Food myths that make me crazy
One of the great things about loving to cook is that you’re continually learning. I may be one dimensional in this way (okay, I am one dimensional in this way) but I am constantly fascinated with food, both the old ways and new twists. And along with knowledge comes the certainty that some information about food commonly circulated in magazines, podcasts, television shows and the internet is just plain wrong.
Here are three I’m obsessed with right now.
- Marinating meat gives it lots of flavor. It doesn’t. Not at all. America’s Test Kitchen did an experiment where they marinated chicken breasts for 18 hours. Bear in mind, most recipes call for marinating just two hours. They found that the marinade did not penetrate the chicken more than an eighth of an inch. The reason? About 75 percent of meat is water. And know what? Oil, a common marinade ingredient, and water don’t mix. And yet, I am looking at a recipe in Food Network Magazine by Guy Fieri for a marinated flank steak that calls for marinating it for two and a half hours with a tequila marinade. It will be a waste of good liquor. And I’ll admit that I now know that before I acquired this information I probably wasted at least a gallon of red wine marinating skirt steak, a development I bitterly regret.
- Searing a steak seals in it’s juices. Harold McGee knows a thing or two about food. He wrote On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. McGee notes that “the continuing sizzle of meat in the pan or oven or on the grill is the sound of moisture continually escaping and vaporizing.” And anyone who’s cooked a steak on the grill knows that once you flip it you’ll start to see juices pooling on the surface. That’s not to say that a nice sear doesn’t add a ton of flavor. It just isn’t sealing in juices.
- Never wash raw mushrooms before you cook them because they get water logged and mushy. Rubbish. A bunch of food experts, including the test kitchen at the dear-departed Gourmet magazine, soaked a bunch of mushrooms for five full minutes and then tested how much water they absorbed. It was a measly 1/16th of a teaspoon per mushroom. But you see food experts including Rachel Ray and Bon Appetit perpetuate this myth all the time.
I won’t even go into the Mac Daddy of myths: Never wash your cast iron skillets. That’s for another day after I put on my Teflon Armor.