Why do smart people do dumb things in the kitchen? I blame tv chefs and food personalities who don’t actually know how to cook properly for spreading around a lot of wonky ideas. I was on CBC Radio this weekend busting some of the most common kitchen myths.
1. You mean it’s wrong to put oil in my pasta water?
Wrong wrong wrong. That is, unless you enjoy throwing away oil for no reason. People add oil to pasta water ostensibly to prevent the pasta from sticking. But it’s pointless; pasta sticks to itself because of the starch released during cooking. So the way to prevent sticking is to boil pasta in lots and lots of water so it has room to move around.
2. Is it also wrong to flame-grill my steak?
For some reason, people think steaks should be grilled over raging flames (looking at you, Burger King commercials). That’s the worst way to cook steak. For more on this and other steak-cooking no-nos, read this.
3. You say that sharp knives prevent cuts. Dude, that just doesn’t sound right.
I know, but it’s true. Say you’re chopping an onion. A sharp knife will really bite into the onion, while a dull knife is more likely to slip off the onion and into your finger. So keep your knives sharp by honing them at home or taking them into a professional every few months. And never ever put knives in the dishwasher (the combo of potent detergent and repeated blasts of water = dull knife).
4. Speaking of chopping, what about cutting boards? Aren’t wooden boards germ traps?
Nope. There have been some detailed scientific tests on this one, and my buddy Harold McGee proved that plastic boards are harder to clean, and hang on to nasty germs much more than wooden boards too. Wood is also tougher than plastic and isn’t as likely to get all covered with cuts. Plastic boards, aka germ traps, get cut into easily and tests have shown that those germs don’t come off, even with bleach!
5. But we should rinse chicken before cooking it, right?
Heavens to betsy! Never! Some people believe that chicken needs to be cleaned before being cooked, but it doesn’t. If there’s anything yucky on the skin of a chicken it will get cooked off in the pan or oven. And, to make matters worse, when you wash a chicken there’s a lot of splattering water, which means your sink, countertops and anything else in the way gets contaminated with raw chicken danger and grossness (like campylobacter) – yikes!
Next time I’ll address searing meat and whether or not MSG makes you loopy. But let me know what else do you see people doing in the kitchen that’s just plain wrong.
Happy cooking, and have fun!