Which TikTok Food Trends Are Actually Legit, and Which Are Hoaxes?
Spoiler alert: pouring creamer into your coffee pot's water tank is a very bad idea
You’ve seen them. I’ve seen them. Your mom has overshared them on Facebook, probably. I’m talking about those viral social media cooking fads, usually featuring impeccable loops and cooks in expensive aprons. But are they legit timesavers and clever food hacks, or are they really just well-edited hoaxes? Worry not, reader: I recently spent one rainy Tuesday trying out seven of the most popular TikTok food trends, putting them to the test to determine whether they’re actually worthwhile, and I walked away with some surprising results and only one kitchen fire.
Rundown: A wooden cutting board is slathered in butter, then topped with fruits, nuts, honeys and breads.
Analysis: A butter board does make sense, culinarily speaking. It’s a natural combination — sort of a hybrid of a charcuterie board and gourmet buttered bread. That said, wasting that much butter (which is at an all-time high price) is excessive, not to mention wildly heavy. Instead, perhaps integrate some whipped and flavored butters into the next charcuterie board and save the cost and cleanup. Overall, the concept is more for the ‘gram than practical, and it isn’t a realistic thing to serve.
Milk Powder Steak
Rundown: A steak is covered in powdered milk, then traditionally cooked.
Analysis: Bear with me here, because this one actually checks out. Milk powder is comprised of milk sugars, proteins and fat, all which are delicious when browned, so applying powdered milk to a steak isn’t really outlandish at all. The resulting flavor when I tried it was a bit sweet and roasty, and while it wasn’t bad, I’m not expecting steakhouses everywhere to adopt the trend. Also, the resulting color on the meat was almost a caramel hue, which was a bit off-putting as well. That said, a bit applied to seasoning rubs would add depth, especially on something smoked or grilled.
Rundown: Cooked pasta is fried (deep fat or air) to make crispy chip-like snacks.
Analysis: The concept of frying pasta isn’t new. Frittata di Pasta is a southern Italian dish which combines leftover pasta with eggs and herbs and pan-fries it to repurpose the pasta into a wonderful breakfast dish. The issue with many of the social media recipes is the absence of some sort of moisture. Simply frying pasta alone is extremely difficult to properly cook with no intermediate fat/eggs to help moderate the cooking. Additionally, the resulting chips are often extremely hard or greasy. Unless you have a ton of time to spare to perfect the craft or really like your dentist, leave this one alone.
Rundown: A block of feta cheese is placed in a sea of cherry tomatoes, lightly covered in oil and roasted. Once cooked, the mixture is tossed with pasta and herbs and served.
Analysis: This dish makes sense, as the final product is a partially deconstructed baked ziti. This one lives up to the hype, though I’m not sure one could truly screw up cheese, tomatoes, oil and pasta. Mix it up by using smoked mozzarella for the cheese, as the feta can make the final dish a bit salty.
Coffee Creamer in the Coffee Pot
Rundown: Coffee creamer and/or other flavorings are poured into the water tank of a coffee pot before the coffee is traditionally brewed.
Analysis: Throwing away all pre-conceived notions on this one, I actually tried it on a spare coffee pot. Shockingly, this worked worse than I ever could have thought, filling the room with an odor somewhere between rotten milk and burning tires. Assuredly this method will clog, burn and overall muck up every coffee pot due to the sticky, viscous nature of the creamer. Furthermore, the internals of most coffee makers aren’t designed to be physically cleaned. TikTok, you owe me a coffee pot.
Rundown: A block of processed cheese is thrown into a smoking pan along with some veggies, usually by someone with a thick Southern accent.
Analysis: The science behind smoking foods is highly complex. In short, smoke absorbs differently into fats, water and proteins. This is one reason why fatty cuts like salmon and brisket are so popular to smoke (along with the slow cooking of the meat). Since processed cheese is, quite literally, an amalgamation of fats, proteins and water, the cheese can absorb a wide array of flavors from the surrounding smoke. Additionally, cheese dips like queso work best at lower smoking temperatures, lest the cheese mixture separates and becomes grainy. Smoked queso, culinarily speaking, makes sense; overacted Southern drawl optional.
Microwaved Fried Eggs
Rundown: Two eggs are placed between a pair of greased paper plates and microwaved, “frying” them.
Analysis: Does this method result in cooked eggs? Yes. Would I ever want to eat these eggs if there were a pan and butter within reach? Never. The texture of the eggs was ineffable; somehow they were both rubbery and runny. I ran through a dozen eggs, varying the cook time and power. Ultimately, I reached a medium where the eggs were edible, though the balance of a cooked white and still runny yolk eluded me. Overall, the trend is fine in a pinch, just not my preferred (nor backup) method to eat an egg.
Rating: Technically useful
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