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Don't be fooled by these kitchen wives' tales; find out which are true or false.

Hayley Sugg
June 01, 2017

We've all grown up hearing cooking advice, everywhere from our parents to culinary television shows. But sometimes, little habits or techniques that are deemed 'tried and true' by an entire generation end up being just food myths. Find out which ones you need to follow, from washing your chicken to salting your pasta water, and which ones are just myths.

Boiling water freezes faster

Verdict: True

As much as it sounds like a contradiction, water that is boiling does actually freeze faster. Known as the Mpemba effect, named for the Tanzanian student who discovered it, it's the observation that warm liquids freeze more quickly than cool ones. While physicists are still grappling with a solid explanation on why this effect is true, there are several plausible theories currently being considered.

You need to wash raw chicken

Verdict: False

While your mother might have told you that washing chicken is necessary, it's really not. Washing chicken, whether whole or in pieces, increases the likelihood of spreading bacteria through cross contamination. The key to kitchen safety with chicken is handling it as little as possible. Though if you're still uncomfortable with the thought of not washing your chicken, you can wash it and keep your kitchen safe with these simple tips: Make sure your sink is empty of sponges or other dishes, keep your faucet's flow low to avoid splashing contaminated water onto the countertop or floor, and keep a pan or container nearby to transfer the chicken to (and therefore avoid dripping on surfaces). 

Adding salt to water makes it boil faster

Verdict: True

If you've ever watched cooking on television, you've most likely seen chefs pouring a handful of salt into water for boiling pasta. You'll hear reasons for this technique, ranging from it boiling the water faster to the salt adding essential flavor for the pasta. Technically, salt does raise the boiling point of water, but only by one or two degrees. While this difference is essential for very precise cooking situations, it doesn't make a huge change when cooking pasta. In fact, if you're looking to keep sodium low, salting your pasta water may be sabotaging your efforts. Even though pasta only absorbs around three percent of the salt, that's still nearly a day's worth of sodium if you've added 1/4 cup of salt to your pot. Instead, opt to boil your pasta in plain water (don't forget to save that liquid gold), and stick instead to salting your sauce and the final dish.

Mustard helps cure cramps

Verdict: True

Your favorite sandwich spread might be the key to avoiding cramps. Eating just a small dab of yellow mustard, roughly one or two teaspoons, can begin relieving painful muscle cramps in mere moments. Although this food anomaly is in the same boat as the Mpemba effect, in that there is no solid evidence of why it works, there are theories as to why mustard (along with pickle juice and hot peppers) affects muscle spasms. One Nobel prize winning scientist believes it has to do with nerves. Misfiring nerves are often the cause of muscle cramps, so when a strong tasting food like mustard or pickle juice is consumed it stimulates your mouth and throat nerves, distracting your body from the misfiring nerves.

Start boiling potatoes in cold water or they'll become starchy

Verdict: False

Although it is the preferred technique for another reason, placing potatoes in cold water for boiling will not prevent them from becoming starchy. A dense and relatively slow cooking vegetable, potatoes need to begin boiling in cold water so they can cook evenly. If you start the spuds in a rapid boil, you risk coming out with unevenly cooked potato pieces. But this is not a cure all, if you over cook your potatoes, even if you started with cold water, you'll still end up with a mushy mess in the end.