With a subject such as food, where generations of cooks have all come up with their own individual methods and means, it’s no wonder that different schools of thought persist. Some will swear that they have perfected the art of boiling an egg, only to have others recoil in horror when the technique is finally revealed. When there are so many ways of getting to something delicious, you’re bound to have differences of opinion.
Many times, trial and error leads us to sensible conclusions. Often though, there are beliefs that are so stubbornly difficult to expunge that they become part of common knowledge, even though there’s no evidence to support them. Well, we say enough is enough. To help you separate fact from fiction, we reveal eight cooking myths that are actually totally false. You may not like it, but the truth will out.
1. Flour never goes off
You might think that the bag of bread flour that’s been sitting in your baking cupboard for a few years is nigh on indestructible, but it’s actually more fragile than you might think. Though it lasts a relatively long time, especially is sealed correctly in a cool, airtight container, flour can and will turn bad. The tell tell signs are a rancid smell and the presence of “flour bugs”, which look like moth larvae.
2. Microwaves remove nutrients
Microwaves are so convenient that we all assume that there must be something evil about them. However, from a healthy point of view, they are harmless. In fact, because food cooked in the microwave is typically exposed to heat for a relatively short period of time, some have suggested that microwaving actually helps to retain nutrients.
3. Rinsing your pasta
Though many resort to cold water shock therapy to prevent pasta from overcooking after it’s been removed from the pan, this is actually a pretty bad idea. Rinsing in any kind of water washes away the natural starch that helps sauce stick, making your dinner significantly less delicious.
4. Well-done meat is safer
There’s a reason sensible people shake their heads when someone asks for their steak to be well-done. Not only does it ruin the flavour and texture, but there is no evidence that cooking meat until it looks like shoe leather does anything extra to kill bacteria - all that’s needed is the internal temperature to reach 145 F.
5. Salt makes water boil faster
Though almost every chef under the sun seems to sprinkle salt liberally in their water before whacking up the heat, the only effect this will have is for flavour. In fact, salting water can increase the time it takes it to boil, thanks to a phenomenon known as boiling point elevation.
6. Red liquid from meat is blood
The less carnivorous members of society might turn pale at the sight of red liquid oozing from a side of beef, but the reality is that there is nothing to fear. The juice is actually myoglobin - a protein released when red meat is heated, and not nearly as blood-thirsty as the alternative.
7. All salt is basically the same
When a recipe asks for “salt”, you could be forgiven for sprinkling a smattering of anything white and powdery over your food. The reality, however, is that different salts can do different things. Table salt, for instance, is much finer and therefore “saltier” than sea salt, whilst kosher salt should be used for cooking rather than as a tableside seasoning.
8. Sharp knives are the most dangerous
For the acicularly averse, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying for cut veg with what is, essentially, a big pointy spoon. This is how accidents happen. Trying to force a blunt knife through tough ingredients is a common cause of kitchen injuries, as the blade can slip with pressure and injure the cook. Sharpening your knives will mean a lot less effort is required to cut.
It can be difficult to force yourself out of bad habits. You might not even want to believe half the myths on this list, but the truth is for your own good. At least now you can move on and stop living in the past.