Prioritizing safety is at the forefront of many people’s minds this holiday season.
I can offer insights on the food safety side, clarifying some cooking myths. Hopefully these help you prioritize safety, prevent foodborne illness, and maybe even learn something along the way.
Myth: Cooking vegetables removes nutrients.
It’s only a significant loss with boiling. To minimize nutrient loss when boiling (especially for vitamin C and B vitamins), use as little water as possible and limit cooking time. Veggies retain the most nutritional value through cooking methods such as steaming, microwaving, and dry-heat methods such as grilling, roasting and stir-frying.
Myth: Pasta and potato water boils faster when salted.
Adding salt makes the water hotter, but it doesn’t make the water come to a boil more quickly. Salt is added to the water for seasoning, not for speed.
Myth: It’s safest to rinse meat prior to cooking.
Recent USDA research indicates that rinsing raw meat or poultry can actually increase the risk for spreading bacteria to the sink, hands and cooking equipment, which can cause foodborne illness.
Myth: Grains cook faster on high heat.
Grains such as rice and quinoa won’t cook faster on high heat, as water needs to simmer in order for the grains to absorb it. High heat can sometimes cause the water to evaporate more quickly, which can result in a grain that is burned and undercooked.
Myth: Fresh eggs peel more easily when hard-boiled.
The Egg Board recommends purchasing and refrigerating eggs 7 to 10 days prior to hard-boiling. This time frame gives eggs a chance to take in air, causing the membrane to separate from the shell and peel more easily.
Myth: Chicken is safe to eat when it’s no longer pink.
According to the USDA recommendation for food safety, chicken is safe to eat only when cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Color sometimes changes from pink to white at a lower temperature, whether you’re cooking the whole bird or in parts. It’s safest to test the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
Myth: Alcohol burns off when cooked.
Cooking will result in some, but not total, loss of alcohol. A study through the USDA Nutrient Data Lab showed that both the temperature at which the food is cooked and the length of cooking time impact the amount of alcohol that remains in food after cooking.
For example, if you simmer a wine-reduction sauce for 15 minutes, it retains 40% alcohol. That percentage decreases to 25% of the alcohol remaining when cooked for 1 hour. A pot roast cooked for more than 2 hours and prepared with 1 cup of burgundy retains significantly less, closer to 5% alcohol after cooking.
Myth: Chile pepper seeds contain the heat.
The white membrane in a chile pepper is where the heat comes from, not the seeds. This area is sometimes referred to as the “pith” or “ribs.” Capsaicin is what gives peppers their kick, and the seeds actually contain little to no capsaicin. It’s through cutting the membrane that the capsaicin comes out and adheres to the outside of the seeds, resulting in them tasting spicy.
Myth: Well-done meat is safer to eat.
There’s a difference between ground red meat and steak in terms of food safety and internal cooking temperature. Eating steak that’s pink is safe if it’s cooked to medium rare (130 degrees). Ground or tenderized meat needs to be well done (cooked to 165 degrees).
This is because E. coli bacteria primarily live on the surface of the meat. In steak, it typically stays on the surface and is destroyed by cooking. When the meat is ground or tenderized, that bacteria is easily transferred to the inside, therefore warranting it to be cooked more thoroughly to prevent foodborne illness.
Myth: It’s always best to add oil to pasta water.
Oil keeps the water from boiling over, but it may also prevent sauce from sticking to the pasta.
Holiday Quinoa Pomegranate Salad
All you need:
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1½ tablespoon finely grated lemon zest \u0009
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup pomegranate arils
1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves chopped and stems discarded
Ground pepper, to taste
All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil. Arrange on a large baking sheet, placing the cut sides down. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, keeping sprouts with the cut side down and without turning, until outer leaves are dark brown and tender. Allow to cool to room temperature on baking sheet.
3. Bring water to a boil and cook quinoa for 12 to 15 minutes, or until done.
4. Cool quinoa for about 10 minutes; transfer to large bowl. Stir in cooled Brussels sprouts, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pomegranate arils and parsley. Season with pepper to taste.
Amanda Moder is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee stores. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.