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Your kitchen really is your own personal science lab, so here are some science-based cooking tricks to make tastier, healthier, and awesomer meals.

Hosted by: Stefan Chin

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Sources:
Beer Bread
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03266.x
https://www.jamieoliver.com/features/baking-beer-bread/
https://phys.org/news/2014-05-difference-soda-powder.html
Mushroom Tacos
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666316302471
https://scholarworks.umass.edu/masters_theses_2/487/
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1750-3841.13838
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1750-3841.12549
https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/4/921S/4686627
Coconut oil and Chill
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/04/21/does-the-calorie-slashing-method-for-cooking-rice-really-work
https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2015/march/new-low-calorie-rice-could-help-cut-rising-obesity-rates.html
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12143
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/03/25/scientists-have-figured-out-a-simple-way-to-cook-rice-that-dramatically-cuts-the-calories/?utm_term=.f4463d10052b
http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/24/4/620.pdf
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/star.201600203
https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/20003030024
Safe raw cookie dough
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1365-2672.1997.00253.x
https://www.internationalegg.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/James%20-%202002.pdf
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6615a1.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3563394/
Artichoke Sweet water
https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04765
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/178/4064/988
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Breslin/publication/6217748_Visions_Reflections_Minireview/links/0deec51630f149f660000000.pdf
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938416301019
Temperature and Taste
https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/40/6/391/298823
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/glossopharyngeal-nerve
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/chorda-tympani
https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs00018-006-6384-0.pdf
Shortening vs Butter Cookies
http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2010/issue79/
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-017-2942-8
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222534485_Effect_of_fat-type_on_cookie_dough_and_cookie_quality
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This episode of SciShow is sponsored by Wix.

Go to wix.com/go/scishow to learn more. [ ♪ Intro ]. It shouldn’t be a secret that your kitchen is a science lab in disguise.

I mean, there’s flames and acids and metal tools. Just look at a turkey baster, It’s basically an overgrown pipette. And the similarities go even deeper.

You’re using physics every time you boil water, chemistry when you scramble an egg, and behavioral science when choosing whether to eat that last slice of pizza. So today, we’ve got 7 science-based cooking tricks to make tastier, healthier, and if nothing else, awesomer meals. Nothing from the supermarket quite compares to the smell of freshly baked bread right out of the oven.

To get started at home, you’ll need flour, water, sugar, and one familiar microbe that literally does the heavy lifting. A microorganism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as Baker’s yeast, raises that lump of dough into a fluffy cloud of carbs. But if you don’t have a yeast packet handy, you might have something just as useful in your fridge: a beer.

That’s because beer and bread share the same key step: fermentation. During fermentation, yeast consumes sugar, releasing carbon dioxide gas and alcohol as waste products. It’s those bubbles of CO2 that give sliced bread all those divots and ciabatta its shape.

Then, when it’s in the oven, the alcohol is burned off, a step that is definitely skipped for beer. How much yeast remains in beer varies from brew to brew. Most large scale producers filter out as much as possible.

A Belgian or craft beer with visible yeast on the bottom is best for breadmaking, but even then, the beer method provides less yeast, which makes for a denser bread. Fortunately, there are other ways to boost your dough’s fluff factor. For example you can swap the regular flour for self-rising flour, which contains baking powder and salt.

The sodium bicarbonate in those added ingredients reacts with acids in the dough to create additional bubbles of carbon dioxide, so you end up with light, fluffy bread. Next up: Tacos! And I know what you’re thinking. “How could tacos get any better?” But, some clever cooks and food scientists have found a way to make the dish healthier and extra tasty: minced mushrooms.

Now, we’re not talking about getting rid of beef entirely, you want to add just enough mushrooms that you don’t notice a huge difference. A study published in 2017 found that formulas that included up to 45% mushroom by volume hit the sweet spot in terms of texture. Anything more than that and the mixture became too “mushroomy”.

They tested different kinds of mushrooms, too. Unblanched, white button mushrooms cut into 1 to 5 millimeters pieces seemed to blend the most seamlessly in the mix, and allowed them to cut back on the salt content. Plus, taste testers actually preferred the taste of the mushroomy taco mix.

The researchers suggested that might be because mushrooms are full of savory umami flavor. You see, decades of research has shown that umami brings out a food’s salty flavors and increases overall enjoyment. Other work has backed up the flavor-enhancing superpowers of mushrooms as well.

In 2014, research in the Journal of Food Science showed that substituting up to 80% mushroom into a taco meat blend enhanced the overall taste and some specific flavors like garlic and umami. So not only does the science support this as a healthy hack, it’s measurably delicious too! Now, this next hack seems like it has “clickbait” written all over it, but it’s true: by adding coconut oil to your rice and throwing it in the fridge, you can reduce its caloric impact.

But, as usual, reality is a bit more complicated than a clever headline. This idea was first popularized back in 2015 when Sri Lankan researchers published findings from a rice-preparation experiment. The team added 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to a pot of boiling water, threw in half a cup of rice and cooked it for 40 minutes.

Then they refrigerated it for 12 hours before serving. And they reported a useful caloric reduction of about 10% for that specific type of rice, or around 25 fewer calories per cup. But here’s the thing, the calories don’t just disappear.

You see, most of the calories in rice come from strings of sugars called starches. But the oil-and-chill protocol promotes the rearrangement of some of those strings into what are known as resistant starches, ones that are resistant to digestion. And that probably happens two different ways.

The first is that the fats in the oil associate with one of the main caloric starches in the rice: amylose. These amylose-lipid complexes do occur to some extent on their own, but heating the rice with the oil promotes their production. The fats help shield the complexes from the digestive enzymes in your guts, so they pass through your small intestine without being broken down.

Even if you didn’t add the oil, though, the rice would end up with fewer calories if you cooled it for awhile before eating it. You see, going from hotter to cooler temperatures promotes the organization of loose strings of amylose and other starches, like amylopectin, in a process called retrogradation. And as these starches become more ordered, they form hydrogen bonds between the strands.

These tightly-packed starch strings are not broken down in the small intestine like regular starch because those hydrogen bonds prevent digestive enzymes from getting access. And that means that the sugars they contain aren’t metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream right away, more of them make it to your large intestine. And from there, only some of the calories are absorbed.

So more resistant starch ultimately meant fewer usable calories, but it’s still far from calorie-free magic. Now, you’ve probably heard that eating cookie dough isn’t good for you, since there’s a chance that the raw eggs inside might contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella. But food scientists do a few things to try and keep those nasty microorganisms out of our eggs, like vaccinating hens, keeping the protective cuticle layer intact, or storing eggs in the refrigerator to slow microbial growth.

And while the cases of Salmonella in humans are decreasing, there’s a cooking hack that might give you extra peace of mind, at home pasteurization. Pasteurization kills bacteria in foods like milk by gently heating it. But if you heat up an egg too much, you get, just a cooked egg, which probably isn’t what your cookie recipe calls for!

The trick with at-home pasteurization is finding a sweet spot of temperature and time, hot enough to kill the bad bacteria, but not so toasty that you end up with a hard boiled egg. Researchers contaminated eggs with Salmonella and tried to find that Goldilocks Zone in 1997. They found one option is to heat the eggs to 58 degrees Celsius for 50 to 57 and a half minutes, while another is 57 degrees for 65 to 75 minutes.

The proteins in eggs don’t start to cook until about 60 degrees Celsius, so as long as you don’t overshoot your temperature, you should be good. Now those temperatures are easy for your stove to attain, the trick is keeping the water at a steady temperature for an hour. But if you don’t have the patience for that, research in 2002 demonstrated what’s called flash pasteurization.

To try it, drop your egg in 95-degree water for just 10 seconds. Or, you know, you could just bake it into cookies before you eat it. It’s a struggle as old as food: sugar is delicious, but vegetables are good for you.

Fortunately, there is one veggie that can give you the best of both worlds. Artichokes contain certain compounds that modify the tongue to create the perception of sweetness without actual sugar. Experiments have shown that drinking water after tasting two substances found in artichoke, chlorogenic acid and cynarin, can leave a sweet aftertaste in your mouth.

Scientists call this the sweet water phenomenon. Which is weird! We’re not adding a sweetener, we’re removing a flavor from the tongue and then tasting sweetness.

It’s a lot like those optical illusions where you stare intensely at a colored pattern and then see its inverse when you look at a blank wall. It’s a pretty cool trick. And scientists have been studying the sweet water effect for decades.

A 1972 paper in the journal Science tested chlorogenic acid and cynarin on their own and as part of artichoke extract. While all of them elicited the sweet water response, it was the artichoke extract that created the strongest effect. Other aftertastes have been shown to work for different chemicals, too.

One research group noticed that, after reaching a certain concentration, the sweetener saccharin actually starts to taste bitter. But when subjects rinse their mouths after that happens, they experience the same sweet aftertaste. Scientists still don’t totally know why this happens, but one team proposed that the compounds in artichokes and the excessive amount of saccharin actually inhibit the sweet receptors on your tongue.

Then, when they’re washed away with water, your brain perceives the lack of inhibition as sweetness. So if you’re looking for something sweet, biting a little artichoke might do the trick. But it turns out you can alter the flavor of your food without any kind of additive, all you have to do is cool it or heat it up.

That’s because a food’s temperature affects how we taste it, bringing out certain flavors and hiding others. For example, the perception of sweetness increases if food is served a little warmer, like a freshly baked brownie instead of a room temperature Oreo. Although, if the food is super sweet, the influence of temperature doesn’t matter as much, a cold ice cream sundae always tastes sweeter than steamed carrots.

Scientists can detect these trends in a couple of ways. They could create identical meals at different temperatures, bring in some taste-testers and ask them questions, but human food behaviors are complicated. So instead, scientists hook up electrodes in rodents and measure signaling that way.

In particular, they use the chorda tympani and glossopharyngeal nerves that relay messages from the tongue to the brain as the rodents taste each substance. And that gives us insight into how temperature and flavor interact. In addition to sweetening with warmth, you can remove certain bitter flavors by cooling.

Like if you cool down coffee the intensity of caffeine’s bitter taste is reduced. And cooler temperatures make it harder to detect quinine, another bitter flavor found in coffee, which is why iced coffee is so consistently tasty. And coldness can increase saltiness, too.

Salt has two types of receptors, one of which is thought to be activated by cold alone. So literally just cooling down your tongue can leave a salty taste. And the sweet spot for sensitivity to salt, at least in rodents, is around 30 degrees celsius, with anything above 35 degrees tasting much less salty.

And while that exact temperature might be different for humans, the main lesson is the same: you won’t, or you really can’t taste the full amount of salt while your dish is hot, so let it cool down before deciding how much you’re going to add. There’s no shortage of recipes online for like, THE BEST EVER chocolate chip cookies, and most of them call for butter, which makes sense. Slightly melted butter helps spread the cookie out in the oven, leading to a crispier, crunchier texture.

But to get the fluffiest, softest cookies, you might try replacing that butter with shortening, a solid fat made from vegetables. The key is taming a protein you’ve almost certainly heard of: gluten. Wheat flour in particular starts out with a bunch of proteins, including glutenin and gliadin, that form gluten when they encounter water.

And it’s gluten that gives crunchy bread its hardness; softer cakes and baked goods typically have less gluten. Butter is usually about 80% fat, 15% water, and some milk proteins. And that little bit of water helps activate gluten in the flour.

Shortening, on the other hand, is 100% fat and has a higher melting point, so it forms less gluten and makes for a fluffier cookie. In what must be the world’s single greatest job, researchers have done studies on fat usage and cookie quality, with multiple studies confirming that shortening makes for less dense dough than butter. And dough density is one of the biggest predictors of the final result from the oven.

Lower density dough makes for less spread and “superior texture”, because dough that spreads during baking usually makes for one tough cookie. While these cooking hacks might not be the flashiest, most groundbreaking science, they’re useful. And there’s just something satisfying about your science experiment turning out both successful and delicious.

Today we talked about neat cooking tricks that you probably won’t find on your favorite food blog. But if you want to start your own science-based food blog, we wouldn’t complain. And Wix can help.

You see, with Wix, you get the whole package, including a website builder, reliable web hosting, top security, and the best SEO for your website. If you want to build your own site, they have over 500 website templates you can choose from, or do it drag-and-drop style with Wix Editor. Or, you can let Wix Artificial Design Intelligence have a go at it for free, and you can always add advanced functionality to your website with Wix Code afterwards.

And Wix sites are mobile optimized, so they’ll look just as great on your phone as they do on your computer. Wix can help you make sure your new site actually reaches people too, with professional tools that drive traffic, boost engagement and let you see how visitors behave on your site. Over 125 million people worldwide choose Wix to create a website and manage their business online.

And if you want to join them, all you have to do head to wix.com/go/scishow to get started! [ ♪ Outro ].