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Don't let the term 'molecular gastronomy' put you off. It simply means the science of cooking and although it is now associated with exciting, modern cuisine the techniques build on traditional cooking methods and are fun to learn.

The history of molecular gastronomy

The father of this scientific food movement is French chemist and cook Hervé This (pronounced 'Tis'). His investigations into the scientific process of cooking have evolved into the international cooking movement we know today as molecular gastronomy. Among his many fascinating discoveries is the perfect temperature to boil an egg (65 C in case you were wondering) and the use of an electrical field in pursuit of the perfect smoked salmon.

The best known exponent of molecular gastronomy in the UK is of course Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck restaurant. Despite being famous for his experiments with everything from dry ice to popping candy Heston Blumenthal is not a fan of the label 'molecular gastronomy' claiming it makes the practice sound complicated and elitist.

The chef laid out his agenda for great cooking alongside some of the biggest names in the business, "We embrace innovation - new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas - whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking." In other words there's nothing gimmicky in their eyes about experimenting with non-traditional cooking methods like liquid nitrogen and dehydration so long as the dishes they create taste fantastic.

Heston adds that, "Similarly, the disciplines of food chemistry and food technology are valuable sources of information and ideas for all cooks. Even the most straightforward traditional preparation can be strengthened by an understanding of its ingredients and methods, and chemists have been helping cooks for hundreds of years."

Molecular gastronomy techniques

Chefs experimenting with molecular gastronomy use a variety of techniques to create chemical reactions turning everyday ingredients into something quite delicious and unexpected.

Sous vide

This technique uses vacuum packed bags to cook meat or fish submerged in water at very low temperatures. After several hours in the hot-water bath the meat has cooked to perfection; after being seared in a very hot frying pan to seal the tender, juicy meat is served immediately.


Part of molecular gastronomy is making food look fabulous as well as taste amazing. Spherification turns thin liquids like fruit juice or broth into beautiful liquid filled beads that burst with flavour. This neat technique isn't as difficult as it seems at first glance; all you need to do is mix sodium alginate with the liquid of your choice and drip it into calcium and salt water. When you scoop them out the jellied pearls should be perfect spheres. You can add these to desserts for a bit of colour or any savoury dish really that would be improved by this novel garnish.


A popular foodie trend in recent years has been to a little foam or froth to your dishes. This can be achieved easily with a hand blender held just under the surface of the liquid and scooping the bubbles off the top as they form. To make sure your froth lasts until it's served up add a little gelling agent like agar agar or a thickener like lecithin. This technique is particularly nice in seafood dishes to give a little extra effect of the sea.

Flash freezing

Another molecular gastronomy technique that can leave diners with a sense of wonder is flash freezing. Typically this technique is used to contain liquid in a similar way to Spherification except this time the ingredients are exposed to extremely low temperatures for a short time, freezing the surface but leaving the centre liquid. This technique is popular for creating semi-frozen desserts with crunchy cool exteriors and liquid centres. This also allows for some spectacular and surprising flavour combinations.


A great way to create a tongue tingling effect without any additional equipment is to mix some bicarbonate of soda with citric acid and icing sugar. This is a fun technique especially effective brushed onto sweets and desserts.

Molecular gastronomy appliances

You can start to experiment with molecular gastronomy techniques without buying anything special for your kitchen. However there are some basic kitchen appliances you'll need to get started like a really good quality digital scale and heat safe vacuum bags for sous vide cooking. Once you start to get more confident with this method of cooking you might want to invest in things like a vacuum machine, some liquid nitrogen and some hypodermic syringes for Spherification and injecting liquids into meat to enhance the flavour. And don't forget you'll need to research and invest in some chemicals like methylcellulose which congeals in hot water and transglutanimase which glues proteins together and results in creative dishes like noodles made from crab meat or shrimp. Experimenting with molecular gastronomy techniques can re-invigorate your cooking and allow you to create signature dishes unique to you.

Have you tried any molecular gastronomy techniques in your kitchen?


Lockhart Catering on 26 February 2014 4:53 AM

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