By applying a technique used in chemistry and adopting this to cooking, I have discovered an easy means of retaining essential components that are normally lost through conventional cooking. This system is very simple, anyone can do it at home. All one needs is a suitable stainless steel bowl and cold water.
In the Lab
In the laboratory, a technique known as heating under reflux or refluxing [flux meaning fluid] is often used so that the cooking process can be performed over many hours and in some cased over days, without the loss of essential components such as solvents. In the laboratory a condenser is used to condense and contain the volatile components. During refluxing, vaporization of the boiling mixture is followed by condensation of vapours of the volatile compounds condensing on the inner wall of a condenser. The condenser is kept cool by passing cold water through a jacket built around the outer wall of the condenser. The condensed goodies fall back into solution, so these are not lost in the surrounding atmosphere.
Applying Simple Science in Cooking
In the kitchen, this technique can be adopted and customized by simply placing a stainless steel bowl filled with cold water/ice over the open mouth of the cooking pot. The cold water-filled bowl [which is now the condenser], replaces a conventional lid.
Similar in the lab during refluxing, essential components in the form of vapour are condensed when the vapour comes in contact with the bottom surface of the cold water-filled bowl [the condenser]. Condensed vapours accumulate as a liquid and are returned back into the cooking pot, instead of disappearing into the surrounding atmosphere. Odours produced during cooking, are also essential components, especially in the case with aromatic herbal teas and spices used for flavouring soups etc. Aromatic compounds are quite volatile, they are easily lost into the atmosphere during cooking or heating on a stove.
Note. This technique can not recover denatured heat sensitive compounds destroyed by cooking.
In the laboratory, the principle of heating under reflux or refluxing is performed during extraction of essential compounds or components from organic raw material. In most cases the extraction process is performed over many hours to achieve a desired goal. To prevent loss of solvent and retain the essences of interest extracted into the solvent, heating under reflux is performed. This is achieved by fitting a reflux condenser on the top section or the mouth of the extraction flask. Solvents and any essential component that vaporize from the raw material, condense in the condenser chamber, and fall back into solution as a liquid, so there is no loss of solvent and other volatile compound in to the atmosphere.
Benefits of using this simple technique when cooking food or preparing herbal tea in the kitchen--
Food has better flavour.
Minimizes cooking odours because these elements are condensed and returned back into the original ingredients [not vaporized into the atmosphere].
Recycling energy by heating the water in the condenser bowl, which can be used to wash utensils etc.
Foods can be kept warm by placing it on the top chamber in a steaming-rack thingie-ma-jig... hehehe!
Food contain nutrients which would normally evaporate including volatile organic acids and essential oils with therapeutic value [essential oils are nutrients at a pharmacological level].
Minimize steam that builds up and condenses on kitchen walls... where no exhaust fan is installed or an installed fan is inefficient.
Fats that usually turn to vapour and condense on utensils, walls and ceiling are reduced, or completely prevented.
If you forget something cooking on the stove, it won't dry out and burn easily, taking hours longer to do so, which may give you enough time to save the day :-).
COOKING IN THE KITCHEN
In our kitchen a bowl-shaped stainless steel pot filled with cold water is placed on the mouth of the cooking pot. I may also add a few ice cubes in the water.
This technique is especially useful for preparing herbal teas, or foods that contain aromatic herbs or spices. The volatile nature of essential oils that are lost as vapour once the herb-material is heated is retained and not lost.
Essential oils are usually the main active ingredient in medicinal herbs. In my way of seeing... most essential oils are also essential nutrients in a unique class!
As Hippocrates said, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food"
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Edited May 3, 2016
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