This article is a part of my free Exploring Sous Vide email course. If you want to discover how to consistently create amazing food using sous vide then my course is exactly what you're looking for.
Now that you are an expert at sous vide, I thought I'd showcase some of the other methods that you can use to take your cooking up another level. The more cooking methods you understand, the easier it is to choose the one that will achieve the result you are looking for.
Here's a few of my favorite cooking methods, which I've split up into methods I use for everyday cooking, and methods I use for special occasion cooking.
It seems weird to refer to something our grandparents used as a trendy technique, but pressure cooking is becoming more and more popular. After years of unsafe cookers and guesswork-timing, pressure cooking is now really safe to use. Plus it's relatively quick and easy to do, especially compared to traditional braising.
I turn to my pressure cooker more than any other cooking device besides my sous vide machine. It excels at making traditional, braise-like meats and can handle several interesting dishes like pureed soups, beans, risottos, and super-rich stocks.
The whipping siphon is basically a glorified whipped cream maker...one that you can also use to make flavored vinegars, quick pickle vegetables, create light foams, infuse alcohols, carbonate fruits, and barrel aged liquid in minutes.
While many of the whipping siphon techniques fall into the "modernist" cooking category, they are relatively easy to use and don't take much time. If you already spent 20 minutes making a sauce for your steak, you might as well spend 5 more to turn it into a foam and wow your friends even more!
Several of the techniques are fast and easy as well, like making infusions and pickles, carbonating fruits, and making whipped cream. The whipping siphon is one of the few modernist tools that I use on weekday meals, not just fancy ones.
If you are interested in dipping your toes into modernist cooking, a great place to start is exploring the various thickening methods. Having the ability to hold a vinaigrette together, prevent a puree from separating, and easily thicken sauces and liquids is invaluable. Just knowing you will never again have to eat a watery sauce is a huge relief.
Most of the thickening methods and ingredients are really easy to use, easier than thickening with flour or corn starch in most cases. You will get a basic understanding of how many modernist ingredients work while developing a real powerful tool in your daily cooking arsenal. Thickening methods are one of the few modernist techniques I use during the week on normal meals.
I recommend starting with xanthan gum, it's versatile and easy to use. You just blend it into any hot or cold liquid and it starts to thicken right away. It also prevents purees and soups from separating. Here's a few of my favorite xanthan gum recipes.
Ultra-Sperse is another ingredient I use a lot. It's better than xanthan gum for making smooth gravies. My Pressure Cooker Brisket Peppered Beef Recipe shows using it to thicken the resulting sauce after the meat is cooked.
Finally, there are some great ways you can thicken foods enough to completely change the texture. This can result in thick sauces (think ketchup or a thick BBQ sauce), all the way up to thick puddings. They are called fluid gels and are a great way to intensify flavors and thicken liquids. My favorite ingredient to make these sauces with is Agar Agar (which can also make gels of various hardness).
A real fun technique to use for special occasions is gelling. We are almost all familiar with gelatin gels (hello Jello!) but with modernist techniques you can make a wide variety of gels from smooth and creamy to hot and firm. You can even make gel coatings, gel sheets, and gel noodles!
Gelling definitely isn't an everyday technique, but for desserts and dishes you really want to impress with it is great. I use gels a lot for parties, since they really get the conversation started. If you are interested in more party foods, I have a book that goes over modernist party foods so you can wow your friends and family.
Here's a few of my favorite gelling recipes:
Foams are another great "wow" technique. Some foams are light and airy while others are thick and rich. Most foams are pretty easy to make and some only takes a few minutes once the liquid is made. Plus they always amaze people when they come out.
My favorite foaming ingredient is soy lecithin because it can create light "airs" in minutes:
I almost always use gelatin for cold foams:
And agar works wonderfully for hot foams:
Here are some of my favorite foam recipes that use other ingredients.
Spherification is one of the hardest, but most rewarding modernist techniques. The concept is pretty simple, you just wrap some liquid in a gel coating...but the execution can be pretty difficult.
It's one of the few techniques that I can't successfully pull off every time when I'm developing new recipes, but if you follow a set recipe, it should work out just fine. I only have a handful of them but here's some of my favorite spherification recipes.
These are just a few of the more adventurous techniques I use in my cooking. If you want more information about them, you can check out my book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Getting Started.
In this lesson we discussed various other cooking methods the adventurous home cook can use.
Thanks again and happy cooking!
Jason Logsdon, Amazing Food Made Easy