Design Con 2015

Thanksgiving cooking resources for engineers

Suzanne Deffree -November 15, 2012

The holidays are once again upon us and Thanksgiving is a blink away.

If you’re anything like me, you’re approaching the season with a mix of joy and dread (yes, between social and travel obligations, deadlines pushed forward because of vacations, and the overall cost of the holidays, there’s definitely some dread).

I do love being in the kitchen, though, and that is one of the things that makes this season so joyful for me. Our kitchen is the most engineering-friendly room in the house. It’s our home lab where cuisine is designed, meal prototypes are made, testing is conducted, all in a measurable and distinct way.

Come Wednesday evening, I’m sure I’ll be at Trader Joes picking up last minute ingredients for Thanksgiving – more likely, I’ll be desperately asking the clerk if I can substitute one ingredient for another because they will be out of what I need – but that part I won’t mind. 

Truth be told, I’m more of a baker thank a cook. In cooking things can be done to taste but baking is very precise. If a baking recipe calls for half a teaspoon of oil, there’s a reason it’s not a full teaspoon, but when cooking you can oil up a turkey just about any way you want.

Also, I find baking is less “Martha” and more “Alton.” Who is Alton, you ask? Alton Brown, a chef/food scientist on the Food Network who you may recognize from Welch’s commercials.

His main gig, a show called “Good Eats,” brings its viewers through all arts of the kitchen by marrying science and engineering with deliciousness. When an ingredient is presented, the “why and how” of that ingredient is stated: Yeast is not just yeast, it’s a unicellular fungus that converts sugar into carbon dioxide, which makes bread rise.
 
There are also all sorts of goodies on why cooking instruments are designed the way they are, kitchen appliance teardowns, just lots of fun stuff for those who want to know how mixing flour, sugar, and eggs together turns into a cake when heated. Sort of a “Have your cake, and engineer it, too” kind of show.

You can find Alton’s recipes and knowledge share on his web site as well as FoodNetworkTV.com. I’ll be contributing his garlic mashed potatoes to our Thanksgiving table. I always make this recipe because it’s very easy, quite tasty, and calls for russet potatoes, opposed to the popular Yukon Gold variety (surely Trader Joes will be out of Yukons by Wednesday, but there will be russets!).

For a broader look at cooking for the smart set, check out CookingForEngineers.com’s Thanksgiving page  or pick up the Cooking For Geeks cook book.

The New York Times is also answering questions on the ins and outs of Thanksgiving meal prep.

If your question is turkey specific, you can ring Butterball’s Turkey Talk hotline (1-800-BUTTERBALL) and find someone so schooled in fowl on the other end you’ll swear they have a PhD in roasting with a masters in basting.

Or, if you’re looking at buying some new kitchen gadgets before you get into this year’s festivities, check out this microwave teardown and this electric frying pan teardown for a little inside perspective.

Here’s to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving to all and wonderful holiday season.

Also see:
5 Engineers: What engineering breakthrough are you most thankful for?

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