Kitchen myths

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Over the years we have seen many techniques and methods in cooking, some are set in stone and others are a matter of opinion. Here is one that I have always questioned;

I was taught to never put a lid on green vegetables as it will dull their colour. Now there have been occasions when time was an issue and to beat the clock I have used the forbidden lid and it has not made a difference. I have always found that blanching and shocking in iced water is the best way to preserve the colour of vegetables green or not. 

Does anyone know the reason behind this method? 
 
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I think salting your water protects color more than allowing evaporation. 

Yep me too. I have seen veggies cooked and left to cool without shocking and they have lost their color, that does not explain the lid theory either.
 

pete

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My favorite, that is still around somewhat even though it has been proven time and time again, is the one about searing sealing in juices.  It does no such thing and has been disproven  numerous times by many chefs and cookbook authors, but I still constantly hear that as a reason to properly sear food.
 
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Big pot boiling with no lid seem to reduce green veggies high in sulfur from getting "stinky" (to my taste buds anyway). Such as broccoli and brussel sprouts, and some heavy leafed chards. Though speed of cooking and shocking seems like it would be a bigger factor.

Others such as green beans, peas, etc. that don't have the sulfur issue doesn't seem to make a difference.

My favorite myth is that pinching your thumb to your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, fingers and poking the fleshy bit of your palm can be used to cook a steak.

I've seen many seasoned chefs try to teach juniors this way (and someone tried to teach me this also).. Yes, it is a good metaphor that as a steak cooks it goes from squishy to stiff to hard.. but to literally compare "touch thumb to ring finger is med-well".. well that's just bunk. I've seen junior cooks standing over the broiler poking their palm, then poking the steak, then poking their palm... 
 
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Speaking of meat,

"carving against the grain will make it more tender"

Hmm not so sure about this one either, I have heard it a lot but never been able to actually qualify this myself. To me the meat is either tender or it is not..
 
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Joined Mar 16, 2005
Well, it doesn't MAKE the meat more tender, per se but it does make the perception of it being more tender... sort of like how it's easier to eat a piece of string cut up into little pieces versus eating a whole length (not that you'd eat string for any reason).
 
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so what do you think is the best [email protected] wARba
Maybe this would be a good thread on its own as there are likely lots of opinions. Personally I think practice matching feel/touch with temperature, then advance of your target, remove from heat, rest, and confirm by cutting. Obviously you don't want to be cutting into every steak in a production situation, but for learning I just don't know any other way. Different cuts, sizes, and doneness react differently and what feels medrare on one cut may feel med on another. Carryover temp is also more of an effect the further along you are cooking.

This is a method that used to be taught at the CIA, and I've used it successfully to teach many cooks.

I know its harder if you are learning on a line in a production kitchen with a chef who doesn't want to "waste" protein on teaching, or who won't let you slide a thermometer into a steak, let alone make a small incision.

The other thing I would teach is you aren't shooting to cook a steak how it was ordered.. you are shooting to "serve" a steak how it was ordered. Depending on the kitchen, how hot the pass is, how fast tables are expedited, even if you've well experienced you need to adjust to accommodate.

Customer doesn't care if you cooked a perfect midrare steak in the kitchen if it is medwell when it gets to his table.
 

pete

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so what do you think is the best [email protected] wARba  
I think for beginner cooks the best method is a thermometer.  Or better yet, spending considerable time working with an experienced grill cook who makes him touch every steak all throughout the cooking process.  That's the way I learned.  The problem with the method described above is that each cut of steak has a different consistency.  I think it is a good guideline, or starting point, but if you rely solely on that it won't work as it makes you understand how meat behaves at certain temperatures but I guarentee you that a medium flatiron steak feels very different than a medium filet.
 
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a watched pot will boil...but it sure doesn't feel like it's going to until it does.
 
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A crazy-popular myth is that adding oil to pasta water keeps the cooked pasta from sticking.  It doesn't, but that doesn't stop home cooks the world over from doing it.  (it does help with boiling over, though.)
 
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Placing a box of baking soda in the fridge to collect odors has been found to be a falsehood, but people still buy into it.
 
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The problem with that one, ChefRoss, is that the studies have not been well promulgated. Meanwhile, Arm & Hammer keeps telling people to do it. So they do.
 
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The theory with the cover on the pot of veges is one I find hard to digest. I think cooking them is a matter of watching time, lid on or off. If you cover or not water boils at 212..   I still rely on touch to determine doneness of cooking, call me old fashioned. 
 
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I salt and lid the pot before adding the veg - then blanch sans lid.

IDK why a lid would be needed after the water is to a boil - have to assume you wouldn't add a green veg to a cold pot.
 
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Beans HAVE to soak before you can cook them:

Well, my Zambian staff never soak them.

I've tried to get them to do so, but I gave up in the end.

The guys just say they don't like beans that are soaked first!

The one that I haven't fully figured out yet:

You HAVE to boil beans vigourously for 10 minutes or so to get rid of some of the toxins.

I don't really believe it, but then I don't want to take any chances either!

Can anyone tell me if there is a grain of truth in this last one?
 
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Soaking beans helps get rid of the chemical that causes flatulence (presuming you're throwing out the soaking water), though soaking beans technically should have little effect apart from shortening the cooking time.  Not sure about the toxins thing, I doubt it has much actual basis in fact
 
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I have always been told by older family members to wash and soak the beans really well. Then boil them vigorusly to make them safe.

Since I've been in Tx. I have learned to add a weed called epizote and never salt till the end to reduce  flatulence .

????? anything in print about this? I can remember from food safety about lectin but don't know.

pan
 
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