I‘ve always wondered how many of the most popular cooking myths got started, and why so many people still think they’re true. Do you know the one about keeping avocado from turning brown by using the pit? I used to believe that one too!
You Can Get Botulism From Garlic Oil
This is true. Due to garlic’s low pH, it can be the perfect breeding ground for the botulism bacteria given the right environment. You might be tempted to make your own garlic oil, and leave it out on the counter next to the stove for convenient cooking but don’t. Moisture, lack of oxygen and warm temperatures can cause existing bacteria — that are normally not harmful to multiply to dangerous levels, creating a increased amounts of the toxin that cause botulism. If you’re craving garlic oil, go ahead and make it fresh. Just be certain to consume immediately to avoid risk.
Storing Guacamole With An Avocado Pit Keeps It From Turning Brown
This is false! I used to believe this since a number of restaurant cooks from Mexico told me it was so. The great food scientist Harold McGee actually ran his own experiment, and found that there was only one way to keep the guac green: layer a piece of plastic wrap right over the surface and store it in the fridge. If you don’t own Harold’s masterpiece “On Food and Cooking“, it’s one of the best reads (and gifts!) for foodies on the planet!
Searing Meat Keeps It Juicy
This is false. Searing meat is widely believed to lock in moisture, even some professional chefs think so. While this basic tenement of cooking is not true, searing meat provides a wonderful flavor and texture that is well worth the time. Avoid the temptation to slice cooked meat right away though. The best way to keep your meat juicy is by allowing it to rest 2 to 5 minutes after cooking to allow the protein fibers of the meat to relax and allow the juices to redistribute back inside the fibers.
Smoking Olive Oil Is Poisonous
- This is false. Extra-virgin olive oil has a fairly low smoking point, so it’s not recommended for high-heat cooking (because it can smoke quickly and burn food) as you might have experienced. That said, smoking olive oil isn’t “poisonous” per se. Although, when an oil begins to smoke, it is in fact decomposing and can produce potentially harmful compounds — as with any burnt food. I recommend using canola oil, grapeseed or sunflower oil if you want to sear or pan-fry something at high temperatures.
Green Potatoes Are Bad For You
This is true. Potatoes turn green when they have been exposed to too much light or when they age. When they turn green, they release a dangerous chemical called Solanine, which is a dangerous toxin when consumed in large quantities. When shopping for your favorite spuds, go for the loose bin potatoes so you can check each one over individually before buying. And always store potatoes in a dry, dark spot at room temperature to prevent greening.
Boiling Vegetables Kills The Vitamins
This is not as clear-cut because it’s both true AND false. Cooking veggies with any method reduces their nutritional content to some extent, but extensive boiling can especially damage water-soluble vitamins (like vitamin C) or can leach them out. A great alternative to boiling is steaming, which can be faster since you don’t need to boil water.
Eggs Don’t Need To Be Refrigerated
- This is false. Eggs are highly perishable and need to be refrigerated. Leaving eggs at room temperature ages them considerably faster, meaning eggs that normally last in the fridge several weeks will lose a week each day they are left out. Tiny cracks in the shell can also expose them to unhealthy bacteria. It’s recommended to keep eggs in the original container in the coldest part of the fridge, which is the back. Refrigerated, fresh eggs in the shell should last 3 to 4 weeks.
Butter Doesn’t Need To Be Refrigerated
This is false. Due to its high fat content, some people do store butter at room temperature. However, butter can go rancid, so it’s better to refrigerate it. When I was an exchange student in France, I remember that my exchange family never refrigerated their butter — but they did consume it fairly quickly. In the coffee shops of Singapore they also leave large quantities of butter out, in a cone-like contraption. So if you want to enjoy it the fresher way, refrigerate it. Butter should always be covered in a dish or its original wrapper — whether in the fridge or not — to prevent it from picking up unwanted odors or flavors.
What Food Myths Are You Wondering About?
Did this list trigger any questions about other food myths? If so, post them in the comments below and I’ll research and answer them for you!