Why it's time you should break the kitchen rules

Do you always salt aubergines? Would you never reheat rice? Learn why it’s time to ditch some of these long-held, old-fashioned kitchen conventions. Go on, we dare you…

  1. Always sieve flour

    Once a necessary weevil (pun intended) to remove lumps and potential contaminants, modern flour is so finely milled that there is simply no need to sieve it. That said, it is still the quickest way to combine multiple dried ingredients, as with these Bakewell cookies.

  2. Never mix liquid into melting chocolate

    While adding small amounts of water to partially melted chocolate isn’t advisable as it can make it seize, adding water (or another liquid, such as coffee) to solid chocolate before melting, as in this mocha roulade isn’t just okay, it actually helps the chocolate melt without scorching. You can even make a vegan ganache with nothing more than dairy-free dark chocolate and hot water! 

  3. Browning meat ‘seals’ the juices in

    Actually it does the exact opposite, as the high heat causes the meat fibres to contract, squeezing out moisture. It does, however, create the delicious caramelisation of the sugar in the meat (the ‘maillard’ reaction) that is the highlight of any steak, so is still worth doing. Try it out in this spiced Moroccan beef stew, where a long slow cook also keeps the beef tender.

  4. I should prick sausages before cooking or they’ll explode

    A hangover from an era when sausages contained more filler than meat (ask your gran), cooking sausages on a low, even heat and turning them regularly will prevent unexpected bangers. These spicy hot dogs are cooked slowly on a barbecue before being brushed in a sticky sweet and sour glaze for a twist on classic hot dogs.

  5. Reheated rice will give you food poisoning

    A quick run down of favourite takeaway dishes (egg-fried rice, biryani, arancini), made with twice-cooked rice indicates this can’t be 100 per cent accurate, so why do so many people worry about it? The truth is that it’s not so much the reheating that’s the issue, it’s how the rice is stored after it has first been cooked. Follow the usual instructions for cooking, then cool it as rapidly as possible (spread it out on a plate or baking sheet to speed this up), ideally within 1 hour, then chilled, to slow the growth of bacteria and their spores. Reheat chilled rice until absolutely piping hot throughout, and only reheat what you’re going to eat immediately - try using in this salmon egg-fried rice

  6. You can’t make pastry if you’ve got warm hands

    When making pastry you should handle it as little as possible, and only with your fingertips or heel of your hand, so how hot your palms are really won’t make a difference. Practise your pastry making skills with a creamy veg-packed tart.

  7. Aubergines should be salted to draw out the bitterness

    Salting does draw out moisture, but these juices are far from bitter. Aubergine will actually be softer as a result, so skipping this step not only saves time, it improves your food too. Rub aubergine steaks in spicy harissa instead for Middle Eastern flavour, or go Mediterranean and try these aubergine steaks with peperonata salsa.

  8. Adding vinegar to the water helps set a poached egg

    Although it’s true that the presence of vinegar does help denature (or ‘cook’) the proteins in egg (just as the acid in citrus juice ‘cooks’ fish in ceviche), it acts too slowly to be of much use when quickly poaching an egg, and is more likely to make the egg white tough and vinegary. There’s really only one secret to a perfectly poached egg – use an egg that is as fresh as possible.

  9. Desserts don’t need seasoning

    Salt doesn’t just perk up savory foods – a small pinch will boost the flavour of loads of sweet treats, from cakes to chocolate mousse. Add a pinch to this sweet cherry and poppy seed cake. Hold the pepper though.

  10. Sprouts should have a cross scored into them so they cook evenly

    Not only is this a real faff, it pretty much guarantees you waterlogged, soggy and tasteless sprouts. Instead, just trim any excess stalk and remove any browned or damaged outer leaves. Otherwise, leave them whole. For a recipe that will change the way you look at this mini brassica forever, try our miso-roasted sprouts.