquid inside.

You could do this with LN2 also. If you wanted vodka filled dumplings or syup filled dumplings you could freeze the vodka with LN2, encase in dumpling dough, then cook the dumplings. The only issue here is that your dumpling dough must be watertight.


Nathan

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My father used to regularly win bets from his colleagues at MIT by gargling liquid nitrogen. I'm not sure what the trick was, but he never burned himself. I'll have to ask him about it.


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The other risk is soaking into clothing - that is BAD.  There are plenty of lab rats who work with the stuff that will tell you that the best way to handle LN2 is naked. 

An example of a really bad thing to do is to spill some so it goes in your shoes.  You'll lose a bunch of flesh that way.

Naked and shaved preferably. Hair + LN2 = BAD too.


PS: I am a guy.

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My father used to regularly win bets from his colleagues at MIT by gargling liquid nitrogen.  I'm not sure what the trick was, but he never burned himself.  I'll have to ask him about it.

Interesting. There is a picture of a girl doing this here. I think I'd pass on that one!


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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The other risk is soaking into clothing - that is BAD.  There are plenty of lab rats who work with the stuff that will tell you that the best way to handle LN2 is naked. 

An example of a really bad thing to do is to spill some so it goes in your shoes.  You'll lose a bunch of flesh that way.

Naked and shaved preferably. Hair + LN2 = BAD too.

And besides, what could possibly be more sexy than a bunch of naked and shaved lab rats exploring the mysterious ways of LN2? Add some MDMA, loud techno music, and flashing lights, and you have yourself a fine rave . . .


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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My father used to regularly win bets from his colleagues at MIT by gargling liquid nitrogen.  I'm not sure what the trick was, but he never burned himself.  I'll have to ask him about it.

Yes, amoung irresponsible things that science types do with LN2, this is one of them.

I have not done it myself - I'm crazy, but not that crazy. I am sure it can be done, but it would seem that if it isn't done just right you'd have a real problem.


Nathan

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Is there any chance someone would do a demo on this? I think we'd all be thrilled to see someone working with it.

Please, please, please, etc..........

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Wendy, I hope you're not asking for a demo of the naked-and-shaved nitro treatment. :laugh::laugh:

Louisa Chu has an account of Albert Adrià's oil-encapslated-in-sugar thang here. I'm wondering how he gets the oil encapsulated in the sugar coating - does he super-freeze it wit LNG? Enquiring minds want to know. :smile:

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No, I believe that what he does is siply pour the oil into a blown sugar bubble.

You could freeze things and then coat them this way I suppose. Albert Adria does lots of other things with liquid nitrogen.


Nathan

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I was at a party the other night where someone brought a large tank of LN2 to make ice cream.

Some shots of the process, and detail shots of the consistency below. It was wonderfully smooth - soft-serve style ice cream meant to be consumed immediately.

ln2_hs.jpg

ln2_hs2.jpg

Mid-mix

ln2_hs3.jpg

Ready to eat

-h


Edited by heidihi (log)

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101 Cookbooks

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I have let a thin stream of honey fall in to a styrofoam cooler full of liquid nitrogen to make "honey shards." They are very good on their own, but their main purpose is a garnish for ice cream. maple syrup and black strap molasses are also amazing. very thinly sliced fruits and vegetables can be made to mimic crunchy fried items as garnish for desserts. I have also experimented with shattering thin items to create shapes that are impossible to make with a knife. There was an experimental steak tartare made in this way.

very high temperatures can do amazing things as well. I read about a chef using lasers to cook bread from the inside out etc. can't find the article however.

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I'm having horrid little visions of someone balling up mashed potatoes and dropping it into LN2 with gravy so the outside is frozen and the inside is still hot and serving them to unsuspecting folks as a tapas item.

Right next to the glowing pickle ornament at the bar.

The Glowing Pickle Page

Edit to add: For LN2 Ice cream, the recipes I saw on the web vacillated between equal amounts of mix and LN2 to 5 parts LN2 to 1 part ice cream mix. Most recipes called for 1 part mix, 2 parts LN2. I vaguely remember Dr. Carr making it with 2 parts mix and 1 part LN2.

So, obviously, YMMV. But, I have to ask, after 10 years of lab-ratdom, are there that many lab-rats that you want to see naked, and shaved? I shudder at the thought of most of the ones I know.


Edited by jsolomon (log)

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Thanks Nathan,

_john - I you come across that article again, I would love to read it - please post.

With the batch of LN2 ice cream I observed, we started with about 4 cups of a pretty standard vanilla base in the the metal mixer bowl. Turned on the mixer, and started adding the LN2 gradually - a bit at a time over the course of about four minutes. Everything quickly firmed and fluffed up, the room we were in looked like a haunted house.

With the leftover LN2 they went out back with the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl a hammer, and a selection of things they were interested in freezing and then smashing.

- a whole onion (more impressive in theory - the core didn't seem to get cold enough, and it didn't really shatter the way I imagined it would)

- leafy herbs (kind of interesting - they ended up very dry, brittle, and flaky)

- a cigarette (similar to what happened to the herbs - the wrap around the tabacco got dry and brittle)

-h


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Heidi Swanson

101 Cookbooks

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I recieved the lastest issue of Pastry Art & Design (Decemeber 2005) yesterday and the whole issue is devoted to frozen desserts. Toward the back of the magazine Tish Boyle did a "how to" with Robert Ellinger on 'liquid nitrogen dip' and 'instant ice cream' as shown above in Heidihi's post.

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- a whole onion (more impressive in theory - the core didn't seem to get cold enough, and it didn't really shatter the way I imagined it would)

- leafy herbs (kind of interesting - they ended up very dry, brittle, and flaky)

- a cigarette (similar to what happened to the herbs - the wrap around the tabacco got dry and brittle)

-h

Heh, it's funner to dip a cigarette in liquid oxygen and then hand it to an unsuspecting person. When they try and light it, it turns into a massive fireball which, fortunely, isn't hot enough to hurt anything.


PS: I am a guy.

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Can you huff it?

Yes.

But then your face would fall off, when it thaws.

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A scientist who's little girl goes to school with my daughter was telling me about an accident with a bunch of NASA scientists who were wiped out by the odorless vapors in a improperly ventilated room.

I guess maybe not as much of a chance of that happening in a pro kitchen with hoods but...


2317/5000

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But where can home cooks get liquid nitrogen?  Give me a source and I'll get some.

Scientific and Medical supply stores. Although some are a bit more picky about who can buy. If your near a university (which, IIRC, you are), you can sometimes just rock up to the chemisty department with a thermos and they'll fill it for you then and there.

Be careful though, it's not especially dangerous but there are some precautions you have to take.


PS: I am a guy.

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My father used to win bets around MIT by gargling liquid nitrogen. Just like dipping your hands into a pot of boiling water, I imagine there are ways to dip one's hands into liquid nitrogen without being burned. Still, though, I wouldn't recommend it. Liquid nitrogen is still something that can hurt you quite badly if you're cavalier about the way you use it. I'd much rather be hit in the eye with a splashed droplet of boiling water than a splashed droplet of liquid nitrogen.


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Not really dangerous at all

:huh: really, so how come all the pro's insist you use it in the books, Dani Garcia, El Bulli, both my meals at morimoto ny and fat ducky ?????

The only "pros" with LN2 I know are the ones that work for the LN2 companies. I go through 1,000 litres of LN2 every week. Thats enough to be considered a pro, but I am far from a pro when it comes to the knowlegde the scientists have. I can tell you LN2 is no more hazardous that working with gas burners. One just has to be careful to have adequete hvac and dont keep your hands in the thick fog or liquid for too long. The rules of engagement are similar to a gas flame. If anything, gas is MORE dangerous because it can blow up the kitchen if youre not careful.


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      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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