The New York Times reviews Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, the 6-volume, 40-pound, $625 labor of love from the lab of Seattle local Nathan Myhrvold:
I will get this out of the way fast. The text, and there is a lot of it, is proficient and as compelling as my high school science textbooks. But artful prose is not the point… the goal was clarity and thoroughness, and the information is indeed clear, sound and, if anything, too thorough. Buried in the verbiage is a treasure of insights, some truly original, some familiar but described from new and compelling angles. Sometimes overly proud of itself, at other times it is recklessly (and admirably) opinionated…
Government suggestions for temperatures at which chicken and pork are safe to eat seem “to have been based not on science but on politics, tradition, and subjective judgment.” There is no single safe temperature that kills salmonella, for instance, but rather times that food must maintain specific temperatures to kill it. The authors provide the time-temperature tables.
Several pages are devoted to how to wash your hands and there is a brief foray into the Timurid dynasty of Central Asia; the book includes the equation required to calculate the radiant heat of a gas grill (which is not nearly as effective as a charcoal grill, it says, explaining why). Not sure how to balance your centrifuge? Look no further. On sous vide equipment, the Pacojet, ultrasonic baths, gelling agents, hydrocolloids and emulsifiers, the text is astonishingly thorough.
There’s also, apparently, a recipe for making your own Pringles. Sounds like the must-have food porn book of the year.