How to improve your home cooking with the power of science

Picture from Dr Hector Perera London

Cooking is chemistry, and every time you set foot in your kitchen, you walk into a laboratory, packed with high-tech gear and stocked with supplies, made just for you. People say cooking is an art, and that's true, but the science of cooking is easier to grasp and repeat. Understanding it will make you a better cook and help you have a little fun in the process. If you're the type who hates cooking, or just doesn't think you're any good at it, here’s your solution. I honestly feel sorry for the University students who are unaware of simple cooking and spend their money nothing but on unhealthy junk foods. When they see these British TV chef’s cooking they think, cooking is very tedious so they never try to cook. I discovered this scientific energy saving cooking while I was a University student so my work is not spring chicken. Certainly I need to help them as they deserve.

Cooking is Science, So Easy to Study

There are some simple scientific principles you can take with you to the kitchen to improve your food and have a little more fun. In this post, I will walk you through them, and introduce you to a movement that wants to bring the benefits of modern technology, experimentation, and observation into your kitchen. Finally, we'll look at some food hacks that incorporate these methods, and explain why they work so well.

  "Cooking is chemistry and physics, except you get to eat your lab work."

If you're not convinced that science has a place in the kitchen, just look at a recipe. Ingredients and measurements, instructions and written documentation, all designed to lead you to a specific, repeatable outcome that someone else has also perfected. Baking is a bit more precocious, but it's a science in its own right.

If you know how to follow instructions, you can follow a recipe. The key is to pay attention, learn to interpret and understand measurements, and make sure you have the basic tools to help you succeed: Measuring cups or spoons, a timer, a thermometer, and a kitchen scale (when you're ready, you can add a few helpful upgrades). Unlike in the past there are simple gadgets to cut, slice, grate and grind. Back home our “kussi amma” used grinding stones to grind chillies, coriander and all the rest to make curry paste. Now you just walk into a supermarket to find the bottled ones so you just open them to make those curries. Actually to make it better tastier dishes it is better to make them fresh. The bottled ones may be filled with chemicals, additives, colourings and food preservative. That is another reason why I prefer to make them fresh.

Kussi Amma as well applied science in cooking

Don't worry, measurements and recipes don't have to be a crutch, and there's always room for experimentation, but if you're just getting started, want reproducible results, or you're tired of ruining everything you try to cook, stick to the recipe and pay attention. You'll begin to understand how much of what adds which specific flavours to your dishes, and whether you like them or not.

Just imagine in the good old days “kussi amma” used the “Polkatuhanda” for most of the measurements and also used it to check if the rice is cooked by dipping deep into the pot. She applied some science from the start of washing rice. When rice is washed at the start, the water turns somewhat white, that is due to soluble starch. Then she puts the rice into the “nebiliya” then swirled the water so that the dense sand particles sank to the bottom. That is a centrifugal force separated rice from sand. The rough nature of “nebiliya” helps to retain sand while rice get washed into the “koraha”. Those days’ clay pots were to cook rice and curries but they are not good conductors of heat, not a lot one can do those days. Then came Aluminium pots and pans. By cooking acidic and alkaline type of food in them then some Aluminium gets dissolved while cooking. In cooking fish, chicken and even dry fish we add acidic things such as vinegar, tamarind, garcinia Indica or “goraka”. These substances are capable of dissolving the Aluminium metal. Would you think those hotels and restaurants use proper stainless steel pots and pans which are resistant to acidic and alkali substances. I have my doubts. Now the scientists have proved that when Aluminium gets into the system, one might get forgetfulness disease that is Alkazima.

Learn Your Cooking Methods Inside and Out

As with any scientific endeavour, you need to do is break down the language barrier between yourself and your study topic. When it comes to cooking, you'll want to understand cooking methods on their own terms. Learn the differences between dry cooking methods like frying, baking, roasting, broiling, or grilling and wet cooking methods like poaching, boiling, braising, steaming, and stewing.

Studying cooking methods does more than just clear up terminology: By understanding each, you'll also understand how foods and flavours develop under different conditions and temperatures. For example, poaching involves a gentle, stable liquid cooking environment with relatively low temperatures, while sautéing or frying are high temperature techniques (separated largely by how much oil is involved. Sautéing implies a thin film of oil while frying can involve a thick layer or completely submerging food in oil, a la deep frying). Once you're familiar with each, you'll also be familiar with how temperature plays a role in cooking different types of food, and you'll be able to see your desired result and the cooking method to get you there more easily.

Do not burn your food

Many people hate cooking and ruin dishes for no other reason than that they cook at entirely too high temperatures, so don't hesitate to turn it down a bit. A high temperature is a wastage of energy, wastage of money and also it pollutes the atmosphere. If fish, chicken, beef or pork, bacon and sausages get burned on frying then there is possibility of forming cancer causing chemicals called acrylamide and many more related compounds? So one needs to be careful about the temperature in cooking. Also you should make sure there is ventilation in the kitchen while cooking otherwise poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide gathers. This gas is undetectable by smell.

Absorbed heat cooks even later

And it's also important to remember that even after you've removed food from direct heat, it's internal temperature will continue to rise for a short resting period before it begins to come back down. If you're cooking meat that means you should expect the internal temperature of your meats to come up a bit after you've taken them off the heat or out of the frying pan, cooking pan or even from the oven.

My work is not just limited to this kind of writing only. I have experimented for years how to save energy, how to stop smell depositing on you while cooking.

I have helped the general public by live demonstrations in TV

I demonstrated it to the Sustainable Energy Authority in Sri Lanka for their official approval. The Invention Commission in Sri Lanka added my work to their official web site. The day I went to Sirasa TV for live cooking demonstration, I didn’t have the certificate awarded by the Energy Authority to show it to the public even though the method had been approved by the Sustainable Energy Authority officials. Even the Sirasa TV programme presenters accepted that I didn’t use too much energy in cooking rice and chicken curry.  Sameera and Juliana, the two presenters, both kept the hands very close to the cooking vessels to prove that there is very little heat is felt on the hands that means my methods cuts down excess radiation energy. That day even a famous chef called Duminda was there in the show making herb toast. Once the cooking vessels attains the thermodynamic equilibrium condition, I can reduce the flame to save around 60% or slightly more energy. This has to be properly demonstrated again for the benefit of general public. I have challenged any energy saving experts in England, yes in England to come forward either to approve or disprove my scientific energy saving cooking technique, so far didn’t get any response. Some might think the public in England have money to burn and they don’t care about energy wastage in cooking. Take my word there are so many people in England in struggling to pay the gas and electricity bills. I made it very clear in cooking things such rice, pasta, spaghetti, chicken, beef, fish curries or even vegetable curries one can save around 60% energy. Who would not accept that it is a reasonable amount of saving energy? Your comments are welcomed This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr Hector Perera


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