Kitchen science: Unexplained cooking phenomena

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One of my favorite longstanding cooking mysteries was why it’s so hard to snap a dry spaghetti noodle into just two pieces. It was a physics problem that even Richard Feynman couldn’t solve. Supposedly some French scientists finally cracked that puzzle in 2005, but I still think it’s some kind of cursed magic.


I remember this one. Iirc it has to do with the vibrations of the noodle as it’s snapping, causing nonlinear interactions that break the noodle into several pieces instead of just two.

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Some others:

  • The best way to consistently cook crispy bacon. A search will reveal many articles that don’t agree with each other or are inconclusive: oven, stove top, or microwave.
  • Mpemba effect: why hot water placed in a freezer will freeze faster than cold water. Still unexplained.
  • Ice spike: this one is pretty well understood, but it’s still really weird. You can do it in your own freezer with an ice cube tray and distilled water.

Cast iron. It is the way.

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Why would anyone want to ruin bacon by frying it until crispy?


For the Maillard reaction. Crispy bacon is tastier. This is known.


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J. Kenji Lopez-Alt researched this, too. His conclusion: nothing works consistently to make hard boiled eggs easier to peel, so stop worrying about it. Also, in that linked video, the woman tests “the ice bath” method. The purpose of plunging hard boiled eggs into an ice bath is not to make them easier to peel. It’s to immediately stop the cooking process so you get a consistent doneness on your eggs. It also helps prevent that ugly green ring forming around the yolk. It’s true that it won’t make your eggs easier to peel, but you should still do it.


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Pretty sure that Jo Brand would be on my side of the bacon divide, actually


Maybe chalk up another kitchen mystery; what constitutes “undercooked” bacon?


My personal theory - and I have nothing to back it up other than me just wondering why and guessing:

The extra heat means the water is more “plastic” and allows the molecules to arrange itself into a solid form faster.

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Interesting. Let’s dissect this:

Eating undercooked pork cannot directly give a person cysticercosis.


Recording the case in the American Journal of Case Reports, doctors wrote that it “can only be speculated” the man’s cysticercosis was transmitted through autoinfection after “improper handwashing”.

Given his “predilection for undercooked pork”, doctors surmised he contracted the tapeworm from his “eating habits”.

So because Americans are repulsed by raw bacon the doctors were so icked out by the man eating cured meat that their theory is “he did that one icky thing, I’m sure he does other icky things”

I eat raw bacon all the time when cooking it. It’s cured meat after all.

If you could get tapeworms from “underdone” (i.e. not ruined) bacon, the entire island of Britain would have succumbed to them long ago.


I cannot eat the bacon or eggs if pancake syrup touches them.

The bacon tho? Must be crisp and brittle. And plentiful.


Why does a grilled cheese taste better when cut diagonally?


Why can nobody else load the dishwasher properly?

Why can’t anyone else empty it?

What is this a legendary food “anything” that they will all eat? Whatever I serve seems to disappoint at least one of them…

So many mysteries for one little kitchen in my house. So many.


Not so sure about curing as far as ending Taenia infestations, but any factory farmed pork is going to be safe. The life cycle of the tapeworm requires the pig to ingest eggs contaminated with human feces that are infectious. Not likely to happen in most farmed pork. Developing world? Different story entirely.


CDC take on curing:

The best way to prevent trichinellosis is to cook meat to safe temperaturesexternal icon. A food thermometer should be used to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat. Do not sample meat until it is cooked.
In addition:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling raw meat.
  • Curing (salting), drying, smoking, or microwaving meat alone does not consistently kill infective worms; homemade jerky and sausage were the cause of many cases of trichinellosis reported to CDC in recent years.
  • Freeze pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5°F (-15°C) to kill any worms.
  • Freezing wild game meats, unlike freezing pork products, may not effectively kill all worms because some worm species that infect wild game animals are freeze-resistant.
  • Clean meat grinders thoroughly after each use.

CDC - Trichinellosis - Prevention & Control%20to%20kill%20any%20worms.)


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