Debunked, I tell you! Don't you just love that word? Debunked!
I have been a busy little internet researcher, and have come up with this list of kitchen myths that JUST AREN'T TRUE. And which, I must admit, I have always thought were true. Some of this stuff is absolutely fascinating. And in a strange way, upsetting. I mean, I hate not knowing stuff. But no more! I am hereby enlightened!
1.If you put an avocado pit in your guacamole, it will keep the guac from turning brown.
Okay, I admit that this one has always puzzled me. But since everybody does it, I've done it. Because...well, everybody does it. Though now that I think about it, the "why" it would work is a bit iffy. A chemical reaction between the pit and the guacamole? Hmmm. Well, whatever, it isn't true.
Guacamole turns brown because of oxidation, exposure to the air. So I guess, technically, the pit does keep the guac directly under it from turning brown. But a rock or a...Lego would work just as well. Better to just cover the surface with plastic wrap or foil.
Adding citric acid also helps, so add all the lemon or lime juice that you like. Which you would anyway, if you know anything about guacamole. I say also add a bunch of garlic and cilantro and a little sweet onion. But that won't keep it from browning. Just taste excellent.
2. An "open box of Arm & Hammer in the refrigerator" absorbs refrigerator odors.
Mmmm...not so much. Apparently, it does work a little bit. But really, just a tiny, little bit. It's something to do with the whole acid vs. alkaline thing. The baking soda is alkaline, so if the nasty odors happen to be acid, the baking soda will in fact absorb and neutralize them. But if the odors are alkaline, the baking soda just says "Hey there friend!" and gives them a high five.
The other problem is that the fridge is a rather moist environment, and when the baking soda contacts water vapor, it tends to crust over and become inactive. So for it to be effective at all, you'd need to stir your little open box pretty often.
If you're really concerned about refrigerator odor, a bowl of activated charcoal would work much more efficiently. Either that or...throw out all the stinky food. Duh.
3. Adding salt to a pot of water will make it boil faster.
Okay, technically, this is true. But you'd have to add a buttload of salt to make any meaningful difference in the boiling time.
That's a scientific term, by the way. Buttload. No? Okay, I'll try to get all scientific for you. In order to raise the boiling point of 1 liter of water 1 degree Celsius, you have to add 2 oz. of salt (1/4 cup). Which is...you know, a buttload. So the typical dash of salt that I've been adding to my boiling water all my life because my mother told me to has, in fact, been meaningless. All it does is make the water...salty.
4. Never wash mushrooms, they'll absorb the water and become inedible.
Okay, quick show of hands. How many of you own one of these?
Yes, so do I. But I'm afraid, people, that we have been duped by the Mushroom Brush makers of the world. Duped, I tell you!
It's true that mushrooms are almost 90% water, and highly porous (anyone who's ever sauted a mushroom could tell you that - they're juicy little boogers). And technically, if you wash them they do absorb a small quantity of water. But it's very small. And the water does, in fact, render those dirty little mushrooms...clean. And nobody wants to eat a mouthful of dirt.
So the most efficient way to clean mushrooms is to give them a quick cold shower (never a long, hot bath), then dry them off quickly with a paper towel.
Any fun ideas of what to do with all our old mushroom brushes?
5. When you cook using wine or booze, the cooking burns off all the alcohol.
While you're not going to get drunk off a slice of Aunt Betty's famous rum cake, there is still alcohol in it. Come to think of it, that might be why Aunt Betty makes her famous rum cake in the first place.
The amount of alcohol that remains in a dish depends on a bunch of variables - the amount of alcohol, the temperature cooked, the method of cooking, the size of the pan, the length of time cooked, the ingredients. But in general, if you simmer something for hours, most of the alcohol goes away. But if you simmer for 20 minutes, you only burn off about 50% of the booze.
And even less alcohol escapes during baking, because it has to make it's way through the batter. If you flambe, you only burn off about 20%. No wonder Bananas Foster is decadent New Orleans' signature dessert. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
6. Searing meat seals in the juices.
Searing meat doesn't seal diddlysquat. Shocking, right? But it makes sense when you think about the amount of juices in the bottom of a roasting pan.
However, it is important to sear the meat because of something called the "Maillard Reaction", which is the chemical reaction between an amino acid and a sugar, caused by heat. Groovy. It's all VERY scientific, and involves big words like "reactive carbonyl", "nucleophilicity" and "deprotonated". But basically it means that when the proteins and sugars in meat are exposed to high heat, a whole bunch of chemical reactions take place, creating hundreds of flavor compounds. Flavor compounds = yummy.
7. Cooking time for roast meat depends on it's weight.
Okay, this one has totally rocked my world. Ever since my Mama gave me a copy of The James Beard Cookbook, back in 1987, I have religiously used James' minutes per pound instructions. For rare roast beef - 12 - 14 minutes per pound.
But apparently, this is not, of course, the best method. Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. I mean, every piece of meat is shaped slightly differently, and has a different diameter.
The most accurate cooking method is to use a meat thermometer, and cook the meat until the internal temperature is reached. For rare roast beef , 130 to 135 degrees F.
I still love my James Beard.
8. The best place to store coffee is in the freezer or the fridge.
Okay, I've actually known this for years because a guy at the Starbucks told me. And of course "a guy at the Starbucks" would be the ultimate authority. But I have yet to convince my mother-in-law that this is true, and she religiously keeps her Chock Full o'Nuts in the fridge door rack.
The truth is that coffee beans are porous, and they will soak up any moisture and smells in the refrigerator. Eww. And as I said in regard to the baking soda, the fridge is an extremely moist place. Ground coffee is the most vulnerable, because it has more surface area exposed to the aforementioned odors and moisture. Eww again.
The best place to keep coffee is in a cool, dry pantry. And don't keep it long - coffee only stays fresh for a couple of weeks.
Actually...if coffee soaks up refrigerator odors, maybe you should use it instead of the baking soda!
9. Butter spoils if not refrigerated.
This is one of Jimmy and my ongoing arguments. Every morning, I butter Jude's toast and forget to put the butter away. Then Jimmy comes in and finds it and gets mad. "AHHA!" I say. Here is the truth, Jimmy!
Butter does spoil, but at a MUCH slower rate than other milk products because it contains salt, which impedes the growth of "spoilage bacteria". In fact, salted butter will rarely spoil, even if you leave it unrefrigerated ALL the time. Crazy man. Unsalted butter will spoil, but it will take about a week because it contains enough salt to slow the growth of bacteria.
So don't worry if you don't put the butter away after you butter the toast!
10. The spiciest part of a hot pepper is the seed.
Another one that just blew my mind! Turns out that capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers that gives them their heat (not to be confused with Capzasin a topical arthritis-relief medicine, boy would that be an embarrassing thing to confuse), is located primarily in the white veins inside the pepper. The seeds contain little to no capsaicin, but are pungent because while slicing the pepper, capsaicin spurts on them.
I feel terrible about all those innocent little jalapeno seeds I've thrown away over the years. Poor little guys.
Okay. Consider yourselves educated. I feel truly enlightened. In fact, I think I'll make this another submission to...
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