If you are blessed with good cooks in the family like mine (s/o to my mom), then it is not an absolute necessity to learn how to cook. When I do attempt to cook though, I have to stick to the recipe completely. But, what would happen if you went rogue, and didn’t measure the ingredients to the decimal point? Well, you don’t have to experiment because The Business Insider answered your biggest cooking questions:

How much water do I need to cook rice?


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A universal rule: For each cup of rice, use two cups of water. But, this is not always the case. According to Dan Souza, the executive editor of Cook’s Science at America’s Test Kitchen and one of the authors of “The Science of Cooking,” there are a number of factors that affect how much water you need, such as what size the pot is and how much evaporates. When you double your portions, the water is not going to doubly evaporate (a ratio of 1:2 does not equate 2:4). Keep this in mind when you’re trying to double your portions.

Does searing a steak seal in its juices?


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Although many cooks will tell you that searing a steak will seal in its juices, they are not entirely right. When you sear a steak at a high temperature, you create a crispier crust on the steak, but the crust doesn’t keep in any liquids. If anything, Souza says, muscle proteins at higher temperatures squeeze out liquids instead of keeping them in.

How do you preserve nutrients when cooking veggies?


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The best method to preserve and enhance the nutrients in vegetables like broccoli is to steam them, according to a November 2015 study that examined various cooking methods for vegetables. An easy way to steam them: Fill a large glass bowl with broccoli, add about a tablespoon of water to the bowl, cover the bowl with a plate, and then microwave it on high for a few minutes.

What does marinating do to meat?


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Marinades are used to add different flavors to a piece of meat. Usually marinades contain some kind of acid, which reacts with the meat and breaks down some of the protein to make it more tender. But, don’t leave it in for too long because the meat could get mushy. Marinating can also help you grill healthier as studies have connected marinating your meat to fewer HCAs (an ingredient that has been found to be potentially carcinogenic) being formed in the cooking process.

#SpoonTip: Hack the pH levels in your marinade by tossing the meat in baking soda and salt, letting it sit, and then marinating it as usual. This helps the meat brown and hold water better. 

What makes cakes turn brown?


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While we’re on the subject, baking soda is also one of the reasons why cakes turn brown. It is used to help cakes rise by replacing the long process that yeast takes. When added to the batter, baking soda reacts with any acids and produces carbon dioxide, which puffs up the batter. The more baking soda you add, the browner your cake or cookies get.

What’s the best way to boil pasta?


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Most chefs agree that you should start with cold water, add salt for flavor, and then bring it to a boil. To keep the pot from boiling over after adding your pasta, keep the lid off. If that’s not working, place a wooden spoon across the top to break up the bubbles. Try not to add olive oil to the pasta while it’s boiling. Although it helps eliminate bubbles, it will make it harder for the sauce to stick to your pasta later. While it’s boiling, stir frequently to avoid clumping.

Why do some people put vodka in their pie crust?


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Unfortunately, this is not another innovative way to turn up. A couple of years ago, chefs at America’s Test Kitchen began using vodka in their pie crusts in addition to water. The idea is that alcohol can’t form gluten, the elastic substance you get when you mix wheat flour with water that can make pie dough tougher. When the pie baked, the crust was flakier, but didn’t taste like alcohol because it evaporated.

What makes spicy foods spicy?


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In terms of the World Wrestling Foundation: can you take the heat? The spiciness of virtually all peppers comes from a chemical called capsaicins. In your mouth, they bind to a receptor that registers the connection as pain. This receptor isn’t only in your mouth, so the capsaicins can get in your eyes too. Because your body’s in pain from the spicy foods, it releases endorphins that act as a painkiller, which is why some people (like me) enjoy eating them.

Why does dough sometimes become really tough?


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Do you recall when I talked about gluten? The reaction happens when wheat (barley, rye, etc.) flour mixes with water, by either stirring or kneading. But, you can work the dough too much. If you stir too much, you activate too much of the gluten and your pastries will come out too tough, with big bubbles throughout, and super high peaks instead of a rounded top.

Does turkey really make you sleepy?


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Despite what you have been told, this is an absolute myth. Like milk, turkey contains a chemical called tryptophan, which our bodies convert into the sleep-influencing neurotransmitter, serotonin. But, neither has that much tryptophan, in fact, for milk, you would need 10x more to help you fall asleep. The myth about turkey probably stems from the over-eating on Thanksgiving.

What’s happening when you whip up egg whites?


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If you’ve ever seen a food video (Tasty, Proper Tasty, etc.), then you have definitely seen the transformation of egg whites to delectable fluffs of heaven, or meringue. How does this happen?

Egg whites are mostly water and proteins, which we know are made up of amino acids. The Smithsonian explains the amino acids that make up the proteins are either attracted or repelled by water. By whipping them up, you add air and the amino acids begin to separate out, forming bubbles coated in these proteins. The sugar helps them keep their shape after the whipping stops.

What causes meat to turn brown?


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Different colors of meat can be traced to myoglobin, a protein found in muscle tissue. The change from red to brown refers to its oxidation process. Dark meat usually had more myoglobin than light meat. But, doneness cannot always be judged by color, sometimes pink meat is cooked correctly. So, it is important to measure the temperature of your meat. For instance, the USDA says an internal temperature of 160° F is good for ground beef.