Don't bother stirring risotto rice, and other kitchen myths debunked

Three friends in kitchen cooking together
Food scientists debunk popular kitchen myths and hacks Credit: Alamy

Famous cooking tricks and hacks such as soaking an onion to avoid tears or using plastic chopping boards instead of wooden ones make no difference and, in some cases, even increase the risk of food poisoning, according to new research.

New Scientist magazine asked a group of food scientists to investigate 15 kitchen myths to find out whether they had a real merit: science journalist Sam Wong wrote: “It turns out that many top tips make very little difference, while others undermine flavour or even increase the risk of food poisoning.”

According to Dr Matt Hartings, who teaches chemistry of cooking at the American University, and US chef Kenji Lopez-Alt, the trick to getting perfectly creamy risotto isn’t stirring it constantly, as many people believe, but instead simply to wash the rice beforehand. Dr Hartings said: “If you control your ingredients just right from the outset, a no-stir method should give you the creaminess that you’re looking for.”

When it comes to steak, the new research also debunks the myth that you should sear your meat first before cooking: "If you cook identical steaks to the same internal temperature, one that is roasted then seared is often juicier than one that is seared than roasted.

"Higher heat makes the muscle fibres contract more, forcing liquid out. A cold steak takes longer to sear in a hot pan than a steak that has been warmed in the oven."

They added that the key to retaining moisture is to let the meat rest after cooking. This will allow the muscle fibres to cool as they widen, preserving the natural juices.

Cook your meat before searing it Credit: Joern Rynio/PlainPicture

When it comes to Yorkshire puddings, Lopez-Alt dismisses the myth that the pan needs to be screamingly  hot before placing the batter in. In his guide, The Science of the Best Yorkshire Puddings, Lopez-Alt says: "There's no divide on this debate: everybody says you must start with a hot pan in order to get the tallest rise."

"Your puddings will come out slightly higher and better-shaped with a hot tin, but it's not the end of the world if you forget to preheat it."

Other debunked kitchen myths include the idea that peeling and soaking an onion before chopping will stop you from crying, as the chemicals that irritate eyes are only released once an onion is chopped.

Stick your leftovers in the fridge straight away Credit: Alamy

The researchers also challenged the idea that you should wait for your leftovers to cool before putting them in the fridge. Apparently, you should put your leftovers in the fridge right away to stop bacteria from multiplying and, in the case of rice specifically, eat it within a day.

Plastic chopping boards aren't inherently safer than wooden ones, the researchers argued, as E.coli and salmonella will die on wood, but not on plastic - particularly where the board has been cut with a knife.