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‘Yellowjackets’ fact check: A chef weighs in on the wilderness feast

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Our beloved Wiskayok High School Yellowjackets have finally turned to cannibalism, and while we’re all naturally wondering what comes next (or who is next), we have another pressing question on our mind: Was the team’s cooking method culinarily safe and sound?

Even though Season 2, episode 2 of Yellowjackets ends with the team devouring the corpse of Jackie (Ella Purnell), it’s important to note that the Yellowjackets did not set out to cook and eat their friend. Everyone had been more or less tolerant of all the time Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) was spending in the meat shed with Jackie’s body until it was revealed she’d put makeup on her pal’s cadaver. Finally, Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) insists that they burn their dearly departed team captain, despite no little protestation from Shauna and Lottie (Courtney Eaton), who defends Shauna’s behavior as “processing.” The Yellowjackets set up a pyre and leave it burning overnight to cremate Jackie’s body.

But this being Yellowjackets, nothing is ever so simple. A mysterious wind, perhaps courtesy of the strange forces of the wilderness, blows snow off a tree, covering Jackie and the pyre completely. The flames dim but don’t go out entirely. Later, the Yellowjackets wake up to discover Jackie’s roasted corpse, free of any snow and apparently smelling delicious. The rest is history.

The Yellowjackets are starving by this point, so any food must seem divine to them. But is this potentially supernatural cooking job even possible, or remotely safe? The people must know! So we asked a James Beard award-winning chef who formerly ran a Michelin-starred restaurant to weigh in.

For starters, the chef, who has asked to remain anonymous, pointed out that the “cooking” seen in the show did not correspond to any kind of meat cooking he was familiar with. He cited other methods for cooking whole animals, such as burying them in a pit, roasting them over a spit, smoking, or even grilling them. In those cases, though, the meat requires tending: You must monitor temperature and rotate or flip the meat to ensure that it gets cooked all the way through. In Yellowjackets, the force that is presumably the spirit of the wilderness forgoes any of those steps, simply chucking some snow on Jackie and calling it a day. The wilderness already has a lot on its plate; it takes a lot of energy to make Taissa sleepwalk, surely it can’t be expected to do that and keep an eye on its meat.

It’s going to take a lot more than some snow and embers to cook Jackie.
Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

But even if the wilderness has some unconventional cooking methods, it’s got to be on to something with that snow trick, right? Not according to our chef source.

“There’s no purpose, scientifically, for snow covering the body itself,” he wrote in an e-mail to Mashable. “In fact, if anything, it’ll serve to keep the body — the top if nothing else — from cooking to an appropriate temperature.”

He continued: “The snow on the fire might be beneficial to temper excessive heat and prevent overcooking, but even that would be largely counterproductive if the body weren’t fully contained in some closed unit to capture the gentle heat.”

Jackie’s corpse certainly isn’t left to cook in a closed unit, but it has been frozen in a meat shed for two months, so at least it hasn’t rotted away. However, the most distressing part of the team’s eating of Jackie — apart from the actual cannibalism, of course, which will always take the cake — is the lack of preparation of the meat. Unlike in the very first episode of Yellowjackets and the scenes with Pit Girl, we don’t see the team bleed out or clean Jackie’s carcass. (You know, because they weren’t originally planning on eating her!) How does that affect the cooking of her corpse?

“When one roasts an entire pig, for example, it is gutted and prepped for roasting: The internal organs are removed and the carcass cleaned — both for gustatory as well as sanitary purposes,” the chef wrote. “Cooked whole — and especially fully frozen — would expose anyone consuming that meat to excessive risk of food poisoning, as the blood-rich internal organs couldn’t possibly reach the necessary internal temperature to render them safe, not specifically to eat but not contaminate the ‘prime cuts.'”

In that case, the biggest enemy the Yellowjackets may face could be food poisoning, because the wilderness sure doesn’t seem to care about proper food safety. For the sake of the show, I’m sure they’ll be fine (you know, minus the trauma), but if you were considering trying this cooking method with non-human meat, just know it won’t turn out well.

“Basically, without choosing to suspend our belief for the benefit of creativity, there’s virtually not a snowball(-topped frozen corpse)’s chance in hell of being able to achieve this in reality — especially overnight, if the thing’s frozen solid,” our chef source concluded. “You ever considered cooking a fully frozen 20-25 pound turkey on Thanksgiving Day in a very low oven?”

Yellowjackets Season 2 is streaming on Showtime, with new episodes streaming weekly on Fridays. Episodes also air every Sunday on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET.

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