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What are your favorite kitchen myths?

I tend to be a very skeptical person. And that skepticism extends into the kitchen. Cook's Illustrated magazine attempts to deconstruct traditional approaches to recipes and improve upon them.

Here's my myth, and I know I will get A LOT of opposition. But hey, it's Friday, and time for a little controversy.

"Food always tastes better the next day"
Why?
"Because the flavors have time blend together"

Not so, in my opinion. We *perceive* it's better for reasons based in biology. There is a part in the olfactory part of the brain that desensitizes us to odors when they are present for an extended period of time. Most people are aware of that from experience. And since the sense of smell is an important factor in tasting food, if your brain is "asleep" to the very compounds in the food you are cooking because you have been exposed to the aromas during the cooking process, chances are you will not experience the full flavor of the food when you sit down.

The next day, the cooking smells are gone, and your brain has forgotten the odor. When you heat up the food, you can now taste all of the flavors that were added. The food did not actually improve. Only your ability to taste it.

How many times have you had guests to dinner, who *raved* over the food, while you found it bland and uninteresting? How many times have you overseasoned food because you were using taste as a guide? If you can make the main dishes a day in advance, then you will enjoy the flavors as much as your guests.

In commercial kitchens, or homes equipped with strong exhaust fans, much of the strong odors are removed while the food is cooking, and chances are you will not be desensitized as much.

Any more myths?

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  1. Chacun a son gout -- I love leftovers

    1. Okay, I'll bite...so to speak. I find it isn't all that necessary to rest pie dough for 20 minutes in the fridge before rolling it out. If I'm in a hurry, I go straight from mixing to rolling without noticing a lot of (if any) difference in either taste or effort in rolling out the dough. I think Marion Cunningham will back me up on this in the Fanny Farmer Baking Book.

      2 Replies
      1. re: raj1

        Depends how you make your dough. I use so little water that it barely holds together -- the 20-minute rest in the fridge does, in fact, make everything come together.

        If you make it in a food processor, probably you don't need that rest.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Nope, do it all by hand with a pastry cutter.

      2. Oh I have one....that raw potato added to overly salty pots of stew/sauce/soup, etc, will "Absorb" the salt and save the soup.

        Horsefeathers.

        4 Replies
        1. re: thegolferbitch

          Well I have done that many times and it has worked. I guess that all depends on exactly how oversalted it is...lol.

          1. re: thegolferbitch

            This has worked for me on numerous occasions

            1. re: jfood

              Tell me your process please? I have wondered about this, but have heard it debunked many times. It there a ratio you use, potatoes to volume? How do you keep the potato from affecting the flavor of the soup?

              I sometimes am unmindful about salting, especially when reduction is an issue. I try, but sometimes things happen. If this works, I would love to know how.

              1. re: cayjohan

                Well the way I do it, is I grate in the raw potatoe(I use a regular cheese grater), and even though it thickens the soup(or what ever) a tad bit(and hey if thickening it a bit is what u want... then two birds with one stone)
                I believe this is a better soup (or whatever) to present/eat than a too salty item...

                & How much to add You say: well that depends on how salty the thing is... and grating helps a lot (I haven't done it any way else..., and I found this out by trial and error, as potatoe dishes (curries in my case :) ) always took more salt than other dishes... and I once grated in a potatoe in to add body to the curry and as a side effect the salt was reduced overall... so I put 2 and 2 together and have been using this trick ever since... (its 4 by the way :), 2 & 2 that is... ;) )

                To determine the right amount to add... just start out by adding little by little and it also depends on the saltiness... trust ur taste buds and do a taste test every so often,... and add more if need be (the potatoe is grated in so it cooks up & incorporates in a jiffy...)

                Hope this helps... :)

          2. Some dishes definitely are better the next day. The problem with these "myths" is they are not general rules that apply to everything.

            It depends on what you've made. A dish like fresh garlic aioli will grow a bit more complex after it sits for day. As will some sauces, tapenades and the like.

            If you tasted something a day later that wasnt' any better, or even worse it was probably the wrong kind of dish for that treatment. Usually texture suffers the most, then sugars break down. So something like a fresh tomato bruchetta, fruit compote, etc. wouldn't be as good on day two. Also, some dishes suffer in reheating.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sgwood415

              Yes, and there is a great deal of veracity to the claim that food tastes better the next day if it included dry spices or chiles. Both dried spices and chili take some time to diffuse into a liquid. That's why curry is always more spiced and more hot the next day. This is especially true if you use whole spices and crushed not powdered chiles.

              1. re: sgwood415

                I agree. Certain Italian soups/stews such as ribollita and aquacotta, for example, are more flavorful and complex the next day, even though it's a good idea to brighten them with a splash of olive oil, salt or lemon.

                1. re: sgwood415

                  Caponata. NASTY while it's hot in the pan, but oh, my goodness it's good after it rests.

                2. "Cast iron is a great conductor of heat"

                  In fact, the thermal conductivity of cast iron is not all that good - better than stainless steel, but not greatly so, and not nearly as good as aluminum (over three times better) or copper (over seven times better). The ability of cast iron cookware to heat and cook evenly is due to its greater thickness, in spite of its poor thermal conductivity.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: FlyFish

                    I've actually heard the opposite -- it's a crappy conductor of heat as metals go, which is why it takes bloody forever to get really hot -- but once it's done, because it's such a bad conductor and because it's usually so thick, it retains heat for a much longer time.

                    An aluminium pot will be cooler much faster than a cast-iron pot, and therein lies the beauty of cast-iron.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I think we're saying the same thing. I wasn't referring specifically to heat retention, but I agree 100% with what you said about it.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Cast iron has a high heat _capacity_ (a property of metals separate from conductivity) which means that once it gets up to temperature, putting on something cold will not decrease the pan's temperature because it still has alot of heat left in it. Its relatively poor heat conductivity means that a thin cast iron pan can heat up unevenly, but a thick pan can be at a uniform temperature.

                      2. re: FlyFish

                        I don't think I've heard or read that cast iron is a great conductor. I often hear people say that is a great choice for brasing because it retains heat and cooks evenly at lower temperatures. Which is true...

                        1. re: JudiAU

                          makes for a good indoor grilling pan...(cast iron)! I bought a stanless steel type pan from williams...anjd regret not buting the 1 sided stlye panini grill pan...because what i bought...bad grill marks...or lack there of.