Questions tagged [food-science]

All about the scientific theories behind food. Cooking myths debunked here.

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168
votes
11answers
142k views

Why add salt to the water when cooking pasta?

What is the effect of adding salt to the water when cooking pasta?
76
votes
7answers
261k views

Cooking away alcohol

When you cook with wine or spirits, when does the alcohol cook away? Obviously high temperatures will do it, but how low of temperatures will work? Also, does it vary by the type of alcohol?
56
votes
2answers
133k views

Why can applesauce be used in place of oil?

In many recipes, mostly desserts, it is suggested that you can substitute oil with applesauce to reduce the fat content. But why applesauce? Is there something special about applesauce or are there ...
55
votes
18answers
198k views

Why should I soak beans before cooking?

Every recipe says I should soak beans in water overnight before cooking. Why? I did some experiments. I have tried soaked and unsoaked beans from the same batch. There was no difference in cooking ...
46
votes
5answers
50k views

Why is eating pretzels safe when they are bathed in lye?

I read many recipes of pretzels and they required to dip the raw dough in a bath of lye. As anyone should know for their own safety, lye is caustic and shouldn't be ingested. What is the process ...
45
votes
7answers
9k views

Why do some foods taste better the next day?

Many people think that certain foods, like lasagna, many stews and hearty soups, tomato sauce and so forth taste better the next day. My question is, is that really true, and if so, why? The ...
41
votes
6answers
109k views

Why does a brown paper bag speed ripening?

I often see this technique suggested as a way to speed ripening. Why does it? Also, is there any data available on how fast it ripens comparatively?
40
votes
6answers
5k views

What does “natural” actually mean?

More and more I see "natural" or "all natural" labels on the slightly-cheaper alternatives next to "organic" products, and I find it somewhat confusing. I know that (for example) tofu does not occur ...
38
votes
3answers
16k views

Why do tomatoes get so hot?

Ever noticed how certain foods seem to get a lot hotter than others? I almost never burn my tongue or mouth... except on tomatoes; Pizza sauce, tomatoes in panini sandwiches or spaghetti sauce. ...
37
votes
5answers
28k views

Should pasta be started in cold or boiling water?

There are two main methods, either putting the strands into water already at boiling point, or putting them in cold water and then putting on the heat. Which method is the best to cook pasta? Does ...
36
votes
3answers
12k views

Resources that explain the science of cooking?

I have been cooking for a while now, but its mostly what I picked up watching others cook. Now, I am an engineer by profession, and it seems there ought to be a reason for cooking food the way it is ...
35
votes
2answers
5k views

What happened to my egg?

I was making a small batch of chocolate cake and decided to flavor it with peppermint extract (as a substitute for vanilla extract). Foolish me added the extract directly to the eggs (not beaten). A ...
35
votes
6answers
167k views

Why should (or shouldn't) we wash rice before cooking?

There are pretty confusing articles on this topic on the internet. Some suggest that we should wash them to remove starch, talc, etc. Some suggest that we should not wash them because they are ...
34
votes
3answers
2k views

Theoretical: why there's no gradient of doneness in bread?

I was always wondering, why there's no gradient of doneness visible on the cuts of bigger breads. For example: This one was made in the baking form, it has a thin visible crust, but after that the ...
33
votes
6answers
40k views

Is “until juices run clear” a valid test for poultry doneness? Why or why not?

I've come across this particular recommendation many times in various recipes and cookbooks and probably even given it out myself once or twice. Poultry is sufficiently cooked when the juices run ...
31
votes
4answers
36k views

How can I tell if this is baking soda or powder?

Sure it'd be easier and cheap to just buy new soda and powder but I'm curious. I had a jar of either baking soda or powder. The marker with which I'd labeled it rubbed off during a house move and I ...
30
votes
2answers
151k views

How does a Miracle Thaw work?

Miracle Thaws are utensils for rapidly thawing foods. Put an ice cube on one and it melts before your eyes, yet the whole thing stays cool to the touch. How do they work? (Inspired by this question: ...
28
votes
5answers
6k views

Why is it faster to reheat something than it is to cook it?

In my experience it takes less time to reheat a cooked item than it does to cook it. This is true for every single different "type" of cooked item I can think of. (Meat, soup, pasta, beans, etc etc). ...
28
votes
11answers
181k views

How does soaking liver in milk work?

Soaking liver in milk is said to be a common technique that supposedly helps to remove impurities, softens flavour, and tenderises the liver. I tried it, and the liver turned out alright, but it got ...
27
votes
8answers
292k views

Will spoiled food always make you sick?

Kind of a strange question, but say something has spoiled, i.e. smells bad, tastes bad, etc. Will it actually always make you sick? Like for instance spoiled dressing, let's say it tastes sour, ...
27
votes
9answers
9k views

Do pan “pores” exist, what are they, and what are their effects?

There are a number of common cooking lore techniques which revolve around the idea of "pores" in the surface of a pan. Two of the ones I've heard most often: (1) When heating a pan where sticking is ...
27
votes
3answers
92k views

How does a splash of vinegar help when poaching eggs?

What does splashing in a shot of white vinegar to the simmering water do when poaching an egg? Is it for taste or is it supposed to react in some way with the albumen?
26
votes
4answers
3k views

How does the way that I cut my garlic affect the taste of my food?

I've seen recipes that called for coarsely chopped garlic and recipes that called for finely chopped or minced garlic. What affect does that cut have on the final taste of my dish? What about crushed ...
25
votes
3answers
16k views

What is that gooey stuff from okra?

When cooking okra in a bit of water, the water becomes gooey. What does the okra release that makes the water slimy? Would the goo have other culinary uses (as an additive to thicken sauces or ...
24
votes
5answers
27k views

Does microwaving destroy nutrients in food?

After answering this article, I did some research on microwaving killing vitamins and nutrients in food. I very quickly learned that this is a touchy subject, even among nutritionists, and nobody (at ...
23
votes
5answers
10k views

Flavour combinations - structural analysis

Without neccesarily going into molecular cooking (although we could): does any literature / website / theory provide information on flavor / flavour combinations that go well together? (ignoring ...
22
votes
4answers
10k views

Can something have more sugar per 100g than the percentage of sugar that's in it?

If this is the wrong place to ask this, please direct me to the correct place. I am a big fan of cereal, and I like to eat a fair amount, but don't like to have too much sugar. I recently started ...
22
votes
3answers
5k views

What happens when you reduce stock all the way?

If you have fully filtered stock or broth, and you boil it until all of the liquid evaporates; what would you be left with. If you boiled only until a bit before that point would you have super ...
22
votes
9answers
80k views

Why doesn't chocolate go bad?

After all, chocolate has oil and sugar in it. Why don't bacteria love it? Thanks!
22
votes
2answers
5k views

Why does tomato sauce spatter more than other sauces?

Of all the (thick) sauces and creams I prepare in a hot pot, tomato sauce is the most jumpy. When it's hot, it's impossible to cook properly without having it jump everywhere and repaint the walls, ...
22
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the chemical process behind the way you cook a risotto?

Cooking risotto seems to differ from regular rice in two important ways: you stir the risotto regularly you only introduce liquid a little bit at a time What is the effect of these two steps ...
21
votes
4answers
7k views

Can one eat a balanced diet if one only cooks once a week?

Is it possible to have a balanced (healthy) diet if one only cooks once a week? I am talking about batch cooking, not eating lots of costly pre-made foods. ”Pre-made food” refers to pre-prepared ...
21
votes
9answers
12k views

Can food be boiled “extra fast/hard” in water?

Once water is boiling you can either leave the heat on quite high, or turn it down a bit so that it just keeps boiling. Apart from extra water vaporating, does this have any effect on the taste of ...
21
votes
2answers
104k views

Why do red onions turn blue or green when cooking sometimes?

I cooked a pot of beans with some red onions last night. Today for lunch when I got them out of the fridge, all of the onions had turned a blue/green colour! They still taste ok, but sure looks ...
21
votes
4answers
32k views

Garlic turning green?

When I try to make garlic bread or, in general, something where the garlic is not in a liquid, it sometimes turns green while cooking! It's worth noting that the taste doesn't seem to really be "off", ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

How can I tell whether an egg has been hard-boiled, through the shell?

At my workplace, there's a mysterious carton of eggs in the common refrigerator. Nobody I've asked knows whether they're raw or cooked. Is there a way to tell, without cracking one of the eggs open?
19
votes
5answers
3k views

Does the preparation of chicken liver mousse require force feeding of chickens?

The force feeding of ducks or geese required to prepare foie gras (French "fatty liver") is widely known and banned in some states. I was at a restaurant last night which offered "...
18
votes
1answer
21k views

Room temperature “rest” for fresh mayo?

On the mayonnaise episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown recommends letting homemade mayo sit at room temperature for 4-8 hours before refrigerating. The idea is to let the acid in the mayo kill any ...
18
votes
4answers
16k views

Why is a copper bowl recommended for whipping cream and egg whites?

They say you can get the whipped cream or egg whites "higher" or "stiffer" if you use a copper bowl. Why is that?
18
votes
2answers
22k views

Why don't dry bread crumbs spoil, when bread does?

Why don't store-bought bread crumbs spoil? Can you make your own bread crumbs and save them for later use? Will homemade breadcrumbs mold?
18
votes
2answers
10k views

What determines how well cheese melts

I have had my fair share of eating cheese and experimenting with them. Sometimes they come out heavenly while other times, it turn out to be a huge flop. Usually when it flops, it's because I am ...
17
votes
4answers
7k views

Why do chocolate chips stay softer after being baked?

I could be wrong, but I have the feeling that after baking chocolate chip cookies, the chocolate chips are still melted; or at least a lot softer than before you bake the cookies. It's logical that ...
17
votes
2answers
33k views

What does beating eggs actually do (chemically speaking)?

When I look at a lot of recipes, any eggs usually have to be beaten before they're added. If it's all going to be mixed anyway (and well, in dough for example) is it really necessary?
17
votes
2answers
3k views

The science of confit

In recent weeks I have made both duck leg and pork belly confit with rich tasting and great texture results. I want to experiment with this technique further but to do so, and avoid wasting meat and ...
17
votes
3answers
21k views

What job is the fat doing when I prepare bread dough, and what to expect if I use the wrong amount?

I've been baking bread for years and no longer really measure the ingredients. But I'm no expert on the science of what I'm doing. I add fat (lard) because I've always added fat. What job does the ...
16
votes
10answers
59k views

What causes the difference between Maine and Canadian lobsters?

In a first-season episode of the US TV show Kitchen Nightmares, the well-known chef Gordon Ramsay states that there's a "big difference [in] taste and flavor" between Maine lobsters and Canadian ...
16
votes
3answers
9k views

What is the science behind Magic Cake?

Magic Cake has a seemingly simple batter, that is mixed and baked as a single entity. (See link for the full recipe and method). When it is baked, it separates into three distinct layers: A dense ...
16
votes
2answers
9k views

Why do bananas turn black in the refrigerator?

I've noticed that a banana in the refrigerator will turn pitch black in just a few hours. Why is this?
16
votes
2answers
10k views

Why do microwave ovens make bread rubbery?

Why does heating bread (cinnamon buns) in a microwave give it a rubbery texture, when a regular oven doesn't? What are the chemical or structural changes?
16
votes
2answers
3k views

What's the science behind making German potato dumplings (Knödel) fluffy but not fall apart?

First off, I'm German, so you would think I know, but it seems traditional cuisine has not been passed down my family tree. This question really consists of two parts: What makes potatos dough (or ...

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