British Columbia

5 cooking myths busted by professional chef

While being interview on North by Northwest, professional chef and cooking teacher Claire Tansey cuts through the fat — debunking some of the most common kitchen myths.

It can sometimes be hard to separate culinary fact from fiction; we can help

Cooking teacher Claire Tansey says there are so many myths surrounding food preparation that people are being led astray. (Damian Siwiaszczyk/flickr)

Speaking on North by Northwest, Chef Claire Tansey illuminated host Sheryl MacKay about some of the top cooking myths that she felt needed to be busted:

1. Cooking steak on the barbecue

Tansey observed that many cooks watching over their steaks on a barbecue allows great flames to lick away at the meat.

She said the practice burns off precious fat that is important for flavour.

Also she said it just burns the steak, adding harmful carcinogens that are unsafe to eat.

Tansey instead throws a cast iron skillet on the grill, cooks the steak in that, and eliminates both problems.

Tansey says you can split the heat on your grill, using the hot side to burn lines on the steak, and then moving the cut to the cooler side to finish cooking. (Maggio7/Flickr)

2. Adding oil to a boiling pot of pasta

When cooking pasta, many people pour oil in the water in an attempt to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Chef Tansey was quick to bust that myth as well, saying it does little other than waste oil.

Instead she prefers to add more water. As the pasta cooks it expands, she explained, and the starch is what's sticking together.

She said using a bigger pot with more water will keep your pasta flowing freely.

Chef Tansey says any oil you add to the boiling pot will just end up down the drain — don't waste it! (Vassilis/flickr )

3. Sharp kitchen knives are unsafe

Recounting past experiences while teaching cooking classes Tansey said many of her students are often intimidated by sharp knives for fear of cutting themselves.

She said on the contrary a dull knife is far more dangerous.

"If the knife is dull, it's more likely to just sort of slip off the edge of the onion and cut your hand. For that reason, sharp knives actually prevent cuts," said Tansey, who sharpens her knife every time she cooks.

She also stressed to never put your knives in the dishwasher.

No need to fear a sharp knife in the kitchen — Tansey says two quick strokes on a sharpening stone will keep your knives in great shape. (CBC)

4. Plastic cutting boards are safer than wood

False, says Tansey.

Citing scientific experiments, she said wood cutting boards are harder and cleaner than plastic ones. The cuts in the board left behind by chopping and slicing are where the germs live, and those cuts happen much easier with plastic.

Tansey said to never fear cutting meat on a wooden board.

5. Rinsing your chicken before cooking

"If there's anything on the exterior of your chicken that needs to be washed off with water, well it's probably going to be burnt off or grilled off when you're cooking that chicken," explained Tansey.

She said even more importantly is the hygienic problem of water splashing all over while rinsing.

The water is contaminated with uncooked chicken which then can spray onto your clothes, clean dishes, or other food.

Tansey says rinsing raw chicken is a health hazard. (snowpea&bokchoi/flickr)

No matter what you cook or how you cook it, Tansey said to add salt. She said any home cooked meal can have salt added to it to enrich the flavour.

She cautioned those who fear high blood pressure and sodium to stay away from processed and packaged foods instead.

With files from CBC's North by Northwest