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Alton Brown Answers, At Last 521

We knew this was going to take a while -- it turned out to be just about one month since the question post -- due to some show-taping problems Alton had. He was kind enough to warn us about the delay, a warning regular Slashdot Interview readers picked up. Anyway, here we go. (Warning: Reading this interview may cause hunger.)

1) My question
by mofolotopo

Something I've found as a newbie chef is that a good 75.32% of good cooking is good shopping. What tips do you have for finding good, fresh ingredients? Where the heck do you get fresh herbs etc. in a smallish town?

Alton: First off, you need to decentralize your shopping. Don't try to get everything in one place. Even if you don't have a farmers market in the area, I'm willing to bet there's a co-op or health food store that will open up your options. Ditto a butcher. As for fresh herbs, if they're really a problem to find in your area, try growing your own when and where climate allows. The rest of the time, buy dry herbs and spices over the internet from someone like Penzeys or The Spice House. Above all, do not drive yourself crazy. Learn to work with what you have. Oh, and don't forget ethnic markets; they often have the best produce as well as meat.

2) Why are some people better Cooks?
by kallistiblue

I've noticed that some people seem to be naturally better cooks than others. I've know several people that follow a recipe very exactly. The food they create just doesn't turn out very good. Personally, I'll use a recipe as a guideline and use rough estimates. Most of the time, my meals turn out pretty well. It's as if an intuitive sense is needed.

How does someone learn/teach this skill?

Alton: First, you need to become a good recipe follower. Most people who think they can't cook aren't really taking time to properly read the recipes they're working from or they don't really understand what they're being asked to do. For instance, there are plenty of recipes out there that call for "searing" a piece of meat. If you don't know what "searing" really is, you're doomed. Unfortunately most recipes are written for people that already know how to cook. So start by really paying attention to a recipe and make sure you understand it. Then cook it a few times keeping detailed notes about the process and your feelings about the final dish. Keep notebooks?write down as much as you can and slowly you'll begin to learn what you're doing. As long as you're willing to think and taste as you go, you can become a cook?I promise.

3) Vegetarians

As a vegetarian, I'm compelled to ask this: Have you seen a trend in recent years of more vegetarians, or more dishes made without meat? Time magazine had a recent cover story about this, and my feeling is it's becoming a more important part of everyone's lives, yet whenever I catch a cooking show on TV it lacks making many vegetarian dishes.

Alton: Americans don't eat near enough vegetables. I'm not a vegetarian, though I do respect anyone who makes a hard and fast decision about what he or she is going to live on. All you have to do is look at the health statistics from countries whose cuisines are lighter on meat and heavy on veggies and fish?They live, longer. It's as simple as that. What I would hate to see is a radical swing away from meat. I think we evolved as omnivores for a reason. And that's all I have to say about that.

4) Lower Fat and Cholesterol?
by cporter

Mr. Brown, I love your recipes. In the last few weeks, I've prepared Chocolate Mousse, Party Mayonnaise, Chimney Tuna, and Baba Ganoush from "Good Eats" and Chicken Piccata from "I'm Just Here for the Food." Not all at one meal, of course.

I applaud episodes like "Good Milk Gone Bad" and "The Other Red Meat" that focus on lower fat and cholesterol foods. But many of your recipes call for butter, oil, cream, and other less than healthful foods (even bacon grease!). What do you think about some of the substitutes out there, or using ingredients like applesauce to replace butter?

Alton: There are no bad foods, only bad food habits. I eat cream, butter, and bacon; I just don't eat pounds of it at a time. I use these things when they are needed in recipes and leave them out when they're not needed. As for substitutes, I only agree with them if they really don't change a person's response to a dish. Take mashed potatoes for instance. I recently saw a recipe that suggested that the fat we all know that mashers need could be replaced with vegetable broth. Hogwash. All that does is lead to dissatisfaction and I think that dissatisfaction results in overeating. We like fats because fats satisfy. They break down in the digestive track very slowly so they keep us fuller longer. Now if I find a way to replace a fatty ingredient without missing it (I do this a lot with yogurt) then you bet I'm going to do it. But I repeat: there are no bad foods

5) Art vs. Science
by Susskins

A lot of your show is dedicated to the Science of cooking, and to the underlying physics of food. Your Grandmother (in a really cool episode about biscuits) demonstrated a wicked amount of Artistic Skill, the "look and feel" of food preparation. Do you have any thoughts about the balance of Art and Science in cooking?

Alton: No matter how much creativity goes into it, cooking is an art?or perhaps I should say a craft. It abides by absolute rules, physics, chemistry, etc. and that means that unless you understand the science you cannot reach the art. We're not talking about painting here?cooking's more like engineering. I happen to think that there is great beauty in great engineering (the wing of a Boeing 777, a suspension bridge) but they are not works of art, they are works of science. To my mind art is a matter of personal expression and the exchange of ideas; food is in the end, fuel?a means to an end. Sorry for rambling.

6) Iron Chef
by FortKnox

Seeing that all geeks love Iron Chef, I have to ask, would you be willing to go against an Iron Chef? If so, which would you pick??

Alton: I don't care about the chefs I want a shot at the goofball in the Palomino Jacket. He needs to be taken down. And the judges, oh please let me at them!

7) Elements of cooking
by SWroclawski

Mr. Brown,

I think that the most interesting part of your show to this audience is your emphasis on the science of cooking, from discussion of protein (such as in your angel food cake episode and your recent soufflé episode).

But the other difference in Good Eats is the great emphasis you place on the parts of cooking, that is the elements at a more abstract level, such as use of heat, individual ingredients (which is the topic of many of the shows) and methods of cooking (such as the right way to mix and fold). This all makes Good Eats interesting for us geeks out there who want to understand the science, but also helps us non-cooking geeks become literate in the supermarket and kitchen.

What gave you the idea to present cooking in this way and do you have any suggestions for other resources that present food and food preparation in the same way?

Alton: I approach cooking from a science angle because I need to understand how things work. If I understand the egg, I can scramble it better?it's a simple as that. There are some great food science texts out there?well, a few. Check out the bibliography in my book. (If you don't want to buy it you can just copy stuff out at the bookstore.)

8) Technical questions
by TheJerkstoreCalled

Hello! I actually watched your very first show about steak here on PBS; it was the first thing in my life that made me interested in cooking. Every time I watch an episode of Good Eats, I always end it wanting to go cook something.

I had a technical question; we always see these shots coming out of refrigerators and ovens. Do you actually have little windows in the back of your appliances or are those props built up for the shows? I always assumed they were props but you never know. Also, is that really your house you shoot in? I love the Magritte hat with chicken painting.

Alton: No windows... We actually have cameras now that are small enough to rig inside appliances. It's not easy mind you, but it's doable. That is not my house, but it is a real house. The Magritte rip was commissioned especially for Good Eats.

9) Cooking In Lava
by MrIcee

Mr. Brown. First, thank you for a wonderful television show and an excellent book. I enjoy both continually and look forward to all your new work.

Now... on to, perhaps, one of the more unusual questions you might receive. This question deals directly with how heat affects food.

Specifically... I live on the slopes of an active volcano. One of the things we like to do for fun is cook game hen and pork loins in the hot lava itself. First, let me describe our process, and then our question.

To cook a game hen we first season and then wrap the hen in about 10 Ti (or banana) leaves. These protect the hen from actually burning.

Next we find an active surface breakout of lava. We use a shovel (we also are wearing kevlar gloves that can withstand 2000 degrees of heat) and get a good shovel full of red lava. We place this on the ground a distance from the flow. We then position the Ti-wrapped hen in the middle of the blob of lava and cover it with another shovel full of lava. We try to leave a small opening to the Ti leaves, for steam to escape (or we can potentially have a steam explosion).

Now, the question. The lava is initially at 2000 degrees when we start cooking. After about 15 minutes it has cooled to around 850 degrees (outside of the rock - we read this using an infrared pyrometer). After about 45 minutes the outside is about 450 degrees. At that point we hit the rock with the shovel to open it. Only a few of the Ti leaves will remain uncharred. We remove those and the hen is then very moist and delicious.

How is it possible, using a heat source at 2000 degrees (that granted, gets cooler over time) that it still takes 45 minutes to cook the game hen? We would have thought that the cooking would have been near instantaneous - but repeated experiments at various lengths of time reveal that it takes exactly as long in the lava, as in an oven.

Alton: It's not possible. I can cook a game hen under a broiler in 15 minutes. Tell me, are there any small brown mushrooms growing around your property, and if so have you been using them in salads or pasta dishes?

10) Safe Cooking Temps
by dmaxwell

The wife and I are huge fans of your show but there is one thing we notice from time to time that we've always wondered about. For instance, your country ham recipe specifies that the ham is done when the interior temp hits 140 degrees.

However, states that "cook-before-eating hams must reach 160 F to be safely cooked before serving." I know those bad boys have been salt cured but I would still be worried about trichinosis. Your "done" temperatures for meat are often lower than what the food safety people would have them be. This is a long winded way of asking "What is your approach to food safety?" You look pretty healthy to me so I'll assume you know something those government fussbudgets don't but I'd feel better about trying out some of your recipes if I knew what that was.

Alton: I do not always agree with the government and in this case I think they're way off base. For one thing, Trichinella spiralis die at 137 degrees. Of course in this case they would have had to survive the curing process which is highly doubtful. The water activity level of a country ham is simply too low to support that kind of life. Also, T spriralis have been nearly eradicated from the American hog population through the use of better feeds. As far as I know, the only instances of trichinosis in recent years involved wild game such as bear and puma.

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Alton Brown Answers, At Last

Comments Filter:
  • Volcano question (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ratface ( 21117 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @11:55AM (#4245047) Homepage Journal
    Shame about the answer to the volcano question - the original poster should have sent the link to their site which has pictures showing this. I couldn't find the original site I have seen which describes this, but here's another which shows that it is indeed possible to cook a chicken atop molten lava! g.html []
    • by Ratface ( 21117 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @11:58AM (#4245071) Homepage Journal []

      That was the one!

      • by Wanker ( 17907 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:23PM (#4245281)
        From Alton's response, I think that he thought the poster was completely immersing the chicken in the Lava. Pouring hot lava over a leaf-coated chicken should work since:

        a) The lava cools off fairly quickly, meaning that the bird isn't exposed to 2000degF for 45 minutes
        b) All those leaves release a lot of steam which both moderates the temperature and steams the chicken. Boiling water to make steam, as any high-school chemist knows, takes a lot of extra heat energy.

        The above link also explains that the lava cools to 450degF within a reasonable amount of time, which is a great temperature for cooking chicken. ;-) The original poster explained that it cooled to 850degF, still too hot for chicken.

        So, in short, the poster presented an impossible situation, and Alton, like any good literalist, told them so. What he could have done was ask some counter-questions to get a better idea of what was going on before answering.
        • Actually there was a misunderstanding. I suspect that Alton mistook a cornish game hen with hawaiian game hens. Cornish game hens are small and can be cooked in 15 minutes. Hawaiian game hens are big like chickens (they really are just free range chickens) and cannot be cooked in 15 minutes.

    • Is it possible to lavaify rock in a convection oven?

      I like the idea of cooking with lava, but here in Iowa, there's not much lava. Can I make my own?
    • Re:Volcano question (Score:5, Informative)

      by DJerman ( 12424 ) <> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:19PM (#4245249)
      The real answer to the question is: because you're steaming it.

      You may think you're roasting a chicken in lava but:
      1) you wrapped it in leaves, which buffer the heat and provide moisture (for steam)
      2) you've insulated it from the heat source (to prevent charring, yes)
      3) the inside of the lava will cool much faster than the outside because it's in contact with water (212 degrees).

      Yes you'll get some superheating at the beginning, but basically that's just searing the chicken and the leaves before the steaming process takes over. If it were continuously superheated, you'd be dodging the chicken-powered missile as it scoots around your lawn :) And the chicken would flash-fry as you expected.

      BTW -- I wanna try that!

      • Re:Volcano question (Score:5, Interesting)

        by coolerthanmilk ( 312282 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:44PM (#4245427)
        Actually, the superheating at the beginning may do even more than sear it. You could get some interesting flavor differences through redistribution of fats. When water is superheated above the critical point, the solubility of some organic compounds is very high, as opposed to subcritical conditions when it is very low (i.e. oil & water not mixing). It could absorb some fats and carry them with the water until it cooled and they were released again. Depending on how the water moved during that time, who knows how it would end up - leaf-flavored , high fat layers in some part, or low-fat dry fowl.
      • the inside of the lava will cool much faster than the outside because it's in contact with water (212 degrees)

        Well, the key questions here have to do with how well lava conducts heat internally, and its specific heat.

        Vaporizing all that water will absorb a great deal of heat from the interior of the lava ball; if it doesn't transmit well the interior will stay relatively cool. It's heat absorbtion that's key, not insulation: I'd bet $50 that if you wrapped the chicken in a dozen layers of dry aluminum foil instead of wet leaves it would be burned to a crisp.

    • I also thought it was a shame that he didn't seem to take this question seriously. It was one of the most interesting questions of the lot - especially for someone who is supposed to be a scientist.

      I think the key point is it sounds like the chicken is wrapped in lots of layers of leaves. This would provide insulation against the extreme heat. The outside leaves would I presume carbonize - this could also provide some protection.

      Sounds like a fascinating idea to me and I see no reason why it shouldn't work if there is insulation between the bird and the molten rock.
    • The reason the volcano cooking works and takes the time it does can be seen from the question.

      Foods burn when they reach excessive temperatures. If you expose the bird to a very high temperature directly to the skin, the outside will quickly get up to over 100 C and the water in the food will boil out. Then the skin will go up over 100 C and char.

      When you wrap it in the layers to prevent it from burning, you have insulated it. Also the moisture driven off from the leaves and the bird is kept in a somewhat enclosed area. So the constant adding of heat such as happens in Alton's broiler is not happening here. He does not wrap his birds in leaves before putting them in the oven I bet.

      To avoid burning food, cooks reduce the temperature to the point that the interior of the bird gets to a cooked temperature before the outside gets charred.

      The volcanic rock may also act as an insulator. If you were to try to cook a water balloon instead of food, I would guess the inside temperature of the lava would be lower than the outside temperature.

      Next time you do this try the following two experiments:

      After the bird is cooked, when you crack open the lava, measure the temperature of the leaves in contact with the bird and the temperature of the lava on the inside of your oven. It should be less than the outside temperature because the water from the leaves is a much better coolant than the air.

      Cook a bird in the normal manner but don't add the leaves. Remove after about 20 minutes, chip through the char and check the inside temperature. Or place it inside a haybox ( The outside may be a charred mess, but the inside done.

      Of course, YMMV
    • i'm no expert, but surely the reason that it took a while to cook the chicken in the lava was because of that hole they'd left to let the steam escape. the crucial observation is that the chicken was moist afterwards, so presumably the level of moisture is high enough that the moisture limits the temperature of the chicken to the usual 100 degrees C.

      if they'd closed the hole, i imagine the chicken would cook much faster!

  • by veddermatic ( 143964 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @11:59AM (#4245075) Homepage
    Maybe it was the questions, but I was really looking forward to a good, long read....

    I'm being selfish, but damnit, I wanted PAGES of answers!!!! =)
  • Trichinosis (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Ape With No Name ( 213531 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @11:59AM (#4245080) Homepage
    Hog feed has little to do with it. Cooking the hog feed does. Societies where hogs are fed uncooked slop experience higher rates of trichinosis, while those that boil hog slop do not see trichinosis at all. Break a link in the parasite's path to a host and incidence of the parasite diminishes. Pretty simple and exactly what cooking the pork to at least 137F does.
  • *gasp* (Score:5, Funny)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:01PM (#4245094) Homepage Journal
    Alton Brown vs. Chairman Kaga?

    It'll be the battle of the century! STUFF THAT YELLOW PEPPER DOWN HIS THROAT!

    LOL! Thanks for the reply Alton!
  • by bgarland ( 10594 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:01PM (#4245096) Homepage
    When reading this, I couldn't help but hear the voice of AB in my head, reciting the answers in the same way he delivers the little tidbits of info on "Good Eats"... weird.

    • When reading this, I couldn't help but hear the voice of AB in my head, reciting the answers in the same way he delivers the little tidbits of info on "Good Eats"

      Yup.. me too.. (Course maybe it helped that I just watched the salad episode..)
  • 9) Cooking In Lava (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scaramush ( 472955 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:04PM (#4245120) Homepage Journal
    I thought this guy's claim to cooking fame was that he used a scientific approach? What's wrong with this picture?

    Scientist 1: I have a phenomenon I don't understand and I want your opinion on it.

    Scientist 2: Your data doesn't match up with mine. Therefore I will discredit you by suggesting you take drugs.

    Scientist 1: But I have reproducible results!

    Scientist 2: Nope, sorry. Talk to the hand, crack smoker.

    I understand a lot of /.'ers respect this guy, but I'm not too impressed with this answer.
    • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:25PM (#4245291) Homepage Journal

      Well, while the answer was a bit abrupt, but I think it was like a physicist trying to answer: "Why is it I can hold a hot steel ball that is 2000 degrees without getting burned?" The answer is "You can't".

      In other words, the problem isn't with the laws of physics, the problem is with the questioner's data. Obviously the internal temperature of his make-shift oven isn't 2000 degrees.

      • I think that's the key. The actual heating element in your conventional oven is probably about 2000 degrees (note I have never tested this), though the ambient temperature is more like a few hundred. Same thing with chicken and lava.
      • I've seen that Ti leaf guy's website- next time I'm on the big island, we'll have some hen!

        But his website even suggests that the ti leaves are acting as insulation. FIrst you are steaming the chicken, and who knows whats happening when the steam hits some of the lava- I'm sure it cools down and the lava closest to the leaves get hard. It becomes more like a salt-crust bake (for the Iron Chef fans out there).

        What Mr ICee should do is experiment in an oven: wrap a hen in some ti leaves and see what cooks.

        regardless- that's a pretty frickin' neat-o trick.
        I wanna play with lava.
    • by StoryMan ( 130421 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:38PM (#4245392)
      I suspect that if you kill the chickens first, it'll take much less 45 minutes.
    • He thinks the poster is pulling his leg.
    • I'm guessing it's the banana leaves that make it take so long. When they put the chicken into an oven, they don't wrap it in wet banana leaves. That's probably lowering the temperature in the chicken considerably.
    • Quite right. The insulation of multiple layers of banana leaves will create a steep temp gradient within the 'rock' leading to an oven like temp within the banana leave packages.

      This is a common practice with Aga style ovens - you put everything into a hot oven, you wrap anything that needs a low oven in multiple layers of foil / leaves.

      This guy is an ass!
    • Steam stupid!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      The important part of the question was that he let's the steam escape (to prevent explosions).

      Water boils at 212F (sea level, but I suspect if he's on a volcano, he may be cooking way above sea level).

      Water is also one hell of a coolant. As long as steam is escaping, and the lava doesn't directly come in contact with the bird (conduction), then the chicken is only being steamed. Max temperature (for most any place but the Dead Sea) 212F.

      Broiling is a dry heat cooking method. And temperatures GREATLY exceed 212F.

      It's the same reason you can put pasta on a red hot stove, and it doesn't burn... untill you run out of water.

      Ain't science grand?

  • Wise Words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Copperhead ( 187748 ) < minus pi> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:04PM (#4245124) Homepage
    "All [replacing of fat] does is lead to dissatisfaction and I think that dissatisfaction results in overeating."

    Very wise words. I remember hearing Julia Child saying that the reason obesity is becoming such a problem is because of fat has become taboo in cooking. It's the fat in foods that make us feel full and keep us full longer. Generally, people who eat excusively low fat foods at their main meals are those who have the most trouble keeping from snacking between meals.

    I've gone from eating low fat meals and snacks to eating "sensibly", and I really am a lot less hungry, even though I'm eating less.

    My rules to live by... if you're hungry, drink a glass of water, avoid eating after dinner, and never, ever eat before bed.

    • I remember hearing Julia Child saying that the reason obesity is becoming such a problem is because of fat has become taboo in cooking.

      And never use the "m-word"* to her. She's been known to say, "You don't have to use butter in this dish ... [wink] you can use cream instead."

      Generally, people who eat excusively low fat foods at their main meals are those who have the most trouble keeping from snacking between meals

      I agree with Ms. Child and Mr. Brown that "fats satisfy.... they keep us fuller longer"; but I think the extent to which people "snack" has a lot to do with how they're wired, above the neck and below. It's not so much a matter of having enough will power, but more a matter of how much or how little will power you need to have in order to deal with what your body does.


      • I think the extent to which people "snack" has a lot to do with how they're wired, above the neck and below.

        Actually, I read an interersting study (sorry, no link available) that measured brain activity during eating...

        It seems that fat people have more activity in the brain's pleasure centre when they eat.. which suggested that food might simply "taste better" to them. If so, it follows that they might have a harder time limiting their food intake.
    • Re:Wise Words (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jamesoutlaw ( 87295 )
      I've found it's better to eat 6 (or more) small meals throughout the day- each meal totalling 300 to 600 calories. I eat a little something every 2 or 3 hours throughout the day and never get hungry- of course, it annoys my cubicle neighbors, who think I eat all the time and wonder why I am not the size of a whale :)

      I think that your quote from Julia Child is right on track. I remember when low fat "snack foods" became really really popular in the early 90's- snackwells, baked potato chips, etc People would think that because it was low fat, they could eat all they wanted... I remember a friend of mine holding up a bag of Baked Tostito's Tortilla chips and exclaiming gleefully that there was only "1.5 grams of fat in the whoooooole" bag... then she promptly proceeded to eat the entire bag- completely ignoring the fact that it still contained about 1,000 (or more) calories.

      It's ok to include a little fat in your diet, but as long as you don't over do it, you'll be just fine.

      I eat a lot of low fat meals, but the majority of the fat I consume comes from olive oil or "fatty" fish like salmon.... the so-called "good fats".

    • Re:Wise Words (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:37PM (#4245387)
      My rules to live by... if you're hungry, drink a glass of water, avoid eating after dinner, and never, ever eat before bed.

      I never have bought this one. Sleeping is exactly what most carnivores do after eating. Have you ever seen a fat tiger? Besides, in today's sedentary society, many people are hardly more active during the day then they are asleep. Why should someone not eat before bed just to eat at 8:00 AM and sit at a desk for 9 hours?

      The unfortunate truth is that The Man Show had it right with the amazing new "Stop Eating So Much Diet". Seriously, it's called "caloric restriction []" and not only will you lose weight, you'll live longer (up to 150% longer in lab animals).

      [*Me kisses my karma goodbye as I'm modded into oblivion by thick-fingered Slashdotters.]
      • Re:Wise Words (Score:5, Informative)

        by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:59PM (#4245571) Homepage Journal
        Here's the deal on eatting, sleeping, and how your metabolism reacts to combinations of the above.

        If you eat 2-3 large meals (most people eat a big lunch and a big dinner/supper and nothing much else) then your metabolism will start to operate slower. It will store more food for periods between meals and you won't burn calories as quickly as if you eat many small meals.

        If you eat 5-6 small meals (200-300 calories each) over the day your metabolism never stops. You continue burning calories almost non-stop. If you want to lose weight, this is the best way to do it, reduce your calorie intake by eatting more small meals. And ALWAYS eat a snack before bed. that keeps your metabolism going while you are asleep and helps you burn more calories. You can really live just fine on 1800 calories per day and lose weight until you balance out. If you build muscle, you'll need more calories. And if you want to build muscle you'll need to eat more protein. But that's a whole different subject.
        The bottom line is, if you want to lose weight, eat 5-6 small meals each day, make sure you eat as soon as you wake up, then every 3 hours or so until you go to bed. Make sure the snacks are relatively healthy (granola bars, etc...) avoid foods with simple sugars like soda and candy. And do 20-30 minutes of light aerobic excersise everyday, walking is fine. If you do more intense aerobics you can do 5-10 minutes per day instead. (jogging on a treadmill at 7mph for 5-10 minutes, doing jumping jacks for 5-10 minutes, jumping rope, and most excersise machines fit under this category) I don't know of any body types that don't respond to this particular treatment IF they stick to it. And I've worked with a lot of people to help them get in shape and lose weight.

      • Don't worry about the thick fingered mods, their hands are so greasy they can't hang on to their mouse...

      • by SerialHistorian ( 565638 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @01:16PM (#4245687)

        "Have you ever seen a fat tiger?"

        No, but I've never seen Joe Sixpack chase a zebra and kill it with his teeth, either.

      • Re:Wise Words (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Quixote ( 154172 )
        Have you ever seen a fat tiger?

        Have you ever seen how much a tiger has to bust his ass to get a meal? If s/he becomes fat, no more meals and its slim city for El Tigre.

    • Re:Wise Words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:43PM (#4245423)
      Amen to that. The fact that the person who asked the question included an exclamation point next to "bacon grease" shows that they're just another victim of cuilinary brainwashing. The FDA, Surgeon General, and all these other people can't make up their minds as to what's good and what's bad. All they need to do is use common sense.

      Yes, bacon grease is bad for you, if you chug a whole 20 oz bottle of it every day. However, it's the only way to get fried eggs crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside. Heck, I still use lard to prepare some dishes, but there is no subsitute for it. However, if you use a tablespoon of it, it won't kill you.

      Substitutes are a waste of time. I'd venture that if you drank nothing but skim milk, and ate nothing but margarine, and snacked on nothing but aspartame, you'd probably die an early death too. If you want a desert dish, but don't want the cream and sugar that's in chocolate mousse, than don't make chocolate mousse. Have an apple instead or something.

      • Yes, bacon grease is bad for you, if you chug a whole 20 oz bottle of it every day.

        Great. I hope nobody from Frito-Lay's reading Slashdot. Otherwise, we may have a new snackfood phenomenon on our hands. If they'll market Pop-Rocks, they'll try anything.

  • by metacosm ( 45796 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:05PM (#4245130)
    I used to think I could cook my bear and puma dishes to a mere 136 degrees -- but now I know that there have been outbreaks of trichinosis in the bear and puma populations, so I will put in the little extra effort to get the temp all the way to up 140... Alton Brown might have saved my life!
  • Mmm mmm good. Nuff said.
  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:06PM (#4245137)
    I don't care about the chefs I want a shot at the goofball in the Palomino Jacket. He needs to be taken down. And the judges, oh please let me at them!

    Right, no way Morimoto tolerates that grave dishonor, let alone Kenichi. By my fallen ancestors, there will be Fois Gras spilled tonight!

    The judges you can have, especially that fortune teller turned food critic bitch.
    • by Erich ( 151 )
      She may have been ruder sometimes, but she was the only one whose comments wern't "oooh" or "this is really good". Which at least made things interesting.

      Though I did like the old man in the early episodes better.

  • I'm glad to hear that he doesn't use windows. Heh :-)

    Alton: No windows...

    • I bet he's on a Mac. OS9 or less.
      You can often tell by things like this:
      "Keep notebooks?write down as much as you can and slowly you'll begin to learn what you're doing. As long as you're willing to think and taste as you go, you can become a cook?I promise."

      Where there should be an m-dash between "notebooks" and "write", not a question mark. Same with "cook" and "I promise".

      This would also happen if he start typing with accents ("é").

      Could've been anyone in the "chain", though.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not to put down Alton Brown, but I just wanted to point out a web site that also features technically-described cooking in a humorous way. You can see it at [] (Shockwave Flash required).

    (Posted anonomusly since I already have "Excellent" karma, but since all anonymous cowards really have "Excellent" karma, you already knew that, didn't you? ;)

  • Mmmm...lard (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bazzargh ( 39195 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:07PM (#4245151)
    Alton: There are no bad foods, only bad food habits. I eat cream, butter, and bacon; I just don't eat pounds of it at a time...We like fats because fats satisfy.

    Hmmm... reminds me of someone...

    Next morning, the family tries to pry the bucket off Homer's noggin.

    Bart: [tries to pull the bucket off, but fails] Sorry Dad, it just won't budge.
    Marge: I tried greasing the bucket with bacon fat, but your father kept eating it.
    Homer: Couldn't you try a non-delicious fat? [breaks down] Oh, there's no such thing!

    Simpsons: Faith Off []
  • Vegetarian... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:09PM (#4245162) Homepage Journal
    Inspired somewhat by the poll and Q #3 (which I feel he kinda weaseled on) I'll pass along a tid-bit of wisdom gleaned from experience:

    If you are a vegetarian and participating in a potluck/buffet with non-vegetarians (this particularly if you are one of one or two) plan for more. As much as I've got a few views on eating animals, it's been exasperating to bring the only vegetarian dish and have non-veg people suddenly decide to try them and take all before you get a chance (or just keep a private stash in a container for yourself to guarrantee you eat!)

    If you want to sell people on virtues of vegetarian dining, make good dishes to share. Beats the heck out of getting into debates. :o)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not to get into a religious war, but some of us meatatarians don't actually eat meat in every dish. For example, I frequently eat vegetarian salad, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (it's cheese powder) and celery sticks. Sometimes, I put a huge piece of raw ground beef on a celery stick and eat it like a lollipop, but that's only once in a while.
    • Re:Vegetarian... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dasmegabyte ( 267018 )
      Oh, and if you're a vegetarian inviting your non-vegetarian friends to a potluck/buffet, make sure to cook up something with meat in it for us.

      "Gross," you say? Not I. My wedding was meatless to appease my poseur vegetarian wife (a poseur vegetarian being someone who looks down a menu past all the delicious meat dishes and orders a boring vegetarian entree, despite not being a vegetarian. Or one who says "Ew, bacon!" and then eats it anyway. Or any "vegetarian" who eats chicken wings / fried catfish / filet mignon because they "miss it sometimes"). I invited four other vegetarians, all of whom really enjoyed themselves on some fantastic cusisine the caterers pulled out (frankly, I think they were excited to to have something to cook besides bland swedish meatballs and little wieners in shells). I thought the food was fantastic, but hardly anybody ate any of it. Of some 100 portions, nearly 60 were left at the end. My dad & some of my friends snuck out to a burger place midway through the reception.

      Talk about embarrassing! Furthermore, people ate a lot more cake than they usually do -- meaning that there was only one slice left to save for the aniversary.

      Meat satisfies, people, as much as I hate to admit it. If you can't stand cooking it, get somebody else to do it.
  • by Boss, Pointy Haired ( 537010 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:10PM (#4245171)
    Use the timings on the instructions as a guide only.


    Learn how your equipment compares to the average. I have a 750 WATT microwave oven, but I know that it packs a punch like an 850 WATT microwave oven, so I follow the instructions for category "E", even though my oven is a category "D".

    To many cooks, bless them, will cook something at gas mark whatever it says, for as long as it says, and not a minute less, not a minute more. They will not learn (accumulate over time / through experience) how the performance of their oven compares to the "average" (i.e. that on which the recipient was based).

    • Use the timings on the instructions as a guide only.


      Actually, it not just microwaves, but almost all (consumer) convection ovens aren't exact.

      In my old apartment, my wife kept wondering why everything she baked/roasted never turned out properly - so after watching the good eats pork ribs episode, I put a reliable thermometer in the oven - turns out it was out by almost 60 degrees!

      An interesting aside - we just bought a house, and I wanted to see how far out the oven temperature was (it's an old oven, probably 20 or 30 years old), and (amazingly enough) it was almost exact!

  • by jeffersonebell ( 248978 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:12PM (#4245183)
    Mmmm.... Puma
  • I've never heard of someone eating puma. Does it taste like chicken. (Or tabby?) I wonder where I could find some recipes....

  • by fetta ( 141344 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:17PM (#4245235)
    "Unfortunately most recipes are written for people that already know how to cook."

    A good resource to deal with this is to keep a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" handy. I think the recipes in there are just okay, but it's the Rosetta Stone [] for cooking recipes.

    Unfortunately, his statement is true of a lot of computer "recipes" as well. I always try to identify a "Rosetta Stone" book for every technology I dive into. For example, I was lost in the Linux Documentation Project until after I read Mark Sobell's A Practical Guide to Linux [].
  • Cooking at 2000 C (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think the problem with the person asking about cooking with Lava is that just because you've encased the game hen in 2000 C lava doesn't mean that's the same as putting something in a 2000 C oven. In an oven, the temperature of the air is what cooks the food. In the lava oven, it's the lava. I don't know how well lava transfers heat (it's probably better than air), but I bet that the lava touching the hen cooled off a great deal quicker than the rest of lava, which caused the hen to cook slower. With air, there's always enough circulation that cooled air gets quickly replaced with hot air. Thus the food is cooked at a constant temperature. This wouldn't happen with the lava oven.

    Either way, I doubt the poster actually did what he said, rather he copied it from a website and claimed to have done it. I hate it when people take stories from other people and claim to have done it themselves. That's why so many urban legends keep getting circulated.

    • And in an oven, elements constantly supply new heat energy. In a ball of lava, there's a fixed amount of energy which constantly dissipates.

      I do recall something about lava-rock being good at spreading heat, distributing it evenly across its exposed surfaces. This is why you put a bunch of lava-rocks in your gas grill - to spread the heat evenly across your cooking surface. Maybe this has something to do with it?

      I dont think Alton Brown knows alot about thermodynamics. Shame he has to resort to childish insults about drug use, rather than admit he just doesn't know.. Hey! He's now a true slashdotter.

      (the last paragraph was a joke, you dorks)
    • this [] is the website he likely copied it from...
  • Cooking In Lava (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirTreveyan ( 9270 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:30PM (#4245327)
    I am really surprised at Alton's response to this question. Although IANAP I would think this is really a simple matter of the thermodynamics of state changes of matter.

    An example might be in order here to explain for those who never took chemistry. Take an ice cube with a thermometer frozen within. The temperature of the ice cube will rise 0 degrees C is reached. At this point the state of the ice changes to water. However the temperature of both the water and ice remains at 0 degrees C untils ALL the ice is melted. The same holds true at the boiling point, only if the steam is allowed to maintain constant pressure. When the water boils it remains at 100 degrees C until all the water has turned to steam. If the steam had been collected at constant pressure, once the water is all gone the temperature of the steam will begin to rise.

    Now how does this apply to cooking chincken in lava?

    "...wrap the hen in about 10 Ti (or banana) leaves. These protect the hen from actually burning" The banana leaves im sure are rather large and contain signicant amounts of water.

    "...wrapped hen in the middle of the blob of lava and cover it with another shovel full of lava. We try to leave a small opening to the Ti leaves, for steam to escape..." The water in the leaves is boiling off. The opening maintains constant pressure which results in a fairly constant temperature. As long as the steam is escaping the temperature of the hen is being regulated at a level way below the lava temperature.

    If Alton would wrap his hen in banana leaves ( or even wet paper towels ) before placing it under that broiler I will gaurentee it will take longer than 15 minutes to cook.
    • Re:Cooking In Lava (Score:3, Insightful)

      by petepac ( 194110 )
      Don't forget the properties of insulation. You can boil water in a paper cup because the water pervents the paper from reaching it's kindling point which is above 100C.

      The leaves (10 of them in fact) traps air next to the chicken which acts like an insulator. Remember all that itchy fiberglass in you actic. Same thing, less itchy. The two properties together keep the chicken ad a comfy 100C for 45 Min. There are only a few leaves left after the process since most gave their lives up for the chicken. The lava also helps since it's made up of trapped bubbles (More Insulation!)

      The last part is the hole to let steam escape. Can we all say "Pressure Cooker". This get the job done in no time. Alton, you had a show on pressure cooking to make broth. The pressure get the water above 100C. Hence faster cooking.

      Cooking in lava is possible with a scienific explanation. Now if I can only find one in Delaware.

    • I agree but I don't think the water content of the leaves is a major factor. They are quite thin and are charred, according to the lava chefs, when it is done. I suspect the leaves trap some of the moisture coming out of the hen and act as a form of insulation by retarding heat transfer via convection, plus the layer of steam that develops around the hen helps the hen cook evenly. Ever cook corn on the cob in it's leaves in hot coals? The outside leaves will be charred but peel those off and you get a cloud of steam escaping plus you have nicely cooked corn.
  • After all the hype on /. I quite fancy watching Good Eats now, but I can't find any information about whether any UK channels (even satellite) have picked it up. If anyone knows whether it is shown here could they let me know where and when? Cheers!

  • by xScruffx ( 546751 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:36PM (#4245379) Journal
    . . . how much Mr. Brown looks like Thomas Dolby?

    I REALLY wanted to ask if he really WAS Thomas Dolby and, if so, who the hell it was that blinded him with science back in the '80s, but alas . . . too stupid to post before the topic was locked.

    Darn my lethargic self.
  • For not properly reencoding his answers!

    Those question marks? Each represents a subtle Unicode punctuation character that slashcode decided would be better served as itallicized query.

    God, proper guestimation of unrepresentable characters is the first thing I learned when I started doing data transformation. Em spaces become regular spaces, not question marks. Same with "smart" quotes and long dashes.
  • by thelizman ( 304517 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kcattaremmah>> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @01:13PM (#4245664) Homepage
    Every where I go I'm inundated with low fat this, low fat that, no fat, no cholesterol, not meat, et al. It's been 20 years since the AMA dropped the bombshell that fat was killing us, and in spite of the absolute lack of information to back it up (and where it exists, lets call a spade a spade and admit that it was junk science at best). Everyone has been pushing this anti-fat nonsense, yet Americans are getting fatter and fatter, heart disease is on the up as is diabetes, and millions of Americans find that they can't control their cholesterol no matter how hard they try - and now they are on dangerous liver-killing drugs to try.

    When will America cast of this "fat is bad" myth, and accept that the real evil - the only evil - in our diets is all the processed crap and high sugar/carbs we consume? In 1910, the average American consumed roughly 1.5 lbs of sugar (and it was unrefined cane sugar at that). Heart disease wasn't even something most doctors knew about because people were dying of crap like tuberculosis and influenze far more often then from heart attacks. Fast forward to today: The average American consumes some 118 lbs of refined sugar. Food makers sell prepackaged foods which are highly profitable, chocked full of artificial flavors and colors, and made mostly from fillers. Labels like "low fat" and "no fat" make people salivate like pavlovian dogs when they think that it must be heart healthy, but eveyone is ignoring the obvious. Scientists still can't tell us precisely what roles cholesterol play, they can't agree on what is good, what is bad, and nobody has a clue on how cholesterol goes from lipids in the blood stream to plaque along the artery walls.

    And the diet fads: First we're told that vegetarianism is the way to go, but every vegetarian I've ever met has been relatively unremarkable in their health, and never any better off than before they made their "commitment". Then there are 'hollywood' diet plans that offer people the chance to lose gobs of weight in only weeks, but what they don't mention is that you'll gain all that weight back and then some.

    The only vegetarians/vegans I respect are the ones who go on the diet because of concerns about the treatment of food animals. There are alternatives: Nuts, vitamins, soy, etc. But outside of that, anyone who foreswears meat for 'health concerns' is a stark raving fool who is willfully depriving themselves of a number of essential amino acids needed to keep the body healthy. And before you go slathering that baby back ribs with gobs of barbecue sauce, look at how much sugar/sucrose/fructrose is in there. In fact, look at all your foods. If it has "ose", "ayse", or anything you can't pronounce you should toss it in the trash. People rave about the evil of sodium, but if you're drinking water and sweating, sodium is the least of your worries. Watch your intake of sugar and simple carbs. Ban yourself from white bread, cornbread, and anythign that isn't 100% whole grain. Walk straight pass the aisle with all the potato chips, pretend you did'nt even see the pastas, and get your ass into the produce section. If you want to be healthy, make sure there is not more than a few steps between you and your food. And for those of us still eating meat - know where your meat comes from. Free range, hormone free, non-corn-fed meat is the only way to go. And if you don't have a concience, consider this: stress causes animals to pump natural hormones out that make meat taste gamy. Make sure your meat comes from animals that lived happy, and died fast.

    One more thing (and I dont think anyone can disagree with this): Unplug yourself, put the remote down, and go OUT SIDE! You see that big burning ball of fire in the sky? That's called a sun. Try to expose yourself to it more often, it's a great source of vitamin D (not directly obviously). Here's a concept that works: RUN. Sweat. Give yourself some cramps somewhere besides your wrists for a change. Unless you want your legacy to be that you wrote somethign that got included in an obscure 8 digit release Linux kernal, then you died fat and alone in your one bedroom apartment in front of your computer while wearing only your underwear and clutching a twinkie in your left hand, you should excercise. Believe me, running a 100m dash in 10 seconds is just as satisfying as killing a bug in your source code.

    Okay, I'm done now...oh, and if any of you are wondering what inspired this rant, it was spending the first 24 years of my life as a fat out of shape and hypertensive stress ball. Since I saw through the lies, I have lost 130 lbs. I feel great, look great, I'm happy, and I actually get laid on occasion now. Oh yeah, some light reading [] on the subject from the New York Times (no registration required, put it helps to have Acrobat reader installed).
  • by slagdogg ( 549983 ) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @01:54PM (#4245949)
    AB: You might say that we Americans have forgotten how to enjoy the
    simple things in life. With our hectic schedules, the constant pressures of
    society, and the plethora of fast food options, people tend to forget about
    one of the most simple and pleasurable of ingredients -- psychedelic

    Now I know what you're thinking. Psychedelic mushrooms? Wait a second ...
    aren't those ... well, you know ... [Cut to Paul in the background in a Tye-Dye T-Shirt, being arrested and
    carried away by the police.] ... kind of disgusting?

    Well, my fine friend, you have never truly applied
    science to the equation. Now, this isn't as difficult as it might seem. If
    you want difficult, try preparing some crank on a bed of lava ... but ...
    well, that's another show. Now I'm not a nutritional anthropologist, but
    fortunately you don't need to be in order to well ... get messed up ... and
    enjoy some fine flavors on the way.

    So join us as we journey through the world of psychedelic mushroom
    preparation, not to mention a journey to some other worlds, as we turn
    psychedelic mushrooms into ... Good Eats.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe