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14 Common Cooking Myths Debunked: What Your Grandmother Got Wrong

14 Things Your Grandmother Got Wrong About Cooking

Grandmothers’ Wisdom in the Kitchen

Grandmothers are the best. Who among us doesn’t have fond memories of standing at our grandmother’s hip, watching her work her magic in the kitchen? There’s just something about a grandma’s touch that makes food taste even better. But just because your grandmother was an excellent cook doesn’t mean that everything she said about cooking was true. In fact, there’s a good chance that along with all of her good advice, your grandmother passed on a few false cooking myths.
We understand the science of food better today than when our elders learned to cook. In previous generations, cooks knew that certain techniques worked, but they didn’t necessarily know why. So cooks wrote cookbooks filled with food myths. Over generations, these myths became set in stone as unquestioned food facts. Here in the 21st century, it’s our duty to shed light on the murky world of culinary falsehoods. Sorry, Grandma, but these are some things you probably got wrong about cooking.

Searing locks in meat’s natural juices

A common myth passed down from grandmothers is the belief that searing meat locks in its natural juices. This is not true. Searing meat in a hot pan initiates the Maillard reaction, the browning process that enhances the flavor of the meat. It does not lock the juices into the meat. In fact, searing causes the muscle fibers in the meat to contract, squeezing out the liquid. So while seared meat can be deliciously browned and flavorful, it can also be slightly drier than meat cooked using gentler methods. Nevertheless, searing is still a preferred way to cook steak because of the added Maillard effect.

Never wash mushrooms

Another myth that many grandmothers believed was that you should never wash mushrooms. The fear was that mushrooms would absorb too much liquid and become mushy. However, this advice is not entirely accurate. While it’s true that mushrooms can absorb some liquid, the amount is minimal. Washing mushrooms is actually important because they can be quite dirty, especially if they are wild mushrooms. So be sure to give the mushrooms a good rinse to remove any dirt or debris.

You need to soak dry beans

When it comes to cooking dried beans, many grandmothers insisted on soaking them overnight before cooking. However, soaking beans is not necessary. Unsoaked beans are just as easy and quick to cook as soaked beans. Soaking beans is believed to reduce the amount of gas they cause, but studies have shown that no cooking technique has been proven to significantly reduce gas. If beans make you bloat, the best solution is to gradually increase your bean intake over time to allow your body to adjust.

Salt makes scrambled eggs tough

Grandmothers often warned against adding salt to scrambled eggs before cooking, claiming that it would make them tough. But this myth has been debunked. Pre-salting scrambled eggs has very little effect on their cooked texture and can actually make them softer and more tender. The key to perfect scrambled eggs is to cook them over low heat and avoid overcooking them, as eggs cooked too long become rubbery.

Rinse cooked pasta to remove excess starch.

It’s a common belief that rinsing cooked pasta under cold water will remove excess starch and prevent it from sticking together. This is not true. Rinsing pasta actually removes the starchy residue on the outside of the cooked pasta, which acts as a glue and helps the sauce stick to the pasta. When the sauce and pasta are tossed together, the sauce forms a barrier that prevents the pasta from sticking together. The residual starch also gives the pasta a creamier and more luxurious texture.

Salt water boils faster

Another cooking myth is that adding salt to water makes it boil faster. While it’s true that salt water can boil faster than fresh water under certain circumstances, the amount of salt needed to significantly speed up the boiling time is unpalatable. Adding a normal amount of salt to your cooking water will not save you time in the kitchen. However, it is still a good idea to add salt to your cooking water to add flavor to your cooked food.

Cooking removes alcohol from wine and spirits

Many people believe that cooking with alcohol burns off all the alcohol, leaving only the flavor. While it’s true that some of the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, it takes time for all of the alcohol to evaporate. One study showed that it takes about three hours for all the alcohol to evaporate from a dish cooked with alcohol. So if you’re using wine or spirits in your cooking and want to avoid alcohol, be aware that there may still be a small amount in the final dish.

Turn meat only once

It’s a common cooking rule to turn meat over only once during the cooking process. Many grandmothers believed that constantly turning meat would result in tough and dry meat. This is not necessarily true. Flipping meat several times can actually help it cook more evenly by ensuring that both sides are exposed to the heat. It can also help create a more flavorful crust on the meat. The key is to flip the meat gently and avoid pressing down on it, which can cause the juices to escape.

Using metal utensils in nonstick pans will ruin the coating.

Grandmothers often warned against using metal utensils in nonstick pans, claiming that they would scratch and ruin the nonstick coating. While it’s true that metal utensils can potentially scratch nonstick surfaces, most modern nonstick pans are made with a durable coating that can withstand gentle use of metal utensils. Just be sure to use them with care and avoid sharp or abrasive utensils that could cause damage.

Defrosting meat on the counter is safe

Many grandmothers used to defrost meat on the kitchen counter, believing it to be a safe and effective method. This practice is not recommended. Thawing meat at room temperature allows it to enter the “danger zone” where bacteria can multiply rapidly. The safest way to defrost meat is in the refrigerator, which keeps meat at a consistent and safe temperature. Alternatively, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave or thaw meat in a sealed plastic bag submerged in cold water.

Boiling vegetables removes all nutrients

Some grandmothers believed that boiling vegetables would leach all the nutrients out of them, leaving them devoid of any nutritional value. While it’s true that some vitamins and minerals can be lost during the cooking process, boiling vegetables can also make certain nutrients more accessible and easier to digest. The key is to avoid overcooking vegetables and to use the cooking liquid, such as broth or water, in recipes to preserve any nutrients that may have been lost.

Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator door.

Many people store their eggs in the refrigerator door because it seems like a convenient and accessible place. However, this is not the best place to store eggs. The temperature in the refrigerator door is not as consistent as the temperature in the main body of the refrigerator. Fluctuations in temperature can cause eggs to spoil more quickly. It’s best to store eggs in their original carton on a refrigerator shelf where the temperature is more stable.

Using a wooden cutting board harbors more bacteria.

There is a common belief that wooden cutting boards harbor more bacteria than plastic cutting boards and are therefore less hygienic. However, studies have shown that wooden cutting boards can actually be more resistant to bacterial growth. The natural antimicrobial properties of wood can help inhibit the growth of bacteria, while plastic cutting boards can develop deep knife grooves where bacteria can thrive. Regardless of the type of cutting board you use, it’s important to clean it thoroughly with hot, soapy water after each use.

Adding oil to pasta water prevents sticking

Some grandmothers believed that adding oil to boiling pasta water would prevent the pasta from sticking together. But this is not an effective method. The oil floats on top of the water and doesn’t actually come in contact with the pasta, so it doesn’t prevent sticking. Instead, stirring the pasta regularly during cooking and using enough water to allow the pasta to move freely is the best way to prevent sticking.

Using a sharp knife is more dangerous

Many grandmothers warned against using sharp knives, believing that they were more dangerous than dull knives. But the opposite is true. A sharp knife is actually safer to use because it requires less force to cut through food, reducing the risk of slips and accidents. Dull knives, on the other hand, require more force and are more likely to slip and cause injury. It’s important to keep your knives sharp and use proper cutting techniques to ensure safe and efficient food preparation.

Hot water freezes more quickly than cold water

Some grandmothers believed that hot water freezes faster than cold water, a phenomenon known as the Mpemba effect. However, this is not consistently observed and is still the subject of scientific debate. While there are cases where hot water freezes faster under certain conditions, this is not a reliable rule. When freezing water, it’s


Is searing meat really necessary to lock in juices?

No, searing meat does not lock in juices. It enhances the flavor through the Maillard reaction, but can actually make the meat slightly drier.

Should I wash mushrooms before cooking them?

Yes, washing mushrooms is important to remove dirt and debris. The fear that they will become mushy is a myth.

Do I need to soak dry beans before cooking?

No, soaking beans is not necessary. Unsoaked beans cook just as quickly and easily.

Does salting scrambled eggs make them tough?

No, pre-salting scrambled eggs has very little effect on their cooked texture and can actually make them softer.

Should I rinse cooked pasta to remove excess starch?

No, rinsing pasta removes the starchy residue that helps the sauce adhere to the pasta, resulting in a creamier texture.

Is it true that using metal utensils will ruin nonstick pans?

While it can potentially scratch the surface, most modern nonstick pans can withstand gentle use of metal utensils.

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