Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Tag Archives: food myth

Don’t wash raw mushrooms because they will absorb water

Mushrooms naturally contain a lot of water, up to 90% by weight according to some sources. This makes them difficult to sauté properly because they will give off that water and end up stewing, at least until the water cooks off. But, they won’t absorb more water if you wash them. Of course, some water may adhere to the gills, but that can be shaken or dabbed off.

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When grilling a burger, flip it only once for best results.

I am not sure where this one originated, but I hear it frequently. In fact, flipping the burger several times during grilling gives more even cooking and a more evenly browned surface. You won’t get those grate marks, but who cares? It’s going in a bun anyway. It is true that you shouldn’t press on the burger with your spatula during cooking—this just squeezes juice out, and we all love juicy burgers!

Aside from the color, cremini mushrooms are no different from the white ones

Your taste buds will give the lie to this myth. The brown cremini have a deeper and more mushroomy flavor than the white mushrooms. Choose based on the needs of your recipe.

On a related note, did you know that portobello mushrooms are nothing more than large creminis?

Myths about dried beans

There are three “facts” you’ll often hear about cooking dried beans, such as kidney and great northern beans. It turns out they are all myths.

  1. You must soak beans before cooking. You can soak beans of course, but the only advantage it provides is to shorten the cooking time. There’s no reason not to start cooking dry beans directly as long as you have the time to simmer them long enough.
  2. You must not add salt to beans during cooking or they will not soften. Tests show that the only difference between beans cooked side by side with and without salt is that one is salty and the other is not. Some people feel that salting during cooking gives better flavor because some of the salt ends up inside the beans.
  3. You must not add acid, such as tomatoes, to beans during cooking or they will not soften. Acid does in fact have an effect on beans, tending to keep the skins intact, while alkaline substances (baking soda) help the skins to break down. In both cases however the beans cook perfectly well. You can use this to your advantage, adding tomatoes during or after cooking depending on whether you want whole beans or mushy beans.

Note, however, soaking can help reduce the “gas attack” effect that some people experience after eating beans. Bring dry beans and water to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit for an hour. Drain, add fresh water, and continue cooking. This removes some of the chemicals in the beans that cause the gas.

Sushi means raw fish

Many people think that “sushi” is synonymous with raw fish. Not so – the term actually refers to the vinegared rice. This is made by dissolving sugar in vinegar (usually rice vinegar) and tossing with the hot, just-cooked rice. Sushi therefore refers to vinegared rice served with other ingredients which may or may not include fish (which in turn may be raw or cooked). The vinegared rice itself is referred to as shari. Raw fish served by itself without the rice is called sashimi.

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