Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yummy fried chicken

     And I'm back.  Ever just have crazy week where you have to tie up some lose ends?  Writing is a relaxant; it creates peace by giving my mind something else to think about.
     So I've been thinking recently that I'll never become famous in the blog world if I keep writing about thermodynamics.  Being the follower, or "second-hander", that I am, I need to do what the "in" crowd is doing.  Today, I'm going to write about food.  Since my camera is in the shop though, you'll need to use my words to imagine a succulent and moist meal.
     Let us discuss the science of frying on todays blog.  Frying is an delicious way to cook anything; it has been said that anything can made exponentially better by how much it is fried.  I myself was raised on fried chicken, mushrooms and pork, and I feel I am a better man for it.
      Do you know the difference between a chemical and physical change in chemistry?  To put us on the same page, I will define it.  A physical change is a change you can go back on, simply put.  Salt water, for instance, is a basic example of a physical change.  You can mix salt and water, but if you increase the temperature of the fluid to its boiling point  you can separate its components.  Specifically, the water becomes vapor and the salt stays behind.  Chemical changes are more permanent; the energy we introduce into the system fuel bonds between molecules.  This is something I wish I could explain to you in simple, easy terms.  Instead, I am going to just send you to this other website.
     But that was the old Aristotle.  The new blog doesn't want to talk about boring science shit.  We want sleek, elegant family friendly pizazz.  I want to know how to fry a turkey as big as my head.
     The first thing you need is a vat.  The next step is to fill the vat with delicious oil.  If you're like me, you're using oil that is more or less at "room temperature".  If you're like my dad, there is a very good chance that this oil is full of impurities.  These two factors are playing against you, amigo.  Even though you might have come across this shiny looking blog in a drunken stupor at three a.m. looking for fried food recipes, you're about to find that you'll have to wait a little longer for the oil to get up to temperature.  The first reason is due due to some mathematical mumbo-jumbo about surface area and heat.   I'm assuming you are using a Bayou Classic fryer, because you buy the first thing that pops up on Google.  In this case, the only part of your oil that is getting direct heat is about 104 square inches.  Compared to the 1350 cubic inches of oil you are trying to heat.  Your two dimensional attempt to heat a three dimensional area makes me laugh.
     After drinking more beer while intensely watching the thermometer, the oil will finally reach a temperature between 180 and 200 degrees Celsius. (Quick!  What is the absolute temperature of your oil?)  At this point, you need to place your whole chicken into the fryer.  If you drop it, there is an excellent chance that 392 degree Fahrenheit oil will splash on your clothes.  That is bad.  You should probably memorize the number for 911 before you start.
     Now for the cooking part.  The combination of energy and time is causing a chemical and physical change in the oil and chicken.  You are now an alchemist, but instead of creating something lame like a philosophers stone, you are creating fried chicken.  Let me say this again:  Fried is way better than regular.  This is mostly due to the process that is going on.
     As energy is applied in the form of heat to the chicken, changes are going on in the molecular level.  In chemistry we learn that this heat will cause the degradation of some molecular structures.  In physics we learn that a increase in temperature causes an increase in movement of molecules.  In the case of protein structures, this increase in entropy is causing the atoms that make up the molecule to shake itself free from its chemical bonds.  As the chemical bonds break down, the energetic atom is now free.
     On a macro level, this break down of bonds is causing fat to leak from the chicken into the oil.  This break down starts at 38 degrees c.  At the temperature we are working at, there is a much higher breakdown of the bonds, causing a much higher fat loss.  This release of the fat into the oil is causing the oil to go through its own changes, the most significant of which is causing the boiling point to increase due to the increase of carbons. This increase in the boiling point means you can raise the oil to even higher temperatures, causing a faster cooking time and crispier skin.
     This higher temp also supplies more thermal energy to break stronger bonds.  Since it has the energy to break stronger bonds, the atoms and molecules release have the energy to create stronger bonds.  At this point, people will begin to argue that many of the chemicals created are unhealthy.  They are also savory, and can create visually appealing changes.  As your chicken begins to brown, you know it's ready.  Stick a thermometer in it.  If it's reached an internal temp of 71 degrees Celsius, then you have created enough heat to kill off any dangerous bacteria.
     Well, looks my foray into the cooking blog world didn't go so well.  I must say that the more I do this, the more my tolerance goes up for studying.  Hopefully I'm getting better at explaining this.  If anyone is out there, feel free to comment.       One last thing I want to mention.  As I was researching this, I came across an article on raw foods.  The first thing I will say is this: wash your foods.  As was stated above, the increase in temperature causes the break down of chemical bonds and the formations of new chemicals.  If there is any foreign substances present, logically speaking this introduces more elements and could cause the formation of very unhealthy chemicals.  I'm not sold on the idea of vegan-ism or the raw food movement, but it does bring up a good point about cooking pesticides.  I'm going to read the research it cites.  For now, au revoir to all of my imaginary friends in the void.

This article was inspired by this paper

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