A Tasty T-Day Turkey Riddle. Please solve this for me.

Brining your turkey violates a basic law of science. Help me out with this. 

To explain what I mean, we’ll have to do the “Tasty T-Day Turkey Test”. But first, let’s establish what we know.

Fact #1, in “science-speak”: 

  1. Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a partially permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.
  2. A Science-to-English Translation:
  3. Osmosis is an example of what happens when nature equalizes things out. Check out this classic picture on the left. 
  4. The left-hand “U” is filled with salt water, and separated by a little membrane at the bottom. But the left side is saltier than its right side (the amount of salt is represented by the little red dots). 
  5. Osmosis makes the salt on the left side balance with the right side by going across the membrane in that direction (see how the dots equalize on the right side?). It also makes water on the right side travel to the left side by moving in THAT direction (see that there is more water on the left U?). 
  6. Because of this basic law of science, the “Final State” happens when the concentration of the salt water is the same on both sides.  
  7. Fact #2: Brining your turkey makes the most amazingly juicy turkey you’ve ever had! It’s amazing, but Fact #2 also seems to violate Fact #1!
  8. To brine a bird, just dissolve about 1 cup of salt per gallon of water. That’s some salty water — it isn’t called BRINE for nothing!

  9. So let’s just test whether this whole osmosis theory holds water. 
  10. In theory, like in the little tube-tutorial above, the concentration of salt is higher in the water than it is in the turkey meat (by a lot). Thus, the salt should leave the water bath and enter the turkey. At the same time, the water should leave the turkey and enter the bath.  
  11. IF that were true …
  12. THEN …
  13. you would end up with a turkey that is dryer and saltier.
  14. However, what you get when you brine the bird is moister meat that isn’t salty at all! 
  15. I HAVE to share this with you. In a brilliant book called “What Einstein told his cook”, Dr. Robert Wolke explains brining like this. When talking about the mechanism of osmosis and diffusion during brining he states, “There, by a mechanism that still isn’t completely understood, it increases the protein’s ability to hold water. The result is a seasoned, moister piece of meat.
  16. By a mechanism that still isn’t completely understood! That’s hilarious. In other words, it happens, but we have no idea why it happens. 
  17. I wonder if some of my brilliant science friends can help me out here. And, now that we have destroyed your faith in science forever, be sure to brine your turkey this Thanksgiving, and share it with your wonderful family this holiday season!
  18. Follow @willclower

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

101 Fast Recipes for Grilling

Let the Flames Begin!!

Mark Bittman is awesome. This article from the NYTimes today carries 101 of his quick recipes for Grilling.

I have Mr. Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything” cookbook. I find the recipes easy, sane (with no whacko ingredients that you buy and use for that one specific recipe), and tasty too — bonus!!
If you’re not a griller, now is a good time to start. It’s beautiful outside, it’s easy to do, and now you have some easy recipes to flirt with!!
If you are a griller, like me, there are so many variations and new ideas in here for you to try. Bon Appetit!!

Cooking method key to potatoes’ potassium level

Last Updated: 2008-06-13 13:00:31 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Cubing your potatoes before boiling them can cut down on cooking time, but it will also shortchange you on potassium, a new study demonstrates.

Potassium is an important mineral that helps regulate the heartbeat, conduct nerve impulses and contract muscles. Most adults need 4,000 to 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day — with potatoes, tomatoes and bananas among the major sources.

In the new study, Drs. Paul Bethke and Shelley Jansky of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that cubing or shredding potatoes, then boiling them, drained the vegetable of much of its potassium.

This is important not only for the average consumer looking to get enough of the mineral, the researchers say, but also for people with kidney impairment, who generally have to limit their potassium intake.

The kidneys normally flush excess potassium from the blood so it cannot accumulate to toxic levels. People with kidney disease can risk serious side effects — like weakness, numbness or even heart attack — if they take in too much potassium.

Bethke and Jansky evaluated a few different potato preparations. In one test, they “leached” cubed potatoes by soaking them in water for hours; this tactic is often recommended to kidney patients as a way to drain potassium from potatoes before cooking them.

However, the researchers found that leaching did little to lower the tubers’ potassium content, regardless of the potato variety they used.

In contrast, boiling alone reduced cubed potatoes’ potassium levels by half, and lowered potassium in shredded potatoes by 75 percent.

The findings, according to Bethke and Jansky, suggest that simply boiling cubed or shredded potatoes is enough for kidney patients to reduce the potassium content.

“The data presented here show that it is not necessary to complicate the process by leaching tuber slices before boiling them,” the researchers write.

On the other hand, healthy people would do well to opt for a different cooking method, Bethke and Jansky say. They note that boiling potatoes whole, rather than cut, reduces the potassium content by a much smaller percentage.

Similarly, baking, roasting and microwaving all seem to have minimal effects on potatoes’ potassium content.

SOURCE: Journal of Food Science, June/July 2008.