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food and kitchen science

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Kitchen Science Myths and Techniques
Why kitchen science?
Can you salvage an over-salted dish by dumping in a raw potato? Nope. But with a condom, ...
In a hurry to cool down a bottle of wine or beer? Does freezing the bottle, swaddled in a moist towel, speed up or slow down the cooling process? And more importantly, can a dry towel protect you from hypothermia?
Are there simple "rules of thumb" to predict cooking time? Or does interpolation rule in the kitchen?
Is steaming faster than baking? And even faster than boiling? The carrot knows.
Is peeking while cooking merely a bad habit, or does it rob valuable heat from the meat?
Barbecue and Grilling

All things Brining:

  • Wet brine or Dry Brine? The choice depends on the cooking time and temperature.
  • And how long should you brine? Visualizing the answer depends on measuring fish pee....
  • Why add sugar to brines? Again, the answer depends on urinalysis and caramel candy.
  • A java calculator to determine the right mix of salt and water for every brining need.
  • How to make a simple, reliable salt brine based on Archimedes's Principle.
  • Should you worry about the nitrite in cured meats- hype or science? And when it is time to wet cure, here is convenient calculator
  • Salt brines are an inexpensive way to tenderize and moisturize a tough cut of meat. But do they work as advertised?
  • Using common dyes to determine if flavor can successfully be injected or marinated. Which is hardly ever.
  • Vacuum marination sucks. And not in a good way.
Smoke rings are a badge of honor among barbecuers, but how and why these rings form are lost in a cloud of mystery. The "Smoke Ring Atlas" is your guide to the chemistry and shape of the ring, smoke flavor, the role of humidity, the choice of wood, coal, electric or gas fuels, and everything in-between:
If you like to barbecue and always wondered why the meat's internal temperature stalls midway through smoking, the answer requires an experiment smoking wet sponges and a ball of fat...
Bark carries most of the flavor in smoked meat. How does it form? The solution is found in a can of paint...
Does silver skin block smoke rings?
Why does wrapping in foil (the Texas Crutch) tenderize meat, and what can, and will go wrong? Again and again...
Should you smoke brisket fat cap UP or DOWN? Risking death threats in the name of kitchen science.
Speaking of fat, why isn't some kind of latent-heat-fat-melting an alternate explanation for the stall? And how come all the fat doesn't simply drain out of the meat before it's finished cooking?
I want beer can chicken to work. Really. But then reality slips in...
The best burger starts by leaving out most of the salt..
How to sous-vide, with nothing more than a cooler or dutch oven.
The most uniformly cooked steak starts warm, and ends flipped.
Spraying water while barbecuing is a common sense way to add moisture. Or is it?
When you grill above an open fire, how far away do you have to move the food to lower the cooking temperature? To discover the surprising answer, we don't need any math, just a modern LCD TV and an old camera light meter.
Food continues to cook, even when removed from the grill. Will this "carry-over" upend a perfectly prepared meal?
Do bones or fat slow down or speed up cooking? And just where should you insert the thermometer?
Do beer brats taste like beer, or does the casing exclude flavor?
Should you rest meat after cooking, or just slice and dice right off the grill?
Everyone probably has their favorite grill or smoker. Here is one I'd like to build someday- by controlling temperature separately from the fire and humidity, you can have the best of all worlds- the Janus Smoker
Baking and Cooking
In praise of the braise- baking in a foil pocket traps juices and speeds up cooking- but exactly what is going on inside? Is it a steam sauna, a low simmer, or just moist heat?
Why are microwave ovens so tricky to use, and difficult to heat food uniformly?
A roast is rare in the center and overcooked on the edges- how computer simulations reveal the hidden story inside your oven.
Does impaling a potato on a metal spike speed up cooking? Or just annoy the spud?
Salt preserves food and kills microbes. So when should you add salt to dough to avoid damaging yeast? Whenever your prefer...
What is the best non-stick surface ? And why is a piranha etch the best way to prepare cast iron for seasoning?
Salt and an exposed electric heating element are the secret to great bagels. But understanding the science of gluten hydration is a good first step.
Baking stones help develop a crisp crust. But will their thermal mass also improve oven temperature control?
Simulations plus experiments reveal the secret life of baking cookies - and why you can't trust your oven dial, even on the convection setting...
And why the color of your baking dish is often as important as the oven temperature.

Humidity plays a key role in cooking.

  • In the first of a series, I explain why a humid kitchen oven is a better way to cook.
  • A combi-oven is designed to add humidity to heat- it's the future of baking.
  • You may think your oven or smoker is humid, but in reality it may be dry as a bone. Even if you spritz, add a water pan, or toss in ice cubes.
  • Does a humid oven cook faster? Or a convection oven?
  • Does humidity affect the weight of flour, and thus explain why your freshly baked bread is too dry? Or is this yet another casual myth?
Replacing water with vodka in a pastry shell results in a flaky crisp dough- which curiously stalls during cooking just like barbecued meat. What is the connection to BBQ and hard water?
Pizza dough also stalls, but the perfect crust depends more on heating rates than evaporative cooling.
Frezzing turns lettuce to green goo. But what should you do if your fridge's control circuits plunge lettuce below zero, every time you refill the produce drawer? If you are Jenn-Air, blame the customer.
How to react when your kitchen comes with a tile mosaic behind the stove instead of a smooth backsplash-- turn lemons into lemonade.
Pressure cookers- its not the higher temperatures that speed up cooking.
How to dry age steaks at home, using parts from an old Dell Computer and a broken AT&T cordless phone.
Pastrami, from dry rub to rye bread in only four days. Life changing, life affirming....
Great wings are a matter of great grilling technique, with a little bit of kitchen science thrown in to keep things simple.
Most commercial bagels are simply "rolls with holes". Try this recipe if you prefer the real deal.
Two novel, but effective and flavorful smoked pork tenderloin recipes.
Danish Rye bread. No-knead recipe, and doneness is simply a matter of a quick weight measurement. A more reliable indicator than temperature.
Two approaches to cooking Turkey- one brined, one not; one smoked, one oven roasted; one whole bird, one deconstructed.
(Articles are occasionally updated and expanded for clarity and accuracy)




Contact Greg Blonder by email here - Modified Genuine Ideas, LLC.