There are still a lot of antiquated cooking rules which, due to being repeated on countless websites, may never quite go away. Some of these rules are even repeated by professional chefs. Some are modern and others are quite old. Here are some kitchen rules, covered on Culinary Lore, which you can safely ignore.
Since I used the word ‘safely’ in the title, it makes sense to start out with rules regarding food safety. These first three may surprise you.
Always Rinse Chicken Before Cooking
Yes, even some professional chefs believe that rinsing chicken and meat before cooking it will render it safer and reduce cross-contamination. In fact, the opposite is true. Rinsing chicken before cooking it will not help prevent contamination nor will it make the chicken safer to eat. Cooking to a proper temperature is the most important way to prevent food poisoning from poultry or meats.
Let Hot Foods Cool Down Before Putting them in the Fridge
Although suggested times vary, it is frequently claimed that hot foods should be allowed to cool down before they are stored in the refrigerator. This is especially true of large pots of soup or other liquids. If you put these hot foods in the fridge, they will release heat and warm up the fridge, thus warming up the other foods. As well, the moisture released will condense and this will lead to bacterial growth. Folks, modern refrigerators can handle. Don’t leave out your hot foods to cool to room temperature before chilling them in the fridge. This doesn’t mean you have to place them in the fridge immediately, but waiting too long is worse than storing them when hot. You can read all about it and pick up some storage tips, here on Culinary Lore.
Mussels are Done When They Open – Throw Away Unopened Ones
I wrote about this notion way back in 2012. In fact, I may have been one of the earliest persons to tackle it on a dedicated website, although certainly not the first to question it. Like many cooking rules, this one probably derived from one particular source and was simply never questioned. The idea that you should always throw away unopened mussels and clams because it means they are bad, is considered absolute gospel. It is such a fixed rule that I won’t even bother to expand here, but instead, will encourage you to read the full article before making up your mind: Should You Throw Away Unopened Mussels?
You Should Never Cut Lettuce with a Knife!
The idea that you should only tear lettuce is a pet peeve of mine. I absolutey hate huge handtorn pieces of lettuce in a salad. I prefer my salad chopped and easy to eat. I don’t want to have to unhinge my jaw to take a bite, or cut up the pieces with a knife. Luckily, you can cut your lettuce with a knife all you want and it will not bruise the leaves more than tearing the leaves will. Will the damaged edges turn brown? Yes. But at the same rate regardless of how those damaged edges are produced.
Olive Oil Has a Low Smoking Point So You Can’t Deep Fry With It
I’ve heard this on cooking shows so many times! Only use olive oil for a gentle saute! It can’t handle high heat and will become bitter and smoke. Although an unfiltered EVOO may have a lower smoking point, the fact is that you can deep fry with olive oil, and this is something that is well-known in Meditteranean cooking. This doesn’t mean you will want to, of course, due to the expense and the strong taste imparted, which may not always be desired.
Spaghetti is Done When it Sticks to the Wall
If you’ve been throwing spaghetti at your wall all these years to see if it is done, all you’ve likely managed to do is make a mess. The stickiness of spaghetti or similar pasta is not an accurate indication of its doneness. And, since many have their own preference as to how al dente their pasta should be, the best test is the tooth test. If you want the best texture possible from your dried pasta, choose a superior pasta product, as I explain while discussing whether fresh pasta is superior to dried pasta.
And, while we’re on the subject of cooking pasta, have you heard that adding salt to the water makes pasta cook faster?
Fresh Pasta is Superior to Dried Pasta
This is an ignorant notion based simply on the premise that ‘fresh food is better than non-fresh food.’ Fresh pasta is, in fact, a different product than dried pasta. They are used for different purposes. Dried pasta is a staple in Italy and is used just as often as fresh pasta and fresh pasta cannot always take the place of dried pasta in a recipe. In fact, if all you use is fresh pasta, most of the pasta shapes and textures will be inaccessible to you and different pasta shapes are meant to work well with different types of sauces. Let the dish determine which to use, fresh or dried pasta.
Use Marinades to Tenderize Meat
Marinades can bring some extra flavor to meat. They probably will not, however, make the meat more tender. Even when acids are used, a marinade simply does not penetrate deeply enough to significantly affect the tenderness of the meat.
Only Buy Superior Brown Eggs at the Grocery Store
You should avoid those cheap white eggs and go for the brown ones. Brown eggs taste better than white eggs.
Wrong. There is no difference in taste between brown eggs and white eggs. The color of the eggshell depends on the breed of chicken. The quality of eggs is not determined in any way by their color, although egg producers are well aware of the public’s perception of the superiority of brown eggs.
You Do Not Need to Refrigerate Eggs
Many people have been led to believe that they do not need to refrigerate their eggs because Europeans do not refrigerate their eggs. Rather than just do what Europeans do, consider the scientific evidence. According to actual evidence, eggs held at room temperature deteriorate 7 times faster than refrigerated eggs. You can certainly ‘safely’ ignore this food rule.
Never Use Dried Herbs
This peculiar notion, that dried herbs are garbage a real cook will never use, seems to have a passionate, and somewhat angry, following. You’d think foodies were being attacked by McCormick jars. This myth is repeated so many times people approach it with almost a religious fervor. Fresh herbs or nothing at all!
It is true that hardly any herb will maintain its original flavors after drying, and some herbs dry much better than others. However, there is a difference between losing some flavor and losing all flavor. Certain flavor compounds not only survive but can become pronounced. Dried herbs can be and are used right along with fresh herbs. You just need to learn how to cook with them. You do not learn how to cook by observing dogmatic rules!
Always Use Yellow Onions, Never White
This is a cooking rule that has always caused me to scratch my head in wonder. Why in the world are white onions given such a bad rep? I think they have a lot going for them. They are a bit milder. They are nice and crisp. But, as well, depending on what you are doing with them, they are much the same. Yet, so many chefs and cookbooks tell us to stick to yellow onions in our cooking, except for the occasional red onion, you’d wonder why grocery stores even bother to stock the white variety. Mexican cooks certainly don’t believe in this rule. They prefer white. So, which is it? How about use yellow and white onions in your cooking. You can usually consider them interchangeable, and go for whatever variety seems freshest and in the best shape.
Always Sift Flour and Dry Ingredients when Baking
I have always questioned this rule. My wife, who considers herself the more knowledgeable and accomplished baker, maintains it’s a must. I say poppycock. It’s a waste of time. In fact, I don’t even think it does what it is purported to do, which is to thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients. It has always astounded me that anyone would believe that sifting could take the place of mixing. I never sift together dry ingredients for baking. The only time I sift is if the recipe calls for sifted flour, which means the amount of flour would be incorrect if I skipped the sifting.
When Using Aluminum Foil, Always Put the Shiny Side Down
If you cook regularly with aluminum foil, you probably put the shiny side down. If you put the shiny side up, the heat will be reflected and your food will cook more slowly. The truth is that it will make little difference which side is up. It is not fair to say that it makes absolutely no difference, the difference is so small it is negligible, having no discernible effect on cooking times. So, you can put the shiny or the dull side of aluminum foil down in cooking.
You Should Only Flip a Steak Once
This is another absurd notion that I’ve even heard professional TV chefs repeat as gospel. Of course, they’d never be able to explain the reason behind the rule. While a good sear is part of the flavor of a good steak, only flipping your steak once will not interfere with a sear and flipping your steak multiple times will actually cook your steak more evenly.