Biology - Other

Cooking with Liquid Nitrogen

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"Cooking with Liquid Nitrogen"
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Half a Cup of Liquid Nitrogen, Please

Excuse me, young man, an elderly lady asks the grocer, you don't happen to know what aisle the liquid nitrogen would be, do you? I want to spice up and give a new kick to my meatloaf recipe, and I think just a hint of liquid nitrogen will do the trick. Pick up your jaws, everyone, because next to your dash of salt and BAM! of paprika comes a cooling dip of liquid nitrogen to your favorite recipe. Today's chefs are generously using liquid nitrogen to add that extra freeze and cleansing feeling to your pallet, as this science experiment is being beautifully presented on your plate next to your filet mignon with caviar. So, next time you're on your weekly visit to the supermarket, don't forget to hang a left to the welding hardware store to pick up your tank of liquid nitrogen, a must-have ingredient to add to your recipe cards.

There is only so much boring food a person can eat before their taste buds contemplate the thought of revolt. Liquid nitrogen adds pizzazz for both the taste and sight senses to investigate. To those who are passionate about the culinary arts, eating just isn't a way to satisfy hunger. For them, eating is an entire artistic experience that begins when the waiter sets down the plate in front of them, to when they smell the smells, and finally lift their fork up to their mouths. To these types of people, the food on their plate is just like a sculpture or painting; the only difference is that brightly colored food and sauces are used instead of clay and acrylic paints. Liquid nitrogen serves as that last minute paint stroke that the chef-artist puts onto blank white plates, his canvas, for that perfect touch to impress his hungry audience.

Liquid nitrogen, also known as LN2, appears completely harmless as it shares the same clear and translucent resemblance as water. LN2 evaporates in seconds when it becomes exposed to oxygen causing columns of curly white smoke to run towards the sky. Don't be fooled, foodie, this industrial coolant LN2 is no twin to H20 since it boils away at a bone chilling -320 degrees Fahrenheit. This liquefied air ingredient can easily cause freeze burns and frost bites, so don't forget your heated mittens, face mask, and a local ambulance ready on speed dial the next time you grab your pot-holders and aprons to cook. Unfortunately a twenty-four-year-old aspiring German chef forgot his layers of protective shield when he was trying to overly impress his future mother-in-law by attempting to make a one-of-a-kind meal. With a hearty dose of liquid nitrogen, this molecular gastronomy enthusiast wanted to plan a surprise attack of awesomeness onto her taste buds once her forks left her mouth, but he unfortunately didn't make it that far into his plating. As he emptied the bottle of LN2, a huge liquid nitrogen explosion radiated the poor mother-in-law's house, blowing off the aspiring chef's right hand. Having to be air-lifted to the hospital, doctors had no choice but to also amputate his left hand since the explosion decided to mercilessly rearrange the rest of his fingers and tendons. Gute arbeit, chef...Gute arbeit. After his epically failed attempt to impress his girlfriend's mother, this poor German cook has an angry mother-in-law to deal with and literally no hands in the kitchen to work with thanks to his curiosity of cooking with liquid nitrogen.

Cooking with liquid nitrogen started way back in 1885 by Victorian cookbook author Agnes B. Marshall, but only a hand full of people in the 21stcentury are starting to bring this futuristic-like fad back into fancy restaurants like the Chicagoan restaurant, Moto. Executive chef, Homaro Cantu bravely dips shredded mango into liquid nitrogen to create a confusing illusion of hot melted cheese. Surprise, fellow foodie! The reason that cheese tastes fruity is actually because it's chemically frozen strips of mango! Over in England, British chef Paul Liebrand proudly uses liquid nitrogen in his sherbets made from vegetable and black truffle juices for his brave food-eating-lovers. A couple hundred miles away from England is world renowned chef, Ferran Adri Acosta, who is the chef at the world famous El Bulli restaurant in Spain. His restaurant is only opened from April to September, while the other half of the year he's in a food science laboratory in strict dedication mode to come up with more unusual menu items that include abnormal key ingredients like liquid nitrogen. It's not about a measly cup of sugar and tablespoon of butter anymore, these chefs are showing the rest of the world that the true aspects of cooking aren't as simple as that bowl of Easy Mac n' Cheese and tater tots you made yourself last night for dinner. Real cooking now merges onto the same levels of art and chemistry. Instead of your grandmother's kitchen, new recipes and food trends, like liquid nitrogen, are found in a new home of laboratories. Now we need to get use to test tubes and Bunsen burners making our food instead of Martha Stewart's new collection of stainless steel pots and pans. This new scientifically based food makes us to say goodbye to our favorite pair of potholders and forces a pair of science goggles into the drawers of our kitchens.

Liquid nitrogen can be bought for as cheap as twenty to twenty-five cents a liter, much cheaper than your gallon of milk from the grocery store you bought yesterday or that gallon of gas you used for your lawn mower last weekend. The only expensive part is the thermostat in which the LN2 needs to be properly kept in. A reliable thermostat for your LN2 can sell with a painful price tag of $500.00 to $1,000.00. If you're a die-hard-Iron-Chef-wanna-be and nothing can stop you, minus the bitterly brutal price tags and terrible economy, there are always online marketplaces who have sellers with LN2 thermoses at a semi-reasonable starting prices of $100.00. Then you can eat a science experiment for dinner every night of the week, and you'll be the "cool" parent if you serve molecular gastronomic snacks that have that mystic fog lurking off the edge of your kids' plates. With LN2 being used in our foods, it's not really about how good it tastes anymore. It's more about how crazy the food looks on your plate. Liquid nitrogen is the "Oooh" and "Aaaah" factor that throws the usual human desire of ,"Wow, I'm really hungry," out of the kitchen window. Going to a restaurant now produces the same reactions with that person who is analyzing paintings and sculptures at an art gallery.

Former United States President Harry S. Truman said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," which echoed throughout his term in the 1940's. During those times, floral wallpapered kitchens were occupied only by motherly-women-wives who had tightly primped hair, skirts with frilly aprons, and a wooden spoon and retro-colored casserole dish in hand. That was over sixty years ago, and people of today still use his famous quote. Times are now changing. Nine years into the 21st century, today's liquid-nitrogen-using-chefs force us to make a modern and more correct twist to Truman's famous words by now saying, "If you can't stand the heat of molecular gastronomic food trends, get out of the laboratory." We're not just eating traditional food anymore, fellow food lovers. We're eating art that rebels against all of society's norms.

More about this author: Sarah Lensen

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