Thursday, October 16, 2008

Favorite Cooking Gear.

I like reading lists of favorite cooking tools. I read two last week, one in the New York Times, and one in the Star Telegram that were enjoyable and instructive.

I subscribe to the minimalist approach to cooking and its gear. In other words, I like a few good tools and a few good ingredients. Speaking of which, last week on the radio I heard a cookbook writer talk about her philosophy of cooking. She was an elderly lady, born in Italy, living in America, and she said, the trend today is to add too much, and that what ingredients a cook does not use are as important as what he or she uses. Of course, I agree.

Here are my essentials in the kitchen:

(Before I start, any comments on what am I missing in this list, would be greatly appreciated)

1. Frying Pans. One large and one small, no-stick pan for eggs and small one man meals. I know the recent movement away from Teflon for environmental and health reasons. Still, it is hard to find a better way to cook eggs with almost no fat on the pan.

2. Cast iron skillet. For every day cooking, if you don't mind a heavy pan there is nothing like a good cast iron skillet. They cook evenly, they clean up easily and they are not filling you with crazy chemicals. Cleaning is easy when they are stored properly and used frequently. Clean when still warm with water and a paper towel, dry and store.

3. Big pot. Cast iron / ceramic lined. We have two of them one big and the other bigger. Le Creuset ( makes good pots but they are not inexpensive these days. After reading the Fort Worth Star Telegram article on pots and pans I looked them up and a big pot can cost $200 and more. We bought our set many years ago for much less. I do use a different pot for cooking spaghetti noodles, just because I'm only boiling water in it and throwing in the spaghetti.

4. Knives. I use two. I remember watching Yan Can Cook ( years ago on PBS and he used a cleaver-type knife. I liked how they could be used to chop and scoop. My daughter gave me one for Christmas and I use it 90% of the time. It never goes in the sink or dishwasher and is cleaned and stored after each use. It's difficult to do the finer cutting with a big knife so I also use a smaller knife with a wide blade.

5. Rubber spatulas. Not plastic, rubber. One long, one wide.

6. Wooden spoon.
Long handle. Burnt, chipped and seasoned to perfection.

7. Big plastic cutting board. I find them easier on knife sharpness.

8. Electric skillet for cooking pancakes, french toast etc. for groups. They are very inexpensive.

9. Miscellanea: A handheld can opener with gears; long and short tongs; knife sharpener (the long one); crock pot for pinto beans, slow cooked meats, etc.; 1 group of measuring spoons; 1 Pyrex cup measurer.

10. Cuisinart: For making big bowls of salsa, quickly.

I do not use any tricked up tools like garlic mashers, lemon juice squeezers, blenders.


Anonymous said...

I am not the accomplished cook that you or RJS are but I have a garlic press from my Mom's Pampered chef days and I love it. I use it all the time. I also love the hand held can opener I have because it cuts on the top instead of the inside edge so you can't cut your hand on a jagged can.

Francis Shivone said...

LL -- Marian has the same garlic press and uses it all the time. I am biologically opposed to it. Now, the can opener sounds good because 1 of 10 times I cut my finger with the lid.

Travelista said...

This was interesting. My husband accuses me of having too much cooking gear.

Any more tips on the cast iron skillet? I just bought one and don't know all the tricks, everything stuck to it the first time I used it. I bought a pre-seasoned lodge cast iron. I let water soak in it overnight which I found out later is a no-no.

Francis Shivone said...

Travelista -- First, loved the website you have, and Firenze is my favorite city in Italy. The wife and I are planning a hiking trip in England, so I'll be searching the web soon for that.

As far as cast iron skillet goes, you can't leave them sitting in water, as you discovered. To re-season the pan. Clean it well and then heat it on the stovetop. Wait until it is hot before you add the oil. After it is hot pour on about a 1/4 inch of inexpensive oil with a high flash point, like corn oil. That will get it re-seasoned. I am sure you can find more scientific method on the web.
Once it is seasoned just clean with water after using and rinse dry immediately.
I put a little oil on the pan while it was till hot. But once you get it really seasoned that is generally unnecessary.

I will add you to my bloglist. Thanks for the comment.