Methylcellulose is one of the most interesting modernist ingredients. It has the unusual property of gelling when it is heated and melting as it cools. One of the most dramatic uses of this is "instant noodles" when the diner has a squeeze bottle full of liquid that when squeezed into a soup instantly turns into noodles. It has also been used to make "hot ice cream" that melts as it cools.
In addition, it is often employed as a binder in coatings, such as fried chicken batter, because it will solidify as soon as it hits the oil, creating a barrier that keeps the oil out and the juices in. Methylcellulose can also be used to stabilize foams and emulsions.
Methylcellulose is made from cellulose pulp, which is taken from plants' cell walls. There are about 20 kinds of methylcellulose and while similar, they all have different properties. Two of the more common ones are Methocel F50. which is commonly used to stabilize foams and Methocel A4C, which gels at a lower temperature and is good in batters and coatings.
Where to Buy Methylcellulose
There are several places to purchase methylcellulose. We highly recommend ModernistPantry.com, they have great service and are really good to work with (because of this, we do have an affiliate relationship with them) and have a wide selection of methylcellulose. You can also find it at WillPowder and get larger quantities and bundles at ForTheGourmet.com
Dispersion and Hydration
Methylcellulose is typically dispersed in hot liquids, above the setting temperature of the type you are using. Some, like Methocel F50, can also be dispersed in cold water if using a blender.
Once the methylcellulose has been dispersed, you need to cool the liquid in order for it to hydrate. The hydration temperature varies for the different types but a good rule of thumb is below 15°C / 59°F. Most types need to stay at this temperature for about an hour. I typically let the liquid cool on the counter or in an ice bath and then refrigerate it for several hours to be on the safe side.
Some forms of methylcellulose react poorly to sugar and result in a bad smell, similar to a wet dog or corked wine. Ideas in Food, with credit to Harold McGee, have come up with a solution. If this occurs you can line the container you are hydrating the methylcellulose in with plastic wrap, which will absorb the odor from the mixture so the resulting foam or gel will not smell.
Methylcellulose Recipes and Articles
These instant noodles make for an awesome presentation. They are created in the bowl of soup in front of the diner, or the diner can even make the noodles themselves. They are based off of Wylie Dufresne's instant tofu noodles.
Methocel A4C gels at a lower temperature and is good in batters and coatings.
Modernist foams come in many varieties. They can be made by blending, in a whipping siphon, or even using an aquarium bubbler. This recipe focuses on a different type: whipped foams, specifically whipped Methocel foams.
Methocel is a type of methylcellulose
. Methylcellulose is made from cellulose pulp, which is taken from plants' cell walls. There are about 20 kinds of methylcellulose and while similar, they all have different properties. Methocel F50 is commonly used to stabilize foams, especially whipped foams.
This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
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