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Posts by Harold McGee

My feeling is that the choice of fats and oils is only one small piece of the health picture. These ingredients do affect our body chemistry for better and for worse, but their effects can be minimized or multiplied by the other things we eat with them. Most butter substitutes these days contain a lot of trans fatty acids, which seem to be the worst for us, and they don’t taste as good as butter or work as well in a lot of applications. So I don’t use them. In daily...
The basic thing to keep in mind is that botulism bacteria thrive in warm, non-acid, oxygen-free conditions, and their seed-like spores can only be reliably destroyed by prolonged boiling or at pressure-cooker temperatures. Canning and steeping foods in oil are risky because they provide protection from oxygen. Foods that aren’t distinctly sour need to be either acidified, heat-sterilized, or kept refrigerated or frozen. The acetic acid in vinegar is strong enough to...
Thanks for your kind words! Strangely enough I have a Bachelor of Science degree in literature! Caltech is essentially a science and engineering school, so they’re only accredited to give BS degrees. I certainly didn’t expect to end up writing about the science of cooking, but boy am I glad I did! It’s a great job. It took me three years to write the first edition of On Food and Cooking, which came out in 1984. In 1994 I signed a contract to do the revision—and it was...
These are big questions! I think the answers depend completely on what the cook’s interests and aspirations are. But whether you want to do simple Italian or recipes from the French Laundry or be the next Pierre Hermé, I think it’s important to cook with your senses and mind fully engaged, trying to understand what exactly you’re doing, and why, and what the results are. That way you’re not just following directions, and you’re always growing. Harold
Just a few comments on your ideas: The effects of a marinade depend a lot on the marination time. Small molecules and ions, including acids and salt, will eventually penetrate to the center of a piece of food, but this may take days for a large roast. In a few minutes or hours, it’s true that the effects are mostly at the surface. Meat in a salty marinade does absorb salt. Oil can help hold flavors on the surface. Chopped vegetables and herbs do release flavor compounds...
My thanks to Jim and Nicko and all of you for having me here! It’s a pleasure to be in touch and have the chance to hear what’s on your minds these days. Harold
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