Cooking Issues

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Cooking Issues Radio with Special Guest Jeffrey Steingarten

August 16th, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Nastassia Lopez

Jeffrey Steingarten.

Cooking Issues will be live on the Heritage Radio Network tomorrow (Tuesday) from 12pm-12:45pm EST with special guest, and good friend, Jeffrey Steingarten. Steingarten has been the food critic for Vogue Magazine since 1989, is the author of several must-read books on food and eating, and sits at the judges table on the Food Network’s Iron Chef.

Dave and Jeffrey will be taking callers and answering all of your cooking issues at: 718-497-2128.  How often are you going to get to ask Jeffrey a question? As usual, if you’re not able to call in, email Nastassia your questions at (but we love live callers more than anything!).

If  you miss the show, be sure to download it on iTunes.

Thanks for listening,

The Cooking Issues Team

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New Zoo Review: Cooking Odd Meats

August 13th, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Dave Arnold

Czimer’s Meats, outside of Chicago, specializes in hard to find meats.  We ordered up some beaver,  yak, a whole raccoon, some bear, and a lion steak. Lion?

Strange meat: 1) Yak meat was dark and fairly well marbled but felt tough. 2) Lion meat looked like pork and was very soft when raw. 3) Bear meat was extremely dark and very soft. 4) Beaver tail, bony and fatty. 5) Beaver flapper --looks like reptile skin and feels like a floppy canoe paddle. Not pictured: whole racoon.

It is illegal in the US to sell wild hunted game, so how does Czimer’s get these meats? Some of Czimer’s meats, like Yak, are farmed.  In other cases the meat is a by-product that would be thrown away if not eaten. Czimer’s raccoons and beavers are wild animals that are trapped for fur.  Perversely, although commercial hunting is illegal, selling meat from trapped animals is not –provided they are slaughtered in a USDA approved facility. Bears and lions are raised by big game dealers for circuses, exotic pet enthusiasts and zoos.  When those animals get too old to breed or their owners discard them they are slaughtered for their fur and the meat goes to Czimer’s.  Sad but true. If the animals are being slaughtered, it is a sin not to eat them.

Why cook these animals?

America used to be the place to eat strange animals.  We were world renowned for the quantity, quality, and variety of our game.  We ate wild animals, farmed animals, young animals, old animals. For an eye-opening reference, see Thomas DeVoe’s 1867 book The Market Assistant(free on Google books), which describes all the foods available in 19th century American markets.  Now we eat a fairly small number of animals, almost all of them young.  Hunters are the only people here who eat a wider variety of meat from animals of different ages.  Because older animals are tougher, and wild game often lacks extensive marbling, hunters often have problems making meat as delicious as it could be.  They frequently relegate game meat to highly sauced preparations or stews, or serve tiny chunks of meat fried in a heavy batter.  I have had alligator seven times and I still don’t know what it tastes like; it’s always served as generic fried stuff with a gloppy sauce. Every hunter should adopt low temperature cooking to get the most out of their meat, which is what we did with our Czimer’s shipment – you get delicious and tender meat without overcooking and without masking natural flavor. 

The meat we got from Czimer’s came frozen. We thawed it, then seared, then bagged with salt and butter, cooked low temperature, and finished in a raging deep fryer.

Our answer to cooking problems: fry everything.

Most of the meat we ordered was in steak form.  Unfortunately, these steaks were cut very thin.  Czimer’s  explained that most cooks grill these meats, and if they were cut thick they would be preposterously tough.  They agreed to cut thicker for me next time.  Here’s a rundown of the meats:



Yak is delicious. Our piece arrived hard and tough, so I knew we’d have to cook it a while.  I wanted it fairly rare, so I cooked it at 56 degrees C for 24 hours.  It was great –tender and juicy.  Strangely, it tasted a bit like duck breast — it had a bit of a livery taste that certain cuts of meat  take on when you cook them a long time –duck, eye of round, etc.  Usually, this liver flavor is a negative attribute.  On yak it worked nicely.  A definite do-again.

African Lion:

Lion --tastes like pork.

Lion tastes like pork with a special savory twang. The guy at Czimer’s told me lion tastes different because lions eat meat exclusively.  The meat itself was very pale and soft when raw, so I figured I wouldn’t have to cook it a long time.  It had very little intramuscular fat, so I thought the greatest challenge would be not drying the meat out.  We cooked it at 60 C for 2 hours; it was good but still tough. Next time I would cook a little lower – maybe 58 C, and for a lot longer time –like 24 hours.  It turns out that older meat can be tough even if it feels soft raw.  Czimer’s explained that lion meat is always soft, and you can’t use the way it feels raw to judge how tender it will be after cooking.  I liked lion, but don’t know that I would cook it all the time –I’ll stick with pork.  It probably isn’t healthy to eat a lot of carnivore meat anyway (concentration of toxins, prion nonsense, etc).

Black Bear:

Old black bear.

The bear meat was dark –almost black.  Like the lion, it felt soft.  Bear meat has to be cooked thoroughly to kill possible trichinosis parasites; I cooked it at 57 degrees C for 2 hours, which is sufficient for safety.  Like the lion, it was still a bit tough.  The bear meat started out slightly sweet, but I found it had an off-putting  metallic, bloody aftertaste. Nils didn’t mind it.  I wouldn’t cook an old black bear again.


Crisping up the racoon with ladles of hot fat.

Cooked racoon. Looks bad, tastes worse.

Racoon was a big disappointment.  The one we had was whole.  We cooked it at 60 for 5 hours. The meat was tough, and there wasn’t much of it.  The fat wasn’t great either.  If I were to cook raccoon again, I’d cook it a lot, lot longer –like 48 hours, shred the meat, and serve it pulled like pork.


When I called Czimer’s and asked for beaver tail, the guy asked whether I wanted the tail or the flapper.  The tail, he explained, is a nice fatty chunk of meat from the posterior of the animal.  The flapper is the tennis-racket looking appendage that, along with buck teeth, are the signature characteristics of the beaver.  He said that a lot of people call and ask for the flapper, but they are always disappointed, because there isn’t any meat on it.  “It’s pretty useless,” he said.  I took that as a challenge. “I’ll take two flappers and a tail,” I replied.

In medieval times, good Christians were forbidden from eating meat on many days of the year.  Fridays, Wednesdays, Lent, and other Saint’s days were fast days.  Meat, dairy and eggs were not allowed, but fish was.  The human mind being strange, and the scientific classifications of Linnaeus being far in the future, the medieval cook got around these rules by classifying  mammals like whales as “fish.”  Even stranger, while the body of the beaver was considered an animal (verboten on fast days), the tail was considered fish and could be consumed whenever.  God knows what they would have done with the platypus.  I suspect that it is the medieval food recreactionists who have been calling Czimer’s looking for the beaver tail, only to be disappointed by the paucity of culinary possibilities for the flapper.

Here is what I did:

The Tail:

Beaver tail. Muy bueno.

Beaver tail is straight up fantastic.  It has a woody-musky aroma and flavor that is unique among all meats I have tried.  Nils went bonkers for it as well.  Every recipe for beaver I could find advised soaking the meat in vinegar, so I brined the tail in a mild salt and vinegar solution before searing it and bagging it with butter.  I cooked it at 60 degrees C for 48 hours.  Man, was it good.

The Flapper:

Beaver flapper is basically skin, fat and cartilage with a bone running up the middle.  We figured if it was going to be good at all we’d have to treat it like a pigs ear -cook it at high temperature to gelatinize the connective tissue, then crisp it up in the fryer.  Since we had two, I cooked one whole and the other we blanched and skinned.

Skinning the flapper. 1) The flapper. 2) Blanching. 3) Skinning. 4) The skinless flapper.

The blanched and skinned one was a gloppy fatty mess.  Maybe it would have been good for something, but we were tasting it after we had tasted all the other meats and we weren’t in the mood.  The whole flapper puffed up nicely in the fryer but we deemed it too fatty and weird for general enjoyment.

Both beaver flappers cooked.

Watching it puff up gave me an idea –beaver flapper chicharron.  I took the skin from the second flapper, cooked it in boiling salted water, then cooled it, scrapped off the excess fat, and dehydrated till it felt plastic-y (see our post on puffed snacks).  When I fried the pieces, they puffed up beautifully and still had that woodsy beaver flavor that we all loved.  I fed it to an amphitheater full of students at a demo Nils and I did a few weeks back; they seemed to like it too. Call up Czimer’s and get your flapper while they last.

Beaver-flapper chicharron. Hell yes.

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Infusion Profusion: Game-Changing Fast ‘N Cheap Technique

August 11th, 2010 · Uncategorized

By Dave Arnold
You can infuse flavors into liquor (and water based things, too) almost instantly with nothing more than an iSi Cream Whipper . You can use seeds, herbs, spiced, fruits, cocoa nibs, etc. Here’s how:

Put room-temperature booze into the cream whipper. Add herbs, seeds, whatever. Close the whipper and charge it with nitrous oxide (N2O –the regular whipped cream chargers). Swirl gently 30 seconds and let stand 30 seconds more. Quickly vent the N2O out of the whipper, open it, and strain out the infusion. Done.

Left: Mis en place --booze, parsley, whipper, N2O cartridge. Middle: pour in booze. Right: stuff in parsley.

Left: charge with N2O. Middle: swirl for 30 seconds then let sit for another 30. Right: vent the gas back to the atmosphere.


I did a 5-minute knee-slapping song-singing jig around the school when I figured out this technique.  It’s really good. I like it better than vacuum infusion for some products. Plus, a vacuum machine will set you back 2 grand.

I got the idea from a technique emailed to me by Mister Fizz. Mister Fizz does rapid marination using pressurized CO2.   He gets chicken strips to soak up a heap of marinade real quick.  Pretty nifty.  Here is a YouTube video.  I figured if you could force liquid into foods using pressure, maybe you could also force flavor out.

Here is what I think is happening:

When you charge your whipper with nitrous oxide, high pressure forces liquid and nitrous oxide into the pores of your flavorful food (your seeds or herbs or what-have-you.)  When you suddenly release the pressure inside the whipper, the nitrous forms bubbles and escapes from the food quickly, bringing flavor and liquid out with it.

Some pointers:

Use room temperature food and liquid.  In our tests, cold liquid made for weaker infusions. The cold infusions were slightly clearer than warm ones, but I think that’s because they were weaker.  I suspect the bubbling of the N2O is less violent in colder products;  the violent bubbling is what brings out the flavor.

The room temperature rum labeled "H" made a much stronger infusion than the cold rum labeled "C"

Use N2O, not CO2. CO2 can leave some residual carbonation and flavor in your liquor, N2O won’t (there might be a slight sweetness from the N2O, but it will flash off pretty quick in room temperature liquid).

In our tests it didn’t seem to matter whether we vented the whipper quickly or slowly, although I persist in believing that quicker venting is better because of the violent bubbling effect.

We tested infusing a mixture of orange peel, Thai basil and cilantro into rum for 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes and three minutes.  We swirled the containers every 30 seconds during the tests. The one-minute batch tasted best, 30 seconds was weak, two minutes was a little bitter, and three minutes was bitter and grassy. I suppose the optimum infusion time is different from product to product, but we know for sure that infusion time matters.

Different infusion times: 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes, three minutes. In this test, one minute tasted best.

The amount of liquid in the whipper and the number of N2O chargers you use also makes a difference. Our standard batch was 120 mls of liquor in a one-liter whipper using one N2O cartridge.  Tripling the amount of liquor to 360 mls resulted in better balanced, but weaker, infusion. We boosted flavor in the 360 ml batch with a second N20 charger.  Using 2 chargers in the standard 120 ml batch made a harsh infusion.

Cream whippers are better for this technique than soda bottles, even if you have a large N20 tank like we do.  The large mouth of the whippers is extremely useful.

If you crush green herbs before they are infused, the infusion might turn brown over time.  Ascorbic acid might help but will also alter flavor.

An infusion of crushed Thai basil, on left, turned brown. Undamaged leaves, on right, didn't.

The standard recipe:

120 mls white rum
3 grams cilantro leaves
8 grams Thai basil leaves
8.5 grams orange peel

Charge with N20, swirl for 30 seconds.  Allow to infuse for 1 minute total, then vent and strain.

Other flavors we tried, using a 1 minute infusion into vodka:

Star anise made a strong infusion with a smoky note and lots of color.

Sliced jalapenos made a very spicy infusion that also captured the green notes of the jalapeno.  It had much more actual jalapeno character than traditional infusions we have tried.

Sliced ginger produced an infusion that was light in flavor but clean, similar to ginger ale.  Our slices were somewhat thick; thin slices might produce a stronger infusion.

Left to right: star anise; jalapeno; ginger.

Fresh bay leaves didn’t taste great, but might be good with something else.  Bay leaves didn’t infuse well till they were crushed.

Sliced carrot infusion picked up a lot of color but not a lot of flavor. The flavor the infusion did pick up wasn’t great.

Carrot. Color: great. Taste: meh.

The best we saved for last.  This little gem was Nils’ idea:

Cocoa nibs made a cloudy but very flavorful infusion. If you let it settle for a half hour, it clears up substantially. A miraculous thing about the nibs infusion — it’s not bitter, just chocolate-y.  Apparently, it takes longer to extract the bitter flavors than the chocolate ones.

Cocoa nibs infusion. Chocolate flavor, no sugar, no bitterness. This will clear a bit if left to settle.

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Cooking Issues Radio Live, Tuesday

August 9th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Cooking Issues Radio will be live on the Heritage Radio Network this Tuesday from 12pm-12:45pm EST, so please call in with questions (and win some bacon while you’re at it!): 718-496-2128.

If you can’t call in, email Nastassia at and we’ll try to answer as many as we can.

Thanks for listening and please be sure to download all Cooking Issues Radio podcasts here.

-Cooking Issues Team

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Radio Show: Different Time, Special Guest –Dave Wondrich

August 1st, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Nastassia Lopez

Dave Wondrich --scribe of the drink-- racing to an 18th century London pub for a pint.

This week’s Cooking Issues radio show will broadcast live tomorrow, Monday, from noon-12:45pm EST instead of our usual Tuesday (Itunes link here). We’ll be welcoming special guest Dave Wondrich – spirits and cocktail editor for Esquire magazine, author of many books including Imbibe, and undisputed authority on booze. Maybe we’ll hear a bit about his upcoming book, Punch. Please call in to 718-497-2128 with any historical, shaking, stirring, batching, alcohol-related questions. For those who can’t call in, email questions to Nastassia at


Cooking Issues

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Our Friend Michael Batterberry Passes Away

July 31st, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Dave Arnold and Nils Noren

Michael listening to one of Dave's rants.

From Dave:

Michael Batterberry was a giant in the food world for over forty years. Long before we Americans were interested in what chefs were up to, Michael dedicated himself to improving the stature of that profession here.  Along with his wife Ariane, he founded Food and Wine Magazine, Food Arts Magazine, and wrote the definitive history of dining in New York. You can read about his life and  accomplishments here, and here. He went to great lengths to introduce people  he thought should meet, and he made forceful recommendations for people he believed in. He decided I was right for the FCI’s  Director of Culinary Technology position and cajoled the school into hiring me. I would not be who I am without him, and countless other people in this business can say the same thing. Michael was always searching for what was new –what was next. His eye was on the future but he had a deep appreciation for the past. His breadth of knowledge was staggering.

A few things the obituaries don’t mention: Michael was a sartorial wizard –the most dapper man I ever met. Despite always being the best dressed man in the room he was never, ever snobbish or stuffy. He could show up to a pig-pickin in a three piece suit and look perfectly at home. He had an amazing voice that easily held a room. His wit was sharp and dry but never biting. He was a great raconteur, but was also eager to listen.
Michael was gracious and generous and I am proud to be one of his protégés. I am sad I won’t see him again, but sadder for those who never got to meet him.

From Nils:
Michael was truly a great man in so many ways, and meant so much more to our industry the most people can comprehend. I personally have Michael to thank for many things. He gave me the chance to write, together with Dave, for Food Arts magazine, something I never thought I could really do. Michael was such a great visionary and when he spoke, you listened. His wealth of knowledge was so incredible. I never met anyone who knew more about the history of dining in this country and around the world, and who could also tell what the next big thing was going to be. Michael was opened minded and always curious about new things. He never dismissed new techniques or equipment. On the contrary, he  embraced them and he embraced progress, something I admired much.
I don’t know how many people in the food industry have Michael to thank for their success, but I know that there are a lot of us. There will be a huge void without Michael here, and we will miss him tremendously. But we will do everything we can to honor his memory. Skål Michael!

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Thank God for Potheads: New Favorite Tool in the Knife-Bag

July 27th, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Dave Arnold

You need to grind a small amount of spices and your mortar and pestle isn’t handy. You don’t want to clean out your pepper-mill. What are you going to do?  Those damn coffee/spice grinders do a crappy job on small quantities.  The spices just sit there under the blades.  You have to shake and shake –and still your spices don’t get ground. Potheads to the rescue.

Tech-savvy stoners use a device euphemistically called an “herb grinder” to crush marijuana into small pieces for use in devices like the volcano vaporizer.  Herb grinders are just two discs with meshing teeth.  Put something between the two discs, twist them in your hand, and viola –your product is ground. These grinders are small, simple, fast, and easy to clean –perfect to throw into your knife-bag.  We bought a plastic one and a metal one called the “chromium crusher” and put them through their paces with a variety of spices.

Two "herb grinders:" no-name plastic on the left; Chromium Crusher on the right.

1. Load the plastic grinder; 2. Twist away. 3. The Chromium Crusher at work.

I had high hopes for the chromium crusher.  I loved the look of the heavy metal monster. But the plastic device was the clear winner.  I think the geometry of the teeth is better in the plastic grinder; or perhaps the metal grinder’s teeth are just too far apart.

The Grinding Tests:

There are spices that grind well with an herb grinder, and spices that don’t.  I’ve divided them into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

The Good:

In the photos below we have dried rosemary, lavender, and pepper. Both grinders, as you might expect, quickly pulverized the dried herbs. With the pepper you start to see the divergence between the plastic and metal grinders –the plastic grinds finer, as it did for all of the spices in our test.

Top to bottom: whole spice, plastic grinder, Chromium Crusher. Right to left, rosemary, lavender, and black pepper. All of these were easy to grind.

Both grinders also made short work of larger, harder spices, like cloves, allspice and star anise:

Top to bottom: whole spice, plastic grinder, Chromium Crusher. Left to right: cloves, allspice, star anise. These large, hard spices were also easy to grind.

The Bad:

Long thin seeds, like caraway and fennel seed, fared poorly.  I think they slipped between the teeth of the grinders.  Green cardamom seeds were just too small and hard to grind well.  The metal grinder did a slightly better job on the cardamom.

Top to bottom: whole spice, plastic grinder, Chromium Crusher. Left to right: caraway, fennel seed, green cardamom. Long, thin seeds just seemed to move around between grinder teeth without getting crushed. Super-hard cardamom seeds were just too-hard to grind.

The Ugly:

The plastic grinder ground soft round seeds, like mustard and coriander, marginally well; but left behind large pieces of skin that refused to grind any further.  The mustard seeds were a little too small for the metal grinder –it couldn’t crush them (coriander was okay).  Juniper was too wet and mucked up both grinders.  Everything but the juniper was easy to clean; the juniper was a royal pain.

Top to bottom: whole spice, plastic grinder, Chromium Crusher. Left to right: mustard seeds, coriander, and juniper. These soft round seeds worked, but not great. Juniper was just too wet and mucked up both grinders.

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Cocktail Class

July 26th, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Dave Arnold

Hello all.  I just got back from Tales of the Cocktail, the cocktail world’s booze-soaked yearly festival in New Orleans.  I will post about the seminar I was in, The Science of Stirring, very soon.  In the mean time, if you want to learn some techno-cocktail techniques, Nils and I are doing a class this Wednesday evening at the FCI in downtown New York.  See here. I figure half of the techniques will be stuff you can do at home –like clarifying lime juice; and half will be stuff you can’t –like rotary evaporation.  Expect liquid nitrogen.

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Simple Agar Clarification: 1 Year Anniversary, Plus a Rundown of Current Clarification Techniques

July 20th, 2010 · Uncategorized

by Dave Arnold

Lime Juice and Simple Agar Clarification.

Lime: the Holy Grail of clarification problems.

It has been a year since quick agar clarification changed my life.   I was looking for a way to clarify lime juice without the  help of  a $15,000 rotary evaporator or a $20,000 centrifuge.   Even if you have the equipment, these techniques produce only small quantities.  Simple agar clarification solved all my lime-juice problems, and more.  Read the post here.

Clarified lime juice.

Why is lime juice so hard to clarify?

  1. Lime juice can’t be heated much before it tastes cooked
  2. It must be very fresh — lime juice that is even a couple hours old tastes over-the-hill.  Freezing doesn’t prevent this deterioration, and neither does vacuum bagging.  Some of the big-kid flavor houses have made great strides in industrial fresh-lime taste, but ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.  Most clarification techniques other than the traditional egg-raft take a lot of time — like days.

Why do I care about clarifying lime juice?

  1. Are you kidding?
  2. Gin and Tonics want lime juice, perfect G&T’s are directly carbonated (see here for video), and cloudy lime juice doesn’t carbonate well.
  3. Clear lime juice tastes incredibly clean
  4. Clear drinks look more pleasing than cloudy ones, and have a better texture

Simple agar clarification is, as the name suggests, simple.  It requires no special equipment, takes about half an hour, and can be done without overheating your juice (you hydrate the agar in boiling water and temper the juice back in).  Read last year’s post complete with instructions here.  In a nutshell: set your juice or whatever with 2 grams of agar per kilo juice. Break the gel up with a whisk.  Put the broken gel in three layers of cheesecloth.  Gently squeeze out the clear juice.

Some problems with simple agar clarification:

  1. It’s easy to over-squeeze the cheesecloth, which makes for cloudy juice.  I am pretty good at getting a high yield of clear juice with a technique I call “massaging the sack.”
  2. Juices that last for a couple of days (not lime) tend to get partly cloudy on the second day.  My guess is that some residual agar clumps together overnight.  Dunno for sure.

The bad news: I don’t have a way to solve these problems without some heavy duty equipment.  The good news: I can solve these problems with a *reasonably* priced centrifuge. The super-speed floor-model centrifuge of my early lime juice tests –  which can spin product at 48,000 times the force of gravity – costs well over $20,000, can blow apart if used improperly, holds only 500ml of juice, and is the size of a washing machine.  I bought a 3 liter bench-top centrifuge on eBay for about 300 bucks (granted, an unusually good deal). It is safe to use, holds 3 liters a a time, and is the size of two microwaves.  It can spin product at 4000 times the force of gravity –plenty of g’s  agar clarification.  Most centrifuges in this range can be equipped with 4 swinging buckets of 750ml each.   Don’t bother getting a smaller one or a larger one.  Read about our centrifuge here.

Modified fast (but not as simple) agar clarification technique: Instead of using cheesecloth,  break up the agar gel with a whisk, load it into the centrifuge, and spin it for 15 minutes at 4000 g’s.  Yield is very high,  no operator skill necessary, and the juice doesn’t re-cloud. I had used a similar, but not as effective, technique I called spin-gel clarification before I figured out the simple agar trick (post here); but I was too much of a bone head to combine the two techniques until very recently.

Here we demonstrate the technique on orange juice. First set the juice with 2 grams of agar per kilo of juice and let it gel. Second, break up the gel with a whisk.

Load the broken gel in centrifuge buckets and spin at 4000 g's for 15 minutes. Whammo! Clarified juice.

Left: clarified juice. Right: sludge from the bottom of the bucket.

Mini Primer: a Rundown of  the Clarification Techniques We Know:

People often ask me about different clarification techniques.  Here is a summary.

  • Egg raft: You know this one.
  • Filtration: I have not had much luck with filtration.  I have tried pressure filters, vacuum filters, different filtration media, etc. –  but have not been satisfied.  Even products with particles big enough to be filtered easily, like stock, tend to clog filters pretty quickly.  Chef Angel Leon has the clarimax filtration system – I haven’t used it yet.
  • Centrifuge on its own: You need a really fast one. Lime juice can only be directly clarified in a centrifuge when subjected to forces in excess of 27,000 g’s. To make sweet tasting clarified lime in a centrifuge you need 48,000 g’s. Wow.
  • Enzyme on its own: The cloudiness in certain juices, like apple juice, is stabilized by pectin.  If you add an enzyme that breaks down pectin, these juices self-clarify in the fridge (we use Novozymes Pectinex Smash XXL and Pectinex SP-L, which we also supply –see here).  The cloudiness settles to the bottom and the clear juice stays on top.  Pour off the clear juice and you’re done.  Be careful:  don’t stir up the particles at the bottom of your container; they will go right through a coffee filter. The problem with this technique is low yield;  the cloudy particles are suspended in a lot of good juice that never clarifies.  Thick purees don’t settle out in a reasonable amount of time. Read about the technique in depth here.
  • Enzyme plus Centrifuge: Unlike plain enzyme clarification, this technique can clarify thick purees like peach, nectarine, blueberry and strawberry. It also radically increases yield on thin juices like apple juice.  We no longer use enzyme clarification without the centrifuge.  The technique is simple: blend each kilo of whole fruit or juice with 2 grams of Pectinex SP-L and 1 gram of  Pectinex Smash XXL.  Allow to sit 20 or 30 minutes, then spin in a centrifuge at 4000 g’s for 15-20 minutes.  We get something like 80-95 percent yield depending on the solids content of the product.
  • Gelatin Freeze-Thaw Clarification: This was the first non-traditional clarification technique that chefs adopted.  It works on almost anything. Hydrate 5 grams of gelatin in every kilo of product.  Pour the mixture into 2 inch hotel pans (gastronorms for you Euro types). Allow the mix to sit in the fridge a while so the gelatin can do its thing (the liquid won’t gel at these concentrations) then freeze the mix solid.  Place a perforated 2 inch hotel pan inside of a 4 inch hotel pan and line the perforated pan with several layers of cheesecloth. After the mix is FULLY frozen, crack the ice-block out of the hotel pan (don’t use a torch) and put it into the cheesecloth-lined perforated hotel pan.  Let the ice thaw in the fridge.  What drips out will be crystal-clear.  Juices with a lot of pectin require less gelatin. Things like stock that have natural gelatin can be frozen and thawed as-is. If the stock has too much gelatin your yield will be poor.  Use a weak stock and reduce it later. Freeze-thaw clarified stock can be reduced a preposterous amount without becoming gluey, because the gelatin is gone. We made the meatiest tasting liquid of all-times using this technique — good stuff.  A curious fact about freeze thaw clarification: the liquid that thaws first in any batch is higher in sugar, acid, and color than the liquid that thaws last — so you can’t just use the first stuff that melts and save the rest for later–all the liquid from one freeze-thaw cycle should be batched together.   We sometimes intentionally concentrate flavor by only using the first half or two-thirds of the thaw, but some chefs (like Wylie Dufresne, who pioneered this technique with juices as opposed to stock) don’t endorse this  technique because the concentration changes the flavor balance (post on this subject here). The advantage of the freeze-thaw gelatin technique is that it works on almost anything.  The disadvantages are:
    • it isn’t vegetarian (not a problem for stock, but potentially a problem for juice)
    • if you don’t leave the gelatin long enough before you freeze it your product can go cloudy
    • if you don’t freeze the mix all the way through your product will go cloudy
    • if you let the product thaw in the kitchen and it gets too hot, it will go cloudy; if your fridge is too cold (ours runs at 32-34 F) it will take forever to thaw
    • even in the best of cases thawing can take a day or two.
  • Agar Freeze Thaw Clarification:the same as gelatin freeze-thaw, but with agar instead of gelatin. Use two grams of agar per kilo of product.  Make sure the agar boils for several minutes. If you don’t want to heat your product you can hydrate the agar in a small amount of water and then temper it into your product.  Make sure the agar/product mix doesn’t get below about 35-40C or it will gel prematurely. After the agar has been hydrated and added to your product, pour it into a hotel pan to set.  At 2 grams per kilo, agar will form a light gel. After the agar gels, proceed as for gelatin freeze-thaw.  The advantages of agar freeze-thaw clarification over gelatin clarification are:
    • it is vegetarian
    • it sometimes produces a clearer product
    • agar won’t melt, so the product can be thawed at room temp
    • if a portion of the agar doesn’t freeze, the gel will still hold and your product won’t become cloudy
  • Simple Agar Clarification: See the explanation above.  This is the only way to clarify lime juice properly.  It is also a good technique for when you need product quickly.
  • Simple Agar Clarification Plus Centrifuge: Simple agar clarification augmented with a centrifuge.  If you have a centrifuge, this is the best way to clarify in a hurry.

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Harold McGee Live on Cooking Issues Radio

July 19th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Cooking Issues will be live tomorrow at 12pm EST on the Heritage Radio Network  and special guest Harold McGee will be joining us via California.

We’re rolling him out of bed pretty early so please make him feel welcome and call in with your questions at 718-497-2128.  It’s a great chance for those of you who aren’t able to attend the McGee Lecture Series to speak to the man himself about your cooking issues.

Plus, we’re still giving away free pork to callers.

We’ll be live from 12pm-12:4pm EST. If you really can’t make it to a phone, email Nastassia directly at and we’ll answer as many as we can.

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