Like anything that's developed over thousands of years, kitchen lore is a mixed bag. Handed-down wisdom can be a valuable tool or a pointless formality. So what are you - true believer or heretic? Here are 21 popular food myths tested and (mostly) busted.
1. Milk first, then the tea
The tortured question was put to rest in 2003 by Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry. MIF (milk in first) creates a cup of tea that's smoother and richer; MIL, a cup that's more tannic. The chemical explanation involves the degradation of milk proteins. ''If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation to occur. This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk,'' it reported. There are additional cultural and historical factors fuelling the MIF/MIL debate, but ultimately it comes down to a question of taste.
STATUS: UPHELD (unless you're a milk-in-last kind of person)
2. To avoid a hangover, don't mix grape and grain
There are a gazillion myths surrounding hangovers, including the popular misconception that mixing drinks is the fast road to hangover hell (also try ''beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, in the clear''). There's some evidence that alcohols with higher levels of congeners (non-alcoholic compounds that create smell, taste and flavour) lead to worse hangovers than those with low, which makes bourbon, for example, more dangerous than vodka. But there's nothing to say mixing drinks makes a hangover worse.
3. Prick sausages to stop them from bursting
Why would you do such a thing? Fat is flavour, so pricking your snags will let tasty juices escape. To stop them bursting, cook over a low heat.
4. Wash chicken before cooking it
Julia Child did it religiously, and plenty of recipe books call for chicken to be washed before cooking. But rinsing in plain water does nothing, according to the US Department of Agriculture, except help spread bacteria across the kitchen sink, counter and yourself, raising your chances of food poisoning.