By Jaclyn Lipp
Drew Myers has been keeping busy in the kitchen frying chicken patties -- hundreds of them, in fact. He isn't a short order cook at McDonalds, but a student researcher in the test kitchen of Grover Center. His stove work is all part of a study on whether new types of batter can make for a healthier chicken entree.
Myers, a senior dietetics major and chemistry minor, tests each piece of chicken to determine if the batter, made from a variety of egg white solutions, can create a difference in the amount of fat absorbed. Less fat will lower the calorie content.
"Many commercial institutions like hospitals and schools can't serve that many deep-fried foods because of poor nutritional quality. If you can lower the fat content in those foods, though, you might be able to improve the variety of their menus," said Myers, whose research is funded by an award from the Provost's Undergraduate Research Fund (PURF). His study is part of a broader project led by his adviser, Rob Brannan, an Ohio University assistant professor of human and consumer sciences.
Making four chicken patties at a time, Myers first breads the meat and then dips it in one of two egg white solutions. The first solution is made from whole egg whites, while the second is made from dried egg white powder. The different mixtures potentially could affect the fat or moisture content, crust thickness or the color of the patty, all of which are important qualities to consumers. To test the fat content, Myers grinds the chicken patty into a fine powder and places it in a solvent. He measures the moisture by checking the weight of the patty before and after the samples are cooked in the oven.
His goal is to produce a chicken patty with less than 35 percent total calories from fat, which is the recommendation from the American Dietetic Association. One of the egg white solutions shows significant reductions in fat, he said, but he will have to wait to finish all of his tests and analyses to be sure.
"I can't wait to see the results. I want to see what works the best," said Myers. In June, he'll travel to Anaheim, Calif., to present his research at the Institute of Food Technologists' Annual Meeting and Food Expo 09.
What's next for Myers? The student will build on his undergraduate research experience by attending the master's program in food and nutrition in Ohio University's School of Human and Consumer Sciences. In the future, he'd like to work in the field for a private company, such as Nabisco or Kraft Foods.
Jaclyn Lipp is a student writing intern in the Office of Research Communications and Communications and Marketing.