Top Chef: Medium-rare lamb is 140F and soy sauce is the secret ingredient in perfect gravy

Jennifer and daughter Ingrid brought the lamb, I did the cooking, and Amy’s mom flew in from Vegas. Another Thursday night in Manhattan (Kansas).

What better occasion to try out alleged perfect gravy that scientists with the U.K. Royal Society of Chemistry have determined contains drippings from a roast on a bed of halved onions, carrots and celery and the left-over water from boiled cabbage.

Add salt, pepper and a sprinkling of flour to thicken and …  a touch of soy sauce.

Dr John Emsley, a chemical scientist, says soy sauce should be used in place of traditional gravy browning because monosodium glutamate from the soy sauce brings out the meaty flavour.

A spokesman for the society said:

“Chemistry and cooking are basically the same thing. Both need to have the correct formula, equipment and procedures. Just think of Heston Blumenthal.”

Eww. Blumenthal makes me think norovirus and barf.

And I didn’t take pictures of Thursday’s dinner, but Top Chef on Wed. night also struggled with lamb, and none of the hot-shot chefs could agree on how to define medium-rare lamb.

Chef Kevin (left):

“We’re having temperature issues with the lamb. What I think of as medium-rare, is apparently what she thinks of as rare. I don’t know who’s right or wrong, I don’t know if there is anyone who is right or wrong.”

The judges knew:

“This was seared raw lamb that was horrible.”

“Severely underdone.”

“Center was like jello.”

“A little too bloody.”

The lamb shoulder roast we had last night was cooked to 140F. There’s even a chart on the Internet that says medium-rare lamb is 140F. I have no idea where the numbers on the chart came from, but it seems about right.

Genius chefs and judges: use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and stick it in.

The gravy was delicious.

90210: Pregnant and hungry for a hamburger

Last night on 90210, Adriana, the drug-addict turned mother-to-be, was out dining with her boyfriend and ordered a hamburger, medium rare.

Pregnant Adriana could learn some things from Barfblog.

Medium rare does not mean the burger is safe to eat – rather a hamburger needs to be cooked to 160F, by someone who knows how to use a meat thermometer properly, to be safe. Cooking hamburgers to 160F is the only way to kill deadly microorganisms like E. coli O157:H7. Pregnant women, with their suppressed immune systems, should be particularly careful, and avoid certain foods.

Souse your steak to ward off cancer

After spending all day leaning against an abandoned shed in the woods with just a rifle and a flashlight, my husband got his doe.

That means lots of deer burger, a few roasts and several steaks are now stuffed in our freezer to feed us cheap for a while.

I’m new to the taste of venison and really hate the way it smells when it’s browning, but my husband makes a delicious teriyaki marinade that covers the gamey taste of those deer steaks perfectly.

He leaves mine on the grill until it’s well-done. That’s how I like it. I think more rare meat has a stringy/gummy texture that is most undesirable.

I know my preference is among the minority, though.

My food microbiology professor boasted of eating his steaks near raw: As long as the steaks haven’t been pierced before cooking (which would allow any bacteria on the outside to get inside the meat), the cook only needs to sear the surface to be rid of most things that could make him sick.

Some people shy away from well-done steaks because meats cooked to high temperatures form heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAs). These HAs are thought to contribute to some types of cancer.

There is hope for the devout well-done crowd, though. Food chemists in Portugal have found that the formation of HAs is significantly reduced when beef steaks are marinated in red wine or beer for six hours before being pan-fried.

I wonder how it does with venison?

Want a rare burger in Dubai? Sign for it

Neil Rumbaoa, director of communications at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai, told The National that hamburgers served anything less than well-done come with a legal waiver.

“We just want to make sure that we serve the best quality food and the safest. And so if it’s rare, obviously there are factors that will contribute to how safe the food is.”

Levent Tekun, the director of marketing at Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi, said it is a worldwide policy for the hotel chain.

“As a company, globally, when a burger is ordered and a guest is asking for it to be medium or rare or something along those lines, our verbal phrase on that would be that the hotel prefers for the burgers to be well-done. Then it’s down to the guest to choose whether he wants it well-done or rare or whatever.”

In both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, customers who ask to take prepared food away from the hotel premises or use hotel facilities to store food from outside must sign a disclaimer. That practice is used in other hotel restaurants in the UAE, such as the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

It’s all part of the Shangri-La Hotel’s HACCP plan and has been in place for several years. But I wonder, how are rare and medium defined? Are they using meat thermometers and the right ones?

Hamburger Habits: Is Medium Safe?

I’m a reformed medium-rare hamburger eater. Before I met Doug, I always wanted my hamburgers pink in the middle and frankly had no clue that this was a potentially risky habit. Now that I’ve learned hamburger needs to be cooked to 160 F to be safe, however, I rarely eat hamburger unless Doug cooks it at home. That’s the only way I can assure that the cook is using a meat thermometer and knows how to properly do so.

Tonight, though, I’m in Buffalo, NY and I had dinner with two British friends in a rowdy Irish pub. While I intended to order salad, the pickings were few on the menu and I settled on a cheeseburger with fries. The waitress asked me, “How do you want that cooked.” Somewhat startled and without my food safety arsenal beside me, I said, “Medium.” I hate well-done hamburger because of the texture, but I wanted my burger safe. How could I tell her that?

My burger came and was very medium rare looking … very pink in the middle and done on the outside. I ate it. The whole thing. And it tasted good. And now I’m thinking about my foolish behavior and wondering if I’ll get e. coli. I know that color is a lousy indicator and I know it’s not likely I’ll get sick. But without the thermometer, how can you be sure?