Scientific energy saving cooking could save about 60% energy
Posted on June 11th, 2014

Dr Hector Perera     London

Who would like to waste energy? I am sure no one would because energy cost lots of money. The energy is used in many areas but let me talk about energy used for cooking only. Most people use the gas fire on full blast right at the start, thinking the food get cooked faster with high fire. If the foods are cooked on low fire, then only juice in foods such as vegetables and meat come out slowly, ooze out then slowly react and interact with the spices, ingredients or with margarine, oil or butter etc. With fire, the tissues in food such as vegetables and meat slightly expand then allowing the ingredients to slowly penetrate these tissues. While this kind of reactions take place some of the ingredients get absorbed into the tissues thus it gives the food flavour.

Many people just put fire at full blast and cook then likely to burn the whole thing because the liquid evaporates quickly. The juices that come out of vegetables, meat or chicken are not just water but it has a mixture of complicated organic chemicals such as enzymes and vitamins that are very temperature sensitive. Some people are under the impression, higher the fire faster it cooks.

Sometimes I leave the food to cook slowly then do some other work in the kitchen or else go to the computer or watch the TV for a while.

The other thing is if anyone puts high fire, the spices and oil vapours escape quickly and very likely some of it might deposit on the person who cooks. The spices have plenty of different organic chemicals that are very temperature sensitive. You might have experienced what happens when onions are cut, if you didn’t experience of burning eyes and tears dropping, then you are lucky. When they walk about they might smell like a mobile kitchen.

My method helps to cook food better, slowly, saving electricity and gas, have time to do other things and you do not get curry smell or oil smell on the clothes and on the face and hair.

SIRASA TV live cooking demonstration

Fortunately I managed to demonstrate my kind of cooking on a live cooking programme in SIRASA TV in Sri Lanka. This was a day before Vesak day in 2014. There were two presenters and the regular chef as well. I must say the presenters were extremely helpful and well experienced in this kind of work. When I came to the show, I didn’t do anything like what any other chefs would normally do that is to cut onions, chillies, tomatoes or to add any ingredients to cooking thing such as chicken or fish. Right from the start, I explained that my idea was to demonstrate how to cook scientifically and save the wasting gas.

Why these ladies are desperate

I have observed that most of the Sri Lankan ladies open the boiling curries such as chicken, beef and fish then they are likely to get a shower of curry and spicy smell on them. They always forget to add something to the curry they cook so they keep on opening the lid to add this and that then again wait desperately to open it again while it is boiling. Quite often with a long wooden handle, they stir the chicken or fish then keep on tasting the gravy, not just once but several times. I asked them why, then all of them gave exactly the same answer. They say the pieces of chicken or fish at the bottom of the cooking pan are cooked than the pieces on the top so they wanted to turn over by stirring. The answer looks reasonable but they are unaware of the cooking smell and the heat lost at the same time. They assumed that is normal way of cooking. I have witnessed their cooking a few times so I am aware of some of the mistakes they make while cooking.

Would these people understand that cooking involves lots and lots of chemistry, chemical reactions and science? To me all foods are nothing but chemicals such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur combined to form different chemicals.

How many different amino acids?

What chemical elements are in carbohydrates that is in rice, pasta, sweet potatoes etc. Mainly it is nothing but carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur. The outer brown coating of rice has plenty of nutritional value substances but they get rid of them and feed the nutrients to animals and eat just the part that has less food value. These elements are combined quite systematically to form protein molecules as found in eggs, meat or fish. Proteins are polymers of amino acids covalently linked through peptide bonds into a chain. These large biological molecules consisting of one or more chains of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids and the names of a few are glycine, tyrosine and cysteine. Like in Olive may I ask, You want more?”

Is cooking a kind of chemical reaction?

To me cooking means a series of chemical reactions. In the synthesis of organic chemicals some chemicals are reacted together then certain bonds break and new bonds are formed in new compounds. To break the bonds you need to supply heat but once broken more heat is given out. These are the exothermic and endothermic reactions.

I am sure every housewife knows what ingredients are to be added in cooking curries such as chicken, fish, pork or beef. Sometime back we had servants to cook and they have become expert cooks even if they are unable to read and write fluently. They know the mixture of ingredients to be added to different kinds of food so I am not going to list the ingredients to be added to cook chicken because anyone knows. The reason I choose to cook chicken at Sirasa TV show was because there are far too many ingredients are added to them unlike for vegetable curries. I am not going to list them here but let me talk about what is happening while cooking.

Cinnamon and cloves each has 18 different aromatic chemicals which are very sensitive to temperature. I am not going into the other chemicals in other spices or what’s in vegetables and meat because too many to mention over here. The spices and the cooking ingredients have complicated different organic chemicals. They react with the food in many different ways, some absorb some stay on the surface and we call it adsorp for both these terms we call it chemisorption. I am sure some chemical bonds break while new ones are formed due to interactions. It does not take too much heat to break simple chemical bonds then why some people cook in high fire? After a while that results a nice tasty dish.

There are chemical reactions taking place even without the application of too much heat. Take a very simple day to day chemical reaction such as making pickle. You add vinegar, a little sugar, salt and warm with some vegetables such as green chillies, onions and carrots. Remember it’s warmed but not cooked then they are bottled or put in a large clay pot, sealed and left for few days. One cannot forget about the appetizing smell of pickle after a few days due to the formation of an ester called ethyl ethanoate.

Some British TV chefs

Some British TV chefs come and hastily, just add this and that without any chemical knowledge, hardly any qualitative and quantitative idea. I have observed these kinds of cooking specially in British TV cooking programmes. They put too much fire while cooking but those chefs don’t understand that foods are bad conductors of heat that means heat goes through them slowly. Sometimes they purposely set fire to the cooking pan so that the cooking aroma catches fire. The ingredients have highly volatile organic chemicals and they are capable of catching fire but you are not meant to set them on fire but make sure they are absorbed to the food to make it tasty. Who would agree that the food would taste better if the cooking aroma was set on fire? May be the chefs wanted to draw the attention of the viewers than anything else, I am not sure.

Virtually uncooked food

You need to put medium or low heat then only some juices ooze out of the food and other spices absorb in then there is an inter change of juices that ooze out. Some gets in while some get out. Further cooking takes a reasonable time but does not happen just like that like cracking an egg. I have observed that some chefs add far too many ingredients or little ingredients then toss it up and down a couple of times then say, It’s cooked”. Then cut and served to the presenter lady or the gentleman even when they are uncooked. May be presenter must say, Yummy” to the camera even when the food is uncooked or virtually raw and sometimes blood dripping. Sometimes the meat is pink even when it’s cooked. Who says that kind of foods are safe to eat?

Why boiling curries are opened?

I explained some of these things in the live demonstration of SIRASA TV in Sri Lanka. Perhaps you may witness by looking into the video. I didn’t open the cooking chicken pan but set it for a constant boiling condition called thermodynamic equilibrium that means the things inside cooking pan was set to cook in same temperature. When a cooking pan with boiling food is opened, all the chemical vapours that are supposed to be reacted with the food or supposed to be reacted together escape then it is likely to get deposited on the face of that person who cooks.

Who would like to cat walk?

Our so called Sri Lankan ladies open these boiling chicken curries and get a shower of CHICKEN COLOGNE or a SPICY COLOGNE then walk up and down as if they are on CAT WALK but smelling like a MOBILE KITCHEN. Who would like that? My purpose was to give some scientific explanation to cooking and energy saving.

How energy is lost

Energy lost due to radiation was minimised by adjusting the flame. Even with minimum flame, I could get rice and chicken curry into a constant boiling state. You must not open boiling curries, leave it to settle the steam then open if they wanted to mix it. When these curries are boiling these ladies get a high temptation to open so they wait desperately to open, perhaps to get a shower of secret aroma beauty therapy, OK if not why they open them while they are piping hot? If they wanted to mix them, just give a few minutes to settle down then do it. In science we call the molecules have high entropy when it’s boiling and very hot. At that time molecules have higher molecular speeds due to gain of heat that means they have high kinetic energy.

A microscopic interpretation of Gay-Lussac’s law is as the temperature of a gas is increased, the velocity of the molecules is also increased. More molecules hit the sides of the container, each with a greater impulse, so that the pressure increases. If the container has something like rice, cooking curries like chicken or vegetables then they hit on them as well with that speed. That is how they get cooked.

This is one of the ways energy is lost so they put more energy or waste energy.

How many millions eat rice and curries?

I am able to save about 60% energy wasted in cooking certain things only but not baking and grill cooking. How many people in Sri Lanka, India, England, Europe, Australia and America eat pasta, rice, spaghetti then chicken curries and vegetable curries? If I am not mistaken many millions of people eat that kinds of food on daily basis. In that case I am able to show the people how to cook these things with 40% or even less gas and save energy and time as well. How do I know because I practice the technique at home that is I cook that way when time permits? Any comments are welcomed, [email protected]

One Response to “Scientific energy saving cooking could save about 60% energy”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Great article. A good cook knows when to increase and decrease heat in the cooking process. A good curry requires both. I would like to suggest “Wok” cooking too. A “Wok” is bowl shaped and distributes the heat into the ingredients in an even manner. I would suggest Googling Wok and the many uses of this Chinese utensil. It too is an energy saver.

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