This Is The Greatest Food Invention, According To Adam Richman

Adam Richman, one of the epic eaters of our times, recently appeared on an episode of the podcast A Hot Dog is a Sandwich to talk about — what else? — food. No, not sandwiches, nor even hot dogs (Richman himself would probably cede the field to Joey Chestnut in this particular area of expertise), but instead, something a bit more technology-focused in nature. The topic under discussion was the greatest food invention of all time.

None of the answers were along the lines of Buffalo wings, everything bagels, or even ice cream (though had the podcast invited President Biden, we're guessing the last-named would have been his pick). Instead, podcast host Josh Scherer voted for the microwave, which admittedly did revolutionize (if not exactly perfect) the fine art of heating up leftovers (via Co-host Nicole Hendizadeh opted for refrigeration, the invention that allowed those of us not living in Antarctica to enjoy ice cream year-round. Adam Richman, on the other hand, went with a surprisingly science-y answer: pasteurization.

Why Richman picked pasteurization as the greatest invention

As Richman told the podcast hosts, the reason why he chose Louis Pasteur's invention was because "it has implications greater than that of milk." He went on to show how he really was paying attention in high school chem class, explaining just when pasteurization came to be (the 1860s, in case you weren't such a serious scholar as Richman) and what it does. In Richman's own words, "Just for clarification's sake, it's thermal processing that deactivates unwanted micro-organisms [...] and spoilage enzymes." A+, Adam! Food chemistry's loss was food TV's gain.

As to exactly why Richman thinks pasteurization is more important than refrigeration (we'll say no more about the microwave, something Scherer called "the most disrespected piece of incredible technology"), he says that not only is pasteurization "used in dairy, [but] it's used in beer, it's used in wine and even sauces." As dairy can provide what Richman calls "a perfect substrate for bad things to occur, for bacteria or for fungus," he's definitely got a point about why we should all be thankful for pasteurized products. Without these, every single episode of Man V. Food (or any instance of any of us vs. food) would end in a big win for food — and for food-borne illness.