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Kitchen Science -

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Kitchen Science

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NARRATION

Progressive chefs around the world are turning their kitchens into laboratories.

They're experimenting with new textures and flavours that engage the senses and excite the taste
buds.

Tanya Ha

I've been given the tough job of finding out about the physical and chemical processes that
transform food from a fuel into an experience.

Cory Campbell

Everyone's looking for that, that perfect flavour combination, that, that perfect dish and really
to push the envelope and almost to excite the diner every time they come in to eat.

Dr Joel Gilmore

Now we've got the technology and the background to really understand exactly why these techniques
that we use in cooking work, and to be able to use that to not only understand how we currently
cook, but to think of ways of being able to cook better.

NARRATION

Let's start off with something really simple.

Tanya Ha

So what's the secret to the perfect boiled egg?

Dr Joel Gilmore

Well what I've got here is a rice cooker that I've hooked up to a thermostat to control the
temperature of the water exactly. So normally when we cook eggs, we control the time - we put them
in, boil them for you know, three minutes.

Tanya Ha Ha

Yeah, we go on about our three minute, four minute egg, don't we?

Dr Joel Gilmore

Right. Trying to get the time right so the temperature of the egg ends up where we want it...

Tanya Ha

What's that heat doing to the actual proteins that are inside the egg?

Dr Joel Gilmore

All those proteins are normally wrapped up, folded into little balls. When you heat them, those
proteins gradually start to denature, unravel. Once they've unravelled, they're able to form links
with other proteins nearby to form a grid, a mesh - a process we call coagulation. And that's what
sets the egg. So by choosing what temperature you get the egg to, you can chose which proteins
solidify and which ones don't.

Tanya Ha

Ah, the proof is in the pudding.

Dr Joel Gilmore

Exactly. So let's have a look, this is a sixty-five degree egg. Now you can see, this is like a
perfect egg.

NARRATION

Cory Campbell is head chef at one of Australia's most innovative restaurants. He uses the same
technique to precisely control the cooking temperature of duck eggs.

Cory Campbell

We're trying to get that perfect texture. When we cook the duck egg at 64 degrees for about 35
minutes, the yolk itself just has this like, it's almost this meaty flavour to it, a real
creaminess to it. It's just amazing flavour. Um, and, and that's what we're looking for.

NARRATION

Cory serves the duck egg yolk on a bed of white asparagus puree, alongside lamb sweetbreads. And
they've been cooked using the technique, sous vide.

Tanya Ha

So what does sous vide literally mean?

Dr Joel Gilmore

Sous vide means under vacuum, but is now kind of used to describe any sort of low temperature
cooking, where you seal up your food, and then cook it at a specific temperature. If you want to
cook a perfect steak, what you do is season it with some salt and some pepper, and then I'm going
to seal it inside one of these special plastic bags. We're going to cook this at exactly 55
degrees, which is medium-rare.

Tanya Ha Ha

So why not cook on a stove-top?

Dr Joel Gilmore

Well the problem with a stove-top is that the pan is really hot and it means that the outside is
going to be way over-cooked by the time the middle of the steak gets to that 55 degree, medium-rare
temperature. By cooking it like this, we get to slow-cook the whole piece of meat to exactly medium
rare.

Tanya Ha

Now that doesn't really look like a cooked steak.

Dr Joel Gilmore

Not only does it not look like a steak, but it won't taste like a steak either.

NARRATION

What gives a steak many of its flavours and smells is the Maillard reaction, that browning you get
on the surface of the meat. It's a complex set of reactions between amino acids and carbohydrates.

Dr Joel Gilmore

All we're going to do is just char the outside. Gives you all those flavours, but actually produces
fewer of the carcinogenic compounds that sometimes come from cooked meat. So it's actually a
healthier way of cooking a meat.

NARRATION

Science may be challenging the age old methods of boiling an egg or frying a steak - but it
couldn't possibly change the way we take our tea - could it?!

Dr Joel Gilmore

We're going to combine sodium alginate with calcium chloride.

Tanya Ha

Yeah.

Dr Joel Gilmore

And when these two chemical meet, they are going to form a jelly almost instantaneously.

I've got some iced tea, and we're going to mix in this sodium alginate, about two grams.

NARRATION

The tea solution is dropped in a bath of calcium chloride solution.

Dr Joel Gilmore

So as soon as they touch, a reaction goes, and the alginate molecules begin to link together, and
that forms a gel, just like gelatine does in jelly, except it happens really quickly. It prevents
it from all solidifying at once. So we can take him out and you see that there is this little
bubble. If I simply burst this bubble.

Tanya Ha

Oh, there's the iced tea.

NARRATION

Cory applies the same technique using beetroot to go with his braised wagyu beef.

Cory Campbell

When the diner comes to eat the dish, they have this beautiful, rich, beef cheek with potato, and
then they cut into this beetroot and it oozes out this beetroot sauce.

Tanya Ha

It really is a surprise. You feel the sphere of beetroot just burst and it's quite cool and it's
quite a different flavour that joins with the meat as you're eating it.

NARRATION

There are lots more ideas that are finding their way from the lab into the kitchen, from foams and
gases to emulsions and suspensions.

Dr Joel Gilmore

chefs love to be creative, just like scientists do. They love to try out new things and to come up
with new ways of pleasing people who eat the food. And so trying out the seemingly weird
combinations of flavours and textures and colours, and even presentation of food is just one more
way of finding that perfect meal.