A Cucumber Experiment (Peirama Me Aggouri)

Draining cucumbers for tzatziki.

When I make tzatziki, sometimes I drain the cucumbers, sometimes I don’t. I know I’m supposed to, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. I’ve sometimes wondered if perhaps my practice of removing the seeds has the side effect of making the pulp less watery. I’ve also noticed that many recipes call for the cucumber to be grated, and I’ve wondered if perhaps grated cucumber releases more water and maybe that’s why everybody says you have to drain the cucumber.

Well, last week I was making a double batch of tzatziki to bring to a party, which required the use of two cucumbers. I decided that this was enough cucumber to do an experiment with. After peeling the cucumbers, I cut each in half, giving me four cucumber halves which I prepared in four ways. One was seeded and diced, one was diced with the seeds, one was seeded and grated, and one was grated with the seeds. I weighed each of these, then tossed each with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and left them to drain overnight. The next morning I measured the amount of liquid each had released. For a more accurate comparison, since the cucumber amounts were unequal, I also reweighed each batch. My findings are summarized in the table below.

Type of Prep Undrained Weight Drained Weight Percent of Weight Lost
Seeded, Diced 79 g 64 g 19%
Diced with Seeds 98 g 88 g 10%
Seeded, Grated 92 g 66 g 28%
Grated with Seeds 91 g 64 g 30%

From this small amount of data I cannot draw any conclusion as to the effect of seeding the cucumber. Clearly the grated cucumber releases significantly more liquid than diced cucumber. By the way, Zoe is adamantly opposed to grating cucumber for tzatziki as it tends to get lost. I told her I had to do it as a service to humanity and science. There was of course nothing she could say to that. Anyway, I would conclude that if you like to grate the cucumber, it’s a bit more important to drain it than it is if you dice the cucumber.

But wait!

Stepping back from the cucumber to take a look at the big picture, keep in mind that the goal of all this draining is to produce tzatziki that is rich and creamy, rather than watery with weeping fluids. Even with an overnight drain, which is longer than I’ve ever bothered draining cucumber, each grated half-cucumber released only about one tablespoon of liquid, each diced half-cucumber released even less. In total, the cucumber released less than 1/4 cup of liquid. Meanwhile, in draining the yogurt overnight, I obtained almost 3 cups of liquid.

Conclusion:

It is imperative to use drained yogurt for creamy tzatziki. Draining the cucumber is not so important, although if you choose to grate the cucumber it is probably worth your while to drain it as well.

Learn how to drain yogurt.

18 Comments »

  1. Comment by Peter G

    An interesting experiment. I’m the same…sometimes I grate and sometimes I don’t. (Although I’m sure someone will be ready to correct us!)

    Peter G’s last blog post..Vegetarian Pastitsio “Pies”

  2. Comment by maria v

    i always peel, drain and deseed the cucumber - i’ve had lots of otehrwise failed experiments and i dont like my tzatziki to be too runny

    maria v’s last blog post..10 things you’d never guess about me

  3. Comment by Lulu

    @1 Peter G - I’ve actually started using a larger dice on the cucumber so they have a bit more of a presence.

    @2 Maria V - I think I actually overdrain the yogurt a bit, to where it’s overly thick. That may be why a little cucumber juice doesn’t seem to matter for me.

  4. Comment by FoodJunkie

    Lulu, you are ready for America’s Test Kitchen! :-)
    FoodJunkie’s last blog post..FoodBuzz 24,24,24: Chef for a day, an Ultimate Dinner

  5. Comment by maria

    You are too funny! I’m also an undecided on this–sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If I dice it (finely dice it) then I don’t bother draining, but if I grate it, I might just squeeze the grated cucumber with my hand to get rid of some moisture or I might not. And like you, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it make a very big difference. You’re probably right, it’s about the yogurt more than the cucumber.

    maria’s last blog post..Kathara Deutera (Clean Monday)

  6. Comment by Lulu

    @4 - Food junkie: Ha ha! You’ve discovered my underlying “Test Kitchen” ambitions. For me the biggest flaw in this experiment was that I didn’t have 4 identical strainers. I kept thinking, “If this was the test kitchen, I’d have 4 identical strainers. Damn!” :-)

    @5 - Maria: I did squeeze after draining, mostly to make up for inequality of strainers.

  7. Comment by melusina

    I can’t believe you went through all that for an experiment!

    I’ve only made tzatziki once, and from a recipe that gave no explicit instructions (no measurements, not how to fix the cucumber, nothing). It said to not peel the cucumber, to wash it, salt it, and drain it. I wasn’t sure if it meant to do all that before or after chopping/grating the thing. I don’t like cucumber chunks in my tzat so I grated it, but it still didn’t seem right. The tzat turned out great in the end, but between uses we always had to stir it a bit for the moisture. Of course, the tzat I like that I buy in the store has the same issue, so not sure if that is the Greek yogurt or unproperly drained cucumber.

    melusina’s last blog post..The view from above

  8. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Mel! Well, any tzatziki that sits for a while, such as a tub you buy from the store, is going to start exuding moisture. You can always just pour the excess off the top rather than stirring it in.

    As far as the experiment goes, let’s just say this is a snapshot into my personality that explains why I was never popular in high school. :-P

  9. Comment by Cheryl

    Hi Lulu! It’s been a while! I love that you took the time to do this experiment. I have only made runny tzatiki once and it was because of the yogurt that I used, I’m sure. It was embarrassing, to say the least. I’ve never drained a cucumber and I always grate it. I learned how to make my tzatziki from my in-laws and I don’t dare deviate, especially when serving them!:) But, I always grate and never drain anything. I typically have a nice thick tzatziki…sticks to the spoon thick. I will have to try dicing my cucumbers, since I think that I’d love to taste more of them.
    I’m glad that you’re back!

    Cheryl’s last blog post..

  10. Comment by Marc @ NoRecipes

    Wow what a great science experiment! Thanks for sharing your results with us:-)

    Marc @ NoRecipes’s last blog post..Mizuna Sunchoke Salad with Shiitake Salmon

  11. Comment by Lulu

    @9 Hi Cheryl, thanks! You must be using great yogurt if you never drain anything. For really thick tzatziki I drain the yogurt for up to 24 hours. Definitely, don’t deviate from the in-laws recipe! ;-)

    @10 Marc - Science is fun!

  12. Comment by Nate

    Thanks for doing this experiment - in the name of science! :-)

    Thanks also for the tip on using drained yogurt for tzatziki.

    Nate’s last blog post..Sensational Sushi at Sakae Sushi (Burlingame), Part 2

  13. Comment by Lulu

    @12 Nate: Don’t forget humanity! :-)

  14. Comment by Paula

    What a cool experiment! Sometimes I dice and sometimes I grate, but I always seed. I usually just dab the cucumber with a papertowel to pick up the excess moisture, and that’s it. I love tzatziki and could eat it every day and never tire of it. :-)
    Paula’s last blog post..Home On The Range – Bodacious Bison Burgers

  15. Comment by Lulu

    Blotting the cucumber is a great idea, Paula, I don’t know why I’ve never thought of it.

  16. Comment by manju

    Great experiment… For all you do for science and humanity… a humble thank-you! ; )

    manju’s last blog post..Roasted Belgian Endive

  17. Comment by Amy

    In my opinion, there is no need to drain the cucumber. I grate it, seeds and all, wrap it in some sheets of kitchen roll/paper towel, and sueeeeze.
    Quick and easy!

  18. Comment by Georgia Pappa

    Mua me pelqen tzatziki,prandaj e gatuaj gjithmone.I pelqen edhe familjes time….sallatorin une e shtrydhe mire perpara se ta vendos te sasia per tzatzikin…provojeni..

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