You’d be surprised what’s in your lunch. When you look closer at what makes your American cheese melt well and your hotdog so delicious, you might cringe for a few minutes, but hopefully you also get curious about what other characteristics we like in our food and how food manufacturers have, for better or for worse, given our taste buds what they want.
Over at Wired, they’ve dissected Spam with Bacon, and what they find runs the gammut from “Hey, it’s cool that science can do that!” to “Maybe canned meat was a really bad idea.”
Autoclaves—would you cook a turkey in this?
At Popular Science is a profile of food scientists given an impossible task: make year-old mashed potatoes taste good. Food that lasts a year on the shelf needs to be sterilized, and that is a battle against extremophiles. Our most effective weapon is a very blunt one—heat. 252 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact.
Writer Paul Adams tours a food science lab and gets a taste of “retort flavor” in his sterilized mashed potatoes. The unappetizing term refers to the retort, a machine that obliterates microbes and flavor in one fell (and very hot) swoop:
The potatoes look right, once we’ve fluffed them up a bit, but the wholesome earthy taste and smell of fresh potatoes is almost gone from the dish. In its place there’s a tired, wet-paper flavor with notes of old steam pipe. This side effect of confined high-heat cooking is known in the trade as “retort flavor.” Stuckey’s theory is that it’s just underlying parts of the flavor coming through. Before food is retorted, she says, the dank base notes present in it are masked in part “by the beautiful aromatic volatile notes that we take for granted. When the retort destroys these low-molecular-weight flavors, what’s left is the ugly insides.” Read More