Many of the leading companies in the catering market have found in the innovation, development and application of new technologies, a very effective competitive advantage to achieve success and sustainability.
Some of the most prestigious restaurants Following these avant-garde trends, they have become sophisticated laboratories where you get presentations of dishes out of the most incredible science fiction movies, with previously unknown organoleptic combinations.
And despite the fact that without the equipment used it would be impossible to obtain these novel products, it must be made clear that the main thing in all cases is the knowledge and creativity of the chef.
FROM COAL TO MICROWAVE
From the era of the industrial revolution to contemporary times, great discoveries have directly affected the kitchen. The appearance of new fuels, up to electricity, with its direct impact on efficiency in processes, Cooking ranges, as well as the driving of formerly manual machinery and the development of new equipment with electric motors, have revolutionized professional kitchens.
On the other hand, the discovery of steam has led to the development of equipment that streamlines and makes processes in kitchens more efficient, and an example of this are pressure cookers, kettles, coffee machines, to name just a few.
In this period, the development of new materials has made a very significant boom, which made it possible to obtain tools and equipment that are lighter, ultra resistant, easy to clean, with better thermal conductivity, non-stick, among many other advantages.
The best known case is steel, which has revolutionized kitchen batteries and other tools since its inception, due to its resistance and at the same time easy cleaning and hygiene.
But chrome and teflon should also be mentioned, mainly used in the coatings of cooking surfaces to achieve a more uniform, efficient and comfortable process, as well as better subsequent sanitization due to their non-stick properties.
Another of the new materials perhaps a little less known is zirconium dioxide, with which ceramic knives are widely used in the most advanced kitchens due to their cutting capacity, easy cleaning, comfort, lightness and hygiene, in addition to preserving properties. organoleptic of the products by not transmitting odors or tastes of the cut food.
Their biggest problem may be the delicacy of sharpening, which must be done with diamond discs, as well as the fact that they cannot be used to cut bones, frozen or excessively hard food.
There are also the so-called glass-ceramic cookers, whose first test was carried out in the 50s, but it was not until 1970 that its production was viable.
This technology has evolved from glass ceramic with electric resistance burner, where food is heated through a glass with high thermal and mechanical resistance, to the most current induction cookers that replace old resistors with an induction plate that is not It heats itself, but by electromagnetic waves it manages to heat only the container itself, with the consequent saving of energy, greater cleaning and safety of work, since the risk of burns by contact with the surface of the equipment is decreased.
The only disadvantage of these induction cookers is that they require a specific kitchenware, since it must be made of a ferromagnetic material.
In turn, the military industry has had a strong impact on the technological development of the rest of the branches, and the kitchens are no exception. One of the most significant examples is the development of the microwave almost by chance. This invention is attributed to the engineer Percy Spencer, in 1946, when he was conducting tests with military radars and discovered that a chocolate bar that he had in his pocket melted without explanation.
This led to a year later being used in a restaurant From Boston for the first time a microwave, although not so similar to the current ones, since it measures 1.60 m high, weighed around 80 kg and required a water cooling system.
On the other hand, one of the most developed equipment in the kitchen is the ovens, starting from the large traditional clay ovens and similar materials that kept the heat concentrating it inside, until the last and most developed combined convection ovens (steam and dry heat) with touch and interactive control panels, and automated cooking systems that efficiently control, among other factors, temperature, time, air flow and humidity, the main advantage of which is giving the chef time to create , since they work like the autopilot of an airplane.
We also find accelerated cooking technology, which combines the technology of these convection ovens with that of microwaves and with a newer one called air impingement (air shock), which consists of control a high speed air flow to impinge perpendicularly on the surface of the product, thus increasing heat and mass transfer rates.
But the peak of all this technological development in gastronomy is reached, today, in the avant-garde kitchens that experiment with molecular cuisine, which is nothing more than the development of the kitchen but from a scientific basis, where the physical-chemical transformations of food during the different technological processes that these undergo, seeking new forms of presentation, exploring novel textures or preserving the original ones, but always preserving or enhancing the pure flavors of different foods.
Within this movement, different processes have been developed to achieve these objectives, where each and every one requires very specific equipment and that at first glance seems to have come out of a laboratory.
COOKING IN VACUUM
A space with a very low particle density is called "vacuum". This condition has been applied for quite some time in gastronomy as a method of preserving food through packaging. However, in sous vide cooking, foods are vacuum packed raw, previously prepared, and cooked later inside the packaging. The cooking is carried out under new principles, since the times are excessively longer (up to 24 hours), but the temperatures are much lower than the traditional ones (<100 ° C).
Among its benefits is allowing better preservation of the organoleptic properties of food (juices, essential flavors, nutrients and minimal waste are not lost when cooked in packaging), perfect freshness and hygiene, optimization of processes and better use of the time, as well as economic advantages for taking advantage of seasonal and volume purchases, which guarantees lower prices.
One of its greatest risks is the development of the clostridium botulinum bacteria, which grows in the absence of oxygen and is lethal.
Examples of vacuum cooking:
Gastrovac: Creates an artificial atmosphere of low pressure and absence of oxygen, considerably reducing cooking temperatures (<100ºC) and prolonging its time, thus maintaining the texture, color and nutrients of the food.
Roner: Allows you to create a water bath with constant and identical temperature throughout the container to control Low temperature cooking, from 5 ° C to 100 ° C. It is used both for vacuum cooking and low temperatures, and for regeneration of vacuum preparations.
KITCHEN WITH NITROGEN
Liquid nitrogen has become a new player in many avant-garde kitchens, since its boiling point is around -196 ° C, which means that in its liquid state it will be at this temperature.
Foods subjected to the low temperatures of liquid nitrogen retain all their flavor, color and smell; and also it cooks (by dehydration in cold), just like fire, but at 196 degrees below zero.
In turn, it freezes alcohols such as vodka or whiskey, and allows creating new textures, managing to freeze and dry, for example, olive oil.
In the restaurant El Bulli, one of the most advanced in the world, have prepared dishes with liquid nitrogen such as Caipirinha nitro, a cocktail that is presented as an alcoholic sorbet and that the room team prepares in front of the client.
There is also the Pistachio coulant truffle, where you can freeze only the outer part to obtain a hard preparation on the outside and creamy on the inside; or Hazelnut Shots, where liquid nitrogen makes it possible to make very small frozen balls (shots).
NEW TEXTURES (SPHERIFICATIONS AND FOAMS)
Spherification is a culinary technique used for the preparation of certain dishes in which you want to imitate a shape and texture very similar to fish roe.
This is achieved by applying substances that create a kind of thin film like the one that wraps around the egg yolk, and allows flavors to suddenly appear in the mouth.
It is used in order to obtain liquid food "coagulated" in spheres and to decorate certain dishes and desserts.
Basic spherification: sodium alginate + liquid, which is introduced in calcium chloride solution; Sodium citrate is used to correct the acidity of some ingredients.
Reverse spherification (for liquids with calcium or alcohol): calcium gluconolactate + liquid, which is introduced in an alginate solution; Xantana is used to thicken.
Very current in the kitchen, they are achieved using a modified whipping cream, with which almost any mixture, sweet or salty, cold or hot, can be made into foam.
Everything consists of filling the siphon with the desired mixture, screwing the head, loading it with the N2O capsules, shaking it, letting it rest in the fridge or bain-marie (although there are already thermals that preserve the temperature of its ingredients), and then it is actuated and ready.
It makes it possible to make foams without the need to add dairy or eggs. In this way the authentic flavor of the ingredients used is preserved and also the fats are reduced, making it ideal for those who control their diet. The result is a light foam, with the nutritional values of the ingredients intact and with an excellent texture.
It consists of introducing the frozen product in special machines under vacuum, and as the temperature inside it increases, the water sublimes, separating itself from the substance or solution, going directly from solid to gaseous state.
The process can last from hours to days, depending on the product, being able to lyophilize both unprocessed foods and elaborations.
It is mainly used as a preservation method for the food industry. It is also used by NASA in preparing meals for astronauts.
It uses the combination of convection, microwave and air impingement, which produces a cooking cycle up to 15 times faster than by traditional methods, reduces cooking time, increases the speed of service and produces quality products in a fraction of seconds .
Air impingement is a technology defined by a high speed air flow, perpendicular to the surface of the product, where the air collides with the surface of the preparation. Its purpose is to loosen the thermal layer of air on the surface of the product and create turbulence, thus increasing heat and mass transfer rates.
ENHANCING FLAVORS AND NUTRIENTS
(ROTAVAL, CLARIMAX AND DEHYDRATOR)
The Rotaval is an instrument that uses the low temperature solids distillation technique using a vacuum pump. It allows the distillation of any type of product, be it liquid or solid, as long as it is wet, which means that it can capture the purest aromas and the essences of almost everything, to the point of being used to impregnate products with the nuances of sand and the sea.
The Clarimax is a compact equipment for the clarification of broths. The process is by means of controlled pressure, where the broth goes through a pressed pellet of diatom algae that clarifies it. The tablets have a degreasing and clarifying power, as they are disposable and do not alter the taste of the product.
The Dehydrator helps to extract moisture from all kinds of food easily and quickly. It is a technology of the XNUMXst century to prepare dehydrated foods of the highest quality, nutritious and delicious, in a simple way and without the need to use preservatives or dyes. Regulates hot air in the drying compartment, evenly and precisely.
WHAT'S NEW IN CONSERVATION
The CAS (Cell Alive System) is a new system for freezing food products using electromagnetic waves combined with mechanical cold (traditional freezing).
CAS is based on the generation of a low frequency vibration in the water molecules that make up the food, thus reducing the size of the ice crystals, limiting cell breakage, and therefore preserving the organoleptic characteristics of the products.
High intensity electromagnetic fields generate changes in the cell membranes of pathogenic microorganisms, destroying them. This sophisticated technique is ideal, as an alternative to pasteurization, in liquids such as milk, liquid egg, fruit juices, soups, creams and meat extracts.
Ultrasounds cause microbubbles within the medium to which they are applied, which when destroyed generate large amounts of energy that liquidate pathogens. They are mainly used in the decontamination of raw vegetables, cleaning of equipment for food processing and, combined with pressure systems, in the sterilization of jams, liquid eggs and to prolong the shelf life of any liquid.
Pulses of high intensity white light cause changes in cellular DNA, thereby destroying pathogens on the surface of food. They generate some heat on the surface, but not enough to penetrate the food, which remains intact. Very useful, for example, for meats and packaged fish, prawns, chicken and sausages.
Author: Rainer González López (Gourmet Excellences Magazine)