More Food Myths Busted – and some of My Own Hypotheses Validated

A wee article in Wired dated 19 October mentions meat searing and the Maillard reaction, and the myth about sealing in the juices.  This provided a little extra information and set me off on a tour of various food sites.

It seems that our own saliva is the source of the juice-sealed-in-the-steak myth.  That’s pretty cool, and makes sense to me.  I also found it interesting that elsewhere, in regards to roasts, they advise

…in almost all cases, it’s better to sear the food after it’s roasted, not at the start.

This seems to correlate with my discovery that a slow low temperature roast with a blast at the end to brown the meat, (or crackle the pork) seems to work well.

The piece refers to an article by the Food Lab, on the Serious Eats website,  in which a number of other myths are busted.  Some of these I had once believed but had come to doubt, as repeated experience suggested they were not so.

One took me by surprise.  I should not have been as surprised as I was to be reminded that what seems intuitively logical, may not actually be scientifically sound.

I had figured out myself the advisability of flipping meat and burgers more than once and observation suggested that meat could come out dry if braised or stewed just as if fried or roasted.  I often regretted the phenomenon of dry-tasting meat in a rich gravy.

I could never understand the logic behind the pasta myth, and stopped cooking in a huge pot long ago.  Besides, I always add a spoonful of olive oil to prevent the pasta conglomerating.  As for the admonition to wipe but never wash mushrooms that was mentioned in the responses, I had never believed that one at all.

However, the inverse correlation of temperature of chip cooking to fat absorption was one myth I had fully accepted, and never questioned.  In fact, I was sure the Ministry had once at some stage done some weighing of chip samples cooked at various temperatures  as a part of the nutritionists’ campaign to reduce dietary fat intake.  The results they cited had appeared to ‘prove” the hypothesis.

It just goes to show.

While we are on the subject, it seems that the answer to the question of great chips is this:

There are three keys to getting extra crunchy fried potatoes: First, you’ve got to cook them for long enough to allow the gluey starch inside the cells to dissolve and work on the cell walls, gluing them into a thicker, more robust shape. Secondly, you’ve got to heat their surface in order to dehydrate and crisp them. Finally, you have to maximize the surface area, giving the potatoes more places to crisp up.

With french fries, you do this by parboiling them, then frying them twice.

I had long considered this must be so, as my regulatory visits to both fish and chip vendors and chip manufacturers demonstrated that chips were soaked, boiled or steamed, and fried  before arriving at the chip shop.   Now someone has deconstructed McDonald’s chips (whatever your feelings about the company, their chips are pretty good) and devised the recipe for perfect chips.   I am so determined to try this.  I intend to go for thicker though, I like thicker chips.

The advice on fingerling potato fries seems to be just what I do for “wedges” – except my preferred fats are chicken, pork, or bacon.  Duck sounds interesting.

Explains my portly stature.


About Uisce úr

Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.
This entry was posted in Food and drink, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to More Food Myths Busted – and some of My Own Hypotheses Validated

  1. Pilgrim says:

    In order.
    Its Friday night and I just got home,ate dinner(Burgerfuel spud fries and a chicken/jalapeno/pineapple burger,Galbraiths’ Bavarian Lager.)
    So I haven’t read the sites.
    I think the lots-of-water-for-pasta becomes obvious if you make fresh pasta and cook it soon after. First it sticks together more than dried or commercial pasta and second you want bulk heat transfer for a short time as it overcooks very easily and shreds.
    So probably this had a good rationale back in the day and has become canon.
    the chip/fat/temp I accepted as gospel.
    Around New Lynn Nandos make the best chips with Burgerfuel second and the local fish&chips at Glen Eden way third but they have sublime mayo.
    I’ll leave this post open and follow the links later.
    Thanks,good work.


    • stefford says:

      Nandos periperi chips here are bloody good too. Their chicken is definitely the best in Fiji, – well – in the lower half of Viti Levu (based on my sampling in Suva, Lautoka, Nadi, Sigatoka, Nausori and a few roadside shops), and may well be the best commercially prepared chicken I have had anywhere.
      I concur with your fresh made pasta comment, but I only make my own gnocchi.

      Incidentally I did a pretty good garlic pumpkin gnocchi a while ago. I baked the pumpkin in thin slices to dry it out before mashing it with some potato, garlic, salt and a bit of flour. Served with a tomato onion and basil sauce, with a cheese that claimed to be Romano.


Please comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s