Top 10 Cooking MythsOver my many years of preparing various recipes, I have heard and read many cooking tips and ideas. Some of them have proved to be true while others are totally false.  Here, in my opinion, are the top 10 cooking myths.

1. ALL THE ALCOHOL COOKS OUT OF FOOD AND ONLY THE FLAVOR REMAINS.

FALSE: There won’t be enough alcohol left to make you drunk from eating one slice of rum cake but there is still some alcohol in it. When you simmer a sauce that contains wine or liquor, as much as 50 per cent of the alcohol can remain. It depends on how long the sauce simmers and the size of the pan used. When baking a cake, the evaporated alcohol must work its way out of the batter, which means that even less will burn off than if using an open pan. Maybe this explains why Aunt Lucy is so happy after eating several pieces of rum candy at the family Christmas dinner!!

SEARING MEAT BEFORE COOKING SEALS IN IT’S JUICES.

FALSE: The reason for searing meat before cooking is to caramelize the exterior which intensifies the flavor through a series of complex chemical reactions. The meat will cook up just as tender without searing it. I have personally prepared meat both ways and was unable to detect any difference in the tenderness of the meat.

3. DECAFFEINATED COFFEE DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY CAFFEINE.

FALSE: During the decaffeinating process, between 97 and 99 percent of the caffeine is removed, so there is some caffeine remaining. If you are caffeine sensitive or if you drink 6 to 10 cups of decaffeinated coffee per day, you might feel some effect from these minimal amounts. I am one of those caffeine sensitive people, although I do not drink 6 to 10 cups a day. The caffeine in decaffeinated coffee does not interfere with my sleep routine or make me jittery during the day.

4. BUTTER WILL SPOIL IF NOT STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR.

FALSE: Salted butter will rarely spoil even if you leave it out of the refrigerator all the time. The salt impedes the growth of bacteria which causes spoilage. Unsalted butter might spoil after about a week unrefrigerated, even though it does contain some natural salt. Even though it might not spoil, I am in the habit of keeping butter in the refrigerator. But it is good to know that if I forget and leave it out, it will still be edible!

5. TOMATOES SHOULD BE STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR CRISPER.

FALSE: The cold refrigerator temperatures damage the cellular membranes of the tomato and causes a mealy texture as well as loss of flavor. Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature to retain their best texture and flavor. They will, like all fruits, continue to ripen and mature after picking. I have stored tomatoes both in the crisper and at room temperature and found that tomatoes kept at room temperature do indeed stay fresher longer.

6. OVER-COOKED VEGETABLES LOSE ALL THEIR NUTRIENTS.

FALSE: Over-cooking vegetables will remove most of their vitamins, which are water soluble. They will, however, retain important minerals such as potassium and iron. The best process for vegetables is to steam them lightly. This will retain a larger amount of vitamins and minerals than cooking them in water. And they will definitely have more taste appeal than a soggy, over-cooked  and mushy vegetable!

7. USING SHORTENING MAKES COOKIES FLUFFIER.

TRUE: Shortening does not contain water, so it will produce cookies that stand taller than ones made with all butter. But the price paid will be loss of flavor. To retain the flavor and still have fluffy cookies try using 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter. You will definitely taste the flavor difference! Better yet, use all butter, have a flatter cookie, and enjoy a lot more flavor!

8. BAKING POWDER WILL LAST INDEFINITELY.

FALSE: Baking powder is chemically designed to react when combined with water. If  it gets wet or is stored in a humid environment, it will lose its potency. An easy way to test the potency of baking powder is to put some in a glass of water. If it bubbles it is good. If not, it is time to buy fresh. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than baking a batch of biscuits or a loaf of  bread that does not rise properly!

9. SALTING BEANS DURING COOKING WILL MAKE THEM TOUGH.

FALSE: Beans that are salted before cooking are just as tender as beans salted after cooking. The only apparent difference will be the taste. Most all foods, including beans, should be salted at the beginning of the cooking process. They will taste better due to the combining with other flavoring elements. I usually always salt my beans at the beginning of the cooking process, but those times when I have forgotten, there was no apparent difference in the tenderness of the beans. There was however, a difference in the taste!

10. ADDING OIL TO THE COOKING WATER WILL PREVENT PASTA FROM STICKING.

FALSE: Since oil and water do not mix, the oil will simply remain in the water and be discarded when the pasta is drained. A good quality pasta should not stick or clump. Always use a pot large enough to hold an ample amount of water for cooking so as not to crowd the pasta while cooking. An insufficient amount of water will cause a build-up of starch which in turn will cause the pasta to stick and clump. I have cooked pasta both ways, with oil and without, just to see if there was a difference, and found none. However, I did find that the better the quality of the pasta, the less likely you would be to experience any sticking or clumping.

Emily

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