Like old wives’ tales, cooking myths have been around for ages and tend to make people sticklers for how they prepare their food. They tend to pass down this information to other generations and word gets around.

You can probably hear your grandmother or mother telling you to salt the water before you cook. Most of us have heard that one, but do you know why we’re told to do it? The list below delves into some kitchen advice and cooking wisdom that can be put to bed.

  1. Don’t Salt Beans While Cooking

    This myth asserts that salting will make the beans tough. What really happens is that sodium softens beans skins, leaving them wholly intact and able to absorb more seasoning.

  2. Washing Mushrooms Reduces Flavor

    I don’t know about you, but I ain’t eatin’ dirty mushrooms. There’s a myth that mushrooms are porous, water will get absorbed, ruining their texture and flavor. Some cooks clean them with by brushing or wiping, some peel, and others forgo cleaning.

    According to Harold McGee’s Curious Cook book experiment, a 5-minute soak resulted in about 1/16 of absorption and no change in flavor. So go ahead and give them a quick rinse!

  3. Alcohol Evaporates as You Cook

    It’s true that some alcohol cooks down, but not all of it gets vaporized. Truthfully, it would take three hours or so for it to completely evaporate from your dish.

  4. Oil Should Be Added to Pasta Water

    Oil does not make pasta less sticky when boiling it as it actually separates from the water during cooking. Pasta aficionados cite that it can prevent sauce from clinging to your pasta as well. Salt the water, boil and stir the pasta, and if you want, toss with oil afterwards to keep your noodles separate.

  5. Searing Meat Makes it Juicier

    Nope. You only enhance flavor while you sear due to caramelization and the Maillard reaction, but moisture is actually lost when searing at high temps. To help meat retain moisture, cook at a lower temperature and allow it to rest for a few minutes after cooking.

  6. It’s Better to Flip Meat Once

    Letting your steaks sit on the grill for minutes before doing one magic flip halfway through cooking? You don’t have to. Flipping multiple times helps meat to cook faster and more evenly. You may not get grill lines, but you’ll cut down on your cooking time.

  7. Salt Makes Watermelon Sweeter

    Okay, so the watermelon itself won’t get any sweeter, but it tastes sweeter due to your taste buds getting an extra jolt and making you salivate. The combo of salt and watermelon water make the little sensors in your tongue experience sweetness intensified.

  8. Salting Water Makes it Boil Faster

    This is from chemistry class: salt raises water’s boiling point. However, it doesn’t make it boil any faster. Instead, salt helps to flavor what you’re cooking in the water.

  9. Don’t Soap Cast Iron Skillets

    It’s true that in order to maintain your precious skillet that you should not soak it, but washing it with a little soap and water to remove grease is fine. You won’t damage the pan or its seasoning. For extra grimy pans, use kosher salt as a scouring agent and wipe it with a paper towel. Rinse, and dry with a towel.

  10. Lobsters Scream in Boiling Water

    You’ve all heard that sound when you plop a living lobster into a vat of boiling water. As a kid, it scared the bejeezus out of me. That high-pitched tone that makes some of you feel slightly guilty is steam escaping through its shell. Sleep better now.

  11. Rinse Your Pasta After Cooking

    Why do that? Some believe that the method works like blanching, but it only removes starches that add flavor to your dish. Rinse if you need cold pasta or for a quick warm-up for drained (but sitting) pasta.

  12. Leaving Pits in Avocados Keeps them from Browning

    Untrue. A pit will not stop your avocado or guacamole from oxidizing, but wrapping it tightly in plastic can help. Squeezing some citrus like lime or lemon onto it can slow down the enzyme that causes browning, but eventually, if left uneaten, it will happen.

  13. Milk in Your Eggs is like PB & J

    Many people have been adding milk or cream to their eggs for ages as a texture enhancer. Milk does help to stretch out scrambled eggs, but adding it also makes them thinner, risking the chance of overcooking them. If it’s a flavor booster you’re looking for, trying something like soy sauce!

Which of these cooking practices have you believed to be gospel? Are you surprised by any of these revelations?


Serious Eats
Live Science