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Thread: Kitchen and Microwave Myths

  1. #1

    Kitchen and Microwave Myths

    How many people believe here believe that
    • putting a box of baking soda absorbs odors in the refridgerator,
    • searing meat seals in the juices,
    • alcohol put into boiling or baking food is gone after 10 minutes,
    • using aluminum cookware causes Alzheimer's disease,
    • water boils faster on a gas stove,
    • you can make baked potatoes in a microwave oven,
    • salting draws out water from steaks and therefore should not be used,
    • mayonnaise spoils food faster
    • putting bananas in refridgerators causes them to ripen faster...

    Well, this site debunks this and other myths.

    Reading the above website stimulated a number of thoughts. For a long time, I have wanted to list "myths" that are prevalent concerning microwave ovens:

    Myth: Microwave is faster at defrosting frozen foods than putting the frozen food into a bowl of warm or even room-temperature water.
    • This is not true. The fastest way to defrost a piece of frozen meat without cooking it, for example, is placing it in a bowl of room-temperature water because the water conducts heat well. Ice does not absorb microwaves as well as liquid water. As the frozen package begins to melt on the outside, the outside of the frozen food can get cooked before the inside can melt. In the "defrost" mode, the microwave oven simply turns on and off the energy and waits for the heat absorbed by more watery parts of the food to diffuse into surrounding frozen areas, thereby preventing cooking of some parts of the food, particularly the melting surface.

    Myth: Putting a spoon into a microwave oven at full power will cause the spoon to heat up to very high temperatures and is dangerous.
    • It is not true that metals absorb microwaves. In fact, they tend to reflect microwaves and this is the reason why you don't want to put your food in a metal pot or bowl into a microwave oven. It shields the food from the microwave. If you place a metallic object that is very thin or has sharp points, microwave energy can cause it to heat up like a light bulb filament or even cause sparks to fly. For example, do not put a lightbulb into a microwave oven and turn it on; it will light up and then explode! However, a normal spoon of normal thickness and rounded edges will only become slightly warm in a microwave oven at a power and time required to boil water. In fact, placing a spoon in a cup of fluid in a microwave will prevent liquids from becoming superheated, one of the dangers of microwave ovens. On the other hand, one should avoid putting forks into a microwave oven, since the tines of the fork may concentrate energy at the tips and cause sparking to occur. Note that if the fork is placed in fluid, this should not occur. Likewise, one should avoid putting containers with other small metallic objects such as metal staples into a microwave oven since this may cause sparking and fires.

    Myth: Putting in a cup of gasoline into a microwave will cause it to catch fire and explode.
    • You have probably seen movies where a special agent would put a metal container of lighter fluid into a microwave, turn it on high, and run out of the room before it explodes. Well, that should not happen for two reasons. First, lighter fluid does not absorb microwave as well as polarized water. If you were to put a cup of water and a cup of gasoline into the microwave and turn it on, you will find the water cooking long before the cup of gasoline. Second, the metal container will reflect and shield the lighter fluid from the microwave.

    Myth: Microwave heats up oil.
    • As pointed out above, water absorbs microwaves efficiently because it is polarized. Oil, gasoline, fat, and other non-polar materials do not absorb microwaves well. If you put a cup of cooking oil into a microwave, it will not heat up or at least not very much compared to water. (Please note that butter will melt in microwave ovens because there is moisture or water in butter. At above freezing temperatures, the water or moisture is liquid and will absorb microwaves. The heated moisture in turn will transfer heat to the butter and melt it. On the other hand, if the butter is frozen, it will not "melt" as fast because the water in the butter is frozen and will not absorb microwave. In general, cold non-frozen butter will melt from inside out but frozen butter will melt from outside in).

    Myth: Microwaving carbonated drinks will take the fizz out of the drink.
    • This is not true. You can heat up a glass of Coca Cola, for example, in a microwave and it is not only still fizzy but should be more fizzy than cold Coca Cola because the hot coca cola will release more carbon dioxide.

    Myth: Microwaving your catheters will melt them.
    • The following article suggests that this is not true. Because rubber or silicone are essentially "transparent" to microwaves, what heats up is moisture on the surface of the catheters, including bacteria. It kills them. In fact, the recommended procedure is 12 minutes at full power of a home microwave oven.
    Urology. 1990 Mar;35(3):219-22. Related Articles, Links

    Microwave: practical cost-effective method for sterilizing urinary catheters in the home.

    Douglas C, Burke B, Kessler DL, Cicmanec JF, Bracken RB.

    Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Ohio.

    We used a standard microwave oven to sterilize red rubber catheters used for intermittent self-catheterization. Catheters were incubated for sixty minutes in a suspension of microorganisms isolated from the urine of patients with urinary tract infections. For each trial, 6 catheters were removed from their respective suspensions, placed in separate plastic freezer bags, distributed evenly in a microwave oven (avoiding cold spots), and microwaved simultaneously for twelve minutes. A control catheter was not microwaved. Two strains of each microorganism were tested. The urinary isolates were Escherichia coli, Klebsiella sp., Proteus sp., Enterobacter sp., Pseudomonas sp., Streptococcus sp., Staphylococcus sp., and Candida sp. In each experiment, all 6 catheters were sterilized. Repeat sterilization in the microwave oven did not affect the integrity of the catheters or the plastic bags. A water heat sink of constant volume was employed. A home microwave oven may be used as a method to sterilize red rubber catheters for reuse with a recommended time of twelve minutes at full power. This technique makes aseptic intermittent self-catheterization a practical possibility.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 09-07-2006 at 07:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    • Use water instead of milk when making scrambled eggs and omelets.

    Definitely false, Cream is best as also indicated on the link.

  3. #3
    Now that I am spending more time in the kitchen, let me debunk a few other "myths" concerning cooking:
    1. Myth: Adding salt to water will cook food faster.
      • While it is true that salt will increase the boiling point of water, it takes about 58 grams of salt (NaCl) per liter of water to raise the temperature by 0.5˚C. Thus, even if you add a handful of salt to your cooking, it will generally not have much effect on the cooking temperature. Besides, any sugar or proteins in the food, milk, or broth will add more osmotic material that will increase the temperature more than a handful of salt would.
    2. Myth: Cooking time of meat should be calculated based solely on the weight of the meat, e.g. 15 minutes per pound.
      • While it is true that cooking time does depend the amount of meat, the more important factor is the shape of the meat and distance to the center of the meat. A thin steak cooks much faster than a thick steak of the same weight. The time required for heat diffusion into the center of the meat is the main determinant of cooking time. Most experienced cooks insist on using a thermometer to determine when the meant is cooked through.
    3. Myth: Sea and other "gourmet" salts are better and tastier than ordinary table salt.
      • While sea salt and other "gourmet" salts (often selling for $15 a pound compared to $0.30 a pound of ordinary table salt) do have some impurities in them, these impurities usually represent much less than 0.1% of the salt. The amount of such impurities in salt added to food, such as calcium and magnesium, for example, is negligible compared to what is contained in the food itself. Once dissolved in food, the size of the salt crystals don't matter. So, don't pay for expensive salt. Buy the good and purest salt, ordinary table salt.
    4. Myth: Potassium substitute for sodium for a "salty" taste.
      • Since sodium has been targetted as a unhealthy substance for people with cardiovascular problems, one often sees soy sauce and salt preparations that contain potassium as a substitute for sodium. Actually, these soy sauces are simply low sodium and the potassium is not a taste substitute for sodium chloride. Potassium doesn't taste "salty" like sodium. Food, particularly meats and cellular fruits, contain a fair amount of potassium, on the order of 100 millimolar (about 4 grams per liter), depending on how much the food has been dehydrated. High concentrations of potassium (>10% solution or 100 grams per liter) can be unpleasant tasting because it simply causes taste cells to depolarize. Potassium can also displace sodium and actually reduce the "saltiness". Dilute solutions of potassium may taste slightly sweet while high concentrations taste bitter. Many sports drinks contain high concentrations of potassium and manufacturers of such drinks struggle to hide the bitter taste of the potassium.
    5. Cooking with vegetable oils is healthier than cooking with animal fats.
      • Vegetable oils contain a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and this has often been said to be less atherogenic (plaques on blood vessels that cause high blood pressure). However, the data suggest the opposite, that cooking with vegetable oils (corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola) are the worst for several reasons. First, some PUFAs can cause more heart and other diseases than cooking with saturated oils. In fact, certain newer "heart-friendly" cooking oils such as sunflower or safflower seed oil (Source) may contain a type of PUFA that are more atherogenic and diabetogenic than saturated fats. Second, vegetable oils are hydrogenated to make them more polyunsaturated, resulting in the production of trans-fatty acids that increase the risk for cancer and heart disease (Source). Third, polyunsaturated oils are more susceptible to being damaged by high cooking temperatures and can produce a variety of undesirable fatty acids. Although many people have claimed that olive oil is the healthiest oil because it is mostly monounsaturated rather than polyunsaturated (Source), this is only true when the olive oil is used without heating. Some people recommend coconut oil for cooking because it is fully saturated and less likely to be damaged by high cooking temperatures (Source).
    6. Myth: Aged beef is more tender and better than fresh beef.
      • Many people may disagree with me on this but I have had steaks in Uruguay and Argentina where the custom is to eat beef within hours after it is slaughtered and the beef is not only tastier but much tenderer. Fresh beef is very tender. After death, beef undergoes a process called rigor mortis over a period of 6-12 hours (rigor mortis develops within 1-6 hours in pork). Over-rapid freezing can also cause "cold shortening" of muscle fibers and increased toughness of the meat. Thus, if beef is rapidly frozen after rigor mortis has set in, the meat is extremely tough. Aging of beef at 35?F for 7-10 days after slaughter allows natural enzymatic breakdown of the meat and does increase the tenderness of the beef but it is still not as tender as really fresh meat. Properly frozen fresh beef that is stretched yields the most tender meat. Studies show that meat tenderness depends on several other factors besides freshness. First, genetics of the cattle accounts for 45% of the tenderness. Second, the age of the animal accounts another 30% of the tenderness, with young animals having the most tender meat while old animals have the toughest meat. Third, different cuts of beef accounts for the remainder of the tenderness quotient. For example, tenderloin is more tender than muscles that are used heavily in locomotion. Of course, overcooking of beef reduces tenderness.
    7. Marbled (streaks of fat) beef is more tender than non-marbled beef.
      • Contrary to public opinion, marbled beef is not necessarily more tender than unmarbled beef (Source). The presence of fat may improve the taste and increase lubrication of the meat when chewed. The main reason why unmarbled beef is often tougher is because such beef cook faster and people tend to overcook such meats.
    8. Salting of beef reduces tenderness.
      • At certain concentrations, salt increases tenderness over several hours. Marinading beef with soy sauce, for example, for several hours will substantially increase the tenderness of beef. Adding some olive oil will reduce oxidation of the beef during the marination. Cutting of the beef (against the grain) into cubes will generally shorten the time period required for penetration of the marinade into the meat. Refridgeration will also preserve the freshness of the beef.
    9. Freezing of beef reduces tenderness.
      • While it is true that over-rapid freezing and rapid thawing of beef will increase its toughness, slower freezing and slow thawing of beef will preserve the tenderness of beef. For example, thawing meat slowly in the refridgerator tends to result in more tender steaks than defrosting the meat in a microwave oven.
    10. Overcooking of beef reduces tenderness.
      • It is well known that well-done steaks are tough. However, prolonged cooking of beef at relatively low temperatures with moist heat or in a soup tenderizes the meat by breaking down collagen and other fibrous proteins in the meat. In fact, one of the best ways to deal with meat cuts with high amounts of connective tissue is to cook the meat by steaming it for an hour or for several hours at low heat in a "slow" pot. producing very tender meat that falls apart in your mouth. Interestingly, prolonged high temperature cooking in a pressure cooker will also result in very tender meat.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 09-09-2006 at 11:43 AM.

  4. #4
    Another Myth: Condiments last a long time in the refrigerator.
    • Lots of people think that condiments last a lot longer than they do. For example, how many people have opened bottles of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip that is over 3 months old in their refrigerator, butter that is over 1.5 months old, vinagrette that is over 2 months old, or marmalade that is over 2 months old? Here is a web site that lists the time that condiments should be kept without going bad.

  5. #5
    Senior Member roshni's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Old Bridge, New Jersey, USA

    Are you determined to debunk all these kitchen and microwave myths?

  6. #6
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Windsor ON Canada
    Your poor wife ... kidding

  7. #7
    Dr. Wise..have you cooked anything yet?
    Interestin debunkin' goin' on.
    Now how does your dinner taste?
    Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Placerville, CA


    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Another Myth: Condiments last a long time in the refrigerator.
    • Lots of people think that condiments last a lot longer than they do. For example, how many people have opened bottles of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip that is over 3 months old in their refrigerator, butter that is over 1.5 months old, vinagrette that is over 2 months old, or marmalade that is over 2 months old? Here is a web site that lists the time that condiments should be kept without going bad.
    Butter's a condiment? Doesn't everyone "peel" the darker stuff off to get at the yummy core?
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Lindox
    Dr. Wise..have you cooked anything yet?
    Interestin debunkin' goin' on.
    Now how does your dinner taste?
    Been cooking and experimenting. It is fun being a hermit in Hong Kong. Actually, I go to a lot of meetings but have been "eating in". Since nobody else has to eat it but me, I can experiment with the food!


  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Juke_spin
    Butter's a condiment? Doesn't everyone "peel" the darker stuff off to get at the yummy core?
    I was wondering how long things will keep in the refrigerator in Hong Kong while I am off on trips into China. I don't want to get food poisoning.


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