Like anything that has developed over thousands of years, kitchen lore is a mixed bag. Handed-down wisdom can be a valuable tool or a pointless formality. Here are six popular food myths tested and mostly busted.
Milk first, then the tea
The tortured question was put to rest in 2003 by Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry. MIF (milk in first) creates a cup of tea that is smoother and richer. The chemical explanation involves the degradation of milk proteins. If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation to occur. This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk, says the chemical report. There are additional cultural and historical factors fuelling the MIF/MIL debate, but ultimately it comes down to a question of taste.
Wash chicken before cooking it
Plenty of recipe books call for chicken to be washed before cooking. But rinsing in plain water does nothing, according to the US Department of Agriculture, except help spread bacteria across the kitchen sink, counter and yourself, raising your chances of food poisoning.
White chocolate is chocolate
White chocolate is actually a pale impostor, because it contains no cocoa solids, only cocoa butter (and sometimes in very small quantities - cheap versions rely on vegetable oil). Due to the lack of cocoa solids, white chocolate does not contain the antioxidant or stimulant properties of ‘real’ chocolate.
Keep bread in the fridge
Refrigerating does not make everything last longer. Bread goes stale at around six times the speed when kept in the cool box, as it speeds up the process known as retro-gradation, in which water separates from the starch and the starch begins to re-harden. Toasting stale bread temporarily reverses the process. You should store bread at room temperature, in a bread-bin or wrapped in a tea towel inside a paper bag.
Store an apple with potatoes to stop them sprouting
An old wives' tale advised that an apple kept inside a bag of potatoes would stop the green shoots appearing, but it turns out the opposite is true - the ethylene gas released by the ripening apple will promote the sprouting, not hinder it.