A VISIT WITH THE MAD SCIENTIST OF THE GRILL
You’ve probably heard of Nathan Myhrvold, the Microsoft IT genius-turned-food-visionary. He authored the James Beard Award Cookbook of the Year–Modernist cuisine–the most expensive and ambitious cookbook in history. What you may not know is that Dr. Myhrvold is a major barbecue geek. I caught up with him recently at his state-of-the-art lab in Seattle, Washington.
To shatter myths and understand what really happens when you grill, he cut a Weber kettle in half and glued heatproof glass to the front. This enables him to view and photograph what really happens when you direct grill, indirect grill, and smoke.
Dr. Myhrvold certainly walks the walk: His pastrami-barbecued short ribs cut like butter. They’re simply the most succulent, flavorful, and smoky ribs I’ve tasted anywhere on Planet Barbecue. In my life. Ever.
Of course, achieving the perfect rib isn’t a matter of a couple of hours–or even a couple of days. The full process involves brining the ribs in a low-salt mixture for 3 days, then cooking them “lower and slower” (sous vide at 140 degrees for 2 days), and then smoking them for 6 hours.
This retains the supernaturally pink color and dark, spicy bark, while infusing the ribs with more flavor than you dreamed possible. Pair that with the pistachio ice cream Dr. Myhrvold served for dessert (made only of pistachios and glucose), and you begin to think that Modernist cuisine is not just a food fad, but the way of the future.
But you know what impressed me the most about Dr. Myhrvold’s lab? It wasn’t even the amazing food science it all. It was all the other cool research projects going on at the same time–projects to help African farmers get milk to market before it spoils, or help medical workers in Third World countries diagnose malaria more efficiently, or how to make satellite communications available to people living “off the grid”.
In short, it’s the intersection of science and capitalism that truly makes the world a better place.