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Aug 21, 2010 03:21 PM

Food myths that are useless/annoying, but are "common knowledge"

Such as cooking something on high heat to "seal in the flavor/juices." This is just not the case. Anything else that makes you cringe when you hear it? How did this stuff become "common knowledge" and accepted as truth?

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  1. Jello, gummi bears and the like containing gelatin made from animal protein (e.g., horse's hooves, etc.). They used to, manymanymany years ago, but they are Kosher now and couldn't be if that were the case.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      Sorry, but Jello does indeed contain gelatin which is extracted from animal collagen. Bones and hides are the primary sources (hooves are not a good source of collagen, they are predominantly keratin). The kosher designation is not universally accepted.

      1. re: kmcarr

        Kosher gelatin is typically made from fish bones, thus making it kosher and "parve" (neither milk nor meat). There are some other kosher brands of gelatin that use agar (from plants) as a thickener so they are vegetarian.

        1. re: AmyH

          Jello brand jello is made with an animal-derived gelatin. In the strict sense of vegetarianism, it is not vegetarian; there is an animal origin to the gelatin. The kosher status stems from the idea that once anon-kosher product is not longer food (that is, a dog wouldn't eat it), it loses any sort of non-kosher status even when it's reconstituted. Mainstream kosher does not accept this as it applies to gelatin because it becomes food again.

          1. re: craigcep

            Is gelatin halal? I've been getting contradictory reports about this.

            1. re: John Manzo

              I believe that there is Halal gelatin just like there is kosher gelatin.

              For the record, kosher gelatin can be (and sometimes is) bovine-derived. Craigcep has the right explanation; it's so removed from the original source that it's considered not to be dairy or meat. In (some forms of) kosher law, that is; usually it's a different story to vegetarians.

              Jelly beans and gummy bears often have pectin (which is plant-based) instead of gelatin, but that's not 100%.

    2. That hot water freezes faster than cold water? Let's not go there, it is an endless circle jerk.

      48 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        In the same vein; adding oil to pasta boiling water makes the cooked pasta not stick.

        1. re: Quine

          or adding salt to the cooking water makes it boil faster. *theoretically* it would raise the boiling point a few degrees...if you added 30 ounces (3.5 cups!) of salt to a gallon of water.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            The salt is added not to make it boil faster, but as a means of seasoning the pasta itself.

            1. re: Jack Flash


              Goodhealthgourmet uses "salt raising boiling point" as an example of a myth, so you two actually agree.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I avoided oil for a long time and was always a big pasta eater. In my experience, adding olive oil to the water really does keep it from sticking together, as well as to the sides of the pot.

                1. re: MichelleRenee

                  I think so. Not sure if it is really true, but I feel it is true.

                  1. re: MichelleRenee

                    it also keeps the sauce from sticking to the pasta

            2. re: Quine

              no, but the oil will prevent proteins from forming foam and boiling over.

              1. re: ScubaSteve

                oil in pasta water will also impede the sauce's adherence to the pasta.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Nah, when you pour the pasts and water through the colander, since the oil is on top of the water, most of it goes straight through and into the sink.

                  1. re: John E.

                    But enough is left for the pasta to not properly be coated by the sauce. Oil is utterly superfluous.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      You're probably right. My mother not only put the oil on the water, but she sprinkled a little olive oil on the spaghetti after she drained it and put it back into the kettle so it wouldn't still together. There really wasn't much problem with the sauce not sticking though because she served the meat sauce American style with about a cup of sauce per plate on top of the spaghetti.

                  2. re: alkapal

                    What if its an olive oil and garlic "sauce"? Would the oil facilitate the sauce's adherence?

                    1. re: porker

                      It also simply tastes good! To my taste buds, anyway. And I never have the problem with the sauce sticking to the pasta. I eat a ton of sauce on my pasta, it's more like soup. I don't use more than maybe a tablespoon at any rate.

                  3. re: ScubaSteve

                    If you just reduce the temperature (but not stop the actual boil) you will NOT have boil-over and you will NOT need oil on the water.

                  4. re: Quine

                    I thought that was supposed to keep it from boiling over as easy. I don't do that but I remember my Mum doing it. Pasta just doesn't stick so easy, if your paying even occasional attention.

                  5. re: Veggo

                    Also, cold water boils faster than hot water.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      And the opposite, hot water freezes faster than cold.

                      1. re: mpjmph

                        I think that's a myth. People have done a lot of experiments to prove this one way or the other.

                        1. re: Soop

                          I know it's a myth... There's no way hot water in a container (ice cube tray) can freeze faster than cold water in the same container when exposed to the same conditions.

                          I think the myth started because people will use hot water when making ice cubes to get a clearer finished cube.

                          1. re: mpjmph

                            it's clear when you think about it (the idea not the ice)

                            lets say we have water at 2 temperatures: 50F and 200F

                            we put them both in ice trays and into the freezer.

                            It will take X amount of time for the 50F tray to be fully frozen.

                            it will take the hot tray Y amount of time to get to 50F.

                            so to get to fully frozen the hot tray MUST take X + Y amount of time. assuming neither takes zero time to happen (or somehow reverses the flow of time) X + Y has to be greater than X

                            (this same logic applies to boiling cold and hot water as well)

                            1. re: thew

                              Yes. That is what I was saying. It is physically impossible for hot water to freeze faster that cold water under the same conditions.

                              1. re: mpjmph

                                I also didn't think it is possible, but I am more open minded on this topic now. It seems impossible from a thermal energy argument because there are more heat in hot water than in cool water, but that is not according the cooling process and the way ice is formed.

                                The argument has to with the fact that 75F water which was fast cooled down from 100F is not the same as the 75F water from room temperature.

                                I am not saying that I know this for a fact, but I can see the arguments for this effect:




                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  I can't believe it, but I read that entire article on the Mpemba effect, Chemicalkinetics. The issue is far more complicated than it appears on the surface!

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    We did this in chemistry as an experiment. My brain never did really wrap around it, as it implies that heat has acceleration associated with it, but it ended up being true, for some values of "hotter" water.

                                  2. re: mpjmph

                                    Don't be so sure of yourself on that one. Truth is, there is a condition (common to many of our freezers) in which hot water filled ice trays will freeze faster than cold--especially if you use the old metal trays. If your freezer is heavily glazed over with ice buildup and you set the two trays on that same "skating rink", the hot water tray will melt the sheet of ice it sits on somewhat, and then "bond" to it as it cools. This results in higher conductivity whereas the hot water tray effectively "loses" its heat faster to its surroundings than the cold water tray--so much so (in the right conditions) that it actually freezes first. Tried it when I was a kid. Saw it happen.

                                    1. re: ds_mod

                                      Not why it happens. We conducted the experiments in controlled calorimeters

                                2. re: mpjmph

                                  My dad actually explained this to me last weekend, and why this myth goes back to when freezers first became commonplace. In the early freezers, the compartments were very small, and the thermostats were at the top. When people put in ice cube trays with hot water, the trays went near the thermostat, which sensed the heat and lowered the temperature of the freezer, which made the water freeze more quickly. So that's why hot water made faster ice cubes than cold water.

                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                    thats a different statement than hot water freezes faster than cold. put the 2 in the same freezer side by side. i assure you the cold will be frozen 1st

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Well, the myth I was debunking was that ice cubes made with hot water froze faster than ice cubes made with cold water. It was a pretty commonly held belief, sez my dad.

                                      1. re: Chris VR

                                        and like so many common beliefs false

                                        1. re: thew

                                          Yes, that was the "debunking" part.

                                        2. re: Chris VR

                                          Yea, I've never understood why that belief persists. That would be like saying that ice water will come to a boil in a kettle faster than hot water from the tap.

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            The opposite isn't true--in fact, the theory implies that if the cold water is at temp x and the hot at x + y, then the time it takes for the hot to get from x + y to 100C will be shorter than the time it takes for the cold to get from x + y to 100C.

                                            1. re: Henny Penny

                                              When I signed up for this site I was told there wouldn't be any math.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                Apparently it was added with the format change. Not to worry, it doesn't apply if you were a member pre-change.

                                                1. re: porker

                                                  But in that case, you will need to pass the exit exam if you want to leave.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    no no no this isn't just Sartre version 2.0 - we're not just three in,

                                                    there is no exit.

                                                2. re: John E.

                                                  John E
                                                  You just made me LOL! Seriously!

                                        3. re: Chris VR

                                          That is pretty interesting, thanks for sharing!

                                        4. re: mpjmph

                                          Oh sorry, I thought you were stating it as fact. Doh!

                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                            Not to mention how the heat oozing off it warms up the freezer...

                                          2. re: Soop

                                            From a thermodynamics perspective, it's plain physics and cooling curves - all else being the same, the greater the temperature difference (delta T), the greater the time needed to achieve the desired temperature.

                                            The key is - all else being equal. One way that hot water forms ice cubes faster than cold water is that hot water evaporates faster. With a faster evaporation, the water quantity decreases - and a smaller amount of water will freeze faster than a larger amount of water.

                                            So if forming icecubes that are relatively shallow, but have a large surface area, it's possible to get them to freeze faster than by using cold water. But then of course, you'll have smaller ice cubes!

                                            The devil is in the details, and how the ground rules are established.

                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                              Evaporation is but one of a few important mechanisms to consider! Others being: thermal conductivity of the vessel, type of refrigeration, and the possible role of super cooling.

                                              1. re: haggisdragon

                                                and of course filtered water boils faster as there's less of it

                                            2. re: Soop

                                              Here is what some scientific type explained to me. (I certainly do not vouch for its validity, have never carried out the experiment myself, and agree that it seems counterintuitive.):

                                              Hot water freezes faster than cooler water because the freezer is at a relatively low temperature, so ice crystals form quickly. Hot water has more energy than cooler water and, therefore, as each crystal is forming, the molecules of water can move around more easily in the hot water (i.e., zipping around in nano space), aligning into the proper positions to form a crystal much faster than cooler molecules can, since the cooler molecules move much less quickly.

                                              According to the guy who told me this, it is the intensity of the cold that is the key. That is, if your freezer is really cranked down to be intensely cold, this freezing proposition will work better. It won't work as well in a freezer just below freezing because slow freezing gives the less hot (warm) water molecules more time to rearrange themselves into crystals. Therefore, the stark contrast between the freezing of the less hot water and the hot water is not as great.

                                              I find holding forth on a subject about which I know nothing, other than what I was told, uncomfortable (which didn't stop me from doing it), so I end with Sir Thomas Moore's remark from "A Man for All Seasons": "I trust I make myself obscure."

                                              1. re: gfr1111

                                                If you live in a cold climate here is a fun thing to do (kids love it). When it's cold outside ( -5 or colder) take a saucepan if boiling water outside and fling it into the air. The boiling water vaporizes instantly so the water never reaches the ground/snow because it turns to steam. It has to be a calm day for this to work as you don't want the steam blown back on you. As long as you're outside at minus 5 or colder, blow some soap bubbles. They freeze instantly and you can catch them with your hands or they land on the ground and resemble a deflated balloon..

                                        5. re: Veggo

                                          "let's not go there. It's an endless circle jerk" . . . This made me laugh so hard I spewed coffee out of my mouth . . .

                                        6. That pasta is done when it sticks to the wall. Which was fun, for five minutes in my youth, but not very helpful.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: onceadaylily

                                            Hey, I always thought it was the ceiling!

                                            1. re: porker

                                              No, I think that was mashed potatoes . . .

                                              1. re: porker

                                                When it sticks to the wall it's done. When it sticks to the ceiling, it's over done.

                                                Learned that one cooking for roommates in college.

                                            2. throwing a cork in the pot w/ the octopus to make it tender

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: bornagainitalian

                                                OMG never heard that one! Any particular cork? or just the one from the 5th bottle ya drink?

                                                1. re: bornagainitalian

                                                  Batali and others claim that's true. In writing.

                                                  1. re: bornagainitalian

                                                    i've tested the cork thing and it works.

                                                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                      My question is how long do you have to boil just an octopus before it's tender and how long do you have to boil an octopus and a cork before the octopus is tender? When I used to live on an ocean and cook octopus frequently, I found the ONLY reliable way to make octopus tender was to hold it by its head and beat the hell out of its tentacles against a very hard surface. And then hold it by its tentacles and beat the head if you want it tenderized too. Fried, boiled or eaten raw, it was tender.

                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        The trusted Greek method. Brings back memories of octopi being slammed against the boardwalk on many a Greek island. And the smell of them drying (? resting?) in the sun spread out like eagles.

                                                        Only to be grilled over charcoal fire & served with quartered lemons. Tasty stuff.

                                                    2. re: bornagainitalian

                                                      Since this author is often touted as a God, his insights on octopus cooking are very interesting.


                                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                                        Could be, this is not a matter of physics or chemistry, but an offering to Cthulhu, the Old Ones and other tentacled overlords who might look askance at cephalopod consumption (by anyone or thing other than themselves, of course). Superstition, because if you really wanted to appease them, you'd hand over the full bottle of wine.

                                                        The tradition no doubt started when folks, back in the day, getting impatient for an octopus dinner after a long unexpected wait, stormed the kitchen only to find a pot of boiling water, a cork, no sign of the cook. The terrifying sight of unexplained giant sucker marks on the walls and ceiling probably prompted them to offer a cork sacrifice whenever octopods were thrown into the pot.

                                                        On the other hand, the cork might provide a distraction for an octopus to puzzle with before he realizes he's being boiled.

                                                        1. re: Pipenta

                                                          i believe that the tentacled overlords here have not been appeased. i feel the squeeze!

                                                          1. re: Pipenta

                                                            OMG! The "G" standing for Great Cthulu, of course.

                                                          2. re: FoodFuser

                                                            Hmmm, yet another piece of the puzzle of Puerto Rican Style Pulpo . . . . I am going to try that recipe one of these days . . .

                                                            1. re: bornagainitalian

                                                              Hey, at least it give the octopus something to play with, before the end comes about.


                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                :) We don't know it does not. We only cannot prove it does.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  We also don't know that breathing oxygen doesn't cause Alzheimers, by those lights.


                                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                    :) Yes. We don't know it. Maybe enameled cast iron cookware do not either.

                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                      Everyone I've ever known or heard of who has gotten Alzheimers has breathed oxygen. Therefore, breathing oxygen causes Alzheimers.

                                                                      Simple logic! ;-)

                                                                      1. re: taos

                                                                        Actually, there is a strong correlation between oxygen *deprivation* and Alzheimers. People with arrhythmia, COPD, sleep apnea and other medical conditions that lower the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain have a higher incidence of it. Atril Fibrillation and Alzheimers are particularly closely linked, and both can be caused by poor mineral absorption. Minerals like potassium help relax muscles so the heart pumps better.

                                                                        Sadly, the medical industry tends to medicate arrhythmia without addressing mineral absorption, so we see far more Alzheimers than we would if they addressed root causes.

                                                                        1. re: acorniv

                                                                          Interesting info I know I need to look into. My mom died of early-onset Alzheimer's six months ago at the age of 52. No Alzheimer's in her family history as far as anyone knows. My family has been researching what might have caused it for a while now, with no answers yet. I've never heard of the potassium concept, or the other correlations. Thanks for posting that!

                                                                          1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                            It might be worthwhile to look into Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or its variant, vCJD. Both are the result of ingesting malformed proteins: the former often in the case of consuming wild animal brain - especially squirrel (a la Brunswick Stew); the latter we know as Mad Cow Disease. They affect the brain in a very similar manner to Alzheimer's. Call me a cynic, but it's not possible that we've avoided vCJD in this country. I would imagine that our agricultural corporations would do anything to avoid the diagnosis.

                                                                            1. re: almansa

                                                                              Thanks almansa! The symptoms were shockingly similar to what my mom experienced, but hers was about a 6 year decline from the first noticeable symptoms, which, from what I read, is different from vCJD where it takes 1-2 years at the longest to become fatal. We also donated some brain tissue to research. No autopsy, from what I know of, but if they found it wasn't Alzheimer's, I'd hope they would have informed us of that.

                                                                              1. re: almansa

                                                                                I've done micronutrient testing through Genova diagnostics, and it showed my children and I digest proteins and fats very poorly. they suggested finding a center that tests for congenital metabolism defects. My doctor has a meeting with the doctors at the lab tomorrow. It is interesting that you mention proteins. Mineral deficiencies like magnesium and zinc are closely tied to protein malabsorption.

                                                                                My cousins, and other relatives descended from my paternal grandfather all have diseasses that are caused by magnesium deficiencies. Most migraines are (though fat chance you will ever find a doctor who knows that). Atrial fibbrillation can be. Most people do not get enough magnesium to begin with, but I take litetally hadfuls of it and still test severely deficient in it. I know heart patients who get magnesium by IV every week until they stabilize. Ironically, when my son was born I had preeclampsia, which was treated with magnesium sulphate. They kept giving me more and more (this was 20 years before we knew I don't absorb it) until it was well over a lethal dose for a nurmal person. It did little to help my blood pressure, even after my son was born, but it did make me so light sensitive I could not see well enough to change his diaper for 6 months. Why they never looked into this further is beyond me. My doctor kept saying I handled pregnancy very strangely, but never gave the first though a to why, and this was supposedly THE high risk OBGYN in San Francisco at the time.

                                                                    2. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                      You know, while dining on food cooked in aluminum cookware, I read an article on this - however, i cannot remember what it said.