One Mississippi Two …Opps its Carcinogenic

I see cooking as a step by step process, but some people see it differently, or interpret the importance of process differently. Sometimes you have to take advice from someone who knows better.

No doubt my pizza oven doesn’t look very nice, or what you expect when you cook a pizza in a wood oven. We started with a nice roaring fire in the left corner, wood burning and shooting flames, just mega zesty.

Soon thereafter, the Mississippi test from Francois: for those who might not be familiar with the term, hold your hand into the oven mouth and start counting, “One Mississippi, two Mississippi, and so on”. A hot fire will be one, or two counts before you have to snatch your hand away from the heat or get burned, and this test can be used on a grill, or any fire.

Four counts would be a medium fire and three means hot, and so on. Our oven wasn’t even one Mississippi, so it was intensely hot probably as high as 600°C or more, and the problem was the pizza simply burned before cooking.

Never underestimate the hydration in the pizza, it is critical, and we could not control the end result until Francois reduced the oven temperature, as I watched in horror.

The water in the dough means more ride from the yeast, as it lets the yeast move more freely through the dough, this results in a faster rise. Yes, high temperature ovens means pizza all gets burned, and if you don’t believe me try it, or read Modernist Dough Variations. The high temperatures burns before the pizza dough is cooked.

At the same time: can use high temperature ovens but for very short periods that means that you can put something near the roaring infrared light, you have to take it out almost instantly, or it will scorch your food, and it’s carcinogenic.

On a side note, while visiting Singapore we went to Burnt Ends, an appropriate name for a restaurant uses extraordinary heat. The chef who is a fantastic personality explained to me during my visit about how he produces his own embers by burning logs in this cavity of high explosive heat. He then takes the red embers and uses them for grilling in another area of his restaurant. You can see the immense power by the roaring light which imparts intense heat and invisible rays.

Processing of food products is a necessary requirement for extending their shelflife. However, such processing generally involves heat treatment that can enhance the safety of the food, but reduce organoleptic quality. And there are lots of different debates about infrared light, and a study published in a 2005 issue of the “Pakistan Journal of Nutrition” reported that infrared heat-treated, or microwaved milk contains the highest levels of cholesterol oxidation products compared to boiled or pasteurised milk. One of these byproducts is 7-ketocholesterol, a known toxic carcinogen found in human arterial plaques. (Source internet)

Glucosinolate is an anticarcinogenic plant substance found in vegetables belonging to the cabbage family, which includes broccoli. Research published in a 2009 issue of the “Journal of Zhejiang University Science ” found that cooking broccoli in a microwave results in the highest glucosinolate loss: 60 percent — compared with 55 percent, 54 percent, and 41 percent, respectively, in stir-fried, stir-fried and boiled and boiled broccoli. (Source internet)

Cooking at Burnt Ends, Singapore
Burnt Ends Singapore
600-700°C in the Burnt Ends Oven

I was very fortunate to have Francois from Fx cuisine: an expert in so many areas, he visits us in our Test Kitchen, we had a chance to watch and learn some techniques he uses in his kitchen. No doubt he’s a perfectionist, maybe not always reaching perfection, thinking it through carefully and his access to know-how, no doubt helps improve the end result.

When cooking you can’t ignore the importance of taste even though you can’t ignore the importance of process, technique and science, hence Modernist Cuisine. The two go hand-in-hand and the perfect example was working with Francois and a very hot fire made by my staff.

My pizza oven was way overheated, Francois insisted to throw water on the fire, I was reluctant because I have always been told never put cold water into a pizza oven. Certainly avoid cold water on a plancha made from steel because the change in temperature can cause damage.

As long as the water is concentrated on the fire, (using a spray bottle) it helped reduce the overall temperature, and the infrared light was concentrated as a mountainous clump. This was a work in progress, the fire’s light further diminished, this was the perfect example of better trusted knowledge.

The end result was excellent *Bravissimo Francois