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scott123

Cooking Myths Waiting to be Debunked

7 posts in this topic

How many years did the culinary community subscribe to the concept that searing 'sealed' the juices in meat? Although we've made great strides in understanding the underlying science of cooking, I think there continue to be many unanswered questions. I'm frequesntly encountering rote techniques that I can't seem to justify from a scientific perspective, techniques that I feel warrant further investigation.

In your vast experience, have you come across any particular long standing established method/practice that you feel warrants closer scrutiny, a practice that the food science community might have overlooked?

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Well I have been saying for years that if you want to remove the salt from an over salty dish you need to add starch, potatoes, etc. In the book, "What Einstein Should Have Told His Chef," I read that I might be wrong.

So I checked it out, did a huge experiment in my kitchen complete with controls and found out that indeed I was wrong. The only thing that will help a salty stew/sauce etc is to add water - water it down.

Another myth that Russ Parons from the LA times debunked was the one about adding salt to dried beans. Everyone said if you add it at the beginning it will make the beans tough. Well there is nothing like a good old experiment and Russ checked that one out along with acid and beans and found out that a. salt is not a problem (and actually is an asset considering that beans are bland like rice or pasta) and b. yes acid IS a problem and must be added at the end.

I am sure there are many others out there we could debunk if we just took the time and checked it out ourselves.


Sara Moulton

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. . . . .

Another myth that Russ Parons from the LA times debunked was the one about adding salt to dried beans. Everyone said if you add it at the beginning it will make the beans tough. Well there is nothing like a good old experiment and Russ checked that one out along with acid and beans and found out that a. salt is not a problem (and actually is an asset considering that beans are bland like rice or pasta) and b. yes acid IS a problem and must be added at the end.

. . . . .

One of these days, or four or five days :wink: , when you have nothing else to do, we had a lot of fun with beans in the Dried Beans topic. Russ Parsons weighed in on the science. I guess I had always put salt in my beans but now I don't even soak them. :laugh:


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Hi Sara,

There's another food myth that I wonder if you've had the time to debunk as well. It's the one about how one must never, ever wash mushrooms since they are sponges for water and must only be wiped/brushed off. I've noticed that many tv chefs will announce this with absolute gravity and certainty. No problem. However, I've also noticed that after they've dutifully brushed or wiped each individual mushroom, sliced them and added them to sautee in a pan to of olive oil, butter or whatever other fat chosen, they will remind us how full of water mushrooms are while zooming in with the camera to show how much water they do indeed release. What's always bothered me about this is, at least IMHO, both pronouncements cannot simultaenously be true. Mushrooms cannot both be a) greedy little sponges waiting to absorb every ounce of water in the atmosphere and b) so full of water that even after careful "dry cleaning" they exude copious amounts of water.

Have you ever tested these dual theories of mushroom water retention or lack thereof? If so, what were your results?

BTW, I always wash mine, then dry them off before cooking/sauteeing.

Thanks and I so happily await your new show an wish you all the best.


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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I think that Harold McGee has debunked this one: he advocates washing mushrooms just before cooking, I believe.

Alton Brown also handled this one on his show. He weighed mushrooms dry, rinsed and soaked, and concluded they will only absorb a slight amount of moisture no matter how long they set in water.

SB (gives his a quick rinse before use) :wink:

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Hi Sara,

There's another food myth that I wonder if you've had the time to debunk as well.  It's the one about how one must never, ever wash mushrooms since they are sponges for water and must only be wiped/brushed off.  I've noticed that many tv chefs will announce this with absolute gravity and certainty.  No problem.  However, I've also noticed that after they've dutifully brushed or wiped each individual mushroom, sliced them and added them to sautee in a pan to of olive oil, butter or whatever other fat chosen, they will remind us how full of water mushrooms are while zooming in with the camera to show how much water they do indeed release.  What's always bothered me about this is, at least IMHO, both pronouncements cannot simultaenously be true.  Mushrooms cannot both be a) greedy little sponges waiting to absorb every ounce of water in the atmosphere and b) so full of water that even after careful "dry cleaning" they exude copious amounts of water.

Have you ever tested these dual theories of mushroom water retention or lack thereof?  If so, what were your results?

BTW, I always wash mine, then dry them off before cooking/sauteeing.

Thanks and I so happily await your new show an wish you all the best.

I think both things oddly enough are true (except for shiitakes which are the driest mushrooms I have cooked with) mushrooms are almost 100% water and yet they can absorb more and get sort of slimy. I haven't done a proper experiment but I have soaked them and noticed how much heavier they were afterwards as well as slimy. When I did my apprenticeship in France here is how they washed mushrooms: they filled up a bowl with cold water and then took maybe 10 mushrooms (we are talking plain old cultivated here), throw them in the bowl and swish them around vigorously for about 10 seconds. Then they transfered them to a towel and let them dry. That is my new preferred method of washing mushrooms. I can not be bothered with all that dainty wiping with a paper towel.


Sara Moulton

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