Next Iron Chef: Duskie’s Pineapple Problem

by in Shows, October 7th, 2010
The enzymes in pineapple were responsible for Chef Estes' mushy pork, says our resident food science guru Alton Brown

Before our 10 rivals landed in L.A. to compete on The Next Iron Chef, each was asked what ingredient they couldn’t live without on a desert island. And what do you know? The chefs’ answers (ranging from corn and limes to chicken and whole pigs) determined their secret ingredient in the very first episode.

While Chef Duskie Estes had done so well in the first round, winning the sandwich challenge, her elimination-round meal landed her in the bottom three. Instead of utilizing the whole pig she received, she ended up preparing only a few cubes of skewered pork loin for her suckling pig surf-and-turf dish. While all the judges loved the broth and seafood components of her dish, even pork-obsessed Iron Chef Michael Symon said he thought the dish would be better without the pork, which tasted mushy—a secret ingredient failure.

What was the problem? Alton Brown mentioned the effect of the enzymes in pineapple on meats. Chef Estes said she thought the pineapple would make a good marinade, and she wasn’t entirely wrong. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which actually breaks down proteins and can have great tenderizing properties. She selected the pork loin because it was the fastest-cooking cut of meat on the pig, but didn’t take into consideration that it was also the leanest, most tender, and most likely to completely break down from the pineapple’s enzymes.

Had Chef Estes chosen a tougher cut of meat, the pineapple may have worked better as the tenderizing marinade she envisioned. Fortunately for Duskie, this “fundamental flaw,” as the judges called it, did not send her home this round.

–Victoria Kabakian

Don’t let Chef Estes’ mushy pork scare you off from cooking with pineapple. Try one of these five-star recipes that showcase the fruit in delicious ways:

Check out all the rivals’ dishes in our behind-the-scenes photo gallery from Episode One.

Which rival chef do you think will get foiled this Sunday? Don’t miss The Next Iron Chef  at 9pm/8c.

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Comments (16)

  1. Lucy says:

    So fascinating!! Good to know so I never make that mistake in my own kitchen. What a well-written, interesting article!!

  2. Karen S. says:

    Great job Vic! I love this show and look forward to reading more of your articles on it!

  3. Audrey says:

    What great commentary. Interesting, informative and just plain great.

  4. Way to go, Vicky! *high five*

  5. Michelle says:

    Great guest post Victoria!

  6. Guest says:

    Thank you for this analysis. What really bothered me about that whole scenario was Alton Brown's snotty behavior while standing on the beach. He is not a judge. He is a host and should have kept silent. At the end while the judges were talking, it was almost as if he was trying to bend them to his thinking. This bothered me a great deal. I like Alton Brown and his own show which demonstrates the his funny personality. On Next Iron Chef and other shows where he's in a position as host, he seems to forget that if he is there to host then he should stay silent and do that job.

    • willett skinner says:

      Now really, can you imagine Alton Brown keeping silent about anything? He's something else and his "something else" adds to the 'flavor' of the show.

  7. Yve. Parnes says:

    To demean great chefs and subject them to ridiculous challenges is not entertaining. Ming Tsai has always been on a level with any of the Iron Chefs. Does the anointing present enormous and lucrative opportunities ?
    The attitudes of most judges on the network is psychologically flawed.

    • luvcookin says:

      At least the very arrogant Jeffrey Steingarten isn't a judge this season. I can't stand him.

      • willett skinner says:

        Remember what Jeffrey said at the final judging last season? He said that the other Iron Chefs were looking for someone that cooked like them. Maybe that's why Jeffrey didn't return, he gave away one of the show's secrets?

    • willett skinner says:

      It's all entertainment with a 'hidden agenda'. There are going to be those that watch shows like this and enjoy it and then there will be those that turn the channel. I believe that if a chef or any professional puts their career or "calling" up for judging or ridicule knowing that they may not win the prize then that's a decision that they made.

  8. jacqui says:

    Just watched the first show…..Estes should have been eliminated! If you can not cook "the one item you would take on aan island" then you should be eliminated!!!! Give me a break, it is one thing not to know how to cook someting you have never seen or dooked with befoe but SHE CHOSE THIS PIG to cook with.

  9. magicofspice says:

    Great article Victoria :) Exceptionally well written and on point.

  10. jodi creel says:

    as usual the tasteless judges have eliminated the best chef ming tsai was the most experienced chef among all the rest he was the only chef to have competed and beaten and iron chef in iron chef stadium i ultimately think that you are trying to replace mario which in fact cannot be done as for me i will never watch the food network again you eliminated john besh, made melissa a star which she clearly is not,and by the way what ever happened to the next door french chef what did she do one show you clearly do not have the pluse of the foodies on the agenda

    • willett skinner says:

      I must say that I am a fan of all food competitions including the Next Iron Chef. I must agree that I was disappointed to see Chef Tsai be eliminated. With his experience and past Food Network show I thought for a moment that they were bringing him back. But then I started thinking about Chef Morimoto and if they were about to replace him with Chef Tsai. I'm with you about Chef Mario now that we are down to Forgione and Canora. You're absolutely right about no one being able to replace Mario Batali! It's all for entertainment though. For me, to be able to be entertained while watching great chefs cook-fantastic!

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