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Cooking Myths


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My pasta doesn't stick.  But then, I've always added oil!  Who knew?

well, if it ain't broke...

Well now I gotta try it! We're having pasta tomorrow night (tonight being the marinated sesame seed pork tenderloin), so I'm gonna try it without the oil. I know you can hardly wait to hear the outcome (not!)

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I've had pasta stick for two reasons -- too small a pot/too little water; and not enough heat to the get water boiling again/lack of stirring. When If you don't get all the strands/pieces separated when it first goes in, the starch will glop it together and only a strong rolling boil will get it apart. (Stuck pasta -- finally, a cooking issue that I know about.) It takes a little longer to get the bigger pot of water boiling, but it helps.

I've also heard that if adding oil to the water actually does anything to the pasta (and I don't know that it does), it allows the pasta to absorb some of the oil which reduces the ability of the pasta's texture to grip the sauce.

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not so much a myth as much as a lack of understanding:  salted water boils "faster."

From what little I recall from high-school chemistry (I don't recall anything from college chemistry), adding salt raises the boiling point, so salted water takes longer to boil. (It also lowers the freezes point, so pouring salt on ice helps the ice to melt.)

Salt also lowers the melting point of ice.

Click.

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having written a bit about this, i'd like to point out that there are "myths" and then there are what we might call "occasions of inexact language."

For example, the oft-quoted examle of searing sealing in juices. Technically, of course, that is incorrect. Anyone can see it. But if you rephrase it slightly, it becomes correct--and more to the point for a cook. A well-seared piece of meat will be moister. That's because most of the moisture when we eat something comes not from the thing being eaten but from ourselves. It's saliva. And what generates saliva? Things that look and smell delicious. And how do you make meat ... you get the picture.

There are marinades that tenderize meat--just not the ones most people think of. Marinades that contain yogurt will tenderize--some so-far poorly explained property of lactic acid. Most acids will denature the protein on the surface of the meat making it softer. But in those cases, we would probably call that "mealy" rather than tender.

On the other hand, here's a straight-out myth: Soaking dried beans reduces the amount of gas produced. Simply isn't true. Think about this: dried beans are seeds. Seeds are germinated by soaking. The things that cause flatulence (at least part of it) are sugars the bean plants will need to grow. Hence, it makes no sense that soaking (germinating) would reduce the sugars. (it does reduce cooking time; reasonable minds can differ on whether that's worthwhile, given the loss of flavor).

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Parboiling ribs for so-called tenderness is one of the biggest cooking myths!

It is a well known fact among BBQ circles that boiling ribs ensures that the BBQ sauce used will not be tainted by the flavor of pork... :wink:

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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having written a bit about this, i'd like to point out that there are "myths" and then there are what we might call "occasions of inexact language."

For example, the oft-quoted of searing sealing in juices. Technically, of course, that is incorrect. Anyone can see it. But if you rephrase it slightly, it becomes correct--and more to the point. A well-seared piece of meat will be moister. That's because most of the moisture that comes when we eat something comes not from the thing being eaten but from ourselves. It's saliva. And what generates saliva? Things that look and smell delicious. And how do you make meat ... you get the picture.

I have not heard this one before. Good one! Erm...you mean you weren't joking?

A well seared piece of meat that is over cooked will be like shoe leather, but I suppose if you spit on it enough times one could consider it to be "juicy", couldn't one?

But seriously folks...

I still think excusing myths like this by saying the offender is only using inexact language, or that it is simply too difficult to explain the real reason one would want to sear misses the point. The point of Chefs-as-educators, which most TV cooking show hosts or food columnists aspire to be, is to educate. It does not serve this purpose to further incorrect ideas.

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According to both Robert Wolke and Harold McGee, Mushrooms do not soak up liquid like sponges. Both authors tested the theory by weighing, then soaking in cold water for 5 minutes, spin drying, and weighing the mushrooms again.

Let's be honest: in a professional kitchen, five minutes is NOTHING! How many times have you gone the sink to find it cluttered with vegetables that have been left there to soak for an hour or more because the prep cook got called on the line or whatever other reason?

Oh, and spin drying? Many kitchens don't even OWN a spin dryer.

I think the myth safeguards us against oversoaking all mushroom. Imagine what would happen if cooks got into the habit of soaking chanterelles or other delicate wild mushroom?

Quote:

"But here is the key question: do chefs really know that searing does not seal in the juices? Do they really know that dropping a potato into a too-salty pot of soup will do nothing to reduce the saltyness? Or are they themselves tremendously uninformed? My understanding of modern culinary education is that basic food science is an integral part of the curriculum. Am I wrong?"

I didn't want to alienate the chefs here with my first few posts, but yes, chefs are often uninformed, and these culinary myths ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS. Food science is the last thing on teachers' minds; for two years during my culinary education, I've been fighting with teachers who didn't know better and were too lazy to look it up. Many cooks seem to think that because they are tradesmen, this somehow shields them from the responsibility of educating themselves in a sound and scientificic manner.

By and large, myths today have lost their function. We are no longer 'largely uneducated masses', and the responsibility now is to seek and respect the sound advice that food science (now very accessible) teaches us.

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On the other hand, here's a straight-out myth: Soaking dried beans reduces the amount of gas produced. Simply isn't true. Think about this: dried beans are seeds. Seeds are germinated by soaking. The things that cause flatulence (at least part of it) are sugars the bean plants will need to grow. Hence, it makes no sense that soaking (germinating) would reduce the sugars. (it does reduce cooking time; reasonable minds can differ on whether that's worthwhile, given the loss of flavor).

This may not be as intuitive as you think. If you're right that soaking the seeds may begin the germination process, that alone may affect the sugars in the seed.

I'm analogizing to barley malt used for beer. Regular barley can't make beer. By beginning the germination process, the chemistry inside the seed changes (I think it's the proteins, but I don't remember), and when properly mashed (by soaking in warm water that is), the starches convert to fermentable sugars.

Of course, I have no idea what's going on in a bean when it soaks, and if you tell me that soaking beans for a short period before cooking them isn't enough time for any changes due to germination, I won't argue at all. This is just an opportunity for me to discuss beer. "mmmmm, beer."

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Parboiling ribs for so-called tenderness is one of the biggest cooking myths!

It is a well known fact among BBQ circles that boiling ribs ensures that the BBQ sauce used will not be tainted by the flavor of pork... :wink:

I was referring to TENDERNESS, not HYGIENE!

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and just how "juicy" is a piece of raw meat?

I would guess that the "juicyness" of a piece of meat is related to its moisture content. I would further guess that the moisture content of a piece of meat is redistributed during cooking (released from it's location either inside cells or in the cellular interstices) away from the source of heat. And that the instruction to let a piece of meat rest after cooking is to allow that moisture, the juices, to be reabsorbed. Saliva doesn't enter the picture until I put the meat into my mouth. Or is all this a myth too?

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"I would guess that the "juicyness" of a piece of meat is related to its moisture content."

Well, some of it is. But much of it is not. If you'd like, I can supply you the cites in the scientific literature. Note that this is not black/white, all/nothing. But the point was about whether searing "made meat juicier" (as opposed to "sealing in juices.") Of that, there's not much doubt.

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Well, all I know is that a properly-seared piece of meat TASTES BETTER to me than one that should have been but wasn't, because of the Maillard Reaction. Alan Davidson cites Harold McGee extensively on this.

And if it tastes better, it stimulates more saliva, thereby increasing the moisture in my mouth -- rather than my having to rely purely on the moisture inherent in the piece of meat. Maybe that's why the end cut of prime rib and the "burnt ends" of barbecue are still so good to eat. Just thought I'd throw that in.

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"I would guess that the "juicyness" of a piece of meat is related to its moisture content."

Well, some of it is. But much of it is not. If you'd like, I can supply you the cites in the scientific literature. Note that this is not black/white, all/nothing. But the point was about whether searing "made meat juicier" (as opposed to "sealing in juices.")  Of that, there's not much doubt.

Russ:

Now that I'm home from work I am able to consult your book to see what you wrote on the topic. I am well prepared to accept that nothing is ever very simple in a scientific sense, and that juicyness itself is a complex issue: base juicyness versus perceived juicyness, for example, and how fat content contributes to perceived juicyness, and etc. But what I initially took issue with was your assertion that most of the juicyness is supplied by our saliva. I have a hard time accepting the truth of this statement. I would indeed appreciate it if you could point me to the original sources for this proposition.

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Russ wrote a book? Really? Yes, here it is:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearc...isbn=039596783X

Seriously, if this thread interests you, read Russ's book. There are a couple of other good ones on the same subject but their authors don't seem to post here so screw them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some interesting links on the meat -searing concept:

Heston Blumenthal cooks his lamb for 1 1/2 hours, over very low temperatures, without ever browning it, and ends up with an incredibly (so he says) juicy piece of meat.

Alain Ducasse cooks his steak over medium heat, and still gets a nice "crust". We use this method of pan-frying steaks religously.

As far as I'm concerned, Bittman was wrong...absolutely no reason to set off the smoke alarms and send the neighbors running...

Here's a bit of Harold McGee from those wacky guys at the International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy.

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Hence, it makes no sense that soaking (germinating) would reduce the sugars.

Well, wouldn't the fact that you dump out the water the beans were soaked in have more effect than anything else?

It is the gut-flora which converts the sugars to gas. Sugars are absorbed by you gut or broken down in the gut by your own enzymes. Some sugars cannot be broken down by the human enzymes and/or absorbed so they pass down your gut, get gobbled up by bacteria in the bowel which break them down (which produces the gas).

I'm not sure is the overnight soaking is enough time to activate the pulses enzymes and break down the complex sugars (starches) into simple-farty sugars. I would guess yes. Must depend on the type of pulse as well.

Same thing happens with Sun-chokes (Jerusalem artichoke), God's fartiest veggie, weird sugars not fit for mammalian enzymes.

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Think about this: dried beans are seeds. Seeds are germinated by soaking. The things that cause flatulence (at least part of it) are sugars the bean plants will need to grow. Hence, it makes no sense that soaking (germinating) would reduce the sugars.

Looks like a contradiction in there somewhere. The sugars are there to allow the seeds to grow, and germination is part of growing. So surely the germination while soaking would use up some of the sugars?

But that certainly doesn't mean that I think that the "soaking reduces flatulence" argument is true - I'm sure that the minimal amount of germination (if any) that occurs while soaking beans would not use up any significant amount of the sugars.

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