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super quick kitchen tips
May 23, 2012 7:57 PM   Subscribe

America's Test Kitchen Super Quick Video Tips: "Test Kitchen wisdom distilled into eminently watchable video clips" of no more than a minute or two long, including tips for meat (how to make the most perfect bacon ever - how to quickly defrost meat - how to dry-age steak at home) to coffee (how to make pour-over coffee - how to fake a latte at home) and wine (the fastest way to chill wine) to pizza (flattening dough and baking a perfect thin-crust pizza ) and general kitchen tips (is your knife sharp enough? - do you really need to buy regular olive oil? - how to quickly soften butter and soft cheese). And there's Ask the Test Kitchen quick video tips as well (what's the best way to peel eggs? - how do I store brown sugar?).
posted by flex (72 comments total) 253 users marked this as a favorite

 
Coffee nerds use a funnel with a coffe filter too? I thought I was just cheap.
posted by cmoj at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2012


I'm super excited to delve into these, but before I do, can you let me know if Mr. bowtied Kimball is in these clips, throat-chuckling at his own critical commentary?
posted by mudpuppie at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


They boil the bacon? That's bonkers.
posted by painquale at 8:03 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: boiling bacon, they talk about dried out over-crisp bacon like its a bad thing.
posted by msali at 8:14 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bacon technique is legit. I've done it several times in the past month and it produces bacon that is nicely browned without being burned. Some white solids render out during boiling (not necessarily fat) that ordinarily burn easily.
posted by indubitable at 8:32 PM on May 23, 2012


No more than a minute or two is about my limit for web videos, so I'm glad the tips are distilled to my pathetic attention span.
posted by immlass at 8:47 PM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm definitely going to try the boiling thing with bacon - I always get a chuckle when the processed bacon packages say to just turn the bacon once, as if continually turning and cooking the bacon in it's own fat is some kind of amateurish cop-out.
posted by antonymous at 8:49 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I'm glad the tips are distilled to my pathetic attention span
posted by hippybear at 8:51 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many times does it need to be said ... just cook your bacon in the oven.
posted by ronofthedead at 9:05 PM on May 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


I tried it, too and IMO the bacon tip is a waste of time, producing bacon only marginally better than frying it over low heat. Low heat is the trick, and the way to learn is to cook it once in the nude. You may depend on it, sir! The immediate prospect of hot grease spatter on your unit concentrates the mind.

That'd make for an interesting video, too.
posted by mojohand at 9:08 PM on May 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm a busy person and I don't have a whole minute to learn about cooking, so I collect recipes that can be transmitted in five seconds. Here's my recipe for baked potatoes: throw a bunch of potatoes in a slow cooker. Cook on low for five or six hours.

That's right. The recipe takes five seconds to transmit and six hours to execute, but those are some nice potatoes.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:09 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like rainin' down in an aerial assault of flavor. It's like strafing your goddamn food chops into the savory stone age. It's like turning that shit into a glass parking lot of piquancy.
posted by jake at 9:10 PM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tried the bacon in oven thing, too, and IMO that's another waste of time and clean-up is a big PITA.
posted by mojohand at 9:11 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, that tip for cooling wine quickly is neat.
posted by storybored at 9:13 PM on May 23, 2012


Does it have Bridget discussing the "money shot" with Chris? Because that's my favorite one.
posted by Cocodrillo at 9:33 PM on May 23, 2012


I do like their meatloaf recipe.
posted by graxe at 9:33 PM on May 23, 2012


I've been doing the fake latte with an Aerolatte milk frother for ages, it works pretty well! Aerolattes are also nice for making a quick small batch of whipped cream or meringue without breaking out the hand mixer.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:46 PM on May 23, 2012


Homemade pizza dough gets tossed in the air to shape it. Fin.
posted by weeyin at 9:48 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember reading a NYT article about ATK, where it quoted some Internet commenter out there who said of Chris and Bridget, "they are totally doing it."

I don't think they are, but it's difficult for me to watch Chris and Bridget and not think of that quote.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:52 PM on May 23, 2012


YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT BRIDGET THAT WAY

Also, how are people cooking their bacon that it's unsatisfactory in the first place?
posted by cmoj at 10:00 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh jeez I love Test Kitchen but that meat thawing tip is horrible. That doesn't thaw your meat, it's a sloppy sous-vide. The meat comes out cooked, not thawed.

To thaw meat, completely fill your sink with cold tap water, put your meat in a ziploc and get all the air out, and submerge it in the sink. To get all the air out, you can hold everything but the neck of the ziploc underwater and the water will push the air out. Put something heavy on it, to submerge it deep in the sink.

It is better to thaw meat in a large amount of cold water than to dunk it in a little pot of 140F water for 45 minutes. I guarantee a chicken breast will thaw just fine in 45 minutes of cold water (usually less). As long as the water is above freezing, the chicken will thaw.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:24 PM on May 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't like crisp bacon.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:28 PM on May 23, 2012


Per Alton, the meat thaws even faster submerging it in cold water while a steady slow stream of cold water runs into the container, but it's kind of a big waste of water. Works well in a pinch, but I always feel guilty doing it.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:30 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a busy person and I don't have a whole minute to learn about cooking, so I collect recipes that can be transmitted in five seconds.

Amongst the 3 huge boxes of cookbooks I inherited from my mom, I found a curious little mimeographed booklet entitled "The Amish Cookbook." You would love it. I can remember the first recipe by heart.

Spaghetti

Boil spaghetti until soft. Drain. Add sauce.


Oh I have got to scan that booklet and post it on the web. Most of the recipes aren't quite that simple, there are lots of things like Amish Custard Pie that I grew up on (I had lots of Amish aunties).
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:33 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jason, per my comment 2 above yours, you don't need running water. You just need to submerge it in a large amount of cold water, like a full sink or a huge pot.

I will not bore you with the thermodynamics. As long as the water is cold but well above freezing, it's thawing. A large amount of cold water can transfer a lot of energy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:46 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, I thaw in a big mixing bowl of cold water without using Alton's running water thing, but it does seem to cut down even further on thaw time with the running water. I guess it's the circulation? But yeah, waste of water, not really worth it. The nice thing about using a large amount of cold, still water is that you can just stash it in the fridge, so it's good to cut down on the thaw time of a larger cut of meat without worrying about it warming up to the danger zone.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:58 PM on May 23, 2012


Don't things thaw pretty quickly on an elevated teflon or teflon-esque surface, like an electric griddle? I seem to remember a few years ago elevated thawing surfaces being sold, and learning that I could use my griddle for exactly the same purpose without spending more money.

I happily have a microwave which has its power level controlled by an inverter (rather than by switching the full strength beam on and off) and a really good defrost setting into which I can dial the weight of what I want to be thawed, so I generally use that and have excellent results. (Use the microwave on the right setting, let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, and it's done.)
posted by hippybear at 11:01 PM on May 23, 2012


I love this post. Thanks, oodles.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 11:18 PM on May 23, 2012


Disappointed by the "how to make bacon" link, which isn't about making bacon at all, only cooking bacon that has already been made.

Right now, I've got a pork loin roast curing in maple syrup, juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg & heaps of freshly ground pepper, in addition to lots of salt, of course, and a pinch of curing salt. Later, it'll be cold smoked over charcoal & hickory.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:19 PM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


if you don't wanna spend money on a frother, you can just pour warm milk into an air-tight wide-mouthed jar and shake vigorously for a few moments. pour it into the coffee and you have a perfectly tasty poor-man's au lait. NOT a latte, because that requires espresso.

you can even use a jar or bottle with a smaller opening, though that's a little harder to clean and it can be tricky to get all the froth out. just make sure the container is air-tight - or you'll end up splattering fine drops of warm milk all over your kitchen.
posted by lapolla at 11:25 PM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Other top tips.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:12 AM on May 24, 2012


Don't things thaw pretty quickly on an elevated teflon or teflon-esque surface, like an electric griddle? I seem to remember a few years ago elevated thawing surfaces being sold, and learning that I could use my griddle for exactly the same purpose without spending more money.

I use a large cast iron griddle for quick meat thawing. I thawed a pack of bacon in about 8 minutes the other night.

As for the cooking bacon in water? Tried it, hated it, as it gives the bacon an odd texture. I either bake it in the oven (On a foil lined pan, to help with cleanup) or place cold bacon, in a cold pan (or griddle) then turn the heat on, it stays flatter and renders that fat out. I also place a splatter screen over top of the pan to stop with the flying grease.
posted by SuzySmith at 1:10 AM on May 24, 2012


The "chill wine in 30 minutes in the freezer" thing is ridiculous. That's no faster than an ice-bucket (slower than if you spin the bottle quite forcefully in the bucket every few minutes to push the warmer central wine to the outside), and leaves you at risk of forgetting it and ending up with a delicious but inaccessible wine Popsicle. Just use an ice bucket, geniuses.
posted by howfar at 2:19 AM on May 24, 2012


Tried the bacon in oven thing, too, and IMO that's another waste of time and clean-up is a big PITA.

I don't understand this comment. Did you not cover the baking sheet with tinfoil? If it's the thin tin foil you sometimes have to use a few sheets.

Cover baking sheet in tin foil, slap on the bacon and toss it in the oven, and crank it to 400. While bacon cooks you set the table and make the eggs and toast. When bacon done to preference, put it on some paper towels to blot, crumple up the tin foil and toss, and you're done, cleanup accomplished.
posted by Diablevert at 4:00 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are we sure this isn't a troll account? Boiling bacon. And a weird aversion to using a rolling pin on pizza crust. You want flat? Rolling pins do that. You want plump? Let it rise a bit after rolling and before cooking.
posted by DU at 4:05 AM on May 24, 2012


Cooking bacon in a full-size oven is an enormous waste of energy.

That's why I only cook bacon in the oven when I'm about to use the oven for something else anyway. Like pizza. I put the chopped-to-bits bacon in a cast iron pan (no cover) into the preheating oven while I make the pizza, stirring occasionally. By the time the pizza's ready to go in the bacon's ready to come out and put on top.
posted by DU at 4:08 AM on May 24, 2012


some Internet commenter out there who said of Chris and Bridget, "they are totally doing it."

At the risk of angering cmoj further, wonder if the commenter meant Julia. Because Bridget is clearly Christopher's dominatrix. "♫The more you know!♫"
posted by yerfatma at 4:37 AM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


An even less messy way to do eggs is to cook them in the pressure cooker* (takes much the same amount of time, but provides better separation between shell and egg), then tap each end on the counter to break the shell enough that the tips can be pinched off, and blow** on one end: out pops the egg leaving 80% or so of the shell intact.

Which you then have to crush up to add to the compost, anyway, but hey!

http://www.hippressurecooking.com/2011/04/hip-modernist-soft-medium-and-hard.html - pressure cooking eggs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN2gYHJNT3Y - blowing them.


* Or add baking soda to a normal pan (but with what my WMF cost I try to use it for most things, including occasional headwear).

** Out of sight of any cootyphobes that might be dining; and remember, in this case blow means blow, not suck - this is important.
posted by titus-g at 4:39 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


crumple up the tin foil and toss

You left out the step of pouring the bacon fat into a jar. If you skip this step you have ruined the next six weeks of your life and you should probably cook more bacon.

And I'll be honest, I generally prefer baked bacon, but the only time I do it that way is when I'm hosting a breakfast and need to cook two pounds at a time. Otherwise I just fry it over low heat. Takes a little while, but it's good and not particularly messy.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:01 AM on May 24, 2012


I have always liked ATK. My only criticism is that they don't appear to care about the quality of ingredients as long as the product tastes great. If ATK discovered that stuffing a dozen twinkies into a turkey generates a more yummy stuffing, they would do it, with no remorse. And I am OK with that.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:07 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right now, I've got a pork loin roast curing in maple syrup, juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg & heaps of freshly ground pepper, in addition to lots of salt, of course, and a pinch of curing salt. Later, it'll be cold smoked over charcoal & hickory.

If you lived closer, I would totally be planning to show up unannounced and hungry. That sounds amazing.
posted by Forktine at 5:13 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Masao's Life Kitchen severely prolonged video tips: "Masao's kitchen distills the philisophic ramblings and culinary discovery of an enigmatic man into eminently watchable video clips," including tips for meat (how to make mushrooms taste like bacon, how to defrost and cook a steak at home without a grill), coffee (how to make both pour over coffee and caffe latte at the same time), fruit juice & spirits (how to chill and enjoy grape juice, banana juice), hot dogs (cooking hot dogs and peaches), and general philosophy, (What is the secret of happiness?, What is the truth about Masao?, What is the Nature of Reality?). And there's some Travel With Masao video trips as well (Fireworks in Venice?, Soccer in Italy?).
posted by Algebra at 5:41 AM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm shocked to see any ATK content that's not behind a paywall. Maybe two paywalls.
posted by mr vino at 6:11 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


178 videos? There goes a couple of evenings. Great FPP, BTW!
posted by Harald74 at 6:12 AM on May 24, 2012


I like the way they show you how to totally ruin the milk for your coffee by overheating it just as much as 99% of coffee-shops do (look at that steam pouring off it!). Or how they fail to point out that adding extra-virgin oil to something with a higher smoke-point is pointless because if you're cooking at that temperature all the extra flavour will cook off* and if you're using it for mayonnaise or other dressings, you can just add your mixture from two different bottles and get it mixed to taste.

It occurs to me that these people are kinda full of it.

*Either add a little extra-virgin at the end, or cook with it from the start at a lower temperature; the latter still loses flavour though
posted by howfar at 6:15 AM on May 24, 2012


I think the real secret to baking bacon is to use parchment paper to line the pan, not foil.
posted by hippybear at 6:43 AM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want to see the video clip that documents the prototypical Chris Kimball editor's note: (e.g., driving w/ Labrador retriever in the back of an old pickup to a barn raising with a bunch of volunteer firefighters before they all go pick fresh raspberries to use in their annual pancake dinner).
posted by BobbyVan at 6:51 AM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Per Alton, the meat thaws even faster submerging it in cold water while a steady slow stream of cold water runs into the container, but it's kind of a big waste of water. Works well in a pinch, but I always feel guilty doing it.

The reasons you use running water:

1- It is in keeping with food safety guidelines.
2- The movement adds energy to the system and makes sure the meat is in contact with cool water at all times. In a large, stagnant tub of water, the temperature of the water quickly stratifies and you end up with a mostly frozen lump of meat surrounded by a layer of water that is 32 deg F, which is surrounded by a layer of water that is 33 deg F, and so on. These layers insulate the meat from the warmer water trying to add heat to the frozen meat.
3- A slow steady stream isn't going to use that much more water than filling up a whole sink if you time it out correctly.
posted by gjc at 7:05 AM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


You left out the step of pouring the bacon fat into a jar. If you skip this step you have ruined the next six weeks of your life and you should probably cook more bacon.

I usually fold a bit of tin foil into an envelope, pour it in there and stick it in the fridge. It doesn't last so long that a jar's practical. Plus I do worry that it may go rancid if left out during the hot months.
posted by Diablevert at 7:31 AM on May 24, 2012


It doesn't last so long that a jar's practical

When you make bacon by the kilo it does. Or at least I would hope it would.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2012


The reasons you use running water:

I guess I do have to get into the thermodynamics. The reason you don't need running water is that when food is submerged in a large body of cold water, energy flows continuously from the outermost, warmest water, to the cool water around the food, then into the food. Heat always flows from colder to warmer. It isn't stagnant layers, it's a thermodynamic system that has a continuous energy gradient. I am not going to get into the physics of phase changes of water but that's what it's all about.

The reason you want to do it this way is so it does not get warm enough to let bacteria grow, it stays colder than with running tap water. It stays closer to freezing right up until it thaws.

Let me give you a little phase state physics, it might show you what's happening here. If you have a big glass full of ice, and pour water over it, you have ice water. The ice water is 0 degrees Centigrade, and so is the ice, but they're in different phases, solid and liquid. It takes 1 calorie of energy to raise the temperature of liquid water by 1 degree C. But it takes 80 calories to turn ice into water at 0C. Now the interesting thing here is that in our glass of icewater, which starts out with all the water at 0C, all the water will stay at exactly 0C until the last bit of ice is melted, then it starts to warm to room temperature.

Sort of like this, you want your food to thaw, but not get warm. It is a food safety issue. The whole cut of meat will arrive at 0C unfrozen at the same time, parts of it won't be thawed and exposed to higher temps while other bits are still frozen. This is why you don't leave meat out on a countertop to thaw, you thaw it in the fridge, so it none of the meat gets warm enough to let bacteria grow, while other bits are still cold. All of the meat warms only to 4 degrees C (typical fridge temp). This thawing happens more slowly in a fridge since air is a poor conductor of heat.

That's another reason you don't lay meat on a countertop or an iron skillet or whatever. While metal conducts heat readily, air does not. Your frozen meat is unlikely to have much contact with a heat conducting surface. When an item is submerged in water, all of its surface is in direct contact with a heat conducting medium.

Sorry to get into such detail. My grandfather was a meat inspector and researcher at the USDA and this was one of his research subjects: frozen meat. This isn't just food safety, the entire agricultural economy of meat depends on maintaining the proper temperature from the time it's slaughtered until it's consumed.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Always remember to brine the chicken.
posted by hot_monster at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2012


Re: How to dry-age steak video - dehydrating herbs , at least my herbs, isn't as easy as one may think. Takes quite some time and quite some wind - some of my stuff just got some kind of mold (?) on it..and that's herb. Imagine doing that with MEAT. Mh...not safe I guess.
posted by elpapacito at 9:39 AM on May 24, 2012


Indeed, elpapacito. Given that dry ageing usually takes between two and four weeks, is typically done with half carcasses or whole cuts, and involves final trimming of the outer layer to remove bacterial and fungal growth, I'm not wholly convinced about the efficacy or safety of fridge ageing. I've also heard butchers laughing scornfully at the idea of it (although I suppose they have a vested interest in donning so).
posted by howfar at 9:56 AM on May 24, 2012


*doing so
posted by howfar at 9:56 AM on May 24, 2012


The reason you want to do it this way is so it does not get warm enough to let bacteria grow, it stays colder than with running tap water. It stays closer to freezing right up until it thaws.

Yes, but any blood and bacteria frozen on the surface of the meat (plus any bacteria on your hands and in your sink) are free to diffuse into the water and sit at a higher temp while the meat is thawing. Flowing water reduces the amount of bacteria in contact with the surface of the thawing meat by flushing it away. You're right about the thermodynamics of thawing meat, but clean flowing water makes the process safer.
posted by peeedro at 10:13 AM on May 24, 2012


peeedro, this is all taking place inside an impermeable plastic bag, you're not actually dunking unwrapped meat into water. Clean flowing water won't make this process any safer.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:49 AM on May 24, 2012


It takes 1 calorie of energy to raise the temperature of 1 gram (1 mL) of liquid water by 1 degree C.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2012


The fastest way to chill wine is to submerge it in salty ice water. Try it.
posted by cherrybounce at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks Ubu, constants are meaningless without units.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:20 PM on May 24, 2012


What tipped me off was the fact that the ocean wasn't boiling last time I went to the beach.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason you want to do it this way is so it does not get warm enough to let bacteria grow, it stays colder than with running tap water. It stays closer to freezing right up until it thaws.


charlie don't surf, you haven't explained why half-thawed chicken in still water is warmer than half-thawed chicken in running tap water, as you claim.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:04 AM on May 25, 2012


That's not what I said in that quote, just the opposite. When completely immersed in cold water, the entire mass of meat will stay at 0C up until the point it is completely thawed. The transfer of thermal energy is more efficient when immersed in a large sink full of cold tap water, than it is when you just place it under a running faucet. That doesn't mean it gets warmer, it just means the water in the meat changes phase from frozen to liquid quicker and more evenly.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:52 AM on May 25, 2012


I find that even a tiny trickle of running is sufficient to defrost meat more quickly than leaving it in a big pot of still water. Even just leaving the faucet dripping seems to speed things up significantly without wasting a ton of water.
posted by schmod at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2012


*of running water
posted by schmod at 1:10 PM on May 25, 2012


OK apparently I will have to show experimental proof of this concept. I have two identical 8 ounce vacuum sealed plastic packs of imitation crab in the freezer, ideal for an A/B comparison of running under the faucet vs. immersed in a full sink of water. I can run the two methods simultaneously, I have a stainless steel double sink so I can fill one side and run the tap into the other. I have darkroom thermometers to collect data, and I have a Kodak Siphon that would let me set it in a tray with a controlled flow rate. But I am not going to open the packs to test for full thawing, they're thin enough I can flex them to determine that. I will let you know how it turns out.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:31 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Test in progress. Results soon.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:20 PM on May 25, 2012


Welcome to charlie's Test Kitchen don't surf. Our show tonight is a controlled test of thawing meat in cold water. The question was posed, which is the fastest, safest way to thaw meat in cold water, under running water or submerged in a large sink of water. I assert that the sink method is the fastest.

First our test apparatus. On the right, a sink full of water, probably at least 5 gallons. There are two precooled clamps in the water for use as weights, to keep the test samples underwater (I thought they would float - they didn't). On the left, a shallow Faberware stainless steel saucepan, attached to a Kodak Siphon. The Siphon assures a constant flow rate. The apparatus is set on a large inverted pot, to give the siphon room.

Test conditions: ambient temperature 76.8 degrees, humidity 71% (source: NWS, it just rained). Water temperature 60F. Test samples: two 8oz packs of generic imitation crab meat. The packages were purchased at the same time and I will assume they have almost identical weight, volume, and thermal characteristics.

First, a test run. I placed an ice cube of similar size into the separate vessels. The flowing water melted the ice cube completely before half the cube in the full sink was melted. Interesting. Either my assertion is incorrect, or else liquid water can dissolve solid water readily. I believe it is the latter. We can resolve this by testing the sealed plastic packs, which will not dissolve. I emptied the sink and refilled it (to avoid any thermal effect of the ice cube), reset the siphon, and verified both were at 60 degrees.

I placed each pack into the water and set a timer so I could take records at 5 minute intervals. Here is a photo of the experiment in progress. You can see how the experiment is designed to test the hypothesis of the large basin of thermally conductive water in contact with 100% of the surface, vs a flow of water across the package. I removed the packs from the water only once every 5 minutes, to avoid warming them with my hands, and squeezed them to determine the level of thawing. Here are my notes.

5 min: no detectable thawing. Solid.
10 min: slight superficial melting top and bottom of sink sample. Slight surface thawing on the underside of the flow sample only. Frost had accumulated on the top, it was washed off when re-immersed in the water, the siphon overflowed slightly. No frost accumulated after this point.
15 min: slight thawing top and bottom of both samples but cores still frozen.
20 min: I checked the water temps. The sink was still at 60F. The water coming out of the siphon was slightly lower, about 59.5F. Both samples had solid cores but the sink sample was softer.
25 min: The sink sample was almost completely thawed with only a slightly firm frozen center. The flow sample was icy and I could feel the ice breaking apart when I flexed the pack. I decided to turn the sample over and help it thaw from the other side, since it was obviously not thawing as fast.
30 min: The sink sample was completely thawed and soft, it felt substantially warmer than the other sample and appeared to be rising well above 32F. Under normal cooking conditions, I would have used this sample or put it back in the fridge well before this point. The flow sample had a smaller but still icy core that I could feel fracturing when I flexed it.

I concluded the test at this point and returned the samples to the freezer for possible further testing. My assertion is proven, meat will thaw faster in a sink full of water than it will if placed under running water at the same temperature.

I will now subject this experimental process to peer review. Potential problem: to simulate running the sample under a tap, I could have turned over the flowing water sample repeatedly, but I believe this would not have a substantial effect on the results and it would have been really boring. And I really don't feel like retesting this, it was already boring enough. I wouldn't go to this sort of trouble but people have scoffed at this idea before and I thought I would settle it for once and for all.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


Eff yes this is the best thread. I'm going to be a little bit disappointed when people don't use SCIENCE! to solve thread disputes in future.

I wonder what the optimal ratio of water to meat volume is, I'm sure it can be dialed in through experimentation.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:16 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I wouldn't really characterize this as a dispute, everyone generally thought the Test Kitchen method was bad, so it posed an interesting problem with different possible solutions. Nor would I characterize this experiment as science. It superficially resembles the scientific method, particularly in the sense that the experiment is set up to be repeatable. But the results are qualitative, not quantitative. If this was real science, I'd have a thermocouple measuring core temps over time, with a graph, carefully measured water volume and flow rate, etc. And I designed the experiment to exaggerate the differences in the scenario, but not too much, so at least I could demonstrate the effect.

Anyway, I don't think we need to experiment to determine the amount of water needed to thaw the icy meat. Here's how I understand the thermodynamics, someone correct me if I'm wrong. It takes 1 calorie of energy to raise the temp of 1ml of water by 1 degree C. So if you add 1ml of unfrozen, liquid water at 0C to 1ml of water at 1C, you get 2ml of water at 0.5C. You've added 1 calorie of energy to 2ml of water. Now if we add 1ml of water at 1C to 1ml of ice at 0C, once it reaches equilibrium, you end up with slush containing 1ml of ice and 1ml of water at 0C. You only added 1 calorie of energy, and it takes 80 cal to melt the 1ml of ice.

So the idea is that a huge reservoir of many liters of water at 60C contains a hell of a lot more calories of available energy than the dribble of water coming from the faucet. The samples are labeled 226 grams. So that means it takes 80*226 = 18080 calories to melt the ice (assuming it is all water, which it isn't, but let's keep this simplified). That means 18080 ml of water at 1C, 1808ml of water at 10C etc. Of course that would take a long time to melt at such a low supply of energy. Now the sink which I roughly estimated at 5 gal, that's about 18900 ml. Let's call it 18080ml just to keep things simple. The water temp at I measured at 60F is 15.5C, so I had 15.5 times the needed amount of calories to melt the sample. I filled the pan used in the flowing water test and measured it, it was about 400ml. That only has 6200 calories available at any one time, far less than is necessary to melt the sample. The water is flowing in at 60 and after circulating around the sample, exits at ~59.5, that .5F is equivalent to 0.22C. I'd have to measure the flow rate to determine how much energy is being taken from the water to reduce it 0.22C, but we know every ml of water is losing .22cal. The temp reduction in the big sink is below the resolution of my thermometer, and then it's subject to too many variables like ambient temp and the thermal conductivity of the steel sink. Now that brings up one other possible scenario. Consider a sink full of 60F water, vs a sink full of the same amount of flowing water. The water is always coming in at 60F and gradually replacing the water in the sink, so the water stays at 60F. But the standing water is not replaced, it starts at 60F and would rise in temp as it is exposed to the higher ambient air temp, so it is gaining energy from the air. I should be doing this experiment in sealed, insulated containers.

Now that was science. Someone who is actually knowledgeable at science please check my work.

Anyway, I have a pack of frozen chicken breasts in the fridge thawing now. I'm going to barbecue it tonight. It probably won't be thawed when I am ready to cook. If I used the Test Kitchen's method, I would start barbecuing with half-cooked chicken at ~140F. That would not work, the outside would barely sear before it was cooked all the way through to at least 160F.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I put cookie racks on top of a baking sheet, and lay a layer of bacon on the cookie racks, and cook for about an hour or so at 300, spritz with apple juice to keep moist. You have to rotate if you have hot/cold spots in your oven, or use an oven fan. Perfect every time! cooking time may vary based on thickness of bacon - the thicker the better - and works well with the smoked/peppered/mapled bacon. I didn't say it was easy.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 3:48 PM on May 26, 2012


Thanks, charlie don't surf! Excellent field work.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:34 AM on May 27, 2012


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