Wednesday, November 13, 2013

more sous-vide for the holidays

ACS is doing another sous-vide webinar for holiday cooking:
Getting tired of eating the same holiday cuisine over and over again every year?  Why not mix things up with sous vide?  Learn how to re-imagine several of your favorites, including turkey, veggies and ice cream by infusing a little science!  Join us as Dr. Douglas Baldwin returns to explain the chemistry behind the cooking. It’s sure to whet your appetite!

What You Will Learn
  • How to cook a sous vide turkey so that it’s moist and safe
  • How to cook a sous vide chuck roast that’s better than most prime-ribs
  • Why sous vide cooking produces more nutritious and flavorful vegetables
  • How to use sous vide to make great custards and ice creams
  • And much more…

Webinar Details
Date: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Time: 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Fee: Free

Friday, June 28, 2013

taste and the senses...

Two things popped up on my horizon this week:  one is the article in Flavour that compares food taste with colour and shape of cutlery and the other is a restaurant that really tests your tasting skill based on your taste buds alone.

The first study was done by Harrar and Spence, psychologists from Oxford University to determine how participants experienced the taste of food on different types and shapes of cutlery.  The article is open access so you can read it in its entirety here:
Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence, (2013) The taste of cutlery: how the taste of food is affected by the weight, size, shape, and colour of the cutlery used to eat it.  Flavour 2:21  doi:10.1186/2044-7248-2-21Published: 26 June 2013

Some cool observations were that yoghurt tasted thicker and richer from a plastic spoon and cheese tasted saltier when eaten off a knife!  The contrasting colours between food and utensil also made a difference to the perceived taste. The effects are possibly related to personal expectations, physical effects (i.e. how the utensil feels in the hand), and among other reasons.  

This could be tried at home with a simple test - taste some yogurt with different cutlery and see if you can taste a difference!

The second item is a different kind of restaurant experience - eat in the dark!

This socially conscious concept sprang from Jorge Spielmann, a blind pastor in Zurich who used to blindfold his dinner guests at his home so they could share his eating experience. In 1999, Spielmann opened Blindekuh (German for Blind Cow), a project aimed at teaching the sighted about the sightless world and providing jobs for blind people. "How lucky am I." Moe proudly states. "I get to do something I love and make a difference." from O.Noir website
These restaurants are staffed by blind waiters and the entire dining experience is done in pitch blackness  (you do order in a lighted bar and pay there too).  Without sight, the idea is that your other senses are more attuned to the nuanced taste of the food.  And a secondary lesson is understanding a bit more about what the blind experience daily. There are supposedly a number of restaurants in Europe and two in Canada, one in Montreal and one in Toronto (both called O.Noir).  Neat idea and one I am looking forward to experiencing!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two things you do not want in the same sentence:

The curious case of the barbecue and the toilet seat.

This is a great article dissecting a newspaper article screaming about the hidden dangers of germs around the house and garden:

The average British barbecue contains TWICE as many germs as a toilet seat

  • Outdoor grill contains 1.7 million microbes per 100cm sq - 124% more than a toilet seat - and just 36% of people clean it more than twice a year
  • Bin lids have next highest bacteria count - a staggering 1.2 million per 100 cm sq, compared to 759,950 on a toilet seat
  • Microbes in the garden include e-coli, salmonella and listeria all of which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea



  • Carpets are a germ breeding ground and can be up to 4,000 times grubbier than your toilet seat.
  • A 2008 UK study found that  computer keyboards carry up to five times more bacteria than a toilet seat. 
  • Kitchen sinks typically contain more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch than a typical loo.
  • Kitchen sponges can contain a staggering 200,000 times more bacteria that your toilet.
  • Mobile phone have been found to be 500 times more germ-ridden than a typical loo.

But despite this we do not all get sick and, in fact, very few microbes and withstand the heat of a properly warmed up BBQ.  SO why the fuss?  To sell disinfectants!   Reader Beware!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hot water baths and cooking - aka sous vide

This week's webinar from the ACS is on Sous Vide cooking:

The use of vacuums and precisely controlled temperatures. Sounds like chemistry but is actually Sous vide. Join Dr. Douglas Baldwin as he explains the science behind this precise form of cooking that can make the toughest cuts of meat come out tender, juicy and medium rare.

Webinar Details
Date: Thursday, May 9, 2013
Time: 2:00-3:00 pm ET

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Food and the five senses

The Flavour journal has just published a review article on how our senses can affect our impressions of food. We know that look, smell and taste are very important but this article highlights studies that have examined touch and hearing as well:

A touch of gastronomy
Charles SpenceCaroline HobkinsonAlberto Gallace and Betina Piqueras Fiszman
Flavour 2013, 2:14 doi:10.1186/2044-7248-2-14 (open access)
They describe studies where the weight of glasses and bowls affect the participants attitudes towards the food; where the touch of a waitress will affect the amount of a tip; where the type of serving dish will enhance the experience; and where the environment of the restaurant also plays a part.
Fascinating reading - not everything is chemistry related but actually since all our senses are really causing chemical triggers in the brain, everything is chemistry!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Upcoming webcasts live from New Orleans!

The theme of the ACS Meeting this year is the Chemistry of Food and Energy.  They are planning to broadcast some of the seminars in particular one by Dr. Cesar Vega and Shirley Corriher on Egg Science and one by Dr. Timothy Harlan on the Mediterranean diet.

Here are the details:

Event Schedule
Monday, April 8, 2013
11:00am – 12:00pm ET
LIVE Cooking Demo: Egg Science Deconstructed
Dr. Cesar Vega and Ms. Shirley Corriher

3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
Mediterranean Diet: It’s Not Just for the Mediterranean
Dr. Timothy Harlan

Remember that most of these webinars are also available for viewing after the  session as well in case you miss it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The other type of "canning" the literal one

Harold McGee has written a very interesting article in Slate on how canning (in tins) can actually add flavours to the food the longer it is kept in the can.  He also describes some of the processes involved in packaging in cans - worth reading!

Age Your Canned Goods
Why I now think of best-by dates as maybe-getting-interesting-by dates.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snack food science

A fascinating look into the snack food industry:

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
By Published: February 20, 2013

Fascinating look into some very familiar brands and how they research and target their markets. The book this article is excerpted from should be a very interesting read...

"This article is adapted from “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which will be published by Random House this month.
Michael Moss is an investigative reporter for The Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his reporting on the meat industry."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pressure cookers explained

Modernist Cuisine has a neat article on how pressure cookers work.

I used to have up to four different sized pressure cookers but now am down to two - one small one for quick stuff and one larger one for stews and roasts.  I find they are great for making ribs - it takes only about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker to make succulent melt int he mouth ribs!  I broil the meat first in the oven to get some the brown Maillard reaction flavour and then add the sauce and ribs to the pressure cooker and have my ribs done in the time it takes to make the rice.
Here is one recipe example:

Another favourite is to use the pressure cooker to make Whole Oat Groat porridge.  I buy whole oat groats (dehulled) and rinse them quickly. I then dry roast them in the pressure cooker without the lid until I can smell the nuttiness and they look like they have mostly puffed up a bit.  Then I add about 3 times as much water as groats and some salt and pressure cook for one hour.  You can do this in the evening and leave it to cool in the pressure cooker overnight. In the morning, I open the pressure cooker and remove enough to eat and rewarm it in another pot.  It is extremely creamy and not as gluey as oatmeal from rolled oats. Shorter cooking times will keep the oat groats more firm if you prefer that.

Oat groats from

The bonus it is that you end up with enough for couple of days - it lasts really well in the fridge for up to 3 days (don't freeze it though)

And if you don't have a pressure cooker yet, here is an easy recipe for making the porridge without one (they don't roast the groats first but this does add a great flavour to the porridge):
And here is a blog post with tons of comments with lots of other suggestions:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pineapple addendum to Kiwi juice post

A while ago I posted about using kiwi juice to tenderize meat. I also noted that pineapple also has a protease enzyme, bromelain, that will tenderize meat. It does this by breaking down the proteins in the meat and therefore breaking the cellular structure.

One thing I did not mention is that the bromelain also does its wonders on your tongue if you eat the pinapple, especially more green.  I cut up a beautiful pineapple the other day and was happily munching away when  my tongue started to tingle and felt burnt!  Turns out the bromelain was also breaking down the proteins on my tongue...fortunately, the surface of our tongues is replenished almost daily so the effects are not long lasting but in future I think I will eat my pineapple with something a but more creamy such as yogurt to help coat  my tongue from the effects.  I have read that truly ripe from the tree pineapples do not have the same effect as the amount of bromelain is reduced as the pineapple ripens.

One downside of the protein attack is that you cannot put raw pineapple in gelatin since it will break down the gelatin (which is a protein).  The canned pineapple would work since it is usually  cooked and will have inactivated  the bromelain (need to try this experiment). To make pineapple jelly, you would need to use pectin not gelatin.


Pineapple strawberry jelly,1623,146161-225195,00.html

Dickson, S R and Bickerstaff, G F Pineapple bromelain and protein hydrolysis. Journal of Biological Education 25, 164–166 (1991)

Pineapple bushes

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pulled Moose

I was visiting my parent's place and found a moose roast in the freezer given to them by a friend a couple of years ago.  So we made a moose pot roast that melted in your mouth!  I sauteed the roast first to create the unami taste with the Maillard reaction and then just added some veggies, onions and water to let it simmer all day.  With only about an hour left, I added more salt and then turnip and carrots.

The meat was very tender and could be pulled apart with a fork - Delicious!  The simple broth was also incredibly flavourful.

The trick here was the 6 hour cooking time - it allowed the collagen in the meat to dissolve so that the meat could be so tender.  The broth could also be used for a great soup base afterwards. This shows you that you do not need fancy herbs and spices to make a very flavourful meal.

Sorry, no photos - we were too busy eating...

Addendum: Modernist Cuisine did a blog post on the Mailliard reaction:

Worth reading!