Muffie Fulton isn’t your average chef. A neuroscience student who went on to work at Deloitte, Genentech and 23andMe, she founded Bold Food in Los Altos in 2015 with a mission to give home cooks who are on the adventurous side a fundamental education in the kind of molecular gastronomy techniques typically reserved for A-list chefs operating large, world-renowned kitchens. From her “gitchen” (garage-kitchen) she teaches an array of out-of-the-ordinary classes about the science of modernist cuisine. You can check out some of her courses in Los Altos and food tours across the country here.
Muffie shared with The Six Fifty some simple tips anyone can try for taking your home cooking to the next level.
I first became excited about modernist cuisine while reading chef Ferran Adriá’s “A Day at El Bulli” because I saw how much science he used to create his amazing food. It is the first time I realized that my background as a scientist could be combined seamlessly with my love of cooking. I was able to see that science brings so much understanding to the cooking process and ultimately improves the final product.
Want to start geeking out in the kitchen? Here are the five easiest ways for anyone to become a modernist chef and improve their cooking today.
Use a scale.
Weigh your ingredients rather than using traditional volume measurements, like tablespoons or cups. Scientists, professional cooks and bakers use a scale to weigh ingredients because it’s much more accurate because while the density of ingredients like salt, sugar and flour can vary tremendously (which will impact volume), the weight will always be constant.
Use a thermometer to know when your meat is done.
Some people are great at pulling the steak off the grill when it is perfectly rare. Most people are not. You don’t want to ruin an expensive piece of meat by overcooking it. If you use a thermometer, you will always know when your steak reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit and it will always be perfectly medium rare.
Buy a sous vide.
Make a small investment in a sous vide to cook all of your meats and vegetables perfectly. Sous vide is the fastest and easiest way to take your cooking to another level. It’s becoming increasingly popular and will most likely become a staple in home kitchens. Joule, Nomiku and Anova have great models for less than $200.
Maximize umami in your cooking.
Umami is the savory or meaty flavor that’s common in Japanese food and the term has spread to the rest of the world. Sometimes called “the fifth flavor,” umami flavor comes from glutamate, an amino acid found in proteins and an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. The easiest way to maximize umami is to use monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a seasoning. MSG has gotten a bad rap, but scientific study after study has found that it’s harmless and does not cause allergies. The FDA declares MSG safe to eat.
Use your dehydrator for more than just leftover fruit.
Dehydration is one of the best ways to concentrate flavors and add texture to unexpected items. You can dehydrate sauces like hoisin and create a shatteringly crisp texture component for a stir fry or rice. Watermelon becomes a crisp cracker with ultra-concentrated flavor and sweetness, and it is one of our favorite ways to eat zucchini. It is also the best way to make meringue. If you don’t have a dehydrator at home, many ovens will go as low as 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is low enough to function as a dehydrator.