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Tools of the Trade: Why Good Quality Pans Make a Difference

Tools of the Trade: Why Good Quality Pans Make a Difference

The importance of having the right tools to get a task done can make all the difference to the final product. You wouldn’t use a chainsaw when a scalpel will do nor would you want to. Using the right pan in correct application cannot only make a dish better, but can also make cooking less strenuous. Have you ever tried cooking a piece of meat in a paper thin warped pan? The struggle dealing with hot spots, temperature and fear of constantly burning this piece of meat you’ve already gone neurotic over not ruining can be nerve racking. The point is buy quality, treat your tools correctly and they will make your life in the kitchen easier and last for a long time. Making a meal at home shouldn’t be a struggle or something you dread.

What to Look For in Pans

Pots and Pans have an amazing amount of variety in this day in age, from the thickness, materials, coatings to the shapes.  Not all metals are created equally when it comes to heat distribution and heat retention. First thing to look for is heavy-gauged pans made from either aluminum, copper or stainless steel with aluminum or copper cores. The walls of the pan should be a decent thickness and the bottom of the pan should be heavy. The reason for looking for both of these factors when purchasing a pan is you want the pan to cook evenly, respond to heat changes quickly when adjusting burner temperature and pan thickness means that you have constant heat while cooking.

You want to buy something that feels good in your hands and something that is also oven safe. As far as nonstick I do like them for some applications, but make sure it is PFOA-free and oven safe.

Pan Materials Cheat Sheet

Stainless Steel: Heavy, durable, resistant to staining. Poor heat distribution and transfer with just Stainless.  Must have Copper or Aluminum Core. 

Aluminum: Lightweight, great Heat distribution and transfer, cheap Aluminum Pans react poorly with acidity therefore you must buy Anodized Aluminum which can be expensive.

Copper: Excellent heat distribution and transfer. Reactive to acidity. High maintenance. Super expensive alone, Best as a core in pans. 

Cast Iron: Super heavy, durable and non-stick (seasoned correctly), retains heat well and inexpensive. Reactive to acidity. Needs some maintenance.

Variety of Pans

Purchasing a pan set can be a great way to get your collection going. They will have a good mix of pan and pot sizes, lids to match and are generally cheaper than piecemealing a set. I highly recommend varying sizes of fry pans or skillets from 7” to 12”,  6 and 8 quart stock pots, a medium sized saute pan and 1.5 quart sauce pan to begin with. Cover the bases and you can always add pieces when needed.

Why All-clad Pans

I’m a huge fan of All-Clad, I’ve been using them for as long as I can remember. I love the fact that they are really well made, heavy gauged, super comfortable, crafted from stainless steel with aluminum or copper cores and manufactured right here in the United States. These pans are built to perform on every level and they last for years. You get the best of both worlds having the durable stainless steel exterior and the high thermal conductivity core. I’ve had the same set for over 10 years and they get used a lot.The higher gauge thickness means they won’t ever warp, and the stainless steel is extremely durable. I highly recommend the Stainless Steel line with the tri-ply aluminum core. It’s the perfect balance of performance and value.

Visit the All-Clad Product line for more information at http://www.estore.all-clad.com/Collection/Stainless/

 

To Sous-vide or Not to Sous-vide

To Sous-vide or Not to Sous-vide

In the field of cooking the process of Sous Vide has been a bit controversial in the United States. Sous Vide is a process in which food is vacuum sealed in plastic bags then controlled temperature cooked in a circulating bath. Although widely adopted as method cooking in Europe the FDA and USDA have made several strides in the last decade to kill this method of cooking in the restaurant scene. Chefs in NYC have literally been forced to throw away food in very high end restaurants. Their main issue of contention is that sous vide method in the air tight vacuum sealed bags can cause botulism to thrive due to the lack of oxygen, temperature and duration of cook time. However these are also the same people that want you to eat well done cheeseburgers and never touch sushi.

 

Sous-vide Beef Vacuum Sealed

Sous-vide Beef Vacuum Sealed

Why to Sous Vide?

The precision, repeatability of results and the overall final result of the product is the main reason to cook with this method. You have way more control with the outcome of final product. Overcooking a product is less likely with sous vide due to the fact that once you know how and for long to sous vide the entire process controlled temperature to proper doneness. A perfectly cooked piece of fish can be mind glowingly good as can a juicy pieces of medium-rare beef. Fat and collagen cells in meat break down much differently because of the gradual process and result in higher moisture retention and tenderness. Vegetables retain a crispy texture and much of the flavor lost during a traditional process like boiling are retained rather than lost. The biggest added bonus to sous vide is the benefit of imparting a ton of flavor into the product with seasoning without being lost in the cooking process.

It however is not all good with sous vide. The downside is you miss a lot of the flavors gained when pan roasting, searing or braising that you can’t get with strictly sous vide. The wonderful crust you achieve in conventional methods is my biggest detraction. Although once cooked you can add sear, crust or crispy skin, this often its by extremely hot and quick methods as to not ruin the doneness of the product I find that its just not the same. Texturally I think it alters some proteins that most people wouldn’t be use to eating if they haven’t tried it before. The cost of a proper setup can be rather high which is why up until recently it hasn’t found its way into the homes of people.

Sous-vide Beef Torching to Add Flavor

Sous-vide Beef Torching to Add Flavor

In the end I like the method a lot, but use it for minimal applications. Eggs cooking sous vide at a controlled temperature can be ridiculously delicious.  It’s probably not for everyone or every home cook for that matter, but in the end I think its a worthy cooking method.

Check out https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/sous-vide-time-and-temperature-guide for some pretty good cook time and temperature references.

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Cooking Techniques: Pan Roasting

Cooking Techniques: Pan Roasting

The Technique of Pan Roasting

Pan roasting is the process of effectively using two different heat sources; the stove and temperature controlled oven to cook your protein. This technique is extremely effective in maximizing flavor, lowering cook time of thicker cuts of meat and creating a juicy final product. The first step in process begins with searing on the stove. Using a heavy bottomed pan is a key to getting quality results as it will retain heat, conduct heat evenly which aid in creating that wonderful crust associated with searing. Preheat, Preheat, Preheat. Your pan and oil need to be hot before you do anything. Look for the shimmering before placing the protein into the pan, but don’t allow the oil to smoke. Allow the crust to form and refrain from doing anything until the flip.

The first flip is where I transition into an already hot oven. Roasting in the oven provides even cooking and browning of the protein. If your making a steak you want an equal amount of crust on both sides and evenly cooked meat. Once out of the oven the fun begins. Place the pan back on the burners, add a knob of butter, some herbs and baste. Tilt the pan and take 90 seconds to spoon over the herbed butter to impart even more flavor. Flip halfway in. Transfer the protein to a cooling rack, ladle the butter over the top and let the juices redistribute. You’ve gone too far to screw up a piece of meat now by immediately cutting in. Let it rest.

Why its good to Pan Roast?

I find that you can apply pan roasted to a wide range of proteins with extremely repeatable and delicious results. Even cooking with meats is exactly what you want and this method can give you really good results. Each step of the process adds a ton of flavor to the dish. Skin results in being crispy and for items like chicken or fish this can greatly impact a final dish.

The Equipment Needed:

51qhxmowe8l-_sl1024_Do yourself a favor and go out and buy a cast-iron pan if you don’t own one. A good quality pan can be pretty inexpensive considering the fact that it will last a very long time in the kitchen. I recommend the cast iron pans made by Lodge. They are built really well and are just work horses in the kitchen.
Lodge LCS3 Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Chef’s Skillet, 10-inch

610brs6wbul-_sl1500_A really good set of tongs can be life savors in the kitchen.
The tongs made by Edlund are sturdy and well made. I’ve used many brands over the years and have found these to be the best.

Edlund Company 9-Inch Heavy Duty Tong with Lock

 

21h5leezh5lA fish spatula is another must to own. They are made with a thin, flexible edge lets it slide under fillets easily. It will make your life easier when cooking fish to be able to flip without an issue or fear of damaging.

Winco FST-6 6.5-Inch Blade Fish Spatula