8 Common Cooking Myths (Slideshow)
We like to think of cooking as an art form. And in many ways, that’s true. It does take creativity, intuition and taste to think up and cook delicious food. However, there is plenty of science involved in cooking, and, while art may be up for interpretation, there is plenty you can do wrong in the kitchen. Click through to check out some of the most pervasive myths about cooking, and share your own favorite myths in the comments.
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1. Myth: Your Oven’s Temperature is Always Reliable.
Reality: Think your oven temperature is really at 350 degrees? Think again! Most home ovens are not so accurate, and can be off by as much as 50 degrees — mine was! The solution? Buy an oven thermometer and gauge the internal temperature by that. You can also get your oven serviced.
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2. Myth: Milk (or no milk?) in Scrambled Eggs and Omelets.
Reality: Here’s the science, straight from the cooks and food science experts at America’s Test Kitchen: always add milk (or cream) to scrambled eggs, because the fat in the dairy will slow down the cooking process, and the additional water will help keep them tender. For omelets, on the other hand, you should skip the milk. Why? Well, omelets are supposed to have a more compact structure, so adding milk will make them hard and rubbery.
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3. Myth: Liquid and Dry Measuring Cups are Interchangeable.
Reality: This may seem obvious, but I see so many home cooks using dry measuring cups for liquid and vise versa that it needs to be said. When you’re measuring ingredients, especially for baking, accuracy is key. Measure liquid in a dry measuring cup and you’re bound to either spill it or under fill it — and not get an accurate amount of the ingredient in the process. Measure a dry ingredient in a liquid measuring cup, and it will similarly be difficult to get an accurate amount, because you’re just eyeballing the line. If you’d really like to be accurate, you can always copy the professionals, and measure your ingredients by weight instead of volume.
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4. Myth: Put Oil in Pasta Water So it Doesn’t Stick.
Reality: Remember science class? Oil and water don’t mix! When you add oil to pasta water, it floats on the top — nowhere near the pasta it’s supposed to be preventing from sticking together. There’s really only one benefit to adding oil to pasta water: it will stop the water from boiling over if your pot is too short. If that’s not a problem, all you are doing is wasting expensive oil.
5. Myth: Dried Herbs are a Perfectly Fine Substitute for Fresh Herbs.
Reality: When most herbs are dried, they lose at least some of their flavor. Some herbs fare better than others, dried rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, thyme and sage are an OK substitute for their fresh counterparts. However, more delicate herbs, like basil, parsley, mint, and dill lose a great deal of their flavor in the drying process, and are a poor substitute for the fresh. Though it may be more convenient to use dried herbs, you’ll nearly always get a superior flavor with fresh ones.
6. Myth: Always Rinse Pasta.
Reality: If you’d like your pasta to stick to the sauce, you best not rinse it under water after you strain it. Rinsing it will remove all of the starch — a big no-no for tasty noodles. One exception, however, is if you’re making a cold pasta salad, where a lower starch content is desirable.
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7. Myth: It Doesn’t Matter How You Slice Garlic and Onions.
Reality: You don’t tear up from holding an uncut onion in your hand — those tears start flowing after you cut into it. By the same token, you can’t really smell onion or garlic until you cut into it. There are enzymes in both onion and garlic that don’t come into contact with each other until after you cut into them. These are the same enzymes that produce that harsh flavor present in raw garlic and onions — and you can control just how harsh these flavors are by cutting them correctly. Don’t slice onions crosswise — slice them through the root end, as pictured above. As for garlic, you’ll release less of the enzymes by cutting it into thin slices instead of mincing it.
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8. Myth: Green Vegetables Should Be Cooked For Quite a Long Time.
Reality: Cooking green vegetables can be difficult — cook them too short of a time, and they’re too hard, cook them too long, and they’re mushy. So what’s a frustrated cook to do? The best way to cook green vegetables like broccoli, peas, asparagus and green beans is to blanch them for just a few minutes (generally 4 minutes maximum) and immediately move them to an ice water bath. That way, the vegetables retain their structure and appearance, but are cooked enough to be palatable.