During cooking many chemical reactions occur and you need to control these reactions by controlling the heat supplied to cooking.
Posted on August 16th, 2016

Dr Hector Perera       London

During the week days then on weekends there are cooking programmes in British TV. I was thinking they are there to educate the public about different kinds of cooking from different countries. Sometimes there are chefs from many different countries displaying their kinds of cooking skills. Most of the time they cooked chicken, beef and lamb. Sometimes the so called chefs just rubbed some whole spices on the surface of the meat then grilled or put into the oven for cooking. When spices are ground into powder form or into fine pieces, it helps to adsorp then absorb into the meat or fish. Those chefs give no time for the ingredients to absorb or to marinate. I think it is not quite right. I can remember our Kussi ammas” in back home ground the spices on mirisgala” then mixed them on fish or meat to marinate before cooking. Then acidify by adding coconut vinegar to speed up the reaction. How did they know these chemical reactions? During that time the some of the ingredients gradually get absorbed into the fish or meat. Even though they hardly have any education, they know the cooking by sheer years of experience. Unlike in England they do not have internet to refer to recipes from different types of cooking.

These British TV chefs, sometimes pan fry thick pieces of steak just for few minutes, toss it up in the air, turn it around a couple of times then say, It is cooked”. While they toss it up and down sometimes the vapours or fumes from the food catch fire or sometimes they purposely let them catch fire. May be they are under the impression that fire would attract the public’s eye. When the so called meat was cut to eat, you will see still red uncooked nature of the meat and sometimes virtually even blood dripping meat. May be some people like to eat raw meat but in health point of view they are not safe as there are still bacteria and germs are still living there.

Germs in chicken

In chicken along how many dangerous bacteria are found? Campylobacter bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 Britons a year – and are to blame for more cases than E.colisalmonella and listeria put together.

Here’s a list of some of the bacteria that are associated with poultry products, Salmonella Enteritidis may be found in the intestinal tracts of livestock, poultry, dogs, cats and other warm-blooded animals. This strain is only one of about 2,000 kinds of Salmonella bacteria; it is often associated with poultry and shell eggs. Staphylococcus aureus can be carried on human hands, in nasal passages, or in throats. The bacteria are found in foods made by hand and improperly refrigerated, such as chicken salad. Campylobacter jejune is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in humans. Preventing cross- contamination and using proper cooking methods reduces infection by this bacterium. Listeria monocytogenes was recognized as causing human foodborne illness in 1981. It is destroyed by cooking, but a cooked product can be contaminated by poor personal hygiene. Observe “keep refrigerated” and “use-by” dates on labels.

While they cook or fry, loads of fumes are given out and sometimes it mists the TV studio for few minutes. Quite recently, in one of the Saturday morning cooking programme, the presenter had to keep on washing his eyes as the fumes irritated his eyes. In the meantime, the chef also must have got showered with cooking aroma but he continued to cook that way to complete the task. Sometimes the cooking aroma catches fire as there was excess fire used while cooking. That is not the safe way to cook. They are not setting an example for the audience.

Excess heat lost by radiation

Most TV chefs are unaware of the science applied to cooking, they just cook without any care. Most of the times the cookers are left unattended with full fire or left something to cook on full fire. Energy is lost three ways, conduction, convection and radiation. It is always better to use proper suitable vessels for cooking. If I were to use, I always use thick bottomed stainless steel cooking pans than cooking pans with thin stainless steel bases or Aluminium pans. The thicker bases retain heat for a longer time as it has a high thermal capacity. Any excess fire or heat is lost as radiation energy because the pan cannot retain any further heat as it has exceeded the thermal capacity. That is why I mentioned those so called chefs must have some understanding about the science that applies to cooking. In that way our good kussi ammas” are better chefs than some British TV chefs, what do you say?

 Food materials are not good conductors

Any food including fish, beef or chicken are slow conductors of heat and we have to understand this simple principle while cooking. Any heat absorbed to the bottom of the cooking pan due to conductivity slowly get transferred due to convection to any food inside the cooking pan. As food are slow conductors of heat any excess heat just helps to evaporate any liquid as quickly as possible other than to help the food to get cooked. When liquid escapes or evaporates quickly the temperature gradually rises then only the food tends to get burn. Naturally when water is lost before rice get cooked one makes Dankuda” in cooking rice. That may be the reason why some Sri Lankan ladies check the water content and add some water while cooking. What one must do is to make use of the water to cook the food than allowing to escape without cooking food. One of the methods is to allow the water to recycle than allowing to escape while cooking. When people use excess fire, water escapes as steam as soon as possible than cooking the food then the food can get burn as there was not enough water to cook the food. Scientifically when water is absent automatically temperature rises by burning the food. I wonder if the British TV chefs understand this simple principle.

Sri Lankan ladies are very careful in cooking

Most people use high temperature in cooking rice and other things. Our Sri Lankan ladies try to be careful not to burn rice to form Dankuda” and they check water by dipping a long handled wooden spoon called Polkatu handa”.

High temperature cooking is not suitable

There are disadvantages in health point of view not to use high temperature in cooking and frying. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when meat, including beef, pork, fish, muscle or poultry, are cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame. In laboratory experiments, HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic that is, they cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.

HCAs are formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle) react at high temperatures. Over 90% of the creatine in the human body is found in muscle. Bodybuilders consider creatine a necessity for getting results. Creatine monohydrate is the most cost-effective dietary supplement in terms of muscle mass and strength gains. Creatine can help support protein synthesis, which helps muscles grow. Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. This is achieved by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate. One important point is try not let the fire control your cooking all the time but you need to control the fire in cooking. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

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