The techniques of scientific cooking.
Posted on July 16th, 2011

Dr Hector Perera  London

Why some footballers, golfers, racing drivers, tennis players or even television presenters are highly paid because they know the technique of the task they are entrusted. I am sure they got the technique of whatever they are doing after years of dedicated practice, how about scientific cooking? There are plenty of advantages of scientific cooking if one applies the proper techniques.

  Anybody would like to try out the following dish then please let me know whether it worked or not? Cut the following vegetables into small pieces and put into a cooking pan, four tomatoes, two carrots, four long chilies [malu miris] and some spring onions into a cooking pan then add quarter tea spoon of table salt, a touch of turmeric, two tea spoonfuls of Maldive fish pieces and some curry leaves then one table spoonful of olive oil or sun flower oil. Use a long spatula and mix well, avoid mixing by hand because turmeric can stain the hand.  No water is added, place on full fire for three minutes then reduce it to very low fire. Put the lid on, leave it like that for 7 minutes; do not open at all during that time. After 7 minutes on low fire, off the fire then leave for 5 minutes to settle the vapours then open, mix and taste it. If the adjustment of fire was right, it wouldn’t burn. During the process of cooking, all these so called oozing out of different juices, intermolecular and intramolecular, absorption and adsorption reactions have given this tasty dish. If you noticed any advantages of this type of cooking please let me know. You might get it right, if you correctly followed my instruction, who knows, if it goes wrong, try again as an experiment with correct adjustment of temperature, you will get the technique.

 Greater the surface area, faster the reaction

 Q: Why do we cut vegetables into small pieces? A: Because it increases the surface area then greater the surface area, faster the reaction. Did any other chef explain the reasons in this scientific manner? When we mix the cut vegetables in a pan with cooking ingredients, no one can say exactly where they are distributed. They are in contact with other ingredients as well, when we heat this mixture of vegetables, they are absorbing the heat gradually then the liquids or juices inside these vegetables gradually come out and mix with other things in the surrounding. When chemicals are absorbed into cut vegetables, some liquids and juices ooze out due to difference in osmosis and due to disturbance of the system. Because of the salt and other chemicals in the surrounding, some cells might undergo shrinkage by loss of water through and this is called plasmolysis. If the heat is supplied in a controlled manner, the juices also come out gradually than bursting out suddenly then there is time for them to react. Some liquids are more volatile than the others due to boiling point differences. These are similar to some fire works, controlled fire works is a pleasant site but not any bomb explosions, similarly try and control the reactions. This is again application of science to cooking.

Meat and vegetables are bad conductors

Don’t forget these vegetables or any kind meat are bad conductors of heat, so must be given time for heat to conduct through. The heat to be supplied accordingly, otherwise the things definitely go wrong. You need to imagine that different liquids in the vegetable curry or meat curry conduct this heat at different rates. I look at the cooking as chemical reactions due to various reasons, would you think cooking is a kind of a simple chemical reaction? In chemistry we expect certain reactions to take place gradually than bursting out suddenly, similarly the cooking is no better, must apply similar principles. These released flavours get absorbed into meat or vegetables as the temperature increases and some volatile ingredients try to escape. We must know how to get these flavours absorbed into food otherwise they get deposited on you. The food is tasty when these flavours are either absorbed or adsorped on to the food. We need to control the temperature, with these things in mind than trying to cook with the flames in full blast. I am sure some of you have noticed most of the British TV celebrity cooks, just jabber jabber something with gas fire on full blast. I doubt they have any idea about the gas wastage and environmental pollution because they are not scientifically educated or do not understand how to apply science to cooking.


You need to understand

It’s simple to understand that if less gas is burnt; less carbon dioxide is given out that means less environmental pollution. Forget about for a moment, the most disputed argument about the global warming but even a child can understand that carbon dioxide is a pollutant gas, does not support combustion and breathing but green plants need this gas for producing food. Why do these people burn unnecessary, excess gas in the process of cooking that means producing more pollutant gas, is it due to carelessness or ignorance or both? Cooking gas means money, do you get it for free, of course you have to pay, so make use of it than wasting.

If you cook carefully, more flavours remain inside the cooking vessel and they react gradually with one another giving better resulting flavours, can I say intermolecular and intramolecular reactions have taken place? I suppose the cooking ingredients give different flavours and we add them expecting to flavour the food, not to have a steam bath of flavours for yourself. 

Cheap aroma therapy?

In Sri Lanka, some five star hotels offer you herbal treatment to improve the skin colour, beauty therapy to look younger and for many other aliments such as back ache. Cooking with open pan give this mixture of herbal, medicinal vapours, is that a part of cheap beauty treatment, if you need one why not visit a specialist, not by cooking. It reminds me there used to be servant women just for cooking; they are the, “kussi ammas” but not any more. Most of them didn’t even know where the local shops were, but they have crossed the Indian Ocean in jetliners for foreign employment.

 I asked some Sri Lankan ladies, “Why do you open and stir up the cooking chicken curry”? All of them said, “To mix, so that the pieces on the top get cooked”. In that case do they stir up or mix rice as well while cooking? No wonder they end up with, “Dankuda”.

Scientifically, this is what happens

This is what happens when they keep on stirring boiling chicken curry: A cloud of steam with a cocktail of volatile chemicals comes up; of course it smells very appetising, by law of science, some volatile flavours escape and tends to deposit on colder things including on the body, if you happen to be quite near or on any surface?

British TV presenters

 I am sure some of you have witnessed that in some British TV cooking programs, the presenter always stand very near the cooking, for the camera. Then these steaming cooking or frying invisible, smelly chemicals bound to deposit on the presenter and the cook, they get a free bath of smelly oily volatile vapours without his or her knowledge. Looks like a nice cooking programme but they got this terrible smell on them, don’t worry but not the viewers.

Temperature control

This is one of the reasons why I mentioned to cook the food with a temperature control that means you can save gas; avoid you being a model mobile kitchen with curry flavours on you. I repeatedly mentioned that I would demonstrate how to save about 60% gas by applying science to cooking and show you how to minimise or in some cases totally avoid this flavoured steam bath.

Sri Lankan Energy Authorities at BMICH

I am happy to say that The Sri Lankan Energy Authority at BMICH has accepted my energy saving technique. They use my techniques to educate the public on an energy awareness programme.  The question is why the British energy saving authorities, environmentalists, green peace lovers, are not responding to my challenge? Please come back on

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