Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Food Science Freakonomics

The Freakonomics Radio episode was a fun listen this month.  Stephen Dubner interviewed a few food scientists about some counterintuitive findings (which is Freakonomics content tilt, in case you were wondering).  

Many of you probably don’t listen to the podcast, but I know you all eat. So here are a few takeaways:

  1. Adding salt early helps the dish retain water. Adding it at the end does not. So if you like soft scrambled eggs, add it to the mixture before cooking.  If you prefer them dry, add them after cooking. Same thing with other foods too.
  2. But if you add the salt to something you will drain, they it takes out water. So add it before cooking. You can do this when cooking eggplant or zucchini to keep them from getting soggy.
  3. Using vodka instead of water on your fried chicken to help get the breading to stick is good beyond the flavor. Since alcohol evaporates so fast, it will make the chicken more crispy.
  4. Another trick to get your fried chicken to get more crispy is to trim it in a way that maximizes the surface area. That allows more water to escape.  But for steaks that you want to keep juicy, minimize the surface area. This would mean cylindrical (or even spherical if you can figure that out).
  5. You probably already know that iceberg lettuce has so little nutrition it shouldn’t even be called a vegetable. The scientist said that it isn’t even worth rabbit food (literally).
  6. Similarly, one scientist cited a study that tracked people over the long term to see if eating an apple a day really keeps the doctor away. It turns out that if you add a Golden Delicious apple without replacing anything else, the added sugar does more harm than the minimally added vitamins and fiber do good. So you are better off skipping it.  But if you replace the cheesecake, that is another story.  Other high glycemic foods that aren’t worth the extra sugar are white corn, white potatoes, iceberg lettuce and a few others.
  7. I know some of you will love this part: Honey Crisp are the best (tied with Granny Smith) as the best store bought breeds of apples nutritionally.
  8. The best leaves are the red ones (radicchio), followed by dark green (spinach), and then light green (iceberg).