The 16 Best Things We Learned About Food from Alton's Iron Chef America Commentary
Food-science guru Alton Brown has overseen countless battles on Iron Chef America. And in each one, he imparted his signature wisdom — and humor — along the way. These are some of the most-interesting, if perhaps least useful, fun facts he's shared.
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How do tagines work?
A "tagine is kind of a pyramid-shaped, conical cooker traditional in Moroccan cuisine," Alton noted. It "has a little chimney on the top very often. Moisture condenses on the inside of the cone as it rises and falls back down onto the food."
A plantain is the same thing as a banana, right?
"Basically, it is a banana, only a slightly different variation. The banana that most of us know here in America, or the dessert banana, is typically about 80 percent sugar, 20 percent starch," according to Alton. "The plantain is on the other side of that equation at about 80 percent starch, 20 percent sugar."
What's the deal with raw olives?
"In their raw state, olives are some of the worst-tasting things on the face of the Earth because they contain a good bit of a substance called oleuropein, which is a terribly bitter component, and various other acids that have got to be rendered out," Alton said.
What the heck is soy lecithin?
"'Lecithin' comes from the Greek word for 'egg yolk.' It is a natural emulsifier and stabilizer," Alton explained.
The organ structure of a snail is rudimentary.
"Snails go very, very well with seafood because they are mollusks," noted Alton. "They are closely related to clams, squid [and] octopus. The only difference is they developed a very simple lung instead of gills."
What's the skinny on Kobe beef?
"American Kobe beef is especially tender because of fat by raising this beef very, very slowly. And it takes about four times as long to raise than it would an American steer. And what you get when you do that, you get fat deep, deep down in the muscle tissue. And that is where the real flavor in this meat is coming from," Alton explained. "And lest you be afraid of all that fat, the groovy thing is that, genetically, these cattle grow more monounsaturated fat instead of saturated fat. So it's better for you."
Malta soda is similar to something you know (and probably love).
According to Alton, "Malta is basically beer that's not allowed to ferment."
Is a bison essentially a large cow?
"These are a member of the cow family, so to speak. They can't moo. They just grunt," explained Alton.
It turns out that we're all nuts for peanuts.
As Alton said, "The average American consumes about 6.5 pounds of peanuts and peanut butter each year."
Geese are hard-working animals, and their muscles prove it.
"It's very, very red. It's all red meat. There's no white meat on a goose at all, because these muscles all work for a living," said Alton.
Ricotta is only sort of a cheese.
"This, of course, [is] a cheese but not completely a cheese. It is a byproduct of making cheese," according to Alton. "The liquid protein that is left over from making various cheeses, like mozzarella, for instance, is allowed to continue to ferment for a couple of days. An acid is added to it. It is heated, and the curds form."
Theoretically, you could eat Blue Foot chickens raw. Here's why.
"Because of the way they are handled, [they're] said to be salmonella-free," said Alton.
No one said cabbage was a lightweight.
"A head of napa cabbage can weigh anywhere from 2 to 10 pounds," Alton said.
Banana science is pretty cool.
Take it from Alton, "Most Americans don't realize that the banana tree, or what we call it, is actually the world's largest herb, about 60 to 70 species with more than 200 varieties."
The truth about cauliflower is colorful.
"Orange-tipped cauliflower ... happens to have a higher vitamin A level than any other type of cauliflower," noted Alton. "The orange color — actually a mutation of the white cauliflower first discovered, I think, in Canada back in the '70s."
According to legend, Marlene Dietrich sucked on lemon wedges to keep her cheeks taut — which is why her signature drink is garnished with citrus. This cocktail is a riff on an old fashioned and likely originated at Hollywood's Hi Ho Club in the '30s.
Get the Recipe: Marlene Dietrich
Goats are kids too.
"'Kid' has been used for the term for a goat under 1 year of age centuries before it was used as a term for human children. That didn't come into use until the 17th century."
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