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The Stupid Things Food TV Teaches You


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I'm sitting here in the orthodontist's waiting room while my daughter gets her braces checked, and I'm watching Martha Stewart "cook" on the Today Show. I happen to think that Martha Stewart isn't a baking dumbass, and her shows often include instruction that directly contradicts the instructions on this 5-minute segment. But it does make me wonder about all the bad cooking instruction that results when otherwise good cooks have to rush through or omit steps and instructions to fit within a tight segment, squeeze equipment onto camera-ready tables, and make other concessions to the tube.

To wit, here's what Martha just taught us:

  • Don't worry about measuring carefully, because baking doesn't require precision.
  • Use bowls that are just barely big enough to hold the ingredients, and if stuff spills out, no big deal.
  • There's no need to worry about combining ingredients such as eggs carefully; in fact, you can just dump them from shell to bowl, stir a few times, and you're good to go.

What other harebrained tips do TV cooks, intentionally or otherwise, teach their adoring public?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Kieth Floyd, RIP, had a show on Indian cooking and the quantities of spice we saw him dump into each curry made us balk when watching. My own bugbear though, as it ruined many a loaf, is the: "leave to prove until doubled in size" instruction - invariably (for me, at least) leading to massive deflating and inedible bricks.

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To wit, here's what Martha just taught us:

  • Don't worry about measuring carefully, because baking doesn't require precision.

Am I the only one to wonder about the attention paid to precise measurements in some recipes? I mean, most all recipes deal with cups to quarter cups, (or tbs and tsp's)... so if one was to use say a 10 or 20% difference is it severely going to ruin the outcome?

I feel there is a fair bit of exaggeration on this subject of exactness mucht of the time. Granted I usually follow new recipes rather closely but...

Curious minds wonder. :hmmm:

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I'm sitting here in the orthodontist's waiting room while my daughter gets her braces checked, and I'm watching Martha Stewart "cook" on the Today Show. I happen to think that Martha Stewart isn't a baking dumbass, and her shows often include instruction that directly contradicts the instructions on this 5-minute segment. But it does make me wonder about all the bad cooking instruction that results when otherwise good cooks have to rush through or omit steps and instructions to fit within a tight segment, squeeze equipment onto camera-ready tables, and make other concessions to the tube.

To wit, here's what Martha just taught us:

  • Don't worry about measuring carefully, because baking doesn't require precision.
  • Use bowls that are just barely big enough to hold the ingredients, and if stuff spills out, no big deal.
  • There's no need to worry about combining ingredients such as eggs carefully; in fact, you can just dump them from shell to bowl, stir a few times, and you're good to go.

What other harebrained tips do TV cooks, intentionally or otherwise, teach their adoring public?

Well, I've been fortunate to have cooked on live television many, many times. I suppose I'm a traditionalist and as such, I always felt my main goal was to teach and inform home cooks about an ingredient or a dish. Having said that, I would never intentionally set out to make concessions due to the constraints of television if I knew what I was saying wasn't true to a recipe. In other words, I would script and then practice each dish a number of times, taking hours of prep for a cooking segment that typically lasted 3 minutes. Knowing the constraints of telelvision, mainly time, we would only do what we could to accurately depict the main points of a dish. What we couldn't clearly portray during the segment we would explain. And of course, today we have the advantage of directing viewers to the recipe online, (not something Julia Child had at her disposal in the 1960's). Our goal was always to get our viewers excited about an ingredient, (often made or sourced locally), that would encourage them to try the dish at home and we did it without running water, an oven, a refrigerator on the set and an adequate cooktop.

To wit:

-All cooks should be concerned about accurate measurements, especially when it comes to crafting pastry and desserts.

-Use glass bowls and white plates that are actually over-sized so that the viewer can clearly see what ingredients are called for and what the final dish should look like. We always used glass bowls to display ingredients as they come through the camera lens more clearly. We even used a glass dish for a small pinch of nutmeg. Final plating was always done on a large, plain, white plate.

-If we didn't have time to properly whip egg whites prior to folding them into a batter, we wouldn't do it. We would have the egg whites whipped ahead of time and explain that it was critical to the recipe to "fold" in the egg whites. The quips we tell our viewers have to be accurate.

I agree that often talented Chefs go on TV to hawk a book or other media endeavor and forget that they also have an obligation to the viewers. Cutting corners for the sake of the constraints presented by television is a poor excuse. On the other hand, one can work within the confines of television to still present an accurate portrayal of cooking.

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Am I the only one to wonder about the attention paid to precise measurements in some recipes? I mean, most all recipes deal with cups to quarter cups, (or tbs and tsp's)... so if one was to use say a 10 or 20% difference is it severely going to ruin the outcome?

Serious bakers and pastry cooks weight all their ingredients because that is the only way to be precise enough to make sure that their formulas work properly and consistently (bakers don't have "recipes" which is another insight into the need for precision in these chemically-balanced mixtures).

Take humble flour; The difference in the weight of a cup of flour that is very dry and one that has been kept in a humid environment is noticeable. Add in the difference in measuring methods (packed? scooped? scoop and scrape level?, shaken down to level?, sifted then measured?) and you've got a pretty awesome opportunity for significant variances which will effect the end product. Don't even try to follow the formula and, yes you could easily ruin the outcome.

10-20% is a HUGE difference even by non-baking standards. Maybe not for a mirepoix for a roast or onions to go with your liver, but try adding an additional 20% salt to your next pot of soup and see!

The Big Cheese

BlackMesaRanch.com

My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"

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"The Flavor of the White Mountains"

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What other harebrained tips do TV cooks, intentionally or otherwise, teach their adoring public?

God forbid you should assemble all of your ingredients before tackling a recipe (mise en place, anyone?). See any recent FoodTV show where the cooks wander around the kitchen gathering ingredients while talking to the camera.

DOH![/Homer]

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Don't get me started: if I had a dime for every stupid thing said by cooking instructors -- in person, on TV, on the radio or on blogs -- I'd be a rich woman.

Examples?

  • Ina Garten telling her audience to add oil to pasta water to keep the pasta from sticking
  • Chris Kimball on America's Test Kitchen telling his audience that meat chopped up in a food processor is "ground"
  • Lynn Rosetto Kaspar equating "dumpling" with "dim sum"
  • Joanne Weir saying that sorbet is "just the same" as granita, it's just "a different kind" of sorbet
  • Michael Ruhlman saying that the difference between bread dough and pasta dough is that in pasta, egg takes the place of water
  • A cooking instructor I know telling his students that white button mushrooms "turn into" cremini as they grow
  • A different cooking instructor I know explaining that the difference between kosher salt and sea salt is that kosher salt is mined

And that's just off the top of my head.

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I really get annoyed when I see the guy on Everyday Food (Martha's PBS show) measure flour by the "scoop and level" method.

I learned 60 years ago that the best way to measure flour was to spoon it into a measure and then level it off.

The difference in quantity (by weight) is sufficient to ruin a product such as pie dough, shortbread, and especially cakes that require a specific amount of flour.

I use weight in most baking, except for things that I have been making a very long time and for which I have my "standard" bowls.

The difference in "heavier" flours is not so great as in regular flour or "strong" flour or pastry flour.

I have found that semolina measures about the same with the scoop and level method but I weigh it just in case and the weather does make a difference. I live in the desert where it is usually quite dry but during our rainy season, when the humidity is above 70%, I have to make adjustments to some recipes and I simply don't prepare some during that time. Macaroons, for instance. But I have yet to see a TV chef advise people that some bakery items and many candy items simply don't turn out well in wet weather.

I tried to make a Croquembouche during a spell of wet weather a few years ago and it was a disaster. I had made it the very same way many times, with excellent results, but this time no way would it hold together and was a sticky mess.

In one of her older books, Martha did mention that humid weather might be the wrong time to prepare this item, but never mentioned it when she demonstrated it on a show.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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One of the first things I was told when making food tv was that we were not making a show for foodies.....but I thought that was the whole point of food tv?

Chris! Good to see you again.

I think your show was aimed exactly at foodies. Why else do it?

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Sandra Lee on truffles:

Take can chocolate frosting, add powder sugar & vanilla, roll them out and dust with cocoa powder.

Please tell me this is a joke..? That sounds like an emetic, not a sweet.

No, I don't have a TV, long (not interesting) story.

I wish it was a joke....you can find the recipe on foodnetwork.com....

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What other harebrained tips do TV cooks, intentionally or otherwise, teach their adoring public?

Oh, and don't bother to really wash your hands - certainly never before you begin, and if you handle meat, etc., well, heck, a quick rinse, or just a wipe with a towel will do. :wacko:

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One of the first things I was told when making food tv was that we were not making a show for foodies.....but I thought that was the whole point of food tv?

Chris! Good to see you again.

I think your show was aimed exactly at foodies. Why else do it?

Thanks....I guess I should hang around a bit more often....I just burnt out for a while....the show was aimed at foodies...but it was a bit "too foodie" at the time....and I was told it was about TV, not foodies....as I learned during the process...it is about TV

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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I get annoyed by simplistic claims than one thing is "better" than another. This is a problem with many food journalists, not just TV cooks. My pet peeves are claims that couverture is "better" chocolate, or that carnaroli rice is "better" for risotto. But there are lots of others.

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Sandra Lee on truffles:

Take can chocolate frosting, add powder sugar & vanilla, roll them out and dust with cocoa powder.

Please tell me this is a joke..? That sounds like an emetic, not a sweet.

No, I don't have a TV, long (not interesting) story.

I wish it was a joke....you can find the recipe on foodnetwork.com....

Her recipe for chocolate mousse is even worse. Cool Whip mixed with Jello pudding cups.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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One of the first things I was told when making food tv was that we were not making a show for foodies.....but I thought that was the whole point of food tv?

Chris! Good to see you again.

I think your show was aimed exactly at foodies. Why else do it?

Thanks....I guess I should hang around a bit more often....I just burnt out for a while....the show was aimed at foodies...but it was a bit "too foodie" at the time....and I was told it was about TV, not foodies....as I learned during the process...it is about TV

I wondered where you went. What are you up to now?

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I really get annoyed when I see the guy on Everyday Food (Martha's PBS show) measure flour by the "scoop and level" method.

I learned 60 years ago that the best way to measure flour was to spoon it into a measure and then level it off.

Well, I think the best way is to scale it out. But if I'm trying to follow a recipe that doesn't provide weights, I use scoop and level, too. Over time, I've learned that I tend to measure heavy using that technique, so I adjust accordingly. I think if you're measuring flour volumetrically you just have to figure out your own idiosyncrasies.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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One of the first things I was told when making food tv was that we were not making a show for foodies.....but I thought that was the whole point of food tv?

So great to see you again, Chris. Odd coincidence - Mr. Kim just 2 nights ago mentioned you and asked if you were ever around anymore!

Sandra Lee on truffles:

Take can chocolate frosting, add powder sugar & vanilla, roll them out and dust with cocoa powder.

Please tell me this is a joke..? That sounds like an emetic, not a sweet.

No, I don't have a TV, long (not interesting) story.

Actually, they look like the results of an enema. :blink:

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Sandra Lee on truffles:

Take can chocolate frosting, add powder sugar & vanilla, roll them out and dust with cocoa powder.

Please tell me this is a joke..? That sounds like an emetic, not a sweet.

No, I don't have a TV, long (not interesting) story.

This is the single most vile sounding dessert ever.


I have simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best - Oscar Wilde

The Easy Bohemian

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I can't compete in the vileness category, but in terms of stupid technique, I still have a vivid memory of watching Martha Stewart doing a show on souffles--and explaining/demonstrating how you always stirred some of the souffle mixture into the beaten egg whites before folding the two together.


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