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Whenever someone is strapped for time and needs to cook something, they will assume that the time and temperature listed in the recipe are inversely proportional; logic a Straw Vulcan would be proud of.
For example, they'll assume a cake that needs 30 minutes at 375 Fahrenheit to bake can be baked just as well in 15 minutes at 750 degrees (never mind that a normal kitchen oven won't go that high). Expect there to be flames, plenty of smoke, and for the Lethal Chef to pull out something resembling a forest fire from the oven. Or occasionally, a fireball that destroys the entire house, with a perfectly baked pie in the middle of the debris.
Hilarity Ensues. A subset of the horrible cooking skills of a Lethal Chef. This has probably been Truth in Television for some of us at one point in our lives. Also, notice that some processes do behave according to Oven Logic; milk pasteurization, for example, can be done in 5 minutes at 70°C, or in less than 3 seconds at 150°C -- though again, the reduction in time is disproportionate to the increase in temperature (and doing it faster kills the taste by caramelizing the milk sugar).
The interesting thing is that the logic itself is fine, but cooking (and chemistry) follow their own rules, which the character is not privy to - more specifically, there are several factors to the equation that the "cook" in question fails to consider (usually, a smaller-scale example of Convection, Schmonvection or other misunderstandings of heat transfer). The rate of heat transfer is not proportional to the temperature of the oven, but to the difference between the temperatures of the oven and the food. Since the temperature of the food changes over time, you'd need to have a firm grasp of differential equations to be able to predict the time required at higher temperatures. That's not even counting the effect on chemical kinetics, which will greatly increase the rate of reactions such as oxidation (burning) at high temperatures . Of course, temperature is also not based around absolute zero like the Kelvin scale is. After all, what exactly would be twice as hot as 100°F or 100°C?
Anime & Manga
- Lethal Chef Akane Tendo in Ranma ½ had forgotten the boiled eggs, so she thought she could have them up in "a jiffy" by popping the entire carton of eggs into the microwave. It exploded spectacularly.
- In Episode 29 of Cardcaptor Sakura, Meiling Li did this, hoping to have a cake done before Syaoran came home from school (she wanted to show him that she could make a cake for their school's Home-Ec class). Needless to say...
- Millie. You know that "exploding kitchen, perfect pie" analogy? The one used in the summary at the top of this page? She does this every time she cooks.
- Satoshi in Michiko to Hatchin applies Oven Logic to medication. He takes double the amount of pills recommended dose for adults, figuring it would double effectiveness.
- A version of this occurs in Iron Wok Jan. Jan is a skilled chef, but because he was raised alone by his grandfather, he has no idea how to cook for more than five people. When he starts working at the Gobancho restaurant, he tries to cook vegetables for fifty people by taking the recipes his grandfather taught him and multiplying all of the quantities of food by ten. The end result is deemed a failure. He realizes his mistake later: all of the additional vegetables add too much water and make the dish too juicy.
- Chance's solution to cooking two brands of pasta together is to average the cooking times. The result: a big heap of al dente pasta in mush. Not exactly disastrous, but it does put everyone off dinner. (Except Ombre.)
- In an ad for M&Ms with a cookie recipe, the red and yellow M&Ms remind the consumer not to try this -- the red one holding up burnt-looking cookies and mentioning "500 degrees for 20 minutes", while the yellow one, looking rather singed, says, "And definitely don't try 1000 degrees for 10 minutes!"
- An inversion, of sorts, appears in the movie The Accidental Tourist. Attempting to make sure the Thanksgiving turkey isn't too dry, the sister of the protagonist sets the temperature in the oven too low (140 degrees Fahrenheit! also known as 60 degrees Celsius), and just cooks it much, much longer. Of course, a turkey sitting out overnight at a temperature that could be found in Death Valley turns it into a teeming mound of botulism; the one person bold enough to eat the food (the sister's suitor) ends up being carted off to the hospital.
- In the 1997 theatrical movie of Mr. Bean the two main characters attempt to pull of this trope when a pair of important guests drop by, both of them having completely forgotten about the appointment. Strapped for time and without having anything else to serve up, they decide to prepare a turkey dinner (which the non-Cloudcuckoolander of them notes would take about 5 hours to prepare) by stuffing it into the microwave and trying to do the job in about 15 minutes. The result is predictable.
- God of Cookery gets away with this because both participants in a cooking contest are using chi blasts to speed their cooking.
- In Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget decides to make a caramelised oranges dish the night before, but needs to go to bed, so she reverses this idea, putting it on a lower temperature for a longer time. She ends up with something that looks like the picture in the book, if a bit darker. Her guests are prompted to ask "What is this Hon? Is it Marmalade?"
- Inverted, in a way, in PG Wodehouse's Love Among the Chickens. Ukridge, in an attempt to save money, attempts to incubate chicken eggs at a lower temperature for a longer time. Predictably, it fails.
- A tie-in Red Dwarf 'official log' contained a recipe for a curry that is supposed to be left to stand overnight and slow-cooked for some hours before eating. Lister annotates it thus: "Smeg that! Life's too short. Bung it in the microwave for five minutes on Thermo-Nuclear; that's what it's for." Of course, given that he'd already upped the spice content by a couple of orders of magnitude...
- Edge does this in the first season of Blue Water High.
- Family Matters did it. Laura and Steve were partnered together in a home-ec class, and she tried to speed-bake a cake by doubling the heat. Hilarity ensued.
- The Man's Kitchen (video link) in one show of Home Improvement had an over-the-top microwave (or as they called it, a "macrowave") that worked on this principle. It emits so much radiation that you cannot operate it without wearing lead vests.
- This happened on an episode of Pee-wee's Playhouse. They were baking bread, and one of the puppets turned the oven up all the way to 700.
- The older brother on Mr. Belvedere did this in one episode. The title character said, "Kevin, I don't mean to be cruel, but this sounds like something your brother would do."
- The Mr. Belvedere example had an even better line than the one noted above: he also said "Pity we don't have a kiln; we could have eaten yesterday."
- "Instead of Lobster Thermidor we will be having lobster jerkey."
- A wonderful episode of Kenan and Kel involved the pair trying to find a Thanksgiving turkey. They finally acquire one but with an hour to go to dinner, elect to place it in a microwave in the oven.
- Neelix does this in an episode of Voyager and... it works. Further proof that reality does not apply to this series.
- One episode of Charles in Charge had a multi-tiered example; Charles and Buddy don't know what temperature to bake the cake at, so Buddy surmises that if a baked potato cooks at 350 degrees, a cake, which is approximately 10 times as big, should cook at 3,000. Since the oven only goes up to 500, they decide to compensate by cooking it for 6 times as long.
- Lois and Clark get a few house guests and they need to cook a turkey rather quickly. 300 degrees for a few hours equals a few seconds with Eye Beams. However, Clark was undergoing a Superpower Meltdown at the time, causing the turkey to be burnt, the kitchen to be wrecked.
- Parodied in the The Red Green Show, where a microwave is hooked up to a VCR to introduce fast forward (cook something rapidly), rewind (freeze something rapidly), and eject (launches the food product).
- On The Bob Newhart Show, when the men are supposed to be cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, they wind up with an abbreviated and alcohol-fueled instance. After doing the math (250 degrees, 4 hours = 1000 degrees, 1 hour) a problem and creative solution are presented:
This oven only goes to 500 degrees.
We'll get two ovens!
- In one strip of Beetle Bailey, Cookie is watching a cooking-show on television, sizing up the cake-recipe for camp consumption along the way - that is, multiplying every ingredient by 100. At the end, however, the baking-instructions arrive... and in the final panel, Cookie is seen sitting in front of an oven (with black smoke pouring out of it), declaring "It'll be ready next week."
- One FoxTrot story arc has Paige trying to cook Thankgiving dinner. One strip has her notice she has to clean the turkey. The oven has a "clean" button. Hilarity Ensues.
- Calvin and Hobbes once decided that making twenty individual pancakes was too much work, so he just poured in all the batter, so as to make one big pancake and then cut it in half. It should also be noted that when he added the eggs, he didn't bother removing them from their shells...
- A traditional Finnish recipe involves one batch of pancake batter simply poured into a pan and baked, then served in slices. Aside from the eggshells, this is actually a perfectly good idea.
- An early episode of (I believe) For Better or For Worse applied this logic to clothes washing. If washing a load of clothes with a standard-sized scoop of detergent gets them clean for the next week, so the kids figured, washing them with the whole box of detergent should get them clean for the next few months!
- The show Manswers, a show designed to answer "manly" questions, posed the question "What else [besides an automobile] could you put a HEMI engine into?" Their number 1 answer: a "HEMI grill", which could cook 240 hot dogs in 3 minutes. Whether or not this invokes Oven Logic depends on whether the engine is there to increase the grill temperature or speed up airflow.
- Fire trope? Must be time for a Myth Busters item! While examing various extreme ways to pop popcorn, one of the ways tested was... explosions. Answer: No. Explosions either fling the unpopped kernels around, burn them or both. They did, however, discover that you could pop popcorn with lasers... one kernel at a time.
- Used in an unusual way on Food Network Challenge. When pouring sugar into a cold liquid to create designs, one contestant explained that the sugar (300 degrees in an unspecified scale) and the liquid nitrogen (-300 degrees in an unspecified scale) averaged out in temperature.
- The "unspecified scale" was probably Fahrenheit with those figures: liquid nitrogen exists between -320 and -346°F at standard atmospheric pressure, compared with -210 to -196°C and 63 to 77 K. It's also the only one of the three common scales that has a -300.
- A slightly different version of faulty cooking logic on an episode of the Funday Pawpet Show as Herbie recounts realizing he had no eggs after having started mixing some brownie batter, so he just added more water since "Eggs are water, right?".
- Helix from Freefall takes this to its Logical Extreme: Cooking is fundamentally the application of heat and pressure to food. Doing this faster will logically cook the food faster. What's the fastest way to apply heat and pressure to food? Explosives!
- And if he asks if he can make popcorn, please tell him "no".
- Both ends are imagined in this You Say It First strip.
- Sci Fi Debris sums it up in his review of the Voyager episode, "Flashback". "What kind of cook thinks that increased heat equals less cooking time? A bad one!"
- One episode of Care Bears had Mr. Beastly watching a cooking show, which at one point directed him to put a bowl of cookie dough in the freezer for 30 minutes -- "or the Deep Deep Freeze for 12 seconds!" We never know just how bad Mr. Beastly's oven math is, though, because apparently he fell asleep waiting 12 seconds. When he wakes up, the bowl is encased in a solid block of ice.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy had Eddy do this with a microwaveable burrito, five seconds after he'd already delegated the task to The Smart Guy. No burrito merit badge for them.
- The Garfield Thanksgiving special had Jon do this with the turkey - 350 degrees for five and a half hours becomes 500 degrees when he only has three hours: "Hmm. Guess I'll have to speed things up a bit. * twist twist* 500 degrees! That was easy." (What's interesting is that this will actually work, if it's done correctly, although it's a little more complicated than simply putting the turkey in oven and cranking the heat up. It's known as "two hour turkey," and the technique is detailed here. It will not work with a turkey that's still frozen, as Jon's was.)
- An episode of The Simpsons which parodied 24 had Marge trying to bake a cake in time for a bake sale. The recipe called for 20 minutes at 300F, which she equated to 5 minutes at 1200F. The resulting Raisin Sponge cake was hard enough to break through inexplicably bullet-proof glass.
- In a Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends episode in which Madame Foster's cookie recipe becomes a worldwide attraction, Bloo is left to make cookies all by himself. He uses this logic to bake a batch, causing the roof of the house to explode.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi featured the girls in this dilemma, the results looking like a nuclear meltdown had occurred.
- The Powerpuff Girls had an episode dedicated to the girls running a restaurant and they ended up applying this logic to a cake. Hilarity Ensues.
- A Popeye & Son episode had Popeye and Junior using this logic when Olive wasn't available to cook.
- An episode of Hey Arnold had this used before the thing even went into the oven. Sid manages to mistake tsp for "Ten Square Pounds" instead of "teaspoons". This causes what they were making (an attempt at the world's largest pizza puff) to explode violently.
- Elmira does this in Tiny Toon Adventures when warming a bottle of milk.
- In an episode of A Pup Named Scooby Doo Shaggy makes popcorn by putting it in the microwave and setting the temperature to 8 million degrees for one second. It works: His house is instantly filled with popcorn.
- The same joke was also used in an episode of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo.
- A recipe-based variation in Doug: Roger needs eight bananas but only has six, so he comes up with the brilliant idea of subtracting 2 from everything...
- Lampshaded to such an extreme that a literal lamp was involved in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Moon Farm." When Ferb relates a recipe for "Lamb Cobbler" to Candace and Stacy through Phineas and Irving from the moon, the only part that correctly gets through the traditional telephone-game messups (i.e. "One pound of lamp") is the cooking time, 350 for 1 hour. With only five minutes, Stacy declares "It's simple math!" and proceeds to cook it at not the mathematically logical 4,200 degrees, but instead 9,000. After five minutes... it comes out perfect, leading Stacy to wonder "How can that be? We didn't even put lamb in it!"
- "Bad Hair Day" has Candace sitting under a hair restorer after a disastrous attempt at styling her own hair. She's supposed to sit under it for an hour at setting 5. But Jeremy says he's coming over in 20 minutes, so Candace decides that ten seconds on setting 20 will do just as well. After all, "why would they put a setting 20 if they didn't mean for it to be used?"
- There's the story of George Goble, who uses liquid oxygen to bring charcoal up to barbecuing temperature in a matter of seconds. The actual cooking takes as long as ever. Also, it tends to melt all but the heaviest grills. And the fire department has told him to cut that out. There is a picture of a cheap grill that was reduced to a black circle on the ground.
- In that case though, wasn't it more of a contest to see how fast the barbecue could be brought up to temperature than about actually cooking the food?
- So, the way cooking things works is twofold. First of all, you must get it to a temperature at which the food is appetizing/kills the bacteria. Second, you must cause enough heat to be transferred to the food to break the right amount of chemical bonds; this is the difference between rare steak and well done steak (you'll find they have roughly the same temperature). Any given object (say, turkey) has a characteristic time it takes for changes in temperature to propagate through the material (for a normal sized turkey, it's probably about an hour; turkey isn't a good conductor). The cooking time must reflect this so that the entire food gets hot enough to cook; that's why cooking a turkey at twice the (absolute, i.e. in Kelvin) temperature and half the time doesn't work. Furthermore, twice the oven temperature does not correlate to twice the heat conduction; it must be the difference between oven and meat temperature that is doubled, if you want to double the rate of heat transferred to the food. Compounding the math further is the fact that the temperature of the food changes as you dump heat into it, but in a non-linear way (non-linearity creeps in due to the chemistry that happens). However, you do know that the final temperature that you want the food to be is related to the amount of heat transferred, so if the core is at the right temperature, it should be cooked enough.
- In summary, if you want to apply correct logic instead of Oven Logic, you must:
- Make sure your cooking time is much larger than the characteristic time of the food; you can lower the characteristic time by lowering the characteristic size (e.g. by slicing it).
- Because of the inherent nonlinearity of the problem, the best way to determine the right oven temperature for the right time is by trial and error, i.e. checking the meat all the time. If your temp is too high and thus the time is too low, you're bound to ruin the food by burning the outside while undercooking the inside, so this is a good way to ruin lots of food. When you use a recipe (be it handed down or read from a cookbook), they've already done this trial and error for you.
- All of which means that chemists and a handful of other scientific types make the best cooks.
- I think you'll find that some people will disagree with you. There's a lot more to being a good cook than just cooking proteins properly.
- On the other hand, a background in science--and especially chemistry--will tend to give the cook the necessary attention to detail and concern with precise measurement that allows for consistent, repeatable (and therefore more easily improvable) results. As an example, Alton Brown has a degree in chemistry (besides degrees in culinary arts and television production), and you can see the influence: measurements are precise and appropriate to the ingredient used (particularly his insistence that flour, sugar, and the like be measured by weight/mass, not volume), and he goes into great detail describing the science behind cooking processes. As a result, anyone who follows his instructions correctly can not only repeat his results (more or less), but can also safely attempt altering things to his/her liking as long as they do it by making small changes, one ingredient at a time (as Brown himself did in his chocolate-chip cookie episode).
- In summary, if you want to apply correct logic instead of Oven Logic, you must:
- It is important to note that even if the premise were right (which it isn't), four hundred degrees Celsius is not twice as hot as two hundred degrees Celsius. Likewise Fahrenheit. This is what the Kelvin scale is for.
- In 2006, a man died in Australia after having received at least 28 "jolts" from taser, at 50000 volts. Channel Nine News reported this as being the equivalent of "over a million volts altogether". Voltage doesn't work that way...
- You can actually insta-cook several types of food in a low temperature blast-furnace. The key thing to remember here is that it if water gets sealed inside it'll just explode. The other key thing to remember is that this is not very good for you to eat the result, especially if the furnace happens to be full of unpleasant chemicals and heavy metals. If I remember, this works for bacon. Pork sausages will probably just explode as they have a skin, veggie sausages might work however (I do say 'might').
- Pressure cookers use a similar premise to Oven Logic. It simulates braising, simmering, or any water/broth based cooking method. The extra pressure allows the liquid to reach higher temperatures, and the higher pressure allows it to penetrate the food easily, thus cooking faster.
- At the opposite end is the sous vide style of cooking in which meat is vacuum sealed and cooked at about 60 degrees Celsius for up to several days. Done properly, the result is meat that is juicy and very evenly cooked (and not teeming with bacteria).