Ever since I heard the joke about the daughter wondering why her mom and grandmom cut the end of the roast off before putting it in the pan*, I’ve looked somewhat askew at conventional wisdom. Well, I think it was really before that, but something has to explain my irreverence. Here are some of my least favorite cooking myths.
“Searing in the juices”
I cringe every time I hear a TV chef say this. I even had an argument with a chef about this, but sometimes guys think they know everything. This myth originated in the 1700’s, was disproved but that was ignored because the man who originally said it was a big mahoff. (Philly term for big shot and I thought it was Yiddish). When you put bacon in a hot pan it shrinks and juices bubble up, right? Well, that is the connective tissue shrinking and squeezing the juices OUT (TIA?) That’s why overcooked steak is sometimes compared to shoe leather and overcooked chicken breast to cotton. All the juices have been squeezed out. On the plus side browning does create a lot of flavor if you haven’t cooked it to death.
“Placing the avocado pit in the guacamole will keep it from turning brown.”
Really, only the part of the guac the pit completely covers will not turn brown because it is keeping the air out. Oxygen and enzymes cause the brown to happen, acid (lemon or lime juice neutralize the enzymes ) or lack of oxygen (plastic wrap smoothed over the top which keeps the oxygen from the enzyme) will stop those reactions and keep your guac bright green.
“Adding a potato to an overly salted soup or stew will absorb the excess salt”
Sorry, the potato only adds extra volume to the soup or stew. Best bet, don’t measure the salt over the pot or only add half of what the recipe states. Taste than adjust to your preference. You can also add some unsalted stock or more ingredients if the mixture is slightly over salted – try some vinegar and/or sugar too, to mask the salt, but if it is grossly over salted you are kind of SOL. Do you have any other cooking myths that need challenging? Post them in comments and I’ll add them to the story. *The rest of the joke – So the daughter asks the mom why she cuts the end of the roast off. She replies, “Because my mom did it.” Off they go to grandma’s house and they ask her why she cuts the end of the roast off. “So it will fit in my pan,” informs the granny. Moral of the story, just because you have always done it that way, doesn’t necessarily make it right. (You can use that line on politicians, your local bureaucrat or anyone stuck in robotitis.) Along that same line, one of my favorite stories is about the first school conference I had for my son. I walk in the room which is decorated with colorful punctuation symbols hanging from the ceiling and point to the exclamation mark which was spelled incorrectly. “Why no one’s ever mentioned that before!” exclaimed the teacher. We continued with the conference the subject came up that the homework she was giving was to hard for a first grader to do on their own. “Why no one’s ever mentioned that before,” pronounced the teacher in an effort to negate my comment. “Well no one mentioned that exclamation was spelled incorrectly. Just because no one has mentioned it doesn’t make it right,” I countered. I use this story any time someone tells me no one has ever said that before. Feel free to quote me.