The Best Food Myths Tested On MythBusters

Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" was an incredibly popular television show that produced over 270 hours of explosions, accidents, and science fiction, as per Eureka Magazine, all in the name of curiosity. With the intent to lay to rest some of society's most burning questions, the "Mythbusters" team of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman spent over 14 years of their lives dedicated to answering the question, "Is it possible?"

The show's premise was simple –- find crazy myths and urban legends and determine whether they are "confirmed," "plausible," or "busted." In each episode, the team employed the help of safety experts, scientists, doctors, and reporters to get their answers.

Before the show was canceled at the end of 2016, "Mythbusters" established a long history of testing out foods on the show. Together with build team Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci, the Mythbusters tested food myths ranging from harmless adages to serious legal conundrums. Here are some of the best food myths tested on "Mythbusters."

Explosive biscuits

According to reporter Elaine Viets (via Discovery), a woman who had just visited the grocery store was sitting in a car on a hot day. After hearing what sounded like a gunshot, she touched the back of her head and felt a gooey substance. She gripped the goo and sat still until help arrived. It isn't clear who called for help, but Viets says paramedics arrived and discovered the woman holding raw biscuit dough in a clump of her hair. She thought she'd been shot and that her brains were oozing out of her head.

For the show's second episode, "Biscuit Bazooka," Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman experimented with cans of biscuits to recreate the exploding can myth. Savage heroically offered his personal vehicle for the experiment in response to Hyneman's ever-so polite request. The team pointed heaters through the windows of Savage's car to mimic the heat of the sun and placed biscuit cans of various sizes into the backseat. A humanoid dummy sat behind the wheel.

So, did the men create biscuit bazookas? The inside temperature of Savage's car reached temperatures above 130 degrees. That's only 30 degrees hotter than the average hot tub, according to WebMD. The six biscuit cans all exploded, and the sixth hit the front-seat dummy right in the back of the head. Because all six cans exploded within three hours, the team agreed this myth was confirmed. While cleaning his car, Savage admitted that biscuit dough does feel remarkably similar to brains

Will poppy seeds make you fail a drug test?

It's no secret that poppy seeds have many health benefits, as per Healthline, but can a poppy seed bagel make you fail a drug test? For the third episode of "Mythbusters," Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman scarfed down both poppy seed bread and bagels, respectively, to test just this.

Guest on the show, Dr. Kent Holtorf explained (via YouTube) that poppy seeds contain morphine and codeine, two substances that also appear in heroin. According to Holtorf, the poppy seeds don't have enough of these drug chemicals to make you feel like you've taken drugs, but they could fool a simple drug test.

According to BBC News, there is real-life evidence of poppy seeds interfering with drug tests. A woman in Pennsylvania had her newborn taken away from her after she failed drug test due to her consuming a poppy seed bagel before she gave birth.

How did the guys fare? A half-hour after eating an entire loaf of poppy seed bread, Savage tested positive for heroin. Later he and Hyneman tested positive on simple pee tests eight hours after poppy seed consumption. According to Medical News Today, studies have shown you can test positive 48 to 60 hours after consuming the seeds. 

Can Coca-Cola kill sperm?

Life hacks are the bread and butter of social media, and odds are every person knows of at least one alternate use for Coca-Cola. Aside from drinking the stuff, the "Mythbusters" team noted that Coke can clean bloodstains, dissolve steak and other organic matter, clean chrome, dissolve rust, clean greasy messes, and even act as an on-hand spermicide (via The Turek Clinic). In 2003, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman graciously tested these myths in a segment called "101 Uses for Cola."

To be clear, the team used the generic term "cola" to describe the experimental soda, not necessarily Coca-Cola. That said, the experiments yielded some impressive results. For instance, to test cola's ability to clean up dried blood, Savage drew an outline around Hyneman's body on asphalt, and the two poured animal blood onto the spot. After leaving the spot to dry in the sun, they poured on some cola and were amazed to see the soda fizz and clear away the dried blood.

So, does cola make a good spermicide? In an extremely sophisticated experiment, the men dropped cola onto a slide with sperm and counted, by eye, the number of individuals swimming around. Upon seeing the cola-pumped sperm, Hyneman commented that they may have been invigorated by the caffeine. Ultimately, no sperm were harmed in the making of this experiment. The team had no choice but to call this myth a bust.

Can you escape prison with a jar of salsa?

Acid, wires, and steel, oh my! In a segment called "Salsa Escape," Jamie Hyneman told the story of a man named Juan Lopez who is supposed to have escaped a Mexican prison by using salsa to corrode the bars of his cell (via Annotated Mythbusters). The team built a replica prison wall out of cinderblocks and steel bars, and the duo competed to see who could "escape" the quickest using salsa.

Adam Savage's first attempt at jailbreak involved piling salsa around the metal bars and mushing a live wire around in it. This incredibly dangerous experiment was a flop, but he did take the opportunity to add in a safety warning, saying, "This is plenty of power to kill me quickly. You should never do this at home." Agreed — mushing live wires into salsa is not a good idea.

Savage and Hyneman determined that salsa can corrode prison bars at a rate of 8/1000 of an inch per 110 days. Savage said it best when he commented, "50 years, you'll be right through that bar." Since Hyneman's story proposes that Lopez escaped in six, not 50, years, the men had some work to do.

Hyneman's idea involved much more electricity. He employed the use of electrolysis to speed up the bars' salty acid bath and successfully corroded through them, as per Mythbusters Results. With that, Hyneman won the race, and Savage was left to take his frustrations out on the cement wall.

Why does toast seem to always land butter-down?

The predestination of toast may not sound interesting, but perhaps watching Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman don 19th-century garb and quote from Jane Austen's popular novel "Pride and Prejudice" does. For a 2005 episode titled "Is Yawning Contagious?" (via YouTube), Savage created a bread launcher that, using air pressure, scooted pieces of bread from a table. He found that unbuttered bread seems to land top-down when dropped from an average table height.

To eliminate the human element, the men assembled a line. On one end, Hyneman loaded an industrial-grade toaster with fresh bread. One the other, Savage slathered onto the industrial toast a vat of butter and placed it into a "toast dropper." That is exactly what it sounds like -– a mechanical purse for toast that drops at the push of a button. This experiment resulted in an even amount of buttered-down, buttered-up falls (via Mythbusters Results), but the Mythbusters weren't beat yet. What's the old saying? If, at first, the toast conveyor belt fails, try, try again.

They did try again, this time dropping buttered slices of toast from the warehouse roof. While this experiment was a bust, Savage tossing slices of bread at Hyneman was entertaining enough. In the end, the men concluded that toast only lands buttered-side down when indented from the butter-spreading process. According to Savage, a good way to be sure bread does land buttered-side down is to "butter with a good vigor." This certainly makes for a good party trick.

Cereal or cereal box?

Some cereal brands market their sugary, refined products as a healthy morning meal, but are these cereals actually less nutritious than their boxes? If you listen to Adam Savage's mother, and, according to Savage, "all mothers," the answer is yes.

In 2006, Savage and Jamie Hyneman took on this myth themselves (via Annotated Mythbusters). Hyneman's initial hypothesis suggested that if boxes are made of wood, and if beavers eat wood, then cereal boxes must be edible. This would prove to be false, and, due to potentially toxic inks in the boxes, Hyneman never would chuck wood.

Rather than eat the cereal box pellets that Hyneman created, Savage and Hyneman did what all good Mythbusters do and lit them on fire. In something called a calorimeter, which is like a fancy metal crucible, Savage burned both cereal and box pulp. He discovered that the box had 20% fewer calories than the cereals tested. Now, fewer calories are not necessarily better. In fact, the men determined based on this experiment and the nutritional facts on the cereal box that, for consumption, cereal is the obvious choice.

Cereal boxes don't contain the nutrition needed for a healthy body, and, according to Healthline, cereal is of often not nutritious. In fact, boxes contain no nutrition at all. Cereals contained overall more calories, fats, and sugars than the boxes. No matter the cereal tested, the men found that it's what's inside the box that matters. This means Savage's mother was, in his own words, "totally wrong."

How (not) to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

Failed experiments can be just as fun to watch as successful ones, which is how the experiment "Christmas Roast" (via Science Channel) earned its place among the best food myths tested on the show.

"Mythbusters" build team Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci led an experiment about holiday radiation -– which is regular radiation, but at the holidays. The team wanted to know if a turkey can be cooked by a radio antenna. If this sounds too dangerous for even the danger-defying Mythbusters, that's because it was. Radio antennas are hundreds of feet tall and are not available to the general public. So, Byron, Imahara, and Belleci resorted to a shorter microwave radio.

The experiment: Strap a raw turkey to a news van's radio and see if it cooks. After one hour, the turkey's temperature rose 20 degrees, but the smell led Belleci to believe the sun, not the microwaves, did the stewing. Determined to succeed, the team strapped another raw turkey to a ship's radar and left it there for an hour. This time, the turkey's temperature actually dropped 5 degrees. Belleci called the turkey "ripe" and suggested that radar is more likely to refrigerate turkey than to cook it.

In true "Mythbusters" fashion, the team reacted to defeat by blowing stuff up -– a turkey in a microwave, to be specific. With that, the group decided the best method of cooking a turkey is a good old oven, and this myth was busted.

Can a frozen turkey kill?

Turkeys are heavy, and with a quarter of the American population attending Thanksgiving dinners with 20 or more guests (via Pew Research Center), frozen Thanksgiving turkeys can weigh well over 20 pounds for parties that size, according to Perdue Farms. Just how dangerous can a turkey be? Are 20 pounds of frozen bird enough to crush a foot or seriously injure a family pet? In order to find out, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci created a fake skeleton foot with urethane and fiberglass and covered it with ballistics gel (via Mythbusters Results). Then, they dropped a frozen turkey onto it.

The team found that, when dropped from the height of the average countertop, a large frozen turkey lands with around 400 pounds of force. When dropped onto the gel foot, the turkey shattered the pretend foot bones with over 770 pounds of force.

In the next experiment, Byron had small dogs modeled for what she called "flesh-eating zombie dogs" (via YouTube) which were the same materials as the previously crafted fake foot but in creepy zombie dog form. This time, the team dropped frozen turkeys onto two zombie dogs. The first poor test subject was folded in half by the weight of the frozen turkey, cracking its spine in two. The second? It lost its eyeball and its spine. So, is frozen turkey potentially lethal? According to the "MythBusters" team, it's plausible. It's probably best to keep that turkey far from the counter's edge this Thanksgiving. Spot will thank you.

How to Tenderize a steak

Ever wondered if an explosion can tenderize a t-bone steak? Good news. The Mythbusters tested this out (via Discovery) in a segment called "Exploding Steak" (via Mythbusters Results). Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage dropped vacuum-sealed t-bone steaks into a water-filled trash can. The men attempted to use the shockwave from a controlled explosion to tenderize the meat. Rather than a perfectly tender steak, though, the men were left with barely enough shredded meat to call a steak and the trash can? It was obliterated.

Mythbusters don't give up that easy, though, and the next experiments would prove why. With a specially made metal plate at the bottom of the trash can and even more explosives, Savage and Hyneman tried again. This time, the explosion left the steak intact but also left the team with a well-done, perfectly butterflied garbage can. After human error meant no useable data regarding the steak's tenderness, Savage and Hyneman tried the experiment with a little help from technology.

This time, the steel plate was mounted vertically and shot at via a steak cannon designed by Hyneman. "Jamie's cannon fired steak," as he called it, turned out to be just what the team needed. Using the very same machine used to test meat tenderness by the FDA, Savage determined that Hyneman's cannon steaks were two times as tender as their control cuts. Does this mean explosives can technically tenderize steak? Sure. Does the "MythBusters" team recommend firing steak at a steel target in your kitchen? The answer is a resounding no.

Swimming in Syrup

For the season 7 episode "Swimming in Syrup" (via Mythbusters Results), Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman wanted to know whether a person can swim as fast, or faster, in syrup as in water. To achieve this, they each took turns swimming in water and syrup, comparing speeds as they went (via YouTube).

Wishing to avoid becoming walking gnat magnets, the men mixed a powder called guar gum with water to mimic the thickness of syrup. Initially, the faux syrup was mixed to be 1,500 times thicker than water. The idea was that, while a body may move slower in the viscous liquid, syrup would provide more traction to push through, ultimately moving the body quicker than possible in the water. In the thicker syrup, Savage moved 28% slower than in the water, a surprising number to Savage, who stated he thought he'd be much slower.

The men agreed after their first experiment that their syrup may have been a bit too thick and tried it all over again with a lighter one just two times thicker than water. This time, Savage swam only 2.8% slower in the syrup than he did in the water.

While these results may seem underwhelming, the true fun of the experiment was Savage dressed as a "swim coach" complete with a bathrobe, a funky hat, and a fake starter pistol. So, can a human swim faster in syrup than in water? No, but it's fun to watch.

How not to pop popcorn

Explosions and "Mythbusters" seem to attract one another like opposite ends of a magnet. For the next dynamite "MythBusters" experiment, according to Mythbusters Results, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci strapped C4 to a propane tank to see if, when detonated, the heat from the explosion would pop popcorn. The experiment was a flop but definitely not boring to watch.

The team then decided to make a popcorn maker out of a military-grade laser and a window. According to Garry Smith, the president of the American Pop Corn Company, popcorn pops at around 450 degrees. 

Using the laser, the team wanted to know if it's possible to recreate a scene from the movie "Real Genius" –- the one where a mad scientist uses a laser to pop so much popcorn it breaks his house. Belleci's excitement about the lasers was misplaced, though, and, despite the hard work of not one but three Mythbusters, no windows were popped.

Car Engine vs. Grill

In 2012, the team tested a few common food myths in an episode titled "Food Fables" (via Mythbusters Results). For the episode (via Discovery), food television star Alton Brown joined Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman to find out if meal preparation times for the holidays can be cut down by cooking said meals on the go.

Brown, Savage, and Hyneman created food-safe metal boxes and stuffed an entire Thanksgiving dinner under a car's hood. They were sure to degrease the car beforehand and, to be accurate, used digital thermometers to monitor the cooking processes of all the foods.

By the time the team made it to the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts, where they would be holding this particular dinner, the entire meal was cooked through by the car's engine, including the turkey. The real test, however, was taste, and Brown described it best. "I'm not ashamed of that at all," he said. And, chomping into a perfectly cooked turkey leg, he added, "I think Henry VIII would be proud."

As to the question of car engine vs. grill, Hymenan may be right in saying, "You're better off with an oven, but the attempt is interesting."

An explosive fruit snack

Is it possible to make a fruit juice by exploding a tomato? Though not likely to show up on any list of popular smoothie recipes, this 2016 experiment (via Discovery) offered Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage a bounty of vitamin C, and, in terms of fun-having, blew buying a bottle of V8 right out of the water.

Using a blasting cap and a steel, "blast-proof" box with 1.25-inch thick ballistics shield walls, Savage and Hyneman used a shockwave to liquefy the insides of a tomato without harming its outside skin, as per Mythbusters Results. Hyneman shoved a straw into the squishy tomato and slurped out what the team determined to be half as much juice as is obtained with a generic juicer.

The team then brought mesh bags, various types of fruit, and 20 pounds of TNT to a large pond. The men dropped their juice ingredients into the pond, and the magic began. The following explosion was, according to Savage, one of the most perfect recorded on the show. Despite this satisfaction, however, the fruits were not juiced. Hyneman concluded that "bigger is not better in this case," and Savage agreed, saying they'd found "one thing for which more explosives do not get a better result." Fruit smoothie or no, exploding fruit is excellent entertainment.

Why you shouldn't use a flamethrower to cook a meal

For an episode appropriately titled "Cooking Chaos" (via Mythbusters Results), Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tried to make "instant tempura," as Hyneman called it (via Discovery). According to a viral video the "MythBusters" team found, shrimp can be battered and fried by being propelled through flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, and flames.

This experiment called for cannons, a target, and lots of raw shrimp. Hyneman created a shrimp gun with a pneumatic launcher and used a ketchup cup sabot to keep the shrimp intact and prevent any "shrimpnel."

The shrimp gun fired perfectly, but the team had trouble getting the ingredients to stick. Next, they tried firing pre-battered shrimp through a sword forge. Though very exciting to watch, there was still no tempura. In a last-ditch effort to fry the shrimp, Savage and Hyneman lined up four sword forges, all reaching temperatures of 2000 degrees, and tried shooting the shrimp through one last time. In the end, the Mythbusters had only lukewarm shrimp and a magnificent tale.