Food escapades in modernist cuisine

Modernist Tools


 As I've made my way through the Modernist Cuisine cookbook and adopted new techniques, I've collected a number of tools and pieces of equipment in my kitchen. While some of the tools the Modernist Cuisine team uses (e.g. pacojet, rotor state homogenizer, centrifuge) are outrageously expensive and out of reach for the home cook like myself, many are more reasonably priced. If used properly, these tools will eventually pay for themselves in convenience and results. Below I share some of the tools I use in my own kitchen and recommend for anyone looking to get into cooking modernist cuisine.

Sous Vide Setup: An immersion circulator is the best tool for cooking sous vide or for any task in the kitchen that requires precise temperature control. I highly recommend purchasing an immersion circulator - this was one of the first purchases I ever made, and I've never regretted it once. I practically use it every day, and it's changed the way I cook. Quality, consistency and convenience are just a few reasons why I love my immersion circulator. I have the Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven but many professionals use ones by Polyscience, such as the Polyscience Creative Series version and Polyscience Professional Chef Series version. The Polyscience ones circulate the water and can be clamped on to a pot or container, allowing for more food to be cooked at once. The Sous Vide Supreme, however, works just fine and is also less than half the price. Even cheaper alternatives that have recently come onto the market include ones by JouleAnova, Nomiku, Dorkfood, and Sansaire. I have not personally tried any of these but SeriousEats did an equipment test comparison on them.

Commercial Blender: If you've ever been to a fine dining restaurant and experienced an impossibly smooth, silky puree or soup, it was likely produced in a commercial blender. You can also produce incredibly delicious smoothies, just like the smoothie shops or boba tea houses, that are thick and slushy rather than thin and watery (as the ones made by cheap blenders unfortunately are). The commercial blender I have is the Vitamix TurboBlend but there are also others out there that have gotten good reviews, such as the BlendTec, which is slightly cheaper.

Immersion Blender: Also sometimes referred to as a hand-held blender or stick blender, an immersion blender is useful for blending something directly in a pot or container. The immersion blender I have is the Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender, but any hand held type blender will do. You can blend soups and purees but I think you get superior results using a commercial blender. The best use of the immersion blender is dispersing hydrocolloids (basically thickening agents) in liquids to achieve different consistencies.

Edge Sealer: An edge sealer creates a suction and removes all air from within a bag. This is particularly useful for cooking sous vide but you can also use it to preserve food and lengthen its shelf life. The one I have is the FoodSaver Vertical Vacuum, which I got as a hand-me-down from a friend, but there are also other brands such as the Sous Vide Supreme Vacuum Sealer that will do the trick. I recommend the FoodSaver one because the pouches are easier to find, widely available at most retail stores, and cheaper than the others. You don't necessarily need vacuum sealed pouches to cook sous vide, as Ziploc bags also work perfectly fine, but for recipes with extremely long cooking times (e.g. 48-72 hours), vacuum sealed pouches are safer to use.

Digital Scale: This is pretty much a must-have. Every recipe in the Modernist Cuisine cookbook calls for accurate weighing of ingredients. The one I use is the Salter Electronic Scale that I picked up from Wegman's, but any scale that accurately measures ingredients is satisfactory. The best ones, however, are those that weigh in increments of less than one gram. The one Modernist Cuisine recommends is the Grobet Digital Kitchen Scale.

Digital Thermometer: A digital thermometer is another must-have in the modernist kitchen. It's used for precise measurement of temperature (e.g. testing internal temp of proteins). The one I have is the Taylor Thermocouple.

Pressure Cooker: Pressure cookers have been around for a long time. They lost popularity but are now back in the fold. Modernist chefs consider pressure cookers a must-have. They drastically cut the cooking time of many things. They are essential for making stocks and tenderizing tough ingredients, like beans, grains, and seeds. The pressure cooker I have is a cheap one I picked up at Macy's, the Casa Essentials 4 Quart Pressure Cookerbut it's based on old technology and I constantly worry whether it's going to blow up whenever I use it. I'm thinking of purchasing one of the new generation pressure cookers, such as the Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker (recommended by Modernist Cuisine), which are more reliable and much safer to use.

Kitchen Safe Torch: Man, food, fire! In addition to searing foods after sous vide, you can also do some welding around the house in case your pipes become leaky (j/k). In all seriousness, a torch is really useful to have around for doing things like creme brulee or even torching sashimi grade fish (as they do in the sushi restaurants). My wife purchased the Bonjour Chef Torch for me but other brands are even better like the Iwatani Torch Burner Pro. Torches that use MAPP gas are recommended since they make it easier to avoid tainting food with combustion products.

Whipping Siphon: My wife recently purchased the ISI Gourmet Whip for me as a holiday gift. The Gourmet Whip is more expensive than the regular version, but it can handle both hot and cold applications. Whipping siphons in general can be used to make different types of foams.

Siphon Charger Catridges: In order to use a whipping siphon, you need to charge the siphon with gas - enter the ISI N2O Cream Chargers.

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