Foods that spoil easily, such as meats, dairy, and seafood, must be prepared a certain way to avoid contaminating the people for whom they are prepared. As such, the rule of thumb is that cold foods (such as dairy products) should be kept cold and hot foods (such as soup) should be kept hot until storage. Cold meats, such as chicken, that are to be cooked should not be placed at room temperature for thawing, at the risk of dangerous bacterial growth, such as Salmonella or E. coli.
The ideal temperature for serving a particular wine is a matter of debate by wine enthusiasts and sommeliers, but some broad guidelines have emerged that will generally enhance the experience of tasting certain common wines. A white wine should foster a sense of coolness, achieved by serving at "cellar temperature" (13 °C (55 °F)). Light red wines drunk young should also be brought to the table at this temperature, where they will quickly rise a few degrees. Red wines are generally perceived best when served chambré ("at room temperature"). However, this does not mean the temperature of the dining room—often around 21 °C (70 °F)—but rather the coolest room in the house and, therefore, always slightly cooler than the dining room itself. Pinot noir should be brought to the table for serving at 16 °C (61 °F) and will reach its full bouquet at 18 °C (64 °F). Cabernet Sauvignon, zinfandel, and Rhone varieties should be served at 18 °C (64 °F) and allowed to warm on the table to 21 °C (70 °F) for best aroma.
Texture plays a crucial role in the enjoyment of eating foods. Contrasts in textures, such as something crunchy in an otherwise smooth dish, may increase the appeal of eating it. Common examples include adding granola to yogurt, adding croutons to a salad or soup, and toasting bread to enhance its crunchiness for a smooth topping, such as jam or butter.
In the 20th century, supermarkets were born. Supermarkets brought with them a self service approach to shopping using shopping carts, and were able to offer quality food at lower cost through economies of scale and reduced staffing costs. In the latter part of the 20th century, this has been further revolutionized by the development of vast warehouse-sized, out-of-town supermarkets, selling a wide range of food from around the world.
Baking, grilling or broiling food, especially starchy foods, until a toasted crust is formed generates significant concentrations of acrylamide, a known carcinogen from animal studies; its potential to cause cancer in humans at normal exposures is uncertain. Public health authorities recommend reducing the risk by avoiding overly browning starchy foods or meats when frying, baking, toasting or roasting them.
Edible animal material, including muscle, offal, milk, eggs and egg whites, contains substantial amounts of protein. Almost all vegetable matter (in particular legumes and seeds) also includes proteins, although generally in smaller amounts. Mushrooms have high protein content. Any of these may be sources of essential amino acids. When proteins are heated they become denatured (unfolded) and change texture. In many cases, this causes the structure of the material to become softer or more friable – meat becomes cooked and is more friable and less flexible. In some cases, proteins can form more rigid structures, such as the coagulation of albumen in egg whites. The formation of a relatively rigid but flexible matrix from egg white provides an important component in baking cakes, and also underpins many desserts based on meringue.
Vegetables are a second type of plant matter that is commonly eaten as food. These include root vegetables (potatoes and carrots), bulbs (onion family), leaf vegetables (spinach and lettuce), stem vegetables (bamboo shoots and asparagus), and inflorescence vegetables (globe artichokes and broccoli and other vegetables such as cabbage or cauliflower).