What I’ve Learned from Food Detectives

by Cate on August 12, 2008

tedallen_fooddetectives_d.jpgTed Allen (formerly known from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) has a new show on Food Network called Food Detectives.  Have you seen it?  It’s like a slightly more hip, but slightly less scientific version of Alton Brown, delving deep behind some of the myths and questions surrounding food.

I think I’ve watched three episodes so far, and have definitely learned something worthwhile from each one.  If it’s not on your Tivo list yet, it should be.

The Five Second Rule.  We’ve all heard it and may even practice it.  If you drop a piece of food on the floor and pick it up before five seconds have elapsed, it’s ok to eat.  But is it?  On a recent episode, the show set up controlled experiments to see how much bacteria was present on the piece of dropped food after it was lab-inspected.  Suffice it to say that if you’re practicing the five second rule (and I’m an occasional culprit as well, at least before watching this), don’t.  Surprisingly, there was actually more bacteria on the piece of food dropped on the floor in the ultra-clean laboratory floor, than in the other environments they tested.  Blech.

Double dipping.  You know the drill.  You’re at a party and there are chips and dip.  You take a chip, put it in the dip and take a bite.  So now you’re left with half a chip and no more dip.  Back in it goes.   I definitely don’t do this (I’m a little funny when it comes to germs to begin with, ask Nicholas), but forget us … you need to be more wary of who else is doing it, especially if you’re at a function.  On the episode, they had a series of dip bowls set up, each one for a different piece of the experiment.  One was just one person putting the chip in, no double dipping.  The next bowl was one person double dipping.  And the last one … well, it was a party in a bowl.  On the one person double dipping bowl, there was tens of thousands of bacteria present.  Now imagine how many there would be at the party bowl.  Double blech.

– Another episode touched on if baking soda really does kill odors in your refrigerator.  As it turns out, a tray of charcoal actually kills more, but baking soda does kill plenty on its own.  Since we’re all not going to have trays of exposed charcoal in our fridge any time soon, stick with your little box of Arm & Hammer.

Boiling water.  Every time I put on a pot of water to boil, I always start with warm or hot water, because it boils faster.  But after watching an experiment on Food Detectives, I’ll be starting with cold water from now on.  It turns out that while the warm/hot water will boil faster, water from your hot water heater can contain impurities (for example, lead), so it’s better for you to start with cold.  Go figure.

Did I mention you might want to watch this show?  I’m certainly hooked.

Photo from Food Network.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

grace August 13, 2008 at 8:32 am

i’m loving this show too. in fact, i’m thinking of quitting my job and signing up as one of those food techs. then again, i just watched the “does ginger prevent nausea” segment…forget i said anything. :)


Patsy August 13, 2008 at 8:35 am

I am adding this show to my DVR list! I keep missing it somehow… and can I just say YUCK to the stuff you just shared! No more 5-second rule for us… and I’m funny about the double dipping too… now there’s proof why people shouldn’t do it!

Good tip on the cold water… I would rather start w/o any additional “stuff” in the water I am cooking with!


Cate August 14, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Grace – yeah, no way could I hack the spinning ride/ginger segment.

Patsy – it makes me wonder now about all the other times I use hot or warm water, and if I should be altering that as well.


Littlesue August 27, 2008 at 5:40 pm

I enjoyed that episode of Food Detectives and seemed to learn alot. Also confirmed what I already did know about baking soda. Works just ok, but for great results, use activated carbon. I discovered that secret awhile ago after reading about a product called FRIDGE IT odor absorbers. Turns out the product Ted Allen was holding at the end of the segment was that product. I love it. My favorite answer to fridge odors. Go get some of these litte activated carbon odor absorbers. They are great.


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