Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking | Nathan Myhrvold | Talks at Google

FEMALE SPEAKER: Please join me in welcoming to Google New York Nathan Myhrvold So Nathan, you wanted to start with a presentation about the book and give an overview NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah, let me show some pictures, and then we can talk FEMALE SPEAKER: Sounds good And then we’ll open it up for Q&A at the end NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Great So I’m going to tell you a little bit about “Modernist Cuisine At Home.” In 2011, we released this book, “Modernist Cuisine.” This is what we call the big book, which was an encyclopedic treatment of all aspects of cooking and the science behind it So the really interesting question is, what do we do next? And one next thing after that that we could do, may still do, would be pastry baking and dessert, because the first book didn’t cover that But as our next act, we decided, in fact, we would do modernist cuisine at home instead And the idea was basically that modernist cuisine was about sort of the no holds barred approach to cooking There are recipes that require a centrifuge, or a rotary evaporator, or all kinds of things that most people– I have them at home, but most people don’t have them at home So we decided we would do a book that would take the same ideas as “Modernist Cuisine,” but apply them in a way that was a smaller, little bit less daunting book It’s a little pamphlet, like 700 pages FEMALE SPEAKER: It weighs more than my child, we were deciding earlier NATHAN MYHRVOLD: And try to do stuff that would address things that people could do at home So every recipe in here, you can do at home It doesn’t require unusual equipment And it doesn’t require unusual ingredients And we also tried to really focus on practical techniques and use lots of photography to make it really easy to see what’s going on One side of these shows our step by steps The other thing shows what we call a cutaway This is where we show you the magic view inside your equipment The people at Viking gave us this Viking stove to cook with We cooked with it for a while And then we cut it in half It’s sort of like the 4H kid that gets a little calf, and raises it up, and then, oops But we cut it in half so you can see what it looks like inside Like the first book, we have a washable kitchen manual It’s on washable waterproof paper That’s so you can take it in the kitchen, get it dirty It’s a little bit smaller format, too And it folds back on itself, because it’s spiral bound And we kind of consider this the next part of “Modernist Cuisine,” yet it’s focusing on home cooking And home cooking just means two things One is what I said earlier, that it’s a set of stuff that you can do at home from an equipment perspective But equally important is that it’s a set of cooking recipes that are less formal In the first book, we’ve got recipes from Ferran Adria, and Thomas Keller, and Heston Blumenthal, and all the best chefs in the world You don’t typically cook that food at home all the time In the new book, we have a chapter on mac and cheese We have a chapter on chicken wings, and other skewered snacks So it’s a little bit less formal style, in addition to being a little bit more accessible from an equipment perspective So here’s uncompromising physical quality I wish I could say that about myself, but by god, I can say it about my book So we tried to make the physical aspect of the book kind of cool It’s big, it uses great paper This is sort of nerdy, but I figured I’m at Google, so that should be OK But when you typically print a picture in a book, it uses half tone screen, and this is what it looks like when you blow it up It’s 175 line An art book would use a 200 line screen But this whole idea of using a fixed screen is sort of an old analog world concept It’s still done We used something called stochastic screening, which uses an error diffusion algorithm, and the dots are now all created digitally And you can see, it just looks a lot better Here’s another thing most people don’t realize The gamut is the range of colors that inks can represent And most inks have a hard time with really saturated colors So here’s a picture from the book where the grey shows the stuff you can’t actually represent in the color gamut Well, if you buy something called Chroma Centric inks, you can show it all And so people will ask us, how did you get all of that color in those pictures? Is that because you digitally processed it?

And we said, no, we actually sprung for the expensive ink Because it turns it you just can’t represent some colors, particularly highly saturated colors You’ll see it’s the tomato, for example, and some of the greens in the apple, or the greens in that cauliflower Those are the things that don’t come across, because they’re highly saturated Now, of course, a good question is, why the hell am I doing a book at all? Why is it physical? And the original answer for “Modernist Cuisine” is that at the time we started, there were no tablet computers, except for the first version of Kindle, which was tiny and black and white There was no iPad It hadn’t come out And so we had to choose a platform, and we chose print But here’s the other reason– here’s a picture from the original book, and here’s what it looks like on Kindle and on an iPad And once you decide you’re going to do layout for a big, big high resolution display that you’re going to get this close to, it’s hard to just change it Of course you could do it But if you just literally took the PDFs from the book and just said, I’m going to move them onto a tablet, it’s not very usable, because you’re always scrolling one way and scrolling another way It also, to me, is kind of boring Because if you just took the PDFs, you don’t have any of the things that’s magical about an interactive platform So we’re talking about one possible future project is to make a really interactive version But then that actually starts getting to be real work, because you have to animate, and you want to have a lot of things live, and you have to have a little different user interface So at some point, yeah For now, actually, print is a great way to deliver large, high resolution pictures to people And particularly, if I target the people in this room or in the tech industry, then tablets would be even more appropriate But if I want to have influence with lots of traditional chefs around the world and give them an ability to step up, actually print is probably a better platform from that perspective at the moment So here’s some fun facts about the new book Two volumes, 9.9 pounds unpacked, 684 pages, 228 of which are waterproof 23 chapters, 210,000 words, 405 recipes, 114 that have step by step photos And we took about 86,000 pictures, of which 1,500 are in the book So here’s how we can sort of put it in perspective If you took “Modernist Cuisine At Home,” and you put it all in one line of text at the same type size, it would be 1.4 miles long, and that would stretch from 14th Street up to 42nd Street So several subway stops And of course we’re here That’s the you are here “Modernist Cuisine,” the big one, that actually would go from lower Manhattan all the way up to 116th Street So here’s another comparison People will say, why is this book so expensive? And we say, well, look The first book was $625 List price, street price, maybe $460 The new book is $140 Currently the street price is $130 I’d be surprised if that didn’t go down I have no way to control street price, of course That’s what retailers sell it at But it’s only $0.41 per recipe, and $0.35 per recipe in the new book It’s $15.63 a pound for this, but only $14.00 a pound How does that compare? Parmesan-Reggiano is $19 a pound We are cheaper than Parmesan cheese So if you love cheese, you should love this book It’s cheaper FEMALE SPEAKER: That’s a good sales pitch NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah, I’ve been I’m trying to come out of being a programmer and actually learn how to sell As I said before, we’ve got lots of step by step photos I don’t think we have a single page that doesn’t have a color photo on it Here was another In “Modernist Cuisine,” we decided we would have everything with weights But our new motto is, now with teaspoons! FEMALE SPEAKER: For the home cook NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Because home cooks– now, when people ask, what’s the first gadget they should buy for their kitchen, I always say a digital thermometer And then the second one is a digital scale And they’re like $20 This is not like any kind of expensive thing But once you get into it, weighing ingredients is faster and more accurate than measuring them out And you don’t have to worry about leveling it And you don’t have to worry about is your sugar clumping a different way, or some other things So I highly recommend the weight approach But now we have teaspoons, by god Whenever we do a recipe, we like to have lots of

variations on those recipes So here was something One spread shows pesto, and we started off making pesto And then we went, what the hell, let’s make a whole bunch of pesto-like sauces We started off with a chapter on chicken wings And then we said, let’s make yakitori style chicken wings But then if you like yakitori, tsukune, these chicken meatballs are really cool And then pretty soon we had saute, and tons of other skewers So we love having variations And we want to encourage people to mess around and do cool new things with cooking It’s not about here’s a recipe for one thing Lots of books will do that We try to say, here’s a principle, and here’s an example, and now here’s a couple other examples, and then experiment yourself and go take it other places We have some tables We had a lot of tables in the big book We have fewer in the small book But here, if you’re cooking meat, there isn’t a right way to cook it If you want it rare or medium rare or pink or medium, there’s different levels and different temperatures, different times that you can use So we try to provide all that information We do have things on sous vide in the new book And sous vide is something that most people don’t have the equipment for, but increasingly they are So we decided it was fair to put that in the new book But we also have lots of alternatives that don’t require the equipment So we have a sous vide salmon recipe where you just cook it in the sink Just run the hot water We have sous vide steaks for camping or tailgate parties, where you fill a big cooler full of hot water, put your steaks in Ziploc bags Just put them in there, no electric device or anything else FEMALE SPEAKER: No burgers at your house, are there? Just, like, regular? Do you eat just like a normal sandwich? Never NATHAN MYHRVOLD: If I’m making it, usually it’s not normal But I mean, tonight, I’m giving a talk at the American Museum of Natural History And so we’re going to Shake Shack first Because it’s the only pragmatic way to get fed in a certain– and they do good stuff The first book had lots of ingredients that are pretty difficult to find In this new book, we use ingredients which are all easy to find But they still might not be totally familiar And again, we thought that was OK So we have things that involve agar People say, isn’t that some weird chemical? And I say, well, actually, it’s been used in Asia for 1,000 years It’s actually more traditional than gelatin by that standard It’s been around for longer But between that and a whole variety of these other things– whey protein powder from the health food store, or xanthin gum, which is in essentially every grocery store now Because you can’t make gluten free muffins without xanthin As a result, it’s always there And we’re just saying, hey, now you can use it for something besides gluten free muffins You can thicken sauces with it We have a lot of science in this new book, not as much as the previous book But we have a lot of things that we describe the science of things, and then try to provide pointers off to people, either in the web or other books, or the big book that will explain things more Hell of a process making the book Here’s a few of the photos Here’s one of our fun toys This is an ultra high speed camera It shoots HD quality 720p video at 6,200 frames per second So this lets us do things like this Now, what I love about this is when I was a kid, I’d watch these Roadrunner cartoons And the roadrunner would run off the edge of the cliff, and so would the coyote But the coyote would only fall after he looked down So nobody told the water it was time to fall yet, so it kind of sits there I’ll run through a few of the spreads from the book, and we’ll talk a little bit about it, and then we can turn into more of a conversation This is our chapter on stocking the modernist kitchen It’s about different kinds of equipment, basically– countertop tools It turns out if you take a picture of a blender while it’s pureeing tomatoes, you make a hell of a mess But we had this great principle that it only has to look good for a thousandth of a second After that, if it all goes to hell, that’s our problem That’s not the viewer’s problem Here’s what a whipping siphon looks like from the inside, and we explain how you can use this for making whipped cream or other kind of whipped foam things, but also for all kinds of other stuff Again, this is not a piece of equipment everybody finds at home But they’re like $20 And they’re in every Williams Sonoma, so we thought it was fair game Here’s our pressure cooker We like pressure cookers There’s a lot of pressure cooker recipes in the book Here’s our Viking stove cut in half Microwave oven I was just on the Rachael Ray Show right before coming here

where I actually did two microwave things Watch closely, and we’ll discuss it afterwards So that’s popcorn FEMALE SPEAKER: Oh, amazing NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Now, the cool thing about this from a science perspective is that when water flashes into steam, it expands in volume by a factor of 1,600 So right now, a tiny crack has formed This is a steam rocket, basically And it’s coming up, and it’s trying to relieve the pressure And it’s relieving the pressure a little bit by leaking out, but that crack has also caused a fatal flaw in the skin of the popcorn So you can watch it expand a little bit It’s trying to relieve the pressure But ultimately it’s not enough, and woosh Open it goes That’s why the high speed camera is so much fun And here’s what a microwave looks like on the inside, including, we discuss what happens inside the cavity magnetron, which is where the microwaves are actually made In the big book, we also have instructions for how you can measure the speed of light with Velveeta and your microwave oven Do try that at home Here’s how we do those cutaways We have a machine shop Machine shop is part of our lab, and so I highly recommend having a machine shop Well, actually, I originally had a machine shop at home But it’s even nicer to have it in a place where people can run it 24 hours a day and clean up for you As a programmer myself, I love that most of these machines are also really programmable, so you can actually control them all by writing programs Here’s one of our cool machines This is called an EDM machine See that wire? That wire has got a tremendous amount of electricity coming through it Sparks jump off the electricity underwater And those sparks actually are able to cut almost any form of metal So here, we’re cutting a cast iron Dutch oven And we speeded this up a little bit, it’s kind of slow We drain the water off, and voila! We have cut it in half FEMALE SPEAKER: Amazing NATHAN MYHRVOLD: And between the other pieces of equipment, we can cut glass We can cut almost anything in half like that In fact, I like to say we have two halves of one of the best kitchens in the world You can see a couple of those that have the red glue on it That’s a high temperature silicone So we take a piece of Pyrex, we put a bead of the high temperature silicon on them We glue the piece of Pyrex glass to the edge of the pan So we can actually cook in it Now, that gives us that red goopy look And so that’s where we use the little digital technology When you cut a pan in half, you get two halves So we put the other half in the same position and take a picture, and that gives us the image bit for the edge of the pan And then we substitute that in for where that red goop is, very much like the way in a Hollywood movie, Spider-Man will fly through the air supported by wires, then you digitally remove the wires, and he’s flying without it Tons of other cool things in the book Here’s two of them Most of the flavor of chargrilling comes from fat flareups And one of the reasons when people grill zucchini, the zucchini doesn’t taste all that charbroiled is there’s no fat in zucchini to drip A steak, there’s plenty of fat It renders out, it drips, you get a fat flareup That’s what gives you the charbroiled flavor So what do you do if you want your zucchini to taste this way? You spritz olive oil on the fire Works great And if you really want to sear something, you want the fire from hell? You take a hair dryer and you stick it up the vent of your Webber, and boy, oh boy You can actually get it going enough that if the coals are against the side of the Webber, they’ll go through So don’t do that FEMALE SPEAKER: So for that photograph, the one that you were just showing us, is that where you put the glass on it? And then you actually cooked to make that photograph? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Let me go back So the answer is no, because the coals are so hot they would break the glass There’s nothing in front of that Some people say, well, but wouldn’t the coals fall? And we say, of course they would fall That’s why Johnny was underneath there with a pair of tongs And every time they would fall, he’d put it back We made a hell of a mess so you could get a cool picture One of our guys lost his eyebrows twice in things flaring up It’s a real process So anyway, here’s fat flareups This is what happens Here the fat is dropping down Initially, it spends most of the energy actually vaporizing

and heating up And then finally it catches And it’s that fat flareup that makes most of the characteristic chargrilled flavor The difference between grilling and broiling is broiling, the heat’s on the top And so no fat can drip on it And so you don’t get those flavors And that’s really the difference Here’s a close up of that same picture here Here’s our hamburgers And there’s nothing holding those in We’ve just sort of propped them right at the edge And they kept falling We have a big chapter on ingredients Ingredients, of course, really central to all of cooking Something on basics This is about making sauces and stocks A chapter on eggs, salads, and cold soups Turns out you need about two or three pounds of raspberries dropped one or two at a time before you get the timing right to get a photo like this You drop them, and there’s a bunch of ways you can set up light beams to trigger But there’s variations enough that fundamentally, several pounds of raspberries dropped FEMALE SPEAKER: And Nathan, you took a lot of these photographs yourself, correct? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: That’s right Yeah, I originally was going to take all of them But I got a lot of other things to do But I took quite a few of them And then our photo team took the rest Here’s salad making, pressure cooked vegetable soups We had a recipe in Modernist Cuisine for carrot soup that was one of the most popular recipes So we took it and made a whole chapter out of it, tried lots of other ingredients, managed to make it work with some– the first version actually used a centrifuge So we weaned ourselves off the centrifuge And here’s a bunch of those soups Steak We have a whole chapter on steak Carnitas Braised short ribs So if that doesn’t make you hungry, well then, you’re a vegan But, see pressure cooked vegetable soups earlier Roast chicken So roast chicken is an interesting thing The ideal roast chicken is fundamentally a contradiction You’re trying to get the interior flesh to be juicy and the exterior to be crispy But they’re right beside each other So by the time you’ve heated up the skin enough to be crispy, you’ve overcooked and dried out the flesh So one thing people do is they brine it And if you dunk the whole chicken in salt water, the action of the salt on the proteins– the uncooked proteins of the meat– actually makes them absorb a lot more water And so there’s a real physical chemical reason that salt will make it juicier Trouble is, there’s protein in the skin also And when you make the skin juicy, that’s called rubbery So what do you do? And the answer is, we used syringes to inject the brine into the meat without getting any on the skin Now, you can say that’s kind of a freaky thing to do, but it turns out you can get syringes all over the place When I first started coming to New York, it was Union Square Park you’d go to get syringes But in fact, there was another park in the city which was informally called Needle Park But you can get syringes all over the place And if you really care about making the ultimate chicken, this is how you do it Then the other thing is, we hang the chicken inside the refrigerator like this That prevents the salt from accumulating on the skin And if you leave it uncovered in the fridge with a plate underneath it, it lets the skin dry out And that makes it much easier to make it crispy And this is the result When you do it right, when you take the chicken out at the end, and you hit it with a tongs or a spoon, the skin will crack It’s almost like glass And then here, we’re serving it But we have another whole chapter on chicken wings And I understand in one of the Google cafeterias today, they served a couple of our wings FEMALE SPEAKER: I don’t think they used hypodermic needles there, but yes NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Generally for the wings, you don’t need to do We have another technique for the wings Now, chicken noodle soup, sort of the Jewish penicillin We thought we’d do a whole chapter on that Here’s our salmon chapter Pizza Mac and cheese That’s the mac and cheese sauce being made And boy, the interesting thing here is, normally you put a lot of starch into a cheese sauce to keep the fat in the cheese from separating Cheese is an emulsion And when you heat it up too hot to melt it, it separates out You’ve probably seen pizzas where you get this layer of grease on the top, and then the cheese is kind of stringy and disgusting? Well, in a sauce, that really doesn’t work

So the typical thing is, you put lots of starch in Well, that adds a lot of carbohydrates But the main thing is, it dulls the taste Because the starch molecules wind up coating everything, so it doesn’t taste anywhere near as cheesy as the cheese does It’s cheese-ish sauce, not cheese sauce Turns out if you add a little bit of sodium citrate, which is in every grocery store in New York, because it’s also called sour salt It’s used in Passover It’s also the solid form of citric acid Just a little bit of that keeps the emulsion, and so you can make a cheese sauce that has no starch in it at all, and it tastes amazingly cheesy And then if you cast it into sheets, you can use that to make your own melty cheese to make melted cheese sandwiches And we find melted cheese sandwiches work so much better when there’s no gravity Recipes we developed for the International Space Station So anyway, that’s some of the pictures And I thought we could– FEMALE SPEAKER: Have a chat? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah Talk about it FEMALE SPEAKER: Thank you That’s extraordinary You know, you call this “Modernist Cuisine at Home.” But I feel like your home kitchen is very different from my home kitchen I think we’ve gathered that I don’t have things cut in half and the like So what do you think I could make in my New York kitchen from your book without hypodermic needles and a blow torch? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Well, you know, there’s a lot of New York kitchens that have hypodermic needles FEMALE SPEAKER: Not in this audience, I’m hoping NATHAN MYHRVOLD: And I love blow torches Blow torches are one of the coolest single tools They’re $20 at Home Depot And when you need intense heat to touch up When you sear a steak, it’s nice if you sear the edges of the steak It just looks a whole lot nicer And you can do that by kind of holding it up with tongs and trying to jam it into the bottom of the pan That works But it’s even easier to put it on a pan And you just take the blow torch and you go around the edge of the steak So don’t dismiss blow torches But essentially all of the recipes in the book you can do in your New York kitchen Some of them will be easier for you if you get some sous vide equipment Some of them will turn out a little bit better if you get a pressure cooker But sous vide is the most exotic we get But we thought it would be kind of a betrayal of our roots if we didn’t include sous vide in a home book, especially now that every Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table and comparable stores has them So it sort of qualifies But for people that don’t have them yet, we say how you can approximate it at home FEMALE SPEAKER: Right And what you said, running things under hot water NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah So the thing about sous vide is that you want an accurate thermostat In a lot of traditional cooking, you are the human thermostat, either by using a thermometer, or just by using your intuition, you’re supposed to sit there and modulate the heat Well, digital technology makes much better thermostats then we will ever, ever be And there’s some people that say, well, if I use that, you’re taking the soul out of cooking And I say, bullshit I do not feel soulful playing the human thermostat Sorry That’s something that technology can just do better than me So we describe in the book how you can do sous vide either by keeping a pot of water hot on the stove and playing human thermostat Or if you have a large volume of water, in the case of the salmon recipe, you run the water in the sink up to about 120, 130 degrees, you check that The tap water will do in almost all cases Then you seal the salmon in plastic bags And you just put it in there And as long as you’ve got a reasonable size sink and not too much in the way of salmon, there’s enough heat capacity in the water that you don’t need to actually keep actively heating it to keep it that temperature The temperature will drop a bit But that’s OK FEMALE SPEAKER: Well, I mean, obviously technology is your background And that’s sort of where you come from And technology clearly plays a huge role in all of your work on the Modernist series So can you talk a little bit about that, and how your background in technology has sort of influenced the evolution of this series to the point it’s at now? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Well, I just gave you one of the examples of I don’t think it’s really bad to use digital technology to control the thermostat accurately so I can have this exactly at the temperature that I want, or to use scales or other sorts of things In the case of the first book, “Modernist Cuisine,” I actually wrote a lot of code in the process of making the book, because we did things to predict the heat distribution in a piece of food, or heat distribution in a pan Does it matter that you have the fancy copper pan? And the answer is, it really doesn’t matter Copper is a much better heat conductor So the idea is, well, you’re going to get all this lateral heat movement

The thing is, the pan’s this big around The thickness is this much So yeah, it’s a good conductor But laterally, it would have to go 100 times as far as it goes up So it doesn’t spread that much unless you have a copper pan with like, an inch thick block Oh, that would work great But then it’d be too heavy to lift and too expensive to buy And in fact, the real issue we discovered in doing this modeling is you want to make sure your pan and your burner are well matched You put a big pan on a little burner, and no amount of fanciness in the pan is going to help you If you size them appropriately, and your plan is not tissue paper thick, you’ll be fine FEMALE SPEAKER: I guess the answer is it played a big role NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah Technology, well, it’s the way I see the world is through the lens of technology and science I had a reporter in the UK sort of give me a hard time for the first book And they said, well, what makes you think you should bring science into the kitchen? I said, I’m sorry, science was always in the kitchen I’m just trying to take ignorance out Because the laws of nature are how things work And you wouldn’t say, oh gee, it’s such a shame that the architect who built this building understood how buildings stand up Gosh, isn’t that terrible? No, it’s a great thing That means we’re not going to come plummeting down And for the same reason, giving people insights as to how the science actually works is both cool, if you’re curious, and it’s useful And so I would like to say our books are for people who are both passionate and curious about cooking If you’re not passionate about it, you’re not going to buy a big fancy book like this You don’t necessarily have to be a cook If you’re curious enough, that’ll do If you’re not curious, there’s all kinds of cookbooks you can buy that’ll say here’s 30 minute meals, or cooking for dummies, or something else And you follow those recipes exactly, and you’ll get what you get It’s if you have a curiosity to say, well why does it work that way? And how do chefs at top restaurants do it? And why is this is done? That’s where we really have a proposition for you And so the whole thing was written from a technologist’s or a scientist’s or an engineer’s point of view, rather than from a traditionalist’s point of view FEMALE SPEAKER: And so what was the initial inspiration for writing the series? As you mentioned, you obviously come from a technology background So where did the interest in food come in? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So I’ve been interested in food since I was little When I was nine years old, I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner I told my mom she couldn’t come in the kitchen I cooked it all by myself I would do a lot better job today And then for many, many years, I was a self-taught chef When I was working at Microsoft, actually, I decided I would stop being self-taught And I decided I wanted to go to chef school in France So I convinced Bill to give me a leave of absence And I went to work Well, to get into the chef school, I had to have professional experience So one night a week for two years, I worked in a French restaurant in Seattle And then after that, the chef school would take me So I went and I went to this intensive program there And so I’ve been into it for a long time But then after leaving Microsoft, I started cooking a lot more That was kind of part of the reason I left And I realized that there wasn’t a big book that explained cooking from the point of view I had Now, there’s two ways to make a product One is to say, I’m going to do market research and find out what they want And they is some funny set of folks that we interview them and run focus groups and surveys And it’s a fine way of making a product for some things But that’s not how we did the books We did the books the completely other way, which is to say, we were going to make the book we wanted It’s our damn thing And then we just pray that there’s other people that agree with us And the difference is that all of the best things in the world, in my view, are made this second way– by making what you want Now, unfortunately, some of the worst things are made that way, too, or some of the great disasters Because it turns out you make what you want, and nobody else does want it But I decided we’d take the risk And so, it was through that And then the internet played a huge role in it There’s a forum site called eGullet, and I started posting on eGullet about sous vide and other aspects of modern cuisine And it was people on eGullet that gave me the suggestion I write the book But it was more than that It was the community of people on eGullet spanned home cooks to some of the top professional chefs in the world And everyone was eager to get this kind of information

And so that convinced me that it wasn’t only going to be me that I was making this for FEMALE SPEAKER: So what was your favorite discovery in the process of writing the book? Because there’s obviously some really cool things that came out of it But what was the best that you found? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Well, my favorite single one is a little hard to explain But in traditional barbecue cooking– this is in the southeastern US, when you make barbecue There’s something called the stall– S-T-A-L-L. And if you’re cooking a brisket or a pork shoulder or some other big honking piece of meat, then people notice that the temperature would rise and rise and rise and rise And then it would hit this point where it would stop rising, and it would stall for hours And then it would eventually come up again Well, there are thousands and thousands– do a Google search on barbecue stall, and you will see thousands You could get a few things for somebody’s barbecue stall like in a farmer’s market But you filter those out, and there’s still thousands of people saying, what the hell is the barbecue stall? What causes this? And they have lots of theories And we discovered they were all wrong And we found out what really causes the barbecue stall FEMALE SPEAKER: Tell us NATHAN MYHRVOLD: OK It works for the same reason we sweat People sweat because when water evaporates, it takes a lot of heat with it And sweating is our body’s way of using evaporative cooling We’ll spend some water to get a lot of cooling Well, meat is about 75% water So you put it in a hot barbecue and hot air, it’s going to start evaporating And that cools things down And what happens is that stall period is the period when no matter how much heat you put in, more heat is leaving because of evaporation Now, the funny thing is, one of the traditional remedies for this is to slather more sauce on it, which is exactly like trying to heat the thing up by putting a hose on it You will never get it hot if you keep slathering it on But people do for a while And there’s various things about it And so to test this, we took some briskets and cut them in half And then we would either wrap one in foil or seal it in a sous vide bag, all instrumented with lots of temperature probes And right beside it, one that was open And the one that was sealed had no stall at all And the one that was open had exactly the stall that you would predict FEMALE SPEAKER: That’s so interesting So what is your favorite cookbook? Apart from your own NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah, it’s a really good question Historically, the one that was hugely inspirational to me, but also very difficult, because I first got it when I was nine, was “Escoffier.” FEMALE SPEAKER: You were a very precocious child, weren’t you? I was reading Ramona the Pest when I was nine NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Pain in the ass for Mom FEMALE SPEAKER: The difference between me and you, I think NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So “Escoffier” was an inspiration to me, both positively and negatively The positive aspect is that Escoffier was incredibly influential to basically chefs all over the world The book came out in 1903 And it really sealed the deal for French food being synonymous with high-end food for the next century or so It just was incredibly influential The negative inspiration is that it also had a variety of things that I definitely didn’t want to do So a typical Escoffier recipe will say, prepare this, put it in a hot oven, and cook until done Now, in Escoffier’s time, he was writing for people that were apprentices They would’ve apprenticed to a master chef, and they didn’t have any technology Even though they had thermometers, it wasn’t common in a turn of the previous century kitchen So hot oven, what the hell was that? Cook until done? What the hell is that? We wanted to make sure that we had stuff that had this more technological perspective of saying, now, we’re going to tell you how to do it so you can get a good result, even if you’ve never done it before And we’re going to do that by telling you, cook it to this temperature Cook it in an oven of that temperature And here’s how you tell if it’s done And here’s how you tell if it isn’t done And try to make the things as objective as possible So it was sort of an inspiration for me in a couple different ways, positively and negatively FEMALE SPEAKER: Interesting I’m going to do a couple of finish this sentences with you NATHAN MYHRVOLD: OK FEMALE SPEAKER: Ask you to finish this sentence, and then we’re going to open up for questions So I’ll ask whoever has a question There’s two mics in the room And if you can use one of the mics, because we are recording this for YouTube, that would be great So you can start lining up and we’ll get going Modernist cooking is? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Great Modernist cooking is cooking to make stuff taste great

without regard to feeling you have to slavishly follow tradition FEMALE SPEAKER: I am challenged by? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Keeping clean? I make a hell of a mess when I cook FEMALE SPEAKER: Because you’re cutting everything in half, I think That might be part of the problem NATHAN MYHRVOLD: It turns out cooking well– we found out why most people don’t cook with a wok cut in half FEMALE SPEAKER: I probably could’ve told you that A food trend I hate is? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So a food trend I hate, which has got multiple different forms, is when a buzz word gets perverted to a use it didn’t originally have And so a good example of that, or bad example, depending on your perspective, is organic Organic, once upon a time, meant it was this stuff grown by this hippie couple sort of at the edge of town And it kind of was ugly But it tasted really good, because it was picked in all these ways Today, because people will pay a premium for organic, organic has been largely eviscerated by folks that have read all of the rules, lobbied the government to change the rules And the food they have is effectively the same Local is another one of these things It’s nice that something’s local But I promise you, as local starts getting a market edge, people will find ways to cheat on it One of the examples we have in “Modernist Cuisine” is honey is essentially fructose It’s 90some percent fructose But high fructose corn syrup, a lot of folks think that is bad And there’s some reasons to believe that it is But the hypocrisy of the following thing just drove us crazy We found there’s a bunch of commercial honey places that basically fed bees with artificial flowers with high fructose corn syrup So it was fructose laundering You feed it to the bees, the bees loved it, because they didn’t have to do much work They suck up the fructose here, squirt it into the honeycomb, and just hugely productive So they can sell people natural honey Here’s another one The reason that you’ve got a red color and some of the flavors in cured meat like bacon is because of nitrates And there is some legitimate concern about whether nitrates are all that good for you, and so forth But if you go to Whole Foods, you’ll find nice, rosy red bacon that’s nitrate free How did they do that? They take concentrated celery juice, which has got the same nitrate concentrate as the original brine But it happens but there’s a lot of nitrates in celery Now is that nitrate free? No But in a ruling with the Federal Trade Commission, in fact, because it started off as celery juice, the fact it has the identical quantity– and if it didn’t have the same quantity, it would not turn the meat red And that’s why if you really cared about nitrate free bacon, it better be gray Because otherwise it’s nitrate by another name So anyway, I hate using hypocrisy to try to fool people in some way FEMALE SPEAKER: OK, so that was a very long finish the sentence NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Sorry FEMALE SPEAKER: So we’re only going to do one more so that we make sure I’m trying to think– three things that are always in my fridge are? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Fish sauce, sesame oil, and some rendered duck fat FEMALE SPEAKER: I was expecting a much more bizarre answer, so that’s all right You surprised me OK, can we start over there? AUDIENCE: First of all, thanks for coming The book is fantastic And I’m very much so looking forward to using it My question is actually in regard to something you made reference to right when you first stepped up And that’s in regard to baking So I don’t know whether you’ve explored this as a potential next step But I’m curious as to your thoughts around– baking, to me, seems to be much more exact, much more scientific So I’m wondering what your thoughts are about how maybe you see that as potentially an easier world to explore, as opposed to traditional cooking? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So you’re absolutely right that from a cultural perspective, baking and pastry is more precise

Nobody adds baking powder to taste First of all, it tastes terrible Second of all, you can’t judge by taste what’s the right amount to make your muffins rise And you’d better measure it pretty precisely, otherwise your muffins are going to over-rise, or they’re going to be like hockey pucks So pastry chefs bought off on a lot of these things earlier on One funny example is in the book, we use percentages in addition to grams Because if you want to scale it up, it’s handy to do that And the system we use is called baker’s percentages Why? Because every baking book has it, but no non-baking books have it And it was funny, the number of even professional chefs who’d say what’s their percentage crap? And their pastry chef would say, uh, chef, I’ll explain it to you We’ve used it for 100 years in pastry So that’s one thing that’s different Another thing that’s different is that there are pastry books that take you much closer to the state of the art than savory books did So if you read a pastry book by Pierre Herme, for example, Paco Toro Blanco, and I could list all kinds of them, they probably would have more recipes and more techniques that were close to the state of the art than if you tried to find the same kind of thing for cooking meat, for example, where the state of the art was 50 years ago, in terms of what you find in books That said, the world of baking and pastry chefs are very receptive to all of these things Here’s actually one other point At a lot of restaurants in New York, the modern techniques in the kitchen, all pioneered by the pastry chefs So at Jean-Georges, Johnny Iuzzini, the first sous-vide cooked in Jean-Georges was by Johnny for pastry At Le Bernardin, it was Michael Laiskonis And both of them, and lots of other pastry chefs like them, drag the rest of their kitchen into the at least 20th century, and maybe into the 21st But for the same reasons, they’re also very receptive to it And there’s an awful lot of really interesting creative things So watch this space AUDIENCE: Thanks NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah AUDIENCE: So I enjoy smoking meats at home And I find one of the great things about it is if you’re patient, and you can control the temperature, then a brisket or ribs or a pork shoulder will just tend to be delicious no matter what you do So what do you recommend to sort of take it up a level? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: OK So we’re really big on barbecue And what I’m about to say tastes great But this is total anathema to traditional barbecue folks So you’re totally right that low and slow is the way to go Only we like to go lower and slower So for pork ribs, I’d cook them at 140 degrees for 48 hours, sous vide So this is not like, hi, honey! Let’s have ribs tonight! [INTERPOSING VOICES] NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Then you smoke them for a couple of hours Again, you don’t want to exceed maybe 140 degree air temperature Turns out you can smoke them either before or after you hook them sous vide And for a pork shoulder, I would do the same thing I might actually take the temperature up a little bit, to, say, 145 degrees, but for 48 hours For short ribs, we typically do 145 degrees for 72 hours So this is truly patience oriented But oh my god, the results you get are just unbelievable Now, there’s a guy named Steven Raichlen who’s considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on barbecue He’s literally sold millions of his barbecue books He came to our lab And we made these short ribs for him And he wrote on his blog that they were the best ribs of any kind he’d ever had in his life, which was more than we could possibly hope for So try that Get sous vide But hey, if you already have a smoker, you’re already at the bleeding edge of craziness AUDIENCE: You can keep it outside, though NATHAN MYHRVOLD: That’s fine But you can do your sous vide cooking inside You can do it ahead of time, right? In fact, you can also freeze it or keep it in the fridge after you’ve cooked it sous vide that way FEMALE SPEAKER: Take a couple days off work NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah We find you only smoke it for an hour or two Depends on how heavy of a smoke flavor you want But smoking for a really long period of time doesn’t do that much good, because the penetration depth that you get

was smoking drops off exponentially And so smoking it for six hours isn’t that useful Yeah AUDIENCE: So this idea that we can replace a lot of the sort of technique and skill that used to be was required to cook right with technology is really neat And I’m just wondering if I, as a home cook, go and do that, if I buy your book and buy my digital thermometer and so forth, and so I don’t have to know when my food is done by looking and smelling, I now have a lot of free time So what skills should I develop? What’s my highest marginal return to time I can develop in the kitchen? FEMALE SPEAKER: Come back to work? NATHAN MYHRVOLD: I was gonna say, you work at Google! You don’t know what to do with free time? What’s free time? But here’s a different way Here’s sort of an answer, which is, there’s a tremendous amount of cooking that is aesthetic at its essence And there isn’t a technological solution for that So what combinations of flavors do you put in? What combination of textures do you do? If the dinner party got so simple, well, add a couple of courses There’s always an axis that you can move in where there’s an unbounded amount of stuff, and where technology isn’t going to help you So while you’ve automated some things so that you’ll never overcook it, you’ll never undercook it It’s all perfect, it’s done great Well, then, use that time to experiment Do some more cool stuff Add a couple dishes, add garnish AUDIENCE: Thanks FEMALE SPEAKER: OK, this is our last question AUDIENCE: Thanks again You mentioned that the thermometer would be the first thing that you purchase, or you would recommend as a purchase I remember the first Thanksgiving where I took over the kitchen It wasn’t at 9 Probably 19 But I put in the probe thermometer, and the convection oven was going And a few hours later, it reached temperature, started beeping And I’m like, all right! It’s done And mom’s like, no way And we cut in, and sure enough, it was raw And so I wonder, like, do you cover basically the fact that meat is not equal all throughout? Like, the proper way of measuring temperature– because that’s really important Not just having the tool NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Yeah So we do discuss that The really cool thing I have in this ovens that I have at home, which are sort of commercial grade ovens You probably have them somewhere in one of your cafeterias They have the coolest thing They have a temperature probe that’s got five separate probes in it And so not only does it pick the coldest one, but it also looks at the gradient And so then you could tell how it’s heating up or cooling down, and by doing that, you can figure all the way But in general, what you want to do is you want to pick the thickest part of something In the case of poultry, the traditional thing is to put it down near the hip joint That’s not really because that’s the thickest part The thickest part is still going to be the breast for a turkey But that’s the part that probably you’re most concerned about undercooking So, yeah We definitely cover that in the book And it’s true, you need to make sure your temperature is representative, otherwise you’re going to fool yourself FEMALE SPEAKER: Thanks That’s all we have time for Thank you so much for being here NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Well, thank you FEMALE SPEAKER: It was really great Thanks