I think much of what is important about cookware is a matter of personal preference. I like pots that in the best of circumstances work well, but are also somewhat forgiving if you do happen to overheat and burn something. While I try to use mostly wooden utensils, a pot that can't handle metal utensils is a real hassle for me. Bearing that in mind, some other things about cookware are close to universal. For example, thick is almost always better than thin to avoid hotspots. The pots and pans to select will inevitably be a compromise. Here are my experiences:
1. Stainless steel is trouble. The very inexpensive solid stainless steel is very susceptible to overheating in spots. Yes, you can pamper them and cook decently in them, but who needs the aggravation? I like cookware that lets you crank the heat up high without worrying. Once you overheat stainless, or scour it, it's dead. It will burn in that spot every time. It's nonsense to say you shouldn't cook on high -- ever hear of "blackened"? You also gotta use high for a stir fry, unless you want soggy. Chinese woks, BTW, are generally non-stainless steel and very thin so they heat unevenly. This is on purpose so different parts of the pan will have different temperatures. However, stainless is dirt cheap and works just fine for boiling and steaming.
To combat the uneven heating problem, most stainless steel pans are laminations of aluminum or copper on the underside to spread the heat around, and stainless steel inside the pan to provide a cooking surface that is impervious to whatever you might put inside. In my experience, this stainless steel surface is still too sticky to fry on, and if you ever burn it you get a permanent trouble spot. But, sometimes a stainless steel cooking surface comes in handy when you can't use aluminum (see below) so I keep some around. Choose something with a reasonably thick aluminum layer on the bottom.
2. Teflon and other nonsticks are also less than desirable. Foodfried in a teflon pan just doesn't crisp up right. Eggs cooked in teflon (I like mine very soft) have a weird surface texture. Yeah, teflon's easier for sure and it doesn't make food taste bad, but if a recipe says "caramelize onions then deglaze", you are out of luck here because you'll go straight to burn before you glaze. Now, I reallyreallyreally don't want to discourage anybody from cooking. If teflon keeps you away from McDonalds, use it. But commercial chef's don't, and part of my enjoyment comes from learning the classic cooking techniques that they use.
3. Cast iron is great for frying . . . especially good at high heat. The grease/oil used to fry leaves a nice protective coat on the pan, and the carbon build up is very non-sticky. In this regard, a little burning doesn't hurt it at all. However, you gotta believe in them and never soak and never wash with soap. The best way to clean is to just wipe with a cloth (you actually want to leave grease on them). Avoid scouring as much as possible, but if you have to once in a while it's not the end of the world, but be sure to put some oil back on. Some things don't cook well in them. For example, long term boiling, especially a tomato sauce, will strip your hard-earned coating off lickety-split. Since you can't rely on people knowing how to care for them, you must patrol the kitchen when well-meaning guests volunteer to help out or to clean up. So, I always keep some cast iron in the stable for frying, but not a complete set of pots and pans.
4. Le Creuset . . . is cast iron, with an enamel coated cooking surface. I don't have a lot of experience with it, but I've enjoyed using it from time to time at other people's houses. I had a Le Creuset stewpot I used for an extended period of time and liked it a lot, but I found it somewhat hard to clean (stains!) and was always worried about scratching the enamel.
5. Aluminum works great. Handles metal utensils, and the occasional scouring. The latest I hear is that it does not cause Alzheimer's. Get the thickest you can because it will distribute the heat most evenly which means high temp cooking with less burning. One cheap place to buy them is a cookware outlet store in Kittery Maine. It's on the righthand side heading north right after you get off I-95, a no-name place right next door to a name cookware place, RevereWare I think (hmmm... why can't I remember? Alzheimer's?) Or find a commercial cookware store. The only drawback to Aluminum is that it can get pitted over time if you cook acidic things in it. Somethings can't be cooked in it (again, can't remember . . . egg whites? cherries? The warnings appear in The Joy of Cooking.)
More reading: Pots and pans for everyday cooking
6. Even better is anodized aluminum, Calphalon (not the non-stick) being the most widely available brand. Anodized aluminum provides a super-hard surface that doesn't have the drawbacks of regular aluminum. The heat distribution and surface means you can leave a spaghetti sauce on higher, longer, with a lot less stirring. When used for frying, I find them much less sticky than stainless. Mine have held up well even when scoured occasionally with those green, scrungey things. Drawback is that they really are overpriced (but still cheaper than those very sharp looking All Clad stainless steel). Also, I was talking to a clerk at a store and she said people return them because they get screwed up when used to store things in them in the fridge. I never have so I don't have an opinion about it. (Read: Is anodized aluminium is better than non anodized?)
7. Miscellaneous. I used a ScanPan saucepan for a long time and liked it. It had some kind of non-stickness that was particularly good for cooking rice, Chinese style. I never abused it though, so I don't know how it can take it. Classic chef's rave about classic copper cookware but it's really expensive. Coated with tin on the inside, it is susceptible to and ruined by overheating. I've never used it myself. Friends of mine swear by Circulon, but I didn't like it. I want to cook on a flat surface, generally. I got a Corningware stewpot as a gift . . . it was a sticky, burning disaster . . . except it is serviceable for use in the oven as a deep casserole for stuff like Chicken Marengo, and it does work well in a microwave because you can see inside. Speaking of which, I'm not much of a microwave cook, but I have every now and then gambled and followed the instructions in the recipe book and you really can cook a spaghetti sauce in there, and more incredibly, you can a brown a roast.
8. General rules to follow
Don't heat any cookware with nothing in it. All kinds can be overheated though the damage will vary. This means, put in the oil etc. first. On the other hand, never add your "main" ingredients until the pan is heated unless the recipe explicitly says otherwise.
Avoid using metal utensils on all kinds of pans. Scratches cause problems. Get out of the habit of banging the utensils on the rim to shake off the liquid. You can get away with it with wood, but metal will hack up aluminum and chip enamel.
Avoid scouring. The only time you should ever have to scour is if you have burned something. (You should avoid that too, but what's done is done.) Crusted on things will come off some other way. If you have to scour, try first scouring with an all-plastic pad. Try scraping with a wood spatula. Try your fingernails. Try Bon Ami and a sponge. Never, ever scour with steel or iron. A copper scouring pad will be gentler, as will the various kind of scrungies. Scour very gently at first. The basic idea is to try to get the crud off with as little collateral damage as possible. (Information from http://www.epicurean.com/articles/pots-and-pans.html)
I’ll admit that I have had my share of mishaps when it comes to cooking rice. Sometimes when the top came off the pot I’d find a mushy, sticky mess. Other times, the grains were burnt and stuck to the bottom. I always use brown or wild rice. Even though these “real” whole grains take a bit longer to cook, they are worth the wait: unrefined grains maintain more heart-healthy vitamins and antioxidants. Plus, they are high in fiber, which is important for a heart-healthy diet.
Since brown rice is such an important and healthy staple in my kitchen, I figured it was high time to get smart about rice-cooking techniques. Through trial and some errors, and talking with our cooking experts in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, I’ve gleaned these tidbits that lead to easier (and faster) brown-rice cooking (Tip: The best rice cooker for brown rice works best):
Tip 1: Set yourself up for success.
To cook whole-grain brown rice, use a pan with a tight-fitting lid, cooking the rice in lightly salted water, on your coolest (or simmer) burner, and making sure the rice is simmering at the “lowest bubble.”
Tip 2: A large pan is a happy one.
Cook rice in a large saucepan (I know using the best rice cooker is easier but this is a tip for those who don't have a rice cooker). A larger cooking surface allows for heat to be evenly dispersed, leading to a more consistent texture in the finished dish.
Tip 3: Watch the clock.
The Test Kitchen has found that when cooking a small batch of rice (less than 1 cup), the cooking time varies greatly depending on what stove they use. Although brown rice usually requires 40 to 50 minutes of cooking, start checking it after 30 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Tip 4: Use the right ratio.
Starting out with the right amount of water or broth (for more flavor) for the amount of rice you’re cooking will help you avoid a burnt or mushy final product. Use the chart below for reference or follow the directions on the package.
How to Cook Brown Rice & Wild Rice: Rice to Liquid Ratio, Time and Directions
|Brown Rice||2 1/2 cups||Bring rice and liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.||3 cups|
|109 calories; 23 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber.|
|Wild Rice||At least 4 cups||Cook rice in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water until tender 45-55 minutes. Drain.||2-2 1/2 cups|
|82 calories; 17 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber.|
Tip 5: Rest up before digging in.
Once the rice is done cooking, let it stand for at least 5 minutes with the lid on. Food-science expert Harold McGee says this “resting period” allows the grains of rice to cool and become firm, so that the rice doesn’t break when scooped from the pot. Once rested, fluff rice with fork, and you should have a light and aromatic final product!
By Wendy Ruopp, managing editor of EatingWell, and Cassidy Tawse-Garcia, editorial intern for EatingWell
Cast iron pans are heavy
The same cast iron skillet above can weigh as much as 8 pounds without being laden with food. Transferring food to a plate from a pan of this weight is dangerous to the integrity of your wrists as well as for the risk of dropping burning hot food or the pan itself.
I’m not convinced of their health benefits
The Journal of the American Dietetic Association tested 20 different foods cooked in cast iron and other metal pans. They found that every food cooked in cast iron had a much higher iron content than foods cooked in other types of metal. For example, a scrambled egg raw has about 1.49 mg of iron but after cooking in the cast iron skillet that number jumped to 4.76 mg. (source)
Additional iron can be a health benefit to those with anemia or otherwise low iron levels including pregnant, menstruating and postpartum women; children; athletes; and vegetarians. On the flip side, consuming too much iron causes a build-up in the body that can increase the risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer, cardiac arrhythmias and diabetes – especially in adult men and menopausal women.
For people who already get plenty of iron from a healthy nutrient dense diet, added iron may not be necessary and even toxic. The standard American diet is overly supplemented with iron-enriched cereals and other packaged processed foods.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t makes sense to cook mom and junior’s food in cast iron and cook dad and grandma’s dinner in another pan.
Cast iron pans are high maintenance
There is plenty of information on the internet devoted to how to season a cast iron pan. Even though many skillets come pre-seasoned, the pan will still require being continuously seasoned with good fats that won’t go rancid.
Cleaning a cast iron pan is also a time investment. To remove burned-on food you should scrub with a mild abrasive, like coarse salt, and a nonmetal brush to preserve the nonstick surface. Soap can be used (but rarely) and the pan needs to be dried immediately after washing. If left in the sink holding water, the pan can start to rust quickly (which then calls for re-seasoning from scratch).
I’ve got a lot going on, and I simply don’t have the time to deal with high maintenance pots and pans. Do you?
What do you look for when reading cookware reviews
Baking has always been in my life. My father owned a bakery that he handed down to me. He inherited it from his father; just like his father inherited it from his father. My family turned baking from a business to an art.
Until recently, the business was going downhill and I was just about to close. The bread making took too much time and yielded too little profit. That was until I was able to accept what all business persons should. That changing times called for desperate measures. This meant I had to find a faster way to bake bread and with the same quality customers have come to expect of me. That was when I first entered the world of the bread making machine.
Giving up the practices that I have practiced since I was a small boy was hard but change is of course inevitable. Choosing the best bread machine was the hardest. There is so much to put into mind. One considers the amount of money one is willing to spend on the machine and selects a machine within said price range. My hugest determining factor was size but other important factors did come into play. The warranty duration speaks a lot about the product. Any period less than a year and it proves the maker doesn't believe much in his/her product. I also had to cough up more money because of the additional features I needed on the machine. Additional options are expensive but necessary depending on your baking preferences, such as, the quick bake option or the delayed timer option.
I became aware of so many features the made my work extremely easier. I could determine what type and color of crust I wanted on my bread. There was a timer that allowed me various options .e.g. alert me on when to input additional ingredients. The preheat cycle was also a determining factor. The machine should also have a removable pan to allow for easier cleaning. The power used up by the machine was important, especially with my choice .i.e. a big bread making machine.
It is very important to choose the bread making machine that best works for you. Therefore, you should check reviews of best rated bread making machine beforehand. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.
If you're looking for a good bread machine, Here's my recommendation.
No kitchen is complete without kitchen knives. I always keep them handy because they accomplish a lot more useful task than other utensil or kitchen gadgets. They are convenient and easy to use, I don't need manual them, all i have to do is to be a little cautious. Also, using them makes me feel I am in control of the act of cutting and slicing my vegetables, fruit, fish or meat. I mean we can have all the modern gadget in the kitchen and have them do stuff that takes the labour out of the task and makes us a little lazy, because we hand it all over to the machines while we wait for them to deliver according to a manufacturer specification. But with the kitchen knives I don't need to wait for some gadget to meet a manufacturer specifications and hope my task will be accomplished as expected.
Here I can manipulate the process relatively to suit my desire. And they is always a kitchen knife specifically for every related task. With wavy edge knives I can smoothly cut through my bread and I can even use them to cut my tomatoes too. The bird beak knives are just excellent for cutting my fruits. The boning knife are just okay for removing the meat from the bones of my beef and chicken. Often my potato have eyes on them after peeling them with the sheep's foot knife, I use the clip points knife to take them off, and keep my potato neat and ready to be cooked.
Don't get me wrong, it quite helpful having all the gadgets in the kitchen to get cooking done easily and fast, but the knives to me form the basics of all I need in my kitchen and it always a pressure to prepare my vegetable fruits and meats with a good old kitchen knife close by.
More on kitchen knives:
Kitchen knives every home cook should own
I come from the land of Dunkin', also known as the north eastern United States. The clever marketing campaign of "America Runs on Dunkin" rings all too true in my home town of Boston. During my time there I certainly ran on Dunkin' Donuts coffee. They were cheap, quick and had locations everywhere, even across the street from each other at times. I consumed that coffee daily without even a second thought to just how low quality it was. Now, I sit in one of Melbourne, Australia's countless cozy cafe's and look at my old self in disgust. This heavenly beverage I drink now is what coffee should always taste like. Not that watered down, filtered drip coffee they seem to love in the U.S.
When I first arrived in Melbourne, my first couple of coffee experiences were nothing short of mind blowing. Every cafe delivered cup after cup of quality brew that seemed to keep getting better. One day however, the coffee stopped getting better. I started to notice the imperfections of every cafe and how they prepared their coffee in inconsistent ways. Suddenly, nothing pleased me. I was a coffee snob. I decided the only way to please my high standards was to do it myself. I then set to find the best espresso machine Melbourne had to offer. It turned into a full time job as I searched the ins and outs of the industry. From cheap to expensive, massive to portable, Italian to French, I had my hands full.
Through all this research, I eventually came to the realisation that I would never find the best espresso machine. For one, learning the complexities of these machines would be another job in itself and more importantly, my ever mobile self just can afford to lug around such a device from country to country. As the reality of the situation set in, I felt sad. I would now have to traverse the world drinking mediocre coffee until one day when I settle down, I can find the best espresso machine that I deserve after reading espresso machine reviews. Now, I am forced to spend countless hours and even more money awaiting for that amazing cup of coffee that I know won't come. I'll be chasing that first cup, watching the barista inevitable mess it up as I sit there, quietly judging them. Thank you Melbourne, for your coffee culture has been a great blessing as well as an eternal curse.
Find out the benefits of drinking espresso here.
Yes, she has no formal training but she is a terrific baker. Maybe when God asked her what gift she wanted most, she answered 'baking process'.
My mom has mastered the art and probably the magic of baking great-tasting golden pies, crispy cookies, and glorious cakes. Don't believe me? Ask our neighbours. Or ask my classmates and friends. They love my mother's baking to the point that they would purposely drop by our place for afternoon snacks.
So I was not surprised when someone came to our door one day to ask mom if she was selling homemade pastries. She just smiled and humbly replied, "Thanks for your interest. I never thought of selling my baking creations. Don't get me wrong. I love to bake but I'm an amateur at best, I'm not a professional baker at all."
As I continued eavesdropping, I heard the other person's reply,"I've tasted some of your homemade pastries and trust me, they are amazing. So I thought of asking you to share your lovely cakes, cookies, and pies to more people. It's a booming business around here, in case you haven't noticed."
I could not see my mom's face from where I was hiding but I could tell how she beamed at the comment.
"What did you say your name was again?""Faith. I own a tiny bake shop in town." "Well, Faith. I appreciate your offer yet before I commit, I want to know how many orders you expect in a day.""Wow. So you are considering my proposal. Great! I understand your concerns. Don't worry, I know that great homemade pastries are not made overnight. We have fairly reasonable schedules for our bakers."
Long story short: my mom took the freelance baker job and she became known for it. Now there are more people who love my mom's homemade pastries. And I totally understand why.
Breakfast Pastry Recipes - by HuffingtonPost