The Kitchen Counter - Home Cooking Tips and Inspiration



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The show that's dedicated to helping aspiring home cooks grow their skills and confidence in the kitchen so they can start cooking up memories with their family and friends. Whether you want to learn to cook or just need some simple food inspiration, we will cover recipes, kitchen tools, and interviews with experts to help you on your home cooking journey! On Twitter at @TKCpodcast /Facebook at / Instagram at

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Last updated on August 08, 2020, 3:49 am


7 Cooking Myths Exposed

November 26, 2014 • 28m

Leave me voice mail feedback at: 971-208-5493 Facebook: Twitter: @TKCpodcast Email: If you liked what you heard, please consider subscribing in iTunes. You can also help out the show by leaving a positive review in the iTunes store (you know you want to)! 7 Cooking Myths Exposed Impress your friends and family during the holidays by disabusing them of their long held notions about any one of the following cooking myths. Everyone loves the know-it-all, right? Of course I jest. But seriously, I still believed a couple of these before researching this episode (but I'm not going to tell you which ones)! If you have a cooking myth you'd like to share please get in touch with me; there were many more I didn't include in this episode for the sake of time.   Bay leaves are poisonous if eaten I'm not sure who first told me this but for the longest time I used bay leaves under the assumption that they were poisonous to people if eaten, and that was why you ALWAYS removed bay leaves from your dishes before serving. After all, who wants to be the home cook that inadvertently feeds a family member or guest poison? The good news is that this just simply isn't true. Bay leaves sold for culinary uses are completely safe to eat. Where did this myth originate? Well, it likely has to do with the bay leaf's similar appearance to the leaf of the Mountain Laurel, which is poisonous to humans and livestock. And even though the bay leaf that's been simmering in your stew for a few hours isn't poisonous, you should still remove it before serving because it can remain stiff and could cause a choking hazard for your guests. By the way, for my west coast friends; leaves of the Oregon Myrtlewood, aka California Bay Laurel, can be used as a substitute for bay leaves in recipes, but are much stronger and should be used in smaller quantities.   Searing meat locks in juice This is probably the most common myth out there when it comes to cooking meat. How many times have you heard that you should get a good sear on that steak so when it cooks it will seal in the juices? Unfortunately this just doesn't pass muster. First of all, it's practically impossible to perfectly sear every square inch of surface on meat, so how would you even be able to create a perfect "envelope" to seal the juices in? It doesn't matter anyway because searing has nothing to do with juiciness in particular, but it does go along way to more flavorful meat. When you sear meat it turns brown, a process known as the "Maillard Reaction." Time and temperature have the most impact on juicy meat, as the longer you cook it and to higher temps, the drier the meat will turn out regardless of whether you seared it first or not. America's Test Kitchen did an experiment to test out the "searing first to lock in juice" theory; check it out here.   Cold water boils faster than warm water This one is so counter intuitive, it's any wonder it's been able to stick around as long as it has. I was told long ago that when you put a pot of water on the stove to boil, you should start with cold water because it will actually come to boil more quickly than if you start with warm water. Absolutely under equal conditions a pot of warm water will come to a boil faster than a pot of cold water, so why would anyone think otherwise? Well, there may be some psychological factors at play. Cold water will actually absorb heat more quickly that warm water, but once the temperature starts to rise, it will absorb heat more slowly, ultimately taking just as long to come to a boil as warm water once it reaches the temperature that the warm water started at. How did this myth start? It may have had something to do with some old advice about always using cold water for cooking. Why? Because in older homes with lead pipes or pipe fittings, using hot water can release more lead particles into the water. Check out this great youtube video showing the science behind the warm vs. cold boil debate:   Alcohol completely cooks out of food How many times have you heard something like "don't worry, there isn't any alcohol left in that chicken marsala!" Oops, actually, there probably is. While it's true that alcohol cooks out of food to a large degree, it isn't likely that it all gets eliminated, unless you cook your dish for hours and hours. Generally there isn't enough alcohol in any dish to give you anything close to a buzz, but be aware that there are some folks that avoid alcohol for dietary or religious reasons. Here's a handy chart that shows you how much alcohol is retained with different cooking times and methods:   Store coffee in the freezer to keep it tasting fresh This one is for you coffee drinkers, and yes I know, it doesn't really have anything directly to do with cooking, but what the heck. I've heard that storing coffee beans or grounds in the fridge or freezer is best to preserve the flavor over time. Well it turns out the opposite is probably true. According to the US National Coffee Association, you want to keep your coffee away from excessive air, moisture, heat and light, in that order. Storing in the freezer or fridge will expose your coffee to excessive amounts of moisture which will deteriorate the flavor of the beans or grounds. Not to mention the fridge and freezer is home to all sorts of funky odors that can be absorbed by your coffee, affecting the taste. Their advice? Store your coffee in an airtight container, in a dark cool place, away from the stove or cabinets that are exposed to heat sources.   Cooking food in the microwave destroys nutrients Microwaves have long been scapegoats for a variety of problems, both real and imagined. It's been said that microwaving food, especially vegetables, destroys the nutrients in the food. The truth is that when you expose vegetables to heat, depending on the intensity, duration, and water content, nutritional value can be destroyed. This can happen regardless of what tool you use; microwave, stove top, oven, etc. But when it comes to microwaving, it turns out to be one of the best methods to retain the most nutrients! If you prepare broccoli for example in a microwave safe container with a tight lid, and a little water, you will essentially steam the broccoli and retain many nutrients. By the way, a related charge against microwaves is that it irradiates or "nukes" your food, making it less safe to eat. This too is not true. Microwave radiation is non-ionizing radiation, meaning it doesn't have enough energy to change the atomic makeup of your food, only enough energy to excite the electrons, therefore heating it up.   Pork must be cooked well done to be safe to eat Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away...well, not that far away...pork had to be cooked to a dry, leathery consistency to be considered safe to eat. You see, there was this nasty little worm called Trichanella spiralis which thrived in pigs and could be transferred to a person if they ate undercooked pork. This little worm would infest a person's intestines, reproduce, then eventually burrow through their guts into their muscles. Wow, lovely. The great news is that because of modern pig farming and pork processing regulations, trichinosis is pretty much a thing of the past. Because of that, most cuts of pork can be cooked to a lower temperature and therefore will be more tender and juicy than those old leathery bits you remember from your childhood. The USDA says you can cook whole muscle meat (including pork) to 145 degrees F, then let rest. Of course with any ground meats, pork sausage etc should still be cooked to 160 degrees F. Click here for everything you'd ever want to know about pork from the USDA.