The Ultimate Burger, declares Modernist Cuisine, is no simple creation. It requires a bun with the perfect--not overpowering!--degree of sweetness, a cheese made with sodium hexametaphosphates, and a meat patty ground in such a way that every strand is aligned to produce an even texture. The meat is then cryofried--dipped in liquid nitrogen and then fried in hot oil--to keep the burger as juicy as possible. It's complicated, but it's still simple (and cheap) compared to a new $325,000 hamburger that will be eaten in London in the near future.
While Modernist Cuisine uses science to find the perfect way to prepare and combine foods, Dr. Mark Post of the Netherlands, creator of this burger, is doing something different--he's trying to prove that we can grow edible meat in a laboratory through the use of stem cells.
"In a lab with incubators filled with clear plastic containers holding a pinkish liquid, a technician was tending to the delicate task of growing the tens of billions of cells needed to make the burger, starting with a particular type of cell removed from cow necks obtained at a slaughterhouse," writes The New York Times. "Dr. Post, one of a handful of researchers in the field, has made strides in developing cultured meat through the use of stem cells — precursor cells that can turn into others that are specific to muscle, for example — and techniques adapted from medical research for growing tissues and organs, a field known as tissue engineering...His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue 'tastes reasonably good.' For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper."
Growing the meat for a lab burger isn't cheap--the research has cost $325,000 so far, which means Post's technique poses little threat to the existing meat business. It's a slow process. Post's work uses myosatellite cells, taken from the muscle tissues in a cow's neck. He uses myosatellite cells because they're able to produce new muscle tissue. The cells are placed in a growth medium--in this case, fetal calf serum--and then encouraged to divide and multiply.