Kitchen mysteries: Is it better to tear or cut lettuce?

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By Maryellen Garrison

Is it better to tear lettuce leaves or cut them?

Most salad lovers will tell you that a torn leaf lasts longer, while a cut lettuce leaf turns brown faster.

The rationale behind this is that, when torn, the leaf breaks along the natural boundaries between cells, whereas a knife cuts right through cells causing more damage and quicker browning.

Despite this theory, however, there appears to be no real difference in browning between a cut leaf and a torn one. So, whether salad greens are cut or torn are of personal preference.

What is the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour?

The amount of gluten.

All-purpose flour produces more gluten because it has more protein than cake flour.

You wouldn’t want to substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour in breads, because gluten provides the structure necessary for bread to rise. But in cakes, the weaker gluten structure of cake flour produces a highly desirable tender, crumbly texture.

Still, all-purpose flour can be substituted for cake flour. Use one cup all-purpose flour minus two tablespoons for every cup of cake flour.

What makes brown sugar brown?

Nowadays, brown sugar is actually nothing more than refined white sugar with molasses sprayed on it. The darker the sugar, the more molasses it contains. But not enough is added to provide significant amounts of any nutrients.


Why do onions make you cry?

Watery, burning eyes result from a substance in onions called lachrymator, a derivative of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine. It is released when the onion’s tissue cells are disrupted by chopping or dicing.

When lachrymator comes in contact with the fluid in the eye, irritating sulfuric acid is formed.

Fortunately, the compounds are very unstable and decompose rapidly. To tame your tears, try freezing onions for 20 minutes before chopping.

What is cream of tartar used for?

Cream of tartar is an acid you add to whipped egg whites in order to stabilize the foam. It makes the foam less prone to lumpiness, drainage and collapse. Only a very small amount is needed to maintain a delicate structure.

To breakfast or not to breakfast

“When I eat breakfast I am much hungrier at lunch time than if I skip breakfast. I’m trying to control my weight and want to know if there is any harm in avoiding breakfast altogether.”

If your objective is to control your weight, research suggests you’re better off eating breakfast. Breakfast skippers almost always end up eating more calories during the day compared with those who regularly eat breakfast. In addition, those who skip breakfast may have slightly lower metabolic rates than breakfast eater. One study showed that breakfast skippers had metabolic rates 4 to 5% lower than normal. You may initially “feel” hungrier when you start eating breakfast because your body has not had time to get used to your new habit. Give your body several weeks to adjust.

Does white cheese have less fat than yellow cheese?

Most white cheeses, including brick, Muenster, Swiss and jack, contain the same amount of fat (8 to 9 grams per ounce) as common yellow cheese.

Some part-skim mozzarella or string cheeses may have a lower fat content.

Color is not a reliable indicator of fat content. Read the Nutrition Facts label instead.


We will have one last article with another set of ‘kitchen mysteries’ revealed. 


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