I was poking around the internet, as one does, when I ran across an article entitled “Nine Ways You’re Cooking Pasta Wrong.” That seemed like a lot of ways to mess up a dish that’s often prepared by broke bachelors, so I was intrigued.
That led me to an article entitled “You Are Making Scrambled Eggs All Wrong.” If anything, scrambled eggs take even less talent than pasta, so I was fully hooked.
I’m a pretty talented cook. I don’t mean to brag, but I regularly make food out of ingredients that I bought from the store, all by myself. So I dived into all these ridiculous tips. The advice I found fell into one of three categories:
- Solutions to mistakes that no one ever makes
- Solutions to mistakes that make no difference
- Absolute fucking lunacy
Let’s get into it.
1. Not Preheating Your Pan
Whether you’re cooking eggs on the stovetop or making roasted vegetables in the oven, starting with a hot pan is crucial
Ok, a few things. First of all, no one preheats the pan in which they roast vegetables in the oven. You preheat the oven, you chop the vegetables into the pan, and then you put the pan in the oven. How the fuck are you supposed to preheat a roasting pan and then take that 400 degree pan out and do anything with it? This is bad advice.
Secondly, basically no one does this. No matter what you’re cooking, everyone knows that you turn the heat on and then put the food in once the pan is hot.
Thirdly, this is not a universal tip. You know what cooks better if you start in a cold pan? Bacon. Swear to god. Put the bacon in the pan so it doesn’t overlap, put it on the stove, then turn the heat on to medium-low and let it warm up. Low and slow, baby. You’re welcome.
2. Cooking Food While It’s Still Frozen
While it may seem like cooking food from its frozen state will save you time, all it will really do is make your meals mushy.
Again, who the fuck is actually doing this? The most inept slob in the world isn’t throwing a rock-hard chicken thigh in a frying pan and hoping for the best. This is not useful advice.
Secondly, again, this is not universal advice. Have you heard of sous vide cooking? It’s where you put food in a hot water bath until the inside has come to the temperature you want, then you sear the outside. It’s also the secret to the best meat you’ve ever had. Want to know how restaurants are able to fire you a perfect steak in ten minutes after you order? This is how.
Point is, you can throw stuff in the sous vide straight from the freezer, which is a godsend. Better food with less effort. Get on my level.
3. Cooking Bacon on the Stove
Bacon is among the most delicious of all foods, but the cooking process is messy and often painful
“Messy and often painful” is a phrase that should be applied to anal sex or motorcycle repair, not cooking bacon. Want to know how to cook bacon? Here you go.
- Put the bacon in the pan so it doesn’t overlap
- Put the pan on the stove
- Turn the heat on medium-low, like a four out of ten
- Wait until it’s done
That’s the whole process. If you keep the heat low, it won’t splatter, so it won’t be messy. And you can avoid the painful part by not leaning shirtless over the pan, you goddamn savage.
You know what isn’t a good way to cook bacon? In the oven. I’ve been seeing this advice for years and I’ve tried it a bunch of times and it’s objectively worse. It takes forever, it’s not as crispy, and you get to completely saturate a baking sheet and cooling rack with bacon grease, which are much harder to clean than a normal frying pan. Don’t do it.
4. Grabbing a Colander
If you’re draining your pasta in a colander in the sink, you’re losing all the cooking water—and that water is an important ingredient for a great dish.
Bullshit. Pasta water is occasionally used in making a sauce to go with your pasta, because it’s starchy and makes for a really smooth sauce. But to say that it’s an important ingredient for a great dish is just shenanigans.
Here are some of the most popular pasta dishes in Italy:
- Spaghetti alla puttanesca
- Tortellini in brodo
- Spaghetti aglio e olio
- Sugo all’Amatriciana
- Cacio e pepe
- Spaghetti alle vongole
- Lasagna alla Bolognese
- Pasta carbonara
- Tagliatelle al ragu alla Bolognese
You know how many of these use pasta water? Two. It’s not a big deal. The article says “you can remove pasta from the pot with tongs for long shapes or a spider or large slotted spoon for small ones,” which is fucking dumb. If your recipe needs pasta water, use a measuring cup to get some out and set it aside. Then drain your pasta like a normal person.
5. Boiling Eggs
Sure you could just boil up some water, throw in a few eggs and hope for the best, but to make the best boiled eggs possible, stick to some easy guidelines.
Who are these authors talking to? What are these bizarre hypotheticals? “Are you hurling raw chicken at an open flame from a great distance? Here’s what you’re doing wrong.” No one is just chucking eggs in water and praying for a successful dish.
Here’s a counter-intuitive tip though: if you’re boiling your hard-boiled eggs, you’re doing it wrong. The secret is steaming. Put some water in a pot with a steaming basket or pasta strainer, but not deep enough that it comes up to the level of the strainer.
When the water boils, take it off the heat and lay all the eggs in the strainer, then put it back on the heat for fifteen minutes. When they’re done, put the eggs in a bowl of ice water so they don’t overcook.
On occasion, some of the eggs will crack and blow up, and that’s just one of the risks you’ll have to run. But the rest of the time, you get perfect hard-boiled eggs. Clean peel and all.
6. Not Boiling Eggs
Experimentation taught him that eggs wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan if you add them to a mini-whirlpool of simmering water.
Yeah, you heard that right. Boil your scrambled eggs. And this isn’t just the ramblings of some rando on the internet, it’s the brainchild of James Beard and Michelin star winner Daniel Patterson. Apparently some famous chefs are also insane.
The backstory is that he used to make scrambled eggs in the pan like a normal person, but then his wife became concerned about the hormone-disrupting effects of Teflon. Effects, by the way, that have no scientific backing. The American Cancer Society has said that “there are no proven risks to humans from using cookware coated with Teflon (or other non-stick surfaces),” and there are no studies indicating otherwise.
Anyway, rather than just making his eggs in a stainless steel pan or a cast iron pan or an anodized aluminum pan or a ceramic-coated pan or any other non-Teflon option, Patterson decided to make them as follows (according to the article I found):
- Boil at least 4 inches of water in a pan with a few pinches of salt.
- Beat 4 eggs in a bowl.
- When the water boils, stir it into a whirlpool and pour the beaten eggs into the middle.
- Cover for 20 seconds.
- Strain the eggs through a strainer until all the water comes out, then serve.
In the interest of science, I tried this method this morning, and would you like to know how it turned out? Wet. I boiled the water, poured the eggs in, waited 20 seconds, and then poured them in a strainer. The water didn’t drain, because the eggs filled all the little holes in the strainer.
So I got in there with a spoon, scraping the inside of the strainer so that the water would come out for a few minutes. I folded the eggs around and scraped the bottom until water stopped dripping out of the strainer, then put them on a plate.
They were still wet. I put them on toast and they got the toast wet. They’re gross. If you like scrambled eggs, but wish they were the same texture as tapioca pudding, these will be great for you.
If you like normal scrambled eggs instead, make them in a fucking frying pan. Scrambled eggs are basically the easiest thing in the world to make. Put a pan on a medium-high heat source and wait until it’s hot enough. You can tell it’s hot enough when you drip a little water in the pan and it sputters and jumps around.
Then pour beaten eggs into the pan and stir them around until they look done. You’ll be able to tell they’re done because they’ll look like the other scrambled eggs you’ve had. If you like gooey eggs, stir them around until they’re gooey. If you like them drier, keep going. That’s literally as complicated as it has to be.
Anyone Can Cook
Yes, I stole that from Ratatouille, which is a criminally underrated Pixar movie. But the point is that cooking is an art form and, like any other art form, it’s subjective.
If you want to drain your pasta over the sink, go nuts. If you want to toss a frozen chicken breast in a cold pan, that’s your right as an American. You’ll almost certainly have a terrible meal and get salmonella, but you’ll learn to do it differently.
Want to see what I mean? Go look up “how to make the perfect steak.” There are an infinite number of options. Bake it first, then sear it. Sous vide it, then sear it. Put it on the grill with a lot of rock salt. Put it in a pan and baste it with a buttload of salted butter.
My point is that cooking is experimentation. Try shit out and see what happens. And if you see an article telling you you’re making toast wrong (I found two of those and one about how you’re buttering it wrong), feel free to ignore them.