Hervé This, is a famous chemist in France who loves the science of cooking and experimenting with food. He is a star whose books are bestsellers, has a travelling exhibition that is based on his work and appears on TV and radio. He has made it his life mission to reveal the scientific mystery behind cooking. Foodstuffs to him are ‘chemical mixtures’: “When aromatic compounds are formed on the surface of a roast, they are the result of a chemical reaction. When mushrooms turn black after being chopped, it is the fruit of a chemical reaction.”
His experiments have led to great discoveries over time. He used a single yolk to produce 24 litres of mayonnaise and baked an egg at 55ºC for an hour leaving the yolk tender and smooth. He also worked out how to unboil an egg using sodium borohydride. He explains that: … when an egg is cooked, the protein molecules unroll themselves, link up and enclose the water molecules. In order to ‘uncook’ the egg, you need to detach the protein molecules from each other. By adding a product like sodium borohydride, the egg becomes liquid within three hours. For those who want to try it at home, vitamin C also does the trick.
Some of his experiments can be tried during everyday cooking. If you use litres of oil in very little water when cooking spaghetti, the strands will not stick together. If you add a little oil in the water however, the strands still stick. If you Sprinkle a little salt around the yolk of a fried or poached egg, it cooks evenly.
His greatest discovery is in the making of meat stews. It makes no difference if you start cooking the meat in cold water or not, the same amount of weight is lost in both cases.
One of his weird experiments is a Quail’s egg that has for three years been standing in vinegar. The shell of the egg has been attacked by the acid making it translucent. The egg however, according to Hervé, has a consistency similar to a hardboiled egg and can be eaten in a salad!