Pasta should be rinsed after it is cooked:
Wrong, absolutely wrong. Rinsing pasta after it is cooked will wash away the thin layer of starch that is clinging to it, and that starch is necessary if you want your sauce to cling to the pasta. This same layer of starch is what makes pasta stick to itself when it cools, so rinse your pasta only if you are planning to reheat it in boiling water before serving (an old restaurant trick) or if you plan to serve it cold, as in a pasta salad. Otherwise, rinsing your pasta is strictly forbidden.
Adding oil to pasta water will keep the pasta from sticking together
This one is just plain wrong. Keep in mind that the pasta is at the bottom of the pot, and the oil is floating on top of the water. Even if a little oil comes into contact with the pasta when it is added to the pot, the oil will wash off immediately and float back to the top of the water. Because the oil does funny things to the surface tension of the water, it will help prevent the water from bubbling up and boiling over, but if your pot of pasta is boiling over and the pasta is sticking together, then you are doing one thing wrong-use a bigger pot and both problems will go away.
Adding salt to a pot of beans will make the beans tough
I have heard this from several otherwise reliable sources, and it just isn’t true according to Harold McGee, author of “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.” He explains that acidic ingredients such as tomatoes will react with compounds in the skins of beans and make them tough. However, the only effect of adding salt is to make the beans cook considerably faster. Go ahead and salt your beans whenever you want with no fear of negative consequences.
All the alcohol will burn off when it is cooked
The logic behind this food myth is that alcohol, which has a lower boiling point than water, will be completely evaporated by the time the water in the pot or pan comes to a boil. It is true that ethanol (the alcohol in wine, beer, and distilled spirits) has a boiling point of only 173F (78.4C) versus 212F (100C) for water. The trouble with this theory is that a liquid composed of water and ethanol actually has a boiling point somewhere between the two. That means that both the water and the ethanol are being released as vapor at the same time when the liquid comes to a boil, and not one followed by the other. Granted, the alcohol will boil away at a slightly faster rate, but laboratory experiments reveal that some alcohol remains even after prolonged boiling. And, contrary to what you might have heard from certain TV chefs who really should get their facts straight before spouting off before millions of viewers, igniting the alcohol does not “burn the alcohol off.” It just ignites the ethanol vapor that is being created by the evaporation and does nothing to speed the process up.
Salting meat before cooking will make it dry and tough
This food myth is bandied about perhaps more than any other. It’s true that salted meat, if left alone long enough, will lose some of its water content and become drier and more firm in texture. This isn’t always a bad thing, and it is to this process that the world owes such delicacies as ham, bacon, corned beef, salami, and pastrami. However, salting a steak, pork chop, or hamburger shortly before cooking it does nothing more than season the meat, and everyone prefers their meat well seasoned so feel free to salt at will.
Fruit juices are an essential part of a healthy diet
Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet, but the same cannot be said for fruit juices. While fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber (remember, fiber is our friend), most fruit juices contain little more that water and sugar. Okay, so some of the sugar may be natural, but you would be amazed at how many fruit juices on the market contain added sugars, especially in the form of the ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, advocating fruit juices as part of a healthy diet is tantamount to touting Coca Cola as a healthy drink. Eat your fresh fruits, but leave the bottled, jarred, and boxed fruit juices on the supermarket shelves.
A calorie is a calorie is a calorie…
Actually, this one is basically true. A calorie is defined as a unit of energy, or as Wikipedia puts it, “The kilogram calorie, large calorie, food calorie, Calorie (capital C) or just calorie (lowercase c) is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.” Americans usually use the term calorie, and most other English speakers prefer the term kilocalorie, but they are both units of energy. When used in reference to food, calories represent the amount of energy provided by the food that is available to our bodies. So, from a technical standpoint, a calorie (or kilocalorie) is a calorie (or kilocalorie) is a calorie (or… you get the idea.)
However, some calories are better than others. Some of the things we eat and drink provide energy in the form of calories and little or nothing else in the way of nutrition. Foods that fall into this category include all sugars (glucose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, and all the other -oses) and alcohol. So when you eat or drink things that are primarily sugar (most soft drinks and fruit juices) or alcohol (especially distilled liquors such as whisky and vodka), you are pumping calories into your body and receiving nothing (or very little) of nutritional value.
On the other hand, if you consume the same number of calories in the form of fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, dairy products, and even such “taboo” foods as fats and complex carbohydrates, you are consuming valuable nutrients including proteins, amino acids, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, micronutrients, and tons of other good stuff along with the calories.
Whether you think of them as “good” calories and “bad” calories, or “smart” calories and “dumb” calories, not all calories are treated in the same way by our bodies, so even though all calories are equal in terms of energy potential, it is clear that some calories are more equal than others from a nutritional standpoint.
You shouldn’t wash mushrooms because they’ll soak up water like little sponges
MushroomsThis food myth has been addressed by many people in many forums, yet it persists. First of all, like most of the foods we eat, mushrooms are about 80 percent water in the first place, so would it really be so bad if they soaked up a little more water when you wash them? I think not. The simple truth is they don’t soak up any more water when rinsed than broccoli does.
This was demonstrated by Harold McGee, author of “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.” He soaked six ounces of mushrooms in water for five minutes. When he drained them and weighed them again, he found to they had gained about 1/4 ounce, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of water. The cooks at America’s Test Kitchen repeated his experiment and subjected six ounces of broccoli to the same procedure as well. They found that the broccoli had gained the same amount of weight in water and reasoned that the gain in weight in both cases was due to water clinging to the surface. They both “absorbed” the same amount of water, and no one has ever warned against washing broccoli because it will soak up water.
So go ahead and wash your mushrooms before you eat them, unless you really want to add a little bit of the “stuff” they grow in to your diet. Do be sure to wash them immediately prior to using them because a little additional moisture will cause the mushrooms to become unpleasantly slimy, but that has nothing to do with absorbing water.
Searing meat seals in the juices
Seared meat ? Boy, I wish I knew who the dunderhead was who originally dreamed up this one. Actually, I do know. It was a German chemist by the name of Justus von Liebig, and he published the notion sometime around 1850. Although his theory was based on presumably sound principles of food chemistry, it was disproved just a few decades later, yet it continues to be preached by television cooking show hosts who really should know better. Anyone can repeat the experiment: simply take two similar pieces of meat, weigh them, sear one and don’t sear the other, cook them both to the same internal temperature, then weigh them again. Time after time, the results indicate that the seared meat loses at least as much weight due to liquid loss as the un-seared piece. In fact, searing the meat actually causes a greater loss of liquid due to the higher temperatures used. However, there is no arguing that searing meat creates a lot of flavor, and that is why we do it. The next time you hear someone state authoritatively that searing meat locks in the juices, just smile and treat them like you would a small, ignorant child. The same thing goes for people who use “browned” and “caramelized” interchangeably…