10 Popular Food Hacks That Are Actually Totally False

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Cooking is full of advice that we've picked up from everyone from our grandmothers to Gordon Ramsay: Don't store bread in the fridge. Salted water boils faster. Honey never expires.
But not every accepted bit of wisdom is true. In fact, one of the facts above is 100% not true. Before you get mad about this game of Two Truths And A Lie you never asked to play, read on. We've gathered some of the most pervasive kitchen myths in one place to stop the misinformation once and for all. We promise we're not just here to burst your bubble — once you know the real truth behind these common myths, you'll be a better cook, too.
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So read on and see how many of these you believed.
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The Myth: You Can Tell If Eggs Are Bad By Putting Them In Water

There are versions of this floating around (pun intended) all over the internet. The thinking goes that, since the air pocket grows as eggs are older, seeing how much one floats (or sinks) is a quick way to tell if its good or bad. The ones that sink are fresher, and the ones that float should be tossed out or used for baking.

A truly bad egg, however, doesn't need a float test. If its bad enough to not eat, you'll be able to tell just by looking at it. Marianne H. Gravely, a Senior Technical Information Specialist at the U.S. Department, explained to Refinery29 that eggs thats simply float but otherwise look normal won't make you sick. In fact, eggs with bigger air pockets are better for hard boiling since it also makes them easier to peel.

The Takeaway: If you want a really fresh egg for poaching, you can try the float test, but don't just toss out eggs because they bob to the top.
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The Myth: Adding Salt To Water Makes It Boil Faster

Salt decreases the boiling point of water because... science? Almost everyone we know, from chefs to the parents that taught us to cook, start out by adding salt to a pot of water when its put on heat.

But not only does salt not actually make water boil faster, it actually does the opposite. Salt increases the boiling temperature of water. It's called "boiling point elevation," and it happens when something is dissolved in a pure solvent, not just with salt and water. The reverse, called "freezing point depression" also occurs.

The Takeaway: Adding salt to water has benefits, like adding flavor to pasta water. Just add it after the water is already at a boil, not before.
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The Myth: Throw Spaghetti On The Wall (Or Ceiling) To Test For Doneness

The source of this myth isn't clear, though it is pervasive. Basically, something about spaghetti that's just soft enough to eat also allows it to adhere to walls and ceilings. While cooked spaghetti can, indeed, stick to ceilings (we tried it enough in our youth to terrify adults who let us near the stove), it's not a good test for actual doneness. After all, pasta can be soft on the outside (thus rendering it sticky) and still hard on the inside. Overdone pasta, that's too mushy all the way through, will also stick to the wall.

The Takeaway: Throwing spaghetti at a wall might be fun — but it's not a meaningful test of anything. You'll need to actually taste-test the pasta to know if it's ready to drain and eat.
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The Myth: Hanging Bananas Keeps Then From Ripening Too Fast

There are several techniques for supposedly keeping bananas from ripening: hanging them, storing them separately, and even covering the tops to avoid air circulation. But as tests have proven, there's no significant change in how quickly or slowly bananas ripen.

The Takeaway: A banana hanger is great for storage if you like how it looks, but if you're simply looking to keep them from going brown, a bowl is fine.
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The Myth: Espresso Has The Most Caffeine

Perhaps because of espresso's bracing flavor it's often assumed that it has the most caffeine out of the various types of caffeine. A favorite drink of exhausted undergrads, the Red Eye, is even designed around this notion: add a shot of espresso to your coffee and super-charge it. But it's the length of time the water is exposed to the coffee grounds, not strength of flavor, that determines how much caffeine a drink has. Espresso actually has less than drip coffee, and cold brew has the most.

However, as Christopher Hendon, an assistant professor of chemistry, explained to Refinery29, if espresso's rich taste is what gets you going in the morning, there's no reason to switch your morning drink up just because you now know you're not maximizing your caffeine input. Perception of a drink's strength can be just as important as objective caffeine levels.

The Takeaway: Espresso actually has the least caffeine of most common coffee drinks, but don't change your coffee order if it's working fine for you.
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The Myth: MSG Causes Headaches (And Will Make You Hungrier Sooner)

This pervasive myth actually has roots in a since-debunked scientific research. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a type of sodium salt found naturally in many foods but was first extracted from kelp and identified as the source of the flavor "umami." Chefs all over the world have been adding umami-rich foods to their recipes for years (like Parmesan in Italian food or fish sauce in many Asian recipes). But, the New England Journal of Medicine began to speculate that MSG was the source of headaches, pain, and even heart palpitations. While there is some speculation that a fungus in rice might have been to blame, many modern-day researchers simply chalk up the fear of MSG, mostly found in Asian cooking, to xenophobia. Despite countless studies proving it to be safe, fear of MSG still persists.

The Takeaway: MSG is already in many of the foods you eat, and considered "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA when used as an additive.
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The Myth: White Wine Goes With White Meat, Red Wine Goes With Red Meat

When it comes to matching food and wine, it can feel like playing a matching game in the dark. One general rule of thumb, however, holds that white wine goes well with white meat, vegetables, and fish, whereas red wine is better with beef and pork. But plenty of red wines can go with white meat and visa-versa. Lighter reds, like Pinot Noir, can match great with lighter, more delicate flavors, and there are bolder white wines (like orange wine) can stand up to heavier flavors.

But really, you should just drink what you like. If you would rather be drinking a white wine with your steak, do it. If you do need a guiding principal, here's an easier one to remember: when in doubt, go with bubbles. Sparkling wines, which are almost always white, are the most food-friendly options available.

The Takeaway: Drink what you like, and, when in doubt, grab a bottle of Prosecco for a cheap, bubbly bottle that pairs with nearly everything.
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The Myth: Spoiled Food In The Fridge Can Make You Sick

Is there anything scarier than milk one day past its expiration date? While no one relishes the taste of food past its prime, however, you rarely have much to fear past the bad flavor it will leave in your mouth. That's typically characterized as food spoilage, and the kinds of microorganisms that contribute to that rarely can make you sick. The kinds of bacteria that cause food poisoning grow at room temperature and can't be detected.

The good news is that taking a bite of leftovers past their prime or accidentally sipping bad milk is rarely something that will make you sick. But the bad news is the stuff that can make you really sick — salmonella — can't be detected at all. Which, of course, is obvious once you think about it: No one would get food poisoning

The Takeaway: You can rely on smell and sight generally to determine if refrigerated food is safe to eat. But be extra careful with raw meat, and be sure to keep foods that can grow salmonella (raw meat, eggs) cold since it grows at room temperature.
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The Myth: Green Potatoes Are Poisonous

This food myth is one of the popular rumors that Snopes has declared "mostly false." The green that sometimes appears under potato skin is indeed a natural toxin called solanine. However, its not in any amount that will actually harm you (unless you plan on eating 4 lbs of potatoes in one sitting). Plenty of other toxins in our food (like caffeine, for one) are not harmful in small enough doses.

The Takeaway: Your spuds aren't trying to kill you.
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The Myth: You Can Tell If Chicken Is Done By The Color

We eat chicken cooked all the way through not only because no one really likes the taste of rubbery, underdone chicken, but also because it needs to reach a safe internal temperature that kills off food-borne pathogens like salmonella. Unlike pork, lamb, and beef, which can be cooked to 145 degrees F and rested to satisfy FDA recommendations for foods safety, chicken should reach 165 degrees F.

There are a lot of ways to try to test this, like pricking the chicken to see if the juices run clear, or making sure the cut of meat is completely white. However, the USDA has found no reliable indicators of doneness other than using a thermometer to test for internal temperature. Bone-in or whole chickens can have some pinkness near the bone while still being safe to eat. Waiting for the entire cut to turn white can often just result in overcooked, dry chicken.

The Takeaway: Hacking into your chicken is an unreliable way to determine doneness. Consider investing in an affordable digital thermometer instead.
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