I woke up and sat at my word processor/computer/typewriter and thought to myself, “what the hell did I eat last night for dinner?! It’s getting bad that your brain does not remember the simple pleasures in life.” Low and behold, it dawned on me. PANCAKES! Yes, dear friends, I made pancakes for dinner. This was even at my dear wife’s suggestion, and she usually HATES pancakes, but she even complimented me on them and said dinner was very good!! I am sometimes amazed at the world around me. So onto today’s blog about small appliances.
For the sake of easiness, I will be pulling pictures off Amazon and will try to include the links. You are not obligated to buy any of these appliances at AMAZON. As a matter of fact, is it not more enjoyable to “shop for sales or deals” on all these items.
Let’s start simple with a blender, a universal piece of equipment I have been using since I was a kid making milkshakes. The last thing I used it for was the Green Goddess Salad Dressing Recipe.
This is not my exact blender because mine is OLD, but this one should do the trick.
I also own a NuriBullet. This is nice when I don’t want to break out that bulky blender for a small job. It costs just as much as the blender above, but hell if you’re stuck for Christmas gift or birthday ideas…BOOM!
This is the exact one I own and I have used the shit out of this for years and it still cooks perfect frozen French Fries. Cost $179.00
Things that Toast…A TOASTER. This is a matter of personal preference. I own a two slice toaster because my kitchen is not huge. I also hide mine away in an appliance garage, which is nothing more than a “Bou-jie” name for a cabinet with a roll up door. If I were to leave it out on the counter, then it would have to be all-retro and cool looking.
Hand held Mixer. This is used in the mashed potatoes recipe that will be published sometime in the coming months. I just have not made them recently that I recall.
This one looks good for me because it stores well.
Lastly, for today at least, is the stand mixer. For my money, nothing beats Kitchen-Aid when it comes to design and accessories. Yes, they are expensive, but it will last a lifetime. I know a wonderful woman who purchased one for her elementary school aged daughter as a gift. Now she will have that memory every time she uses it all through her adult life. Best gift EVER!
I own this small Artisan Series 5-Qt mixer that my wife got for ME as a Christmas gift one year. It was on one of those SUPER door buster sales at Kohls way back in the day. I love it and use it year round, especially when making chocolate chip cookies like the ones for those ice cream sandwiches just a few weeks ago!
That’s all today. Like the Gadgets List, I will be adding to this. Remember I have wire racks filled with cooking paraphernalia and a lot of it plugs in, so on that note, have a good weekend.
Good morning. The whole giving up coffee thing didn’t last long. I’m weak. I gave in to the need to be awake in the morning after not sleeping all night. Enough about my addictions for the time being. Let’s move back to talking about my culinary experiences. To cook we need GADGETS. I have discovered that throughout this whole “How to Cook: American Style” cookbook project I will be adding to the Gadget List as I use new ones. I own a few of them. Correction, I own a whole heap of them. Maybe I should rephrase that as I have “collected” a lot of them.
I recently received a letter from a fellow co-worker and reader on the subject of Gadgets. He began his email talking about his favorite Commercial products. He advocated for all things of commercial quality to buy VOLLRATH. Saying “A one stop shop for a quality lifetime product, almost always made in USA. From measuring spoons, ladles, pots, & pans to ovens fryers, slicers and EVERYTHING foodservice or restaurant related. Lasts a lifetime+
I would totally agree with that statement. I have seen their pots and pans in many restaurant kitchens that I have had the privilege of being in. Here in the school district, where I work at my REAL JOB, they have a culinary program. I believe they use many of their pots and pans as I recall seeing them hanging in the classroom kitchens. This by the way is an AMAZING high school program and not just cooking but BAKING too! Sorry about that diversion; now, back to the program.
I have never thought to look for Vollrath cookware before but he suggested that I start looking for them at garage sales and estate sales. Speaking of estate sales, I was at one this weekend run by Pair of Picker’s. Pair of Picker’s are some of the nicest people I have met at one of these things. This weekend alone they sold my son Sam a set of dishes that included a magnificent soup tureen. I can’t wait to use it and fill that puppy up with some matzo ball soup. Thank you guys for all the resplendent items I have purchased over the past few years from you!
The next item on his list was knives. I have always looked for good knives at garage sales. I find I have better luck at estate sales for these items, as no one wants to give up their best knife while they are still alive. I know it almost sounds strange to buy things at an estate sale, but for me it is always better to buy something at an estate sale then have it go into a landfill. If you plan to start a chef’s knife collection, then I would begin by getting a good knife carrying case or Chef’s knife roll to store them in. Amazon has loads of them. I purchased mine in a store called Su La Table in the Smithhaven Mall. The knife roll along with one knife was a Christmas gift actually. I have since filled up the entire roll and perhaps have been thinking of getting a second one. Yes, I’m crazy like that. Any-who, long story short, Pete recommends “DEXTER RUSSELL USA, not the Dexter Russell Japan International (it’s a thicker blade) knives. Takes an edge, with a thin blade, inexpensive, NSF plastic handle etc.” Again, this too is now on my list of things to look for.
Now we move onto more about pots & pans. This is an essential cooking utensil (is that an alliteration?). I myself have two pans that I absolutely love and they are both made by All-Clad. Pete however, prefers to use his 1985 Cuisinart Commercial Stainless cookware. That’s pretty specific there, Pete. He explained to me that it was “Made in France with a sandwiched copper slab between the pot and the stainless bottom.” I know this is good for heat conductivity but more importantly, even heat conductivity! He has been using these pots and pans for 35 years and expands his collection at thrift shops and yard sales. When Pete is not using Cuisinart pans, he has a collection of cast iron frying pans. His favorite is his 10” Griswold made in the USA cast iron frying pan. He tells me: “they have a SMOOTH interior bottom, easy to cure or strip down and season again, not like the new pebblly bottomed Chinese/Lodge stuff.” Thanks Pete, which is what I own. He gave me a whole lesson next on how to strip down and season cast iron frying pans. Perhaps I need to impart some of this wisdom on that subject to more than just the BSA Scouts. The Scouts all learn how to season cast iron pots every year in some troops, as many of them use cast iron pots to cook in all year long. They are a marvelous thing to use in those campfires and with charcoal!
So check out my latest update to the Gadget List. Have fun collecting and have fun cooking! Thank you for the email, Pete. To the rest of you, keep those emails coming! I love hearing from you!
No good cookbook would be complete without this list.
So far this is a short list of things we will be using to cook with in the “How to Cook” section of this website. You may want to keep this list handy like taped to the fridge or even print it out and casually leave it laying about for holiday season and birthday gift ideas for your yourself. Heck just come right out tell your life long partner and all your friends about the list too. This way you can be surprised with presents for a change, instead of flowers or a neck tie for your birthday (not that I don’t love BOTH those things)! The list will be getting longer as I add all kinds stuff to it as we use them to make the recipes I post. I could go on about all the gadgets I have collected in the 30 plus years that I have been cooking but that would take all the fun of it and writing this post would take ALL day. So lets explore all the gadgetry there is out there as we learn to cook with each item together!
Below are just a few items I have used already since starting this project and testing the waters on whether I could write about every meal I make in my kitchen or someone else’s kitchen. The items in green are some of recipes that I will be posting as the year goes on (maybe if I’m tech savvy enough I can turn them into links to the recipe). It will also be pretty magical to see if I can keep this posting stuff up or will I crash and burn and never finish my life long dream of writing my cookbook that everyone can use and understand but only time will tell.
The following is a recommended list of items that I have “collected” and have used thus far:
Oyster blender, bottle and corkscrew opener, cocktail shaker, ice bucket, pitcher, shot glasses, drink glasses, mugs and wine glasses…just to name a few.
Charcoal Chimney Starter sold at Amazon, Loews and ACE Hardware’s stores
Zyliss Classic chopper. The 18/10 stainless steel blade operates like 5 knives in one. It rotates automatically for smooth, even chopping from coarse to very fine. Sharp enough to chop onions and vegetables. Strong enough to chop nuts and ice. Its easy to clean – just rinse it like I do, then place in the dishwasher. This is Great Gift/present (hint hint). I use it use it for chopping onions as in Meatloaf or Baked Beans mmm beans.
Have I made home made French fry’s yet? Nope I guess not but I will do it soon. They are the perfect accompaniment to a grilled steak that is made over charcoal! My crinkle cut serrator features a stainless steel blade, brass rivets and a smooth easy to grip wood handle. Its the ideal tool for cutting vegetables, like potatoes for home made French fries or anything else that needs a crinkle cut to look fancy.
Pots and Pans
Cast Iron – These old classics come in many sizes today. I only still use one, a very large and very deep pan. This pan is perfect for deep fried chicken. Because of its heavy weight it holds the heat well keeping the oil hot. But because it’s heavy I also tend to use it less often but it has many other uses. For example it’s perfect for home fries, eggs and bacon. When new this pan may need to be “SEASONED”. Cover entire with vegetable oil and place in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. To clean this giant just use warm water as soap will remove the protective oil. Someone told me the best seasoning to use is bacon grease. This pan improves cooking flavor over time. Used for frying chicken or in recipes like Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. I also have a cast iron pot that is used on camping trips.
I even heard somewhere that you get the extra benefit of of the much needed mineral of iron just from cooking in it. It also seems that since people stopped using them to cook in regularly we might have to take a pill sometimes or eat spinach to get that in our system! Huh, its just what I heard and I don’t really know how true that is but I found it “interesting”.
Porcelain – Porcelain covered pots come in many beautiful colors now and can be very attractive hanging up in the kitchen. These pots are also nice to cook in. I found one of mine at a garage sale and even received one as a gift! HAHAHA! Fit this in your suitcase to take home! Well yes I did! I love it now but cursed as I carried it through the airport in my carry on!
Dutch oven – This is a large Porcelain coved pot. Just like the aforementioned airport verity. It is 7 to 9 quart cast iron (heavy) pot that is ceramic covered and with a lid (for extra heaviness).
Teflon – This Dupont non-stick classic cookware always looses it non-stick effectiveness. The best way to make your non-stick cookware lasts it’s longest is with a few simple tips. First never use metal cooking utensils such as metal spatulas or folks. Many, if not all-cooking utensils come in Teflon friendly products. I own plastic spatulas, wooden spoon and tong are just a few items that should be used to cook in these type of pots and pans. Also putting Teflon pots and pans in the dishwasher shorten their life. Clean all Teflon items by hand using a sponge or brush with mild dish soap such as Dawn (product plug only because I like that commercial where they help clean off those cute little oil covered ducklings with Dawn).
Teflon pots and pans come in MANY brands and qualities. I have owned several different styles over the years. I still have one large pan left that I use for omelets. They have to be replaced regularly because they ALL seem to loose there non-stick surface after a while. I keep a couple different sizes and I buy deferent qualities pans depending on their eventual purpose. The small pans I buy the least inexpensive. I always try to keep three good ones on hand. One is large (12 to 14 inches is huge for an Irishman). This one is in great condition (the pan, not me) and used to make eggs and other things that stick to other pans. So I don’t use this pan for grill cheese, or burgers, Steaks, etc. The other pans are smaller and less expensive. These I replace more often, and I use these for eggs for one person when new and eggs begin to stick to it I replace it.
Lately I have purchased the new Gotham Steel copper color ceramic nonstick frying pans. I like the 9.5 for making eggs. These seem to last longer then their Teflon cousins but I never really made note of it for sure. So I don’t want all those DuPont people coming after me hold their pans like torches so it resembles a scene from the movie Young Frankenstein!!
In the category of Teflon pots, I also own one. This is stickily for things like cheese sauce and that pot even has a pouring lip on it. I have had this small “Calphalon Sauce Pan” for 20 years! They still make it and its even found on Amazon.
Stainless steel Pots and Pans – These Pots and Pans are almost indestructible. There is no non-stick surface to worry about and thats why they can last generations. Unlike the cast iron pans, dish detergent and scouring pad or cleaners including comet can be used to keep these pans looking like new. I use a scouring pad and cleanser on the bottom of these pans to remove heavy burn on food.
My favorite band of stainless steel pots and pans is All-Clad – These pots and pans are VERY expensive so I only own two but they will last generations. My first All-clad pan was brought at a close out store (Marshals) and was purchased with a cover at a great price maybe 15 years ago! I never saw another one the same size and at the same price again there. I do look still.
My Second favorite, if you can believe this, is Ikea 365 – The pots I purchased at Ikea are 18/10 stainless steel and seem very durable. They are also much less expensive then the All-Clad brand. They come in a verity of sizes. The first pot size is the small saucepot. The second is the medium 2-quart saucepot and I also own the large 5-quart pot. They all came with lids!
I own one Pasta Pot – this stainless steel pot comes with a strainer insert perfect for making large amounts of pasta for a big tray of Baked Ziti or Lasagnafor entertaining.
Stockpot – This huge pot can be purchased anywhere. I bought mine in an old-fashioned hardware store that carried kitchen supplies. It holds 10 quarts. Its perfect for Chicken Soup or Corn beef and cabbage.
Tea pots – Can be purchased anywhere and can even be covered with colored porcelain like the old fifties style pots. I like my stainless steel teapot because it’s easy to clean and whistles when the water boils. I am considering getting an electric one (gift hint). So many electric appliances so little time.
Pyrex –this brand is glass measuring cups that come in various sizes. I recommend having on hand the one cup (16 ounce), one cup (32 ounce) and one 4 cup (64 ounces) Sizes. These are perfect for measuring liquids. I use the four cup size to make pancakes. They are dishwasher safe. Used for liquid measurements in such recipes as Baked Beans.
Stainless steel stacking – 18/10 stainless steel cups designed to balance without tipping. Cup sets should include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1-cup measures and be dishwasher safe.
Plastic stackingdry measuring – These are only a necessity if you are planning on making the friendship bread recipe that requires them. I also like then because they are light weight. So of course I own more then one set!
Plastic Liquid measuring – I own these too and use them MOST often because they are light weight. Mine have lasted years and always wind up in the dishwasher. They are made by OXO.
Stainless steel liquidmeasuring cup– I have one that is 4 cups. Because its metal with a plastic covered grip I sometimes use this to serve gravy in on non formal occasions. I really need one of those insulated gravy servers. Just sayin.
Knives – I have two knife blocks on my counter. Plus I own a chef’s knife roll. I received that as a Christmas gift that was purchased for me at a chefs supply store but you can find many types on Amazon too. My knife carrier is filled with the knifes I have collected from estate and garage sales. Knives is one of those things you should try many different kinds of to find the ones you like the best. Some of the best knives are made by Dexter Russell USA. Good knives make great gifts too. The really good ones can be really expensive but the sharper the knife the LESS likely you will be to cut yourself. Picking out good knives is a whole video lesson unto itself….Here are a few essential ones to own”
Butter knife/place knife – we often referred to this knife as a butter knife growing up. The most common use being to put butter on your bread, vegetables or when cooking with butter in recipes such as Apple Cake. It is a relatively dull knife with a rounded tip. It comes standard in most flatware sets.
The following is usually in the standard knife block: Serrated bread Knife – This is the best style/type knife for slicing fresh bread, rolls or for slicing cake in recipes like Ice Box Cake. Pairing knife – Carving Knife – Boning knife – Steak knives –
SpecialtyKnives – Filet Knife
Teaspoons – flatware set Tablespoons – flatware set Wooden spoon – avoid getting hit by them, they hurt. Plastic serving spoons –Metal serving spoons – For HOT food Metal slotted spoon – for Hot Food
Pancake Turner or spatula
They come in MANY shapes and sizes. The ones pictured below are just two of my all time favorites. I have at least 10 spatulas that I have gathered over the years. Some I just use at the BBQ grill for burgers and others were plastic and for use with the Teflon pans that I no longer own.
I only have two sizes. One is a large balloon whisk and the other is smaller and I use that one MOST often for sauces or sometimes even eggs and should get a second one of that one. Most times I use mix with a fork however.
Pie Pans – I prefer Pyrex glass pie pans for their even heat, dishwasher safe and classic look. Dark metal pans are ok. Tin pie pans tend to burn the bottom of the pie more easily.
Cake Pans – Williams-Sonoma has heavy nonstick cake pans that promote even baking and browning, feature a straight side and ensure that cakes are released easily. The uncoated Cake Pans from Chicago Metallic’s Commercial line performs wonderfully, and has the added benefit of being dishwasher- safe. Cake pans should be purchased in many sizes and shapes. I recommend two 9-inch-round baking pans for making a layer cake.
Square cake pan are not only used for cakes but brownies, and crumb cakes. Sizes range from 13x9x2 for crumb cake, 9x9x2 for brownies.
Bundt and tube pans –
Bundt and tube pans allow a hurried cook to make a beautiful, tall cake without the worry of layers. The secret is the funnel, which cooks the cake from the inside out. Bundt pans usually have some sort of cut-crystal design molded into the pan and have tall sides with a hollow tube in the center.
A tube pan, or angel food cake pan, has a funnel in the center, too, but the sides of this pan are smooth, which allows the batter to climb up the walls of the pan as it bakes. Tube pans often have feet, which are little metal nubs that stick out above the rim of the pan, allowing the pan to be flipped over while it cools without smashing the cake inside. If your tube pan doesn’t have feet, chances are the tube center is higher than the sides of the pan, which will give you the same clearance that feet would. Angel food cakes need to cook this way so that they don’t collapse in the pan.
Loaf pans come in two standard sizes: 9 x 5 x 3 inches and 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches. You can find loaf pans made of glass, shiny metal, and nonstick aluminum. Glass pans and dark, nonstick pans have a tendency to brown your breads a bit faster than shiny metal, so lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees if you use these pans.
Sifter/Sifting – You can sift flour by purchasing this Kaiser metal sifter. You can also use a strainer and tap the side against the palm of your hand. Used in recipes like Banana Cake.
8” frosting spatula – this great spatula is great for spreading frosting on cake. It can purchase these on-line or at most good kitchen supply stores. This is used in recipes like the Ice Box Cake.
The first pairs I would recommend is getting ones that are 12 inch long like the ones below (I have two pair of those). The next pair should be 16 inches and I use those when frying things like chicken cutlets. My next pair is 18 inches. I like to use them when I am at the BBQ grill. I also have a couple of small pairs that, that I received as a Christmas gift, I use for serving at parties. They are only 7 inches long.
That’s it for now. Check back often for updates and I will be referring to this list in my “how to cook posts” as we go. I hope the pictures help and of course if you have any questions just ask. You can post a comment here or send an email to me if you don’t want your questions seen by everyone.