“The Food Lab“ published last year by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is a fascinating compendium of the science behind the relationship between food and cooking. There are many myths related to cooking that home cooks as well as professionals follow without questioning. Kenji tests these “truths” and proves them untrue.
For example, a wood cutting board is not more likely to trap and transfer bacteria than a plastic one. It turns out because of its natural antibacterial properties, wood is the better choice.
Then there are several beliefs regarding cooking steaks that are just not true. Contrary to popular belief, searing a steak does not seal in the juices. If you were to roast a steak and then sear it and compare it to one seared and then roasted, they would both lose the same amount of moisture. The one roasted and then seared would actually be slightly juicier.
And if someone tells you you should only turn steaks once, they are wrong. Turning a steak as frequently as every 30 seconds will result in more evenly cooked meat. A steak turned only once will have tough, overcooked edges. Lastly, yes you should let your steak rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it. Kenji takes 3 pages (306-308) in his book to explain why you should let meat rest after cooking. To put it simply, as the steak cools the muscle fibers relax and are able to retain more liquid. As the juices cool so does the protein causing it to become thicker. This is the same thing that happens to pan juices and gravy when it sits for a while. The result of all this is the juices stay in the meat when cut.
Other myths he has debunked include:
Pasta does not need a large quantity of water to cook in.
There is no benefit to leaving steaks out at room temperature before cooking.
Kosher salt has nothing to do with Jewish dietary law.
Besides having a wealth of information this book has dozens of recipes that reflect the authors knowledge of food and cooking. This is a must for your kitchen library.
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