The Science of Why New York’s Bagels Taste So Damn Good


MANHATTAN—New York City has the best bagels in America. This is a truth handed down from generation to generation. Why are the bagels here better than the bagels in Boston, Boise, Birmingham, or even cities that begin with letters other than B? Legend has it that it has something to do with the water that’s piped down here from upstate. That’s never really felt right. I’m not a water scientist but it just seems like some nonsense that sounds like it could be true so what the hell, sure, it’s true! Doctor Oz probably credits NY bagels to the water.

So, anyway, some cats from the American Chemical Society got together and ran some tests and spoke to some chefs and concluded that indeed it’s not the magical properties of the Empire State’s water supply that makes NYC bagels unique, but rather the unique competence of NYC bakers. Yes, the softness of the water plays a role but not an integral one. The baking method used in New York is just better than the baking method bakers in other cities use—but there is no reason why those bakers couldn’t start using the NYC method (with some slight modifications), or so sayeth the video.

Is this video accurate? I have no idea. I am not a professor of baked goods. It sounds maybe reasonable to me. It sort of makes sense, right? Because, yeah, New York has the best bagels but I’ve certainly had good bagels other places. But those bagels are normally the exception to the bagel culture of the area. I’ve definitely had one or two okay bagels in LA. Maybe those bakers are using the NY method? I don’t know. What do you think?

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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