May 19, 2008
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Elements of Cooking

Hervé This lists the ten elements of basic kitchen knowledge.

  1. Salt dissolves in water.
  2. Salt does not dissolve in oil.
  3. Oil does not dissolve in water.
  4. Water boils at 100 C (212 F).
  5. Generally foods contain mostly water (or another fluid).
  6. Foods without water or fluid are tough.
  7. Some proteins (in eggs, meat, fish) coagulate.
  8. Collagen dissolves in water at temperatures higher than 55 C (131 F).
  9. Dishes are dispersed systems (combinations of gas, liquid or solid ingredients transformed by cooking).
  10. Some chemical processes - such as the Maillard Reaction (browning or caramelizing) - generate new flavors.

This is a fine, thoughtful list. It's not complete. One of the most important missing elements is:

3a. Some flavorful components — notably some flavors in onions and herbs — dissolve in oil but not in water.

Also, while salt is central, I think it is worth mentioning that sugars and acids generally don't dissolve in oil and do dissolve in water.

Thanks, Michael Ruhlman!