The science of cooking

If you’re a haphazard cook like I am, you’ll often wonder why some of your dishes taste like they could be served in a five-star restaurants while others fall short. 

I’ll admit, I regularly throw together a meal on the fly – often while tending to a cranky baby, or helping a preschooler write his name. So all of my attention is not always focused on the meal in the works.  That said, I find that if I understand a culinary principal – like dishes taste better if your sauté the onions and garlic first – I’m more likely to follow it. 

So I was thrilled to finally discover America’s Test Kitchen. This real kitchen is home to a cadre of chefs that test everything – from recipes to ingredients to kitchen gear – and offer the best take on evidence-based cooking that I’ve seen to date. (It also serves as a research center for several cooking magazines and books, a big web site with lots of evidence-based cooking tips, and a television and radio show.)

Some of my favorite evidence-based cooking tips from the kitchen include:

  • Don’t over-beat your scrambled eggs.  (This shocked me.  I always thought you were supposed to whip them up to be light and fluffy.0  That’s because the protein strands in an uncooked egg are coiled up like a bunch of tangled wires. Cooking the eggs uncoils the protein.  But if you overbeat them, the proteins will uncoil too much and form a tough structure – leading to dry, touch scrambled eggs.
  • Add salt, not oil, to your pasta cooking water. The salt adds flavor to the pasta, but oil prevents sauce from adhering to pasta.
  • For baked good, it’s important to use butter at room temperature – between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Beating butter and sugar together at this temperature allows the maximum amount of air to be beaten into your batter, which, when baked, turn into slightly larger, and very evenly distributed bubbles, creating lighter baked goods that rise more in the oven.

If you cook regularly, it’s certainly a resource worth checking out.  Understanding the science behind our food makes it more fun and interesting to cook!

Comments

  1. locksmith says:

    I love the tip about scrambled eggs. Another tip is to add half an egg shell worth of milk for each egg used and to take them off the heat when they still look fairly wet. The heat in the pan will be enough to finish them up without overcooking them. Add a sprinkle of paprika and you’re set! :-)

  2. Ann Douglas says:

    I am so thrilled to have discovered your blog. You speak my language (evidence-based everything). And you have a sense of humor. Thank you for helping to direct me to other terrific resources — and for the great cooking tips here. (I am not exactly a chef myself.)

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