Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Food Myths


Okay, this is the sort of thing that really just burns me up (no pun intended). It's not that his information is incorrect. Some of it actually is correct. What gets me is that he claims that "all of the information on this page has been carefully researched". Let's cover a few points that could have been a little bit more carefully researched; possibly by somebody that's actually spend some reasonable amount of time in a kitchen, such as a chef or maybe even a cooking school student.

Gas stoves are better than electric

Nice little blanket statement there. I do appreciate that he breaks it down. However, I have a bone to pick on the whole simmering bit. Unless you have a heat diffuser, electric coils (yes, even the new ones) are lousy at even heat distribution. Gas ain't perfect either, but I've found that as long as your stove is working reasonably close to how it was intended, gas does seem to provide a more even heat source. Not perfect, and if you need low and slow heat, possibly not as easy... but certainly more even. For the record, as a cook who has spend considerable amounts of time with gas, electric and induction burners, given the choice, i would go with the gas stove 9 times out of 10. And that 1 out of 10? Only because induction burners are more popular with the fire marshall for cooking demos than their gas cousins. Plus, I've made a really killer beurre rouge with an induction burner.

You must scald milk before using it in certain recipes

Apparently, he's referring to killing bacteria. And as far as that point goes, it would have been nice if he'd been a little more accurate on his heading. Look, if you're willing to drink it from the carton like that, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to cook like that. As far as scalding other dairy products, have you ever tried to make chocolate ganache without scalding the cream? It's a very simple procedure: you scald the cream, you pour it on the chocolate, you let it sit so that the heat can work its way into the chocolate, and then you stir it all together.

Myths about dried beans

The key phrase here is: "There's no reason not to start cooking dry beans directly as long as you have the time to simmer them long enough." That's a tricky sentence. And in a sense, it comes down to preferences. Unless you've spent your whole life eating garbage and don't know any better (this is par for much of America), you will probably prefer the quality of beans that have been properly soaked first. For most people, there is a noticeable difference.

Stock is made from bones, broth is made from meat

The point that he eventually makes is that the terms "stock" and "broth" are interchangeable. If he tried to tell any serious chef that, he would doubtless end up unhappy (and probably injured, chefs can be touchy sometimes) with the results. Let's get something straight: broth is usually made from stock. You can use meat in making either one, but stock does rely on the presence of bones. Without bones, you can't get collagen. Without collagen, you don't have stock. And unless you're buying it from the store, stock is going to be unseasoned. Unsalted. Bland. It's a base, used for making things like soups, stews, broths, and a world of other foods. Now, if you buy your stock from the store in a box or a can, you've really entered an entirely different world. The manufacturers have to add salt in order to preserve it. At this point, what you're really buying is a broth that (probably) hasn't been oversalted for once. It might even be undersalted, for a broth. It's made from stock, but it's not really stock anymore. Woe unto he (or she) that actually believes these two are completely interchangeable. Try this little experiment: go to the store, buy a box/can of broth and a box/can of stock. Heat up a bowl of each and do a little taste test. You might be able to eat/drink the broth as a soup. I don't think you'd be happy doing the same with the stock.

It's hard to decide upon a favorite part of this page, but one candidate would be the blanket "False" logos splattered all over the page. No logos that say "True", or maybe even "Part True/Part False", as many of his myths end up being. Another candidate can be found at the top of the page: "I certainly do not claim to be infallible but I do try hard to present accurate, verifiable information."

Well, I'm sorry, but you need to try a little harder next time.


  1. My mom likes to pressure cook the beans, then use them, if she doesn't have time to soak 'em.

    I don't know if that makes them less flavorful than soaking first, but then again, everything she makes turns out delicious.

  2. Oh, you can do it. It might even taste good, especially if you're dealing with a good cook. I'm just saying there's a chance for it to be just that much better.


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