Cooking myths are perpetuated constantly, and often by well-meaning friends and family, and even by supposed experts. Many times we accept as fact some lore handed down through generations that seems true. All of us cling to what we believe, and can be reluctant to rethink our dearly held notions. Think of that awful, yet amusing Prego commercial, where the hapless woman (always a woman) find she prefers Prego to Ragù, wondering what other questionable decisions she has made. Here I invite you to consider some of the cooking myths you may be laboring under.
- Searing meat seals in flavor (and juices). I actually heard someone say this on Food Network last week. Searing doesn’t seal in anything. What is does do is create a nice crust on the outside of the meat, and add a layer of flavor by caramelizing the proteins on the surface. No matter how you like your steak cooked, the best way to prepare it is to let it come to room temperature just prior to cooking, season it just before cooking, and sear the outside in a smoking hot pan, on both sides, then finish the cooking in the oven.
- Beef needs to be cooked to well-done to be safe to consume. Only ground beef needs to be cooked past 165°F to be safe. The reason ground beef needs to be cooked thoroughly is because the grinding process mixes surface and interior meat together. The E-Coli bacteria that (may) be on your beef is only on the surface of the meat.When cooking a roast or a steak, if the surface of the meat browns it will reach a temperature high enough to kill any E-Coli bacteria, while keeping the interior rare (and safe to consume).
- Bread stored in the refrigerator lasts longer. I have stopped fighting with people about this, as most people who believe this do so with a conviction that is impressive, despite the fact that they are mistaken. Refrigerators accelerate bread turning stale. Don’t believe me (and you probably don’t) do an experiment. Leave half a loaf on your counter, and put the other half in the fridge, then let see which tastes fresher.
- Microwaving vegetables destroys their nutrients. Microwaving doesn’t reduce nutrients any more than any other cooking technique, and in fact can preserve more, because the cooking time is much shorter than with conventional cooking methods.
- Cooked rice doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Cooked starchy foods all need to be refrigerated, and if they’re not can cause food poisoning in the form of Bacillus Cereus, which won’t kill you (If you’re healthy), but can still make you plenty sick.
- The heat in peppers is in the seeds. The heat is in the entire inside of the chile, and in the membrane of the ribs that runs along the insides.
- Wrapping a potato in foil is the way to make a baked potato. What this really does is steam the potato. If you like to eat the skin of the potato, try rubbing some oil and salt on it them baking the potato without the foil. It won’t take any longer (foil doesn’t speed up the cooking either), and you get a real baked potato with a nice crispy skin.
- Lard is gross and unhealthy. Lard is no worse for you than any other fat, and in fact is better than many, it is a healthy source of cholesterol. Please, though use lard from pastured pigs to reap the benefits.
- Putting oil in the water with your pasta will keep it from sticking together. If you’re not going to sauce your pasta right away, or you’re going to chill it, tossing it with oil after it’s been cooked and drained will help keep it from getting sticky, but putting oil in the cooking water doesn’t do anything. Cooking pasta should be stirred occasionally to prevent sticking, and the smaller the shape the more often it needs to be stirred as it may stick to the bottom of the pot, but oil won’t help.
- If someone gets sick after a picnic, blame the mayo. If you use commercial mayonnaise in your tuna, egg or chicken salad, and someone gets sick, don’t blame the mayo! Commercial mayonnaise isn’t made with raw eggs, and has enough fat and acid in it that in fact it aids in preserving food rather than hastening spoilage. My best advice for picnics is invest in a good cooler and some ice packs!
Were there any surprises for you here? I did restrain myself from including my all too frequent warnings about chicken washing…
If this had been a quiz how would you have scored? Are there any kitchen myths you’re still hanging on to?