There are only a few things that grate our cheese around here, but you can bet your Feta that 90% are atrocities against food (and 10% are terrible puns).
Thanks to the abundance of cooking shows that need to fill a lot of air time, several of these cooking lies have been adopted by home cooks, but here’s the thing: We care about what you eat. We care about if it’s overcooked, flavorless, dangerous, or if you’re putting in extra effort to achieve exactly zero result.
We also care that you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
So let’s all agree to dismiss these food lies, shall we?
“Searing Seals in the Juices.”
You hear it all the time. Cook the meat on high heat first to “seal in the juices,” but is it true? Our Expert declared that no, it does not seal in the juices. You do make a crust that, while flavorful, isn’t an impenetrable prison for the meat juices. In fact, you’ve actually dried out the exterior to form that crust. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it though. The sear looks gorgeous, tastes delicious, and adds great texture. Just don’t tell people you’re sealing in the juices.
“Microwaves Remove All The Nutrients.”
Ah, microwaves and their magical nutrient-sucking radiation beams. If only we could retool this technology to blast calories, we’d all be making microwave brownies, like all day. The truth is, microwaves often leave more nutrients behind, because they cook food quickly, so instead of enduring a slow steam slog, your green beans get a quick cook and are on the table in all their nutrient-laden glory.
“The Browned Bits Are Where All The Flavor Is.”
You’ll hear this often as hosts are furiously scraping their pans after browning some type of meat. Are the right? Kind of, but not really. What you want to do is deglaze your pan, which does involve those brown bits, but you’re not using them like bacon bits. Instead, you should dissolve them in broth or wine, making a reduction that’s infused with the tastiest part of the dish: the seared crust (which, again, is not the meat’s jailor).
“Sharp Knives Are More Dangerous Than Dull Knives.”
Anyone who has tried to cut an apple with a butter knife knows this isn’t true. If you use a too-dull knife to chop through anything, you’re at a much greater risk of the knife slipping as you impart greater and greater force. Granted, a butter knife is much less likely to chop your thumb off than a chef’s knife if you actually press it against your thumb. (Note: Please do not actually press any knives against your thumb.) However, a properly sharpened knife will slide right through a tomato, so not much force is required. Use a butter knife on a tomato and watch the fingers fly.
“The Alcohol Cooks Out.”
If we had a nickel for every time someone said this while dropping off a rum cake at a church potluck, we’d… have a lot of nickels. Maybe even a dozen. People say this all the time, about coq au vin, vodka sauces, and even rum cakes, which are often soaked in rum after being cooked. With rum. Are you going to get sloshed from Mom’s penne a la vodka? No. Should we card anyone getting a red wine reduction? No. Will you serve Cherries Jubilee at the tot birthday party? Not after you learn that about 85% of the alcohol remains (hey, you add the alcohol at the end). When you cook a dish for 20 minutes, about 35% of the alcohol remains. Up that to a few hours and you’re down to about 5%, or just enough for your kids to give you flack about it.
“Thawing Food In the Microwave Isn’t Safe.”
There are very few absolutes in this world, and we’re definitely not wasting one of our “never ever ever’s” (we’re allotted five per lifetime) on telling people that thawing food in a microwave will kill them. Let’s get this straight: Using poor techniques in any way can kill someone. If we slice strawberries by throwing knives at a carton across the crowded airport terminal, someone is going to get hurt. So instead, let’s use proper microwave etiquette: Only thaw food in the microwave if you’re going to immediately cook it afterwards. We have no idea why someone would urgently thaw food in a microwave and then pop it back in the fridge, but that’s exactly the kind of food prep technique that you should avoid. Thawing food in the microwave raises the temperature of the food to the point at which bacteria, if present, could begin to spread. Cooking, of course, kills this bacteria. So thaw, then cook. Perfectly safe. For the record, our thawing hierarchy is as follows: fridge overnight, cold water bath, microwave, purchase fresh from grocer, steam car dashboard. (Note: Please do not thaw your food on a hot car dashboard.)
“Add Oil to Pasta Water to Prevent Clumpy Pasta.”
You want to feel cool. We get it. So you’re Julia Childs-ing all over the kitchen with your awesome apron and pasta sauce recipe. And then you say, “I’m going to add a little artisan olive oil to the water, you know, to keep the pasta from sticking.” No. Just no. All you’re going to do is create a pasta slick that prevents your perfectly al dente toss from absorbing any of the amazing sauce you’ve crafted. Plus, Science 101: Oil and water don’t mix. Please don’t make them.
“The Tongs Get Hot Enough That All The Germs Cook Off.”
You’re grilling, we get it. You’re busy messing up the cook time opening and closing the grill while you sip your beer. And you might not own two pairs of tongs. Look, you’re going to have to suck it up, put down the beer, go inside, and clean those tongs. Unless you’re submerging them in hot coals for a significant amount of time, they’re not going to magically steam clean in the two seconds they’re suspended over your grill. Alternatively, use a fork to put your meat on the grill, and the tongs to take it off. Which leads us to our next myth…
“Using a Fork To Put Meat On The Grill Lets All The Juice Out.”
Fourth grade. Field Day. You’re paired up with the coolest girl in school, so you’re carefully tossing that water balloon back and forth so it doesn’t explode. Then, tragedy strikes in the form of a jagged nail. A pokey watch. A slap bracelet’s frayed edge. Boom. Gush. Tears. This is not what will happen to your meat if you poke it with a fork. It won’t somehow deflate and let all the magic out. That’s not how meat works. While we don’t suggest piercing it over and over like a baked potato bound for the coals, but a well placed prick won’t hurt your pork chop.
What cooking lies do you hate?