Based on reputation and merit alone, you’d never see ‘stir-fry’ and ‘bad health’ in the same sentence. Unless the sentence is something like, ‘Stir-fry prevents bad health’, or ‘You have bad health due to lack of stir-fry’.
But it turns out those two phrases should be together more often. Stir-fry can be hazardous to your health, due to the microscopic particles of fat that shoot in the air, which is dangerous if inhaled, say scientists.
Researchers at Texas Tech University and Utah State University experimented with this: they heated up oil in a frying pan, and documented what happened after water droplets were added.
The noted ‘dramatic’ results, as the water caused the fat to explode, sending oil droplets airborne which are ‘inhalable and potentially hazardous.’
The researchers suggest foods like chicken, and Chinese stir frys, could be the worst stir-fry options, due to the large quantities of water both chicken and veggies contain.
“We’ve discovered that a very large number of small oil droplets are released when even a single, small droplet of water comes into contact with hot oil,” says Jeremy Marston, assistant professor at Texas Tech University.
“The resulting phenomena is dramatic – you can see the explosive release when the water, trapped under the oil, vaporizes all of a sudden. This causes the oil film to rupture and sends oil droplets flying.
“Our research may be particularly relevant to Chinese cooking methods in which water is added to hot woks.”
The team has moved onto high-speed video to record and calculate size and distribution of oil droplets – or, how far they can travel across a kitchen with and without ventilation.
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“It’s known that millions of deaths worldwide occur due to indoor air pollution, but we don’t know yet how much cooking in poorly ventilated kitchens contributes to it,” added Dr Marston.
“We’re planning to conduct a detailed study to quantify how much impact kitchen-based aerosols have on indoor air pollution.
“Ultimately, we hope that our research can guide designs for improved ventilation systems to remove these ultrafine aerosols.”
The research was presented at the 70th annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Denver, Colorado.
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