We don't expect all of our readers to know everything about cooking. At least some of our readers probably aren't expert chefs (though, yes, we assume that most are). It's OK if everyone doesn't know how to properly prepare a blowfish, or how to pair the right wine with the right dinner. You're not a master chef by any means, but you still know a few basic food truths, right?
Well guess what: You're wrong about those, too.
The sandwich is, without question, the best thing ever discovered by man (suck it, penicillin!), and bread is the most dedicated soldier in the sandwich's army. Bread makes it possible for loose meats and stray condiments to transcend their differences, to come together and celebrate their tastiness in an organized and mutually beneficial fashion. It brings order to your fridge; without the bread's stern but fair confines, what would keep your deli meats in line? Or your peanut butter and jelly? You'd have to just eat a spoonful of peanut butter and then desperately chase it with a shot of jelly. You'd be pounding fistfuls of various meats into your maw and chugging Grey Poupon just to feel something. Bread fixes all that and keeps your food safe and easily transportable. It's like an edible envelope that mails food letters straight to your mouth.
Time for FedEx overnight.
That's why coming home to a loaf of stale bread is absolutely the single worst thing in life (suck it, AIDS!). You've got your meats, your cheeses, your oils and vinegars, but the bread is hard and brittle and utterly incapable of inspiring order in anything. It's dry. You must not have sealed the bag, or maybe you left the bread out on the counter in the sun, thereby robbing it of all of its sweet, precious moisture. Surely that's what happened, right?
Wrong. When your loaf becomes stale, it's not because it's dried out; the opposite is actually true. When bread gets too much moisture, the starches in the bread start to crystallize, making the bread tough and crumbly. Maybe you know some people who store bread in their refrigerator to prevent it from going stale. Those people are not your friends. Low temperatures actually help to speed up the crystallization process, like baguette Viagra.
It's too late for this loaf. Just look away now. Look away.
OK, you can't make a sandwich because all of your bread is stale, so you've decided to make a nice lobster (often called "the sandwich of the sea") instead. There are so many ways to cook a lobster, but because you're still furious that the universe robbed you of your bread, you need to take your anger out on something. You've been told your whole life that lobsters scream when you boil them, so that's what you'll do. You need to boil a small sea creature alive just to hear it scream. That's you. (In this hypothetical, you are a sociopath.)
Be honest. Half of you are cackling right now.
Except it isn't screaming. That sound you hear is actually steam escaping the lobster's shell. When you toss a lobster into a pot of boiling water, steam builds up in the recesses of its shell and it has nowhere to go but out, much like a tea kettle. A delicious, expensive tea kettle.
Not only is it not screaming, your lobster isn't even all that pissed off at you, because its nervous system isn't very complex, so it's feeling little to no pain. So now you can't get a sandwich AND you can't even satisfy yourself with the tortured screams of a defenseless creature. What a sad day for you (you lunatic).
Now this is just a useless pot of untortured meat.
Sometimes you just have to take a look at your life and say, "Steak, steak steak steak, steak, it's time for steak, steak steak, it's steak time." You've got a big steak and an even bigger appetite. But you don't want to just broil the steak or eat it raw. That sonofabitching steak has been marinating for 48 hours; you need to preserve those juices, you want to be able to jab a straw into that steak and drink those juices straight up. And how do you do that? Well, because you're cultured, you know that searing is the best way to preserve juices, a tip you learned in one of Auguste Escoffier's cookbooks. Escoffier was one of the most famous chefs of all time (once called "the king of chefs and the chef of kings"), and he swore by searing. His cookbook is still used today, but not as a cookbook -- as a damned textbook in the school of cooking. He must know a thing or two, so if he says searing preserves juices, you are going to fire up the grill and slap the meat right down on it as hard as you motherfucking can. Those juices will be yours.
Somebody should bottle that shit into a soda.
Or maybe you can't cook at all. Maybe you went out to a restaurant to have someone else sear something for you, a nice tuna or swordfish, or perhaps some seared chicken nuggets, if the restaurant is particularly fancy. You don't care what you eat, as long as it's juicy, and that means you need some searing going on.
Not by a long shot. Searing meat doesn't do a goddamn thing to keep juices inside. When you sear your steak, you're actually creating a tougher crust on the outside of the cut, which just makes the inside seem juicier by comparison. That great chef Auguste Escoffier whose work is still used as a reference today? He's not just wrong, he's dead wrong. (Also? Dead.)
"I'll haunt your food! French toast? More like French ghost! I'm so lonely."
Meanwhile, the totally alive renowned chef and food scientist (?) Alton Brown did an experiment testing the myth, and he found that searing meat causes it to lose more moisture than meat that hasn't been seared. So the next time you want your steak to be juicy, don't get rough with it. Show it some love and cook it ever so gently.
Alton Brown, serious scientist.
Penne with vodka sauce. Chicken Marsala. Rum cake. They're all delicious and they're all made even more exciting thanks to their loose associations with alcohol. Sure, you'll never get drunk while eating something that has vodka sauce on it, because all of the actual alcohol gets cooked off, but you still appreciate that, at some point, alcohol was involved, even though it's gone now.
Now all we need is a Coca-Cola cake.
It is gone, right? Surely the alcohol has been cooked off or evaporated away or ... something. We need an answer on this, people, we let children eat penne with vodka. We're not feeding our children alcohol noodles, are we?
Yep! Depending on the method of cooking, the heat and the time the food is left sitting, up to 85 percent of the alcohol can remain. Even if the alcohol is put into boiling water, it can still retain its intoxicating qualities. For alcohol to completely cook out of food, it needs to be cooked for upward of three hours. Go ahead and look online and through every cookbook available; you will not find a single recipe for vodka sauce, Marsala wine sauce or rum cake that suggests you cook for three freaking hours. Unless you cook your beer-battered onion rings for three cool hours, you'll be ever so slightly on your way to a nice buzz.
Warning: Whiskey-battered cheese ball vomit is caustic enough to melt linoleum.
If you want an alcohol-free pasta dinner for 7 o'clock, that's totally fine. Just make sure you start cooking at 4.
You're hungry as all hell, but still a little bit hungover from last night's penne, so you're just not feeling up to cooking. You decide that you're going to pop some leftovers into the microwave. After you press the "Start" button, you remember something you've heard a million times: Cooking your food in a microwave destroys all the precious nutrients that that food has. So, now you're going to lose all the vitamins and minerals in your leftover lobster sandwich and pizza rolls thanks to that goddamn nuclear box, right?
"Time to turn this into cardboard!"
Wrong. Cooking in a microwave doesn't start a war on nutrients any more than cooking on the stovetop or in your oven does. In fact, microwave cooking helps to preserve nutrients more than other methods of cooking.
Because microwave cooking often consists of less heat and shorter cooking times than more conventional cooking methods, it actually does the least amount of damage when it comes to nutrients.
Above: The most damage.
So, while cooking in your microwave probably won't cook everything in the way that you want it, it will keep those Hot Pockets nice and, uh ... healthy.