Sep 22, 2012

Cooking Ninja

It's been awhile since we've talked food, so thought I'd step back a bit and share my cooking weapons of choice before poaching another hot dish.  Prepping the fixin's with the right implements speeds up the process and improves texture and flavor.  I'll share what works for me, although no expert so school me in the comments where I'm wet.


Stove
I don't like flat top electric stoves.  They are needy with their pan restrictions, intolerant of warped bottoms and pout for special cleaners.  The deal breaker for me is a ban on cast iron.  Forget that, they're a poorly executed fad and will be gone in time.

Electric coil stoves work pretty well, don't beg for attention like smooth glass tops, and are not picky with pans.  They are inexpensive but can be slow to boil water and sluggish to respond to temp changes.  Cleaning crud from their crack is boring.

Induction cooktops look appealing, offering zippy temp response and high output similar to gas.  However, they are incompatible with some pans; ditch solid copper and aluminum pots, they won't work.  And the hard glass surface may scratch if you slide a pan, shatter if a skillet slips.  People seem to like them, I can't knock 'em too hard.

Gas is my favorite:  works with all types of pans, boils water in 3 minutes and dials the heat up or down quickly.  Downsides are you have to run a gas line, it heats the air and is more dangerous with that 1,000° fire flopping around. My little IKEA gasser is a workhorse, I'm hooked



I have only worked with electric ovens, so won't comment on gas vs. electric.  Regardless, tick the convection option when ordering a hot box, the blowing fan evens baking and speeds roasts.
 
Pots and Pans
Since I do gas, I can use any stinkin' pot or pan that tickles my fancy.  Not a fan of non-stick coated cookware, Teflon kills canaries.  Naked metal wins:  cast iron, stainless or blue steel and hybrids that pancake layers of copper, aluminum and steel.  Cast iron tackles 75% of my cooking, love the old fashioned stuff.  Takes a bit longer to preheat, but once sizzling is a beast for quick-browning meat and vegetables.  A flat iron skillet, deep-disher and Dutch are on the payroll, they're well seasoned so food stickage isn't a problem.  Easy with the suds and dry with a paper towel immediately after washing so they don't rust.



Sauté duties are delegated to a blue-steeler made in France.  It heats before iron, and its tall tapered sides allow me to sling around diced potatoes when I'm brown-roasting them. 



 


Don't bother trying to stir-fry on anything but a wok.  You want a large surface area and concentrated heat to quickly sear for maintaining that broccoli crunch.  Straight-up steel and sesame oil, peg it with a level-10 burner with the right spices and you'll get results similar to the Chinese restaurant down the street.



 


Calphalon tri-plys are sweet, but their price is a kick in the crotch.  I cheated and purchased generic 'phalon knock-offs on eBay.  One fourth the cost with most of the heft, the set of copper/stainless pans look nice, are stoutly riveted and beefy enough to evenly hold the heat.






I use a small aluminum pan for omelets, and steel mixing bowls are invaluable for all manner of mixing and batters.

Knives
I generally prefer straight-edge blades over serrated for most cutting jobs.  Flat blades cut best and are easily resharpened with a flint.  Serrated tear and rip rather than slice nice, although they work well on tomatoes and meat.

Keeping it local, I stab with a set of stainless Iowa-crafted Radas.  A chunky French knife gets daily use, it'll destroy a Vidalia in 30 seconds.  The serrated super spreader takes care of sandwiches for Pigtails' school lunches.  I need to order a paring knife for peeling.  Tongs are useful on the BBQ for flipping meat without piercing and leaking juice.



Misc
I use a bamboo chopping block, it's naturally water resistant and doesn't crack or warp under the slop.



There's nothing fun about rummaging for the right pan or cutter when your hands are greasy as you toil over vittles.  To help with this, I did an IKEA pot rail, magnetic knife strip and mini spice rack to keep the most commonly used tools inches from the cooktop.  I really like the layout, dinner feels like less of a chore since everything's already out and ready to go.





That's all I got for now.

-Beard

14 comments:

  1. Love your basic approach to cooking utensils! I try to keep it basic too. I need to get my knives nearer to my stove....

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    Replies
    1. I've found the basics are usually enough to get the job done. Hope to take cooking classes sometime to step it up.

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  2. Um, why can't you use cast iron on flat top electric stoves?? I have never had an electric stove until our current house so I have used one on it. Oops. Will the stove gods be after me?? Oh, how I miss a gas cooktop!!

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    1. Manufacturers say not to, but I know some people use iron on flat tops. Could scratch if you slide or break if it drops.

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  3. Yep - I use my cast iron on our glass stove too. The stove came with the condo - and my pans came with me. I really dislike electric and especially glass top, but it works. If we end up staying here longer - it is on the list to be replaced. I like real fire. Do you know the knock-off brand you bought on amazon. I am in the hunt.

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    1. Hi Nessa, you're one bad motha using iron on a glass-top.

      I bought my lead paint/copper knockoffs on Ebay years ago, was very similar if not the same as this set: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tru-Chef-Copper-Tri-Ply-8-Piece-Cookware-Set-NIB-/300781081003?pt=Cookware&hash=item4607f311ab

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  4. May I ask what kind of wall oven you have, and the size? I couldn't find that information in your posts on your kitchen remodel. I'm looking to replace a 24" wall oven that died (we think it's about 60 years old so can't complain too much). Thank you, and I really enjoy your blog!

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    1. Sure thing, I use an IKEA 24" NUTID series oven and micro'. They're roughly 3/4 full-size, perfect for my little 100 square-ft kitchen. Checking the IKEA website now, I see 30" ovens but not 24", unsure if they axed the smaller size or what. You might give 'em a call to verify.

      If you strike out, Whirlpool makes appliances for IKEA, so you should be able to find a 24" Whirlpool-branded oven.

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  5. Debbie9/24/2012

    thats weird, i own glass flat tops in both our ND & AZ homes (we have gas wolf ranges in our 2 MN homes) & i regularly use cast iron on them (for the last 3 yrs on both). i just checked the manual for our GE in ND & it doesnt give any type of restrictions for cookware. they arent really hard to clean. i use chlorox wipes for everyday & the BF uses a razor blade once every couple months or whenever i have any overspills. my sister in law was over for dinner the other night & she commented on how brand new our cooktop still looks. we are fervent home cooks so all our stoves get daily workouts depending on which home we are at.

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    1. You have a lot of homes.

      Since you mentioned GE, I checked their FAQ section on glass cooktops. They recommend staying away from cast iron, and also list several other types of pots to avoid:

      http://www.geappliances.com/search/google/infobase/10000221.htm

      "Cast Iron cookware is not recommended. If the cookware has a burr or rough spot, it will scratch the glass surface. Additionally, it is slow to absorb heat. Once this type of cookware heats up, especially on high heat, it holds an intense amount of heat which is transferred to the cooktop. This can cause the element to shut down as a response to the temperature limiters which indicate surface temperature is too high for cooktop components to handle."

      According to their recommendation, many of the pans I use daily would be a no-go for a glass stove.

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  6. Hi Beard - Just to let you know, fumes from any type of unattended or overheated cookware, not just the Teflon® brand, can damage a bird's lungs with alarming speed. Additional information can be found on our website Pet Bird Safety (www2.dupont.com/Teflon/en_US/keyword/birds.html). We hope you find this information useful. Best, Sara.

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    Replies
    1. I have not come across any research that shows cast iron or naked steel hurts birds, but there's plenty proving overheated Teflon can be the death knell.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytetrafluoroethylene
      http://www.ewg.org/reports/toxicteflon
      http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-housing/bird-safety-tips/nonstick-cookware.aspx
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird-safe: "PTFE-coated surfaces should be used extremely carefully in households that contain birds (good ventilation and never permitted to cook dry), as there are no warnings on these products about the dangers. There are a number of safer cooking options, including stainless steel, cast iron, and enamel."


      Am I missing something?

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  7. I was searching for steam irons and I've got this. It's just wonderful. Every person love cooking must wanna try these. But I still have to search on Tefal Ultraglide FV4488G1 Anti-Scale Steam Iron Review

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  8. I've been cooking peppers and onions in the skillet on the grill a lot lately. I'll have to add jalapenos next time. Yum. I like cooking bacon that way too, although hot fat + open flame adds a nice element of danger. I used to get flank steak, but my husband got me to try the carne asada cut from our local market, and I prefer it. Not sure if it's thin-cut flank or skirt (I'll have to ask), but it looks like this 

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Thanks for the note, check back for my response!