The term molecular gastronomy conjures up images of strangely colored droplets and foams arranged on a plate. As a result, this scientific approach to cooking is often derided as cold and unfeeling—the opposite of what good food is supposed to be. At its heart, though, molecular gastronomy—or, as it’s sometimes called, molecular cooking—involves using technological tools to create dishes that are delicious as well as innovative. One of the genre’s best tricks is applying seemingly mundane technologies from the food-processing industry to high-end ingredients like oysters and lobster. As the following five examples illustrate—three of which premiered in February at the prestigious Flemish Primitives culinary festival, in Belgium—the resulting techniques stand to benefit restaurant chefs and even home cooks.
1. At this year’s Flemish Primitives, Bernard Lahousse, a food consultant with a bioengineering degree, used a high-pressure processing (HPP) machine to infuse oysters with tomato and other flavors without sacrificing freshness or textural integrity. This marked the first time an HPP machine was used for culinary purposes, but the technology is a staple of the seafood-processing industry, which started employing the technology to extract meat from shellfish in the late 1990s. At US $500 000 to $2.5 million, HPP machines are too expensive for most restaurant kitchens, but chefs have been known to create tabletop versions of industrial equipment. Take, for example, the Reveo meat tumbler, a miniature version of an industrial meat tenderizer that retails for about $170.