Shoot that hand straight up in the air if you’ve ever tediously washed mushrooms by wiping with a damp towel or paper towel? (I’m waving mine around in the air like a helicopter.) SO NOT FUN. But, I try hard to avoid cross-contamination and remove bacteria that I viewed the exercise as unavoidable. Now that I know better, can someone send me the time back please? Ah well – live and learn. Starting out, how was I to know that was a cooking myth?
Given that cooking and recipe creation has existed – in one form or another – for hundreds of years, it is no wonder that differing opinions and concepts would be passed down from one generation to another as the gospel. Aside from the recipes we seek online, I do find comfort in the hand-written notations and smudged corners of the recipes passed down from my grandmothers. Relational ties are one of the most special cornerstones of spending time in the kitchen and recording our experiences for those that come later. That is one of the many reasons I will always find a way to keep paper recipes on file and not just rely on what I can find online.
No matter how well-intentioned, though, wouldn’t it be nice to separate fact from fiction? If you have a curious mind for the science behind cooking, I highly recommend any book by Harold McGee. He’s the brilliant mind behind the “how” and “why” of the kitchen, which I find is critical to becoming more confident when working with ingredients…understanding what makes a dish a success or not. Ultimately, the goal for me is not just about understanding for understanding’s sake, but how I can save time and money. Yes, we have to experiment and be willing to throw out a concoction that failed, but if there is a way to avoid that, I’m all about it. So, it is my hope that these myth-busters will do just that. Let’s save some time. Let’s save some money. Let’s make some drool-worthy dishes.
5 Common Cooking Myths Debunked
Myth 1: Rinsing mushrooms in water will make them soggy.
Fact: Mushrooms do not absorb much water at all when submerged.
⏱ Save time by rinsing instead of wiping.
When you think about it, this actually makes sense. Mushrooms are already mostly water, so they can’t absorb much more when immersed in it. Do keep in mind that water will be released during cooking, so that can impact (slow) cooking times. Flavor is also not going to be impacted by a quick dip. (McGee, 346-7)
Myth 2: Searing meat seals in its juices.
Fact: Meat will lose moisture as long as it is cooking.
⏱ + 💰 Save time by skipping an unnecessary step (unless you want specific flavors from browning) and money from making your cut of meat too dry to eat.
What’s particularly interesting about this ever-lasting cooking myth is that it was dispelled almost 100 years ago. Researchers in the 1930s determined that you cannot seal in juices. The higher the temperature during the cooking process, the more moisture will escape. What searing does do is add flavor during the browning process (McGee, 161). So, there’s that!
Myth 3: Alcohol cooks off after just a few minutes.
Fact: Alcohol remains in dishes…to an extent.
⏱ Plan ahead to make sure you have enough time to boil off the alcohol you desire. Or, save time by using in a dish with higher surface area.
The longer and hotter the alcohol cooks, the more will burn off. The greater the surface area, the faster the alcohol will burn off. But, experiments have determined that the alcohol never completely evaporates. Briefly cooking a dish leaves 10 to 50% alcohol content. According to the staff at Food Network, alcohol content decreases 10% each successive 30-minute period of cooking. Yes, that means this Cauliflower Pesto Veggie Gnocchi is a little boozy.
Myth 4: Different types of salt are interchangeable in recipes.
Fact: Salt differs in volume and texture which can impact the outcome of a dish.
💰Save money by understanding what types of salt to have on hand. We suggest one kosher or sea salt and one finer-grained salt for use in a variety of recipes.
Traditional table salt is more fine-grained than sea salt, so you need to consider the amount called for in a dish and adjust the volume accordingly. Use granulated salts in sauces and recipes that need the salt to dissolve completely. Kosher and sea salts also have an aesthetic quality when sprinkled on top of foods. #Instaworthy
Myth 5: Cooking vegetables greatly reduces nutritional value.
Fact: Some nutriants tend to leach out of vegetables when cooked (primarily, Vitamin C and B), but it does not impact their tissues enough to avoid.
⏱+💰 Save time and money by incorporating more vegetables into cooked dishes.
Though the tissues release certain vitamins during the cooking process, this can be mitigated by only cooking them briefly. Remember that cooking can help kill dangerous microbes and increase our ability to digest and absorb starch enzymes as well as beta-carotene, lycopene, and other carotenoid pigments. (McGee, 284-5) Again, it’s all about the balance.
Do you have any myth busters that have surprised you since your cooking journey started? Let me know in the comment section!
Until next time, cheers to your #hearthhealthhappiness.