The Man Who Unboiled an Egg

Posted on February 14, 2008  Comments (2)

Very cool article on Hervé This and the science of cooking: The man who unboiled an egg:

Hervé has taught at the universities of Tours and Montpellier, and has his own laboratory at the venerable Collège de France, which, today, is also the base for all four of France’s living Nobel prize winners. One of them, Jean-Marie Lehn, invited Hervé to join his department in 1995. In Hervé’s laboratory, there is a cupboard full of chemical compounds such as sulphuric acid, sodium carbonate and Mercurochrome, while the shelves are stacked with things you’d normally associate with the kitchen: bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, pots of mustard and cinnamon, bags of salt and shallots, and a bar of chocolate.

‘I go through ancient recipe books, preferably from the 18th and 19th centuries, jot down what they have to say and test it,’ he says.

On the morning of our second meeting, Hervé measures the pressure inside a chip. He’s aiming to disprove a famous scientific paper which states that oil infiltrates chips during cooking. He heats oil to 168°C, measures a chip, hooks it up to a manometer and plunges it in the oil. Unfortunately, the experiment goes wrong and ends up with the chip falling to the bottom of the pan. He is unconcerned. ‘In order to come up with conclusive results, I’ll have to carry it out 100 times.’

He explains that when an egg is cooked, the protein molecules unroll themselves, link up and enclose the water molecules. In order to ‘uncook’ the egg, you need to detach the protein molecules from each other. By adding a product like sodium borohydride, the egg becomes liquid within three hours.

Very fun read, go read the rest of the article. And try out that uncooking an egg thing and post a comment below – it sounds interesting but I doubt I will actually try it.

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2 Responses to “The Man Who Unboiled an Egg”

  1. Curious Cat: An Appetite For Science
    July 30th, 2008 @ 8:49 am

    “He’s confident he could teach a high school or college science course with nothing but a kitchen. For labs he could demonstrate how heat denatures protein by cooking an egg, how yeast cells execute gas-liberating reactions…”

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Understanding the Chemistry Behind Cooking
    September 12th, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    […] The Man Who Unboiled an Egg – Don’t Eat What Doesn’t Rot – Rethinking the Food Production System – […]

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