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Hey Jason, there's so many modernist equipment and ingredients, what do I actually need? I'm just getting started and I don't want to spend much money before I know if I even enjoy it.
Hi Rick, that's a great question. There is definitely a wide variety of modernist tools and ingredients out there. Luckily most of them can be used separately of each other. I'll try to give you a good idea of what you should initially look at so you can get a good feel for modernist cooking without having to spend much money up front.
For equipment, you definitely need a gram and pound scale and an immersion blender and that's really it. The scales are pretty specific to modernist cooking but I use my immersion blender all the time, so even if you decide you don't like modernist cooking it won't be a wasted purchase. You can view more information at my required modernist equipment guide.
I also really like my whipping siphon. It makes foams, carbonates liquids and fruits, and infuses oil and alcohol with flavors. Plus it's great to use at parties because everyone loves to use it.
When it comes to ingredients, it really depends what types of recipes you'd like to make.
If you're just getting started and want to see if you enjoy modernist cooking I would definitely recommend agar and xanthan gum. They will allow you to thicken most liquids as well as make gels, fluid gels, and foams, giving you a good look at several modernist techniques.
If you are more interested in gelling, then in addition to the agar I'd pick up locust bean gum, gelatin, and iota carrageenan, and kappa carrageenan. This will let you create a wide range of textures and both hot and cold gels.
If you like cheese then sodium citrate is fun to use, it makes almost any cheese easily meltable. It can be used to make great cheese soups, fondues, and mac and cheeses.
Hopefully this will give you a good look and some of the modernist equipment and ingredients you should be considering when you are just getting started. Thanks, and happy cooking!