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Kitchen Tools

Taylor Digital Measuring Cup

Taylor Digital Measuring Cup and Scale is a useful tool for measuring ingredients

Regular readers will know that I am a bit of a broken record when it comes to demanding that recipes are written with ingredients measured by weight. It’s easier to use these recipes and they deliver more accurate results. End of story.

No matter how much progress we make on this front there will still be about a century of North American recipes out there with only volume measures. Some of them–like pretty much every recipe for pie worth eating–are worth protecting from obscelence.

Also, I recognise that baby steps are important for those who find reassurance in the familiarity of old recipes. To that end I know that there are some recipe writers who will continue to handcuff the rest of us by catering to this market.

Luckily, I was given the perfect gateway drug for the volume-addicted. Taylor makes a  measuring cup that is also a scale. (more…)

Cuts Like a Knife

My honing steel and favourite chefs knife

My honing steel and favourite chef's knife

Evidently, I’m pretty hooked on this whole idea of writing about food thing.  Pictures help a lot but some food and cooking concepts are really difficult to describe.  I still remember an “ah ha!” moment more than five years ago when Alton Brown demonstrated how to swirl crepe batter in a pan (this clip starting around minute ten) to get it to the optimal thinness.  I realised that was a technique that would have been much more difficult to understand without the visual aid.  There are many others but I’d like to deal with one today: knife honing.

First to deal with a confusing point: a knife is sharpened when its edge is ground on a stone (powered or otherwise) so that metal is actually removed from both sides of the edge.  Between sharpenings and through normal use parts of the edge will get pushed out of line and compromise the knife’s effectiveness.  By drawing a knife’s edge across a steel (or honing it) the edge is pushed back into line.

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Cast in Iron

A well-seasoned cast iron dutch oven

A well-seasoned cast iron dutch oven

This post probably should have happened a long while ago.  None of my friends or family members have ever asked me for my thoughts on how to fill an apartment with smoke while cooking pizza or how to pickle daikon but more than once I have been asked for ideas about caring for my favourite type of cookware: cast iron.  And what better reason is there for having a website than being able to answer fairly complicated questions (to which, as you’ll see, I don’t definitely know the answer) with the words “uh…see my post about that.”

Cast iron pans are manufactured by pouring molten iron into molds made from sand.  This process and the nature of the metal creates surfaces (both cooking and outside) that are full of tiny pits and peaks.  Obviously, iron is susceptible to rusting when exposed to water in food or damp environments.  Luckily, fat if cooked hot enough and for long enough will bond to the metal and form a polymer-like coating.  This coating can serve two purposes: It will fill the microscopic pits and make the cooking surface smooth and therefore practically non-stick and by excluding water will protect against rust.  This coating can be created over a long period of frequent, high-fat cooking but for those of us who don’t cook bacon for breakfast every day and don’t deep-fry enough to have a permanently-designated “chip pan’ that sits by the stove full of oil (basically everyone, right?) an original seasoning grants a welcome headstart. (more…)

Samsung Induction Range

Samsungs induction cooktop, photo provided by Samsung

Samsung's induction cooktop, photo provided by Samsung

Samsung has released a free-standing oven and stove combination that uses induction technology to operate the cooktop.  I have had some (mixed) experiences with a glass-ceramic radiant stove at the cottage so I was excited to attend a demonstration of this improved technology.  I was also attracted by the fact that the demonstration was being led by Chef Massimo Capra, the owner-chef of, in my opinion, Toronto’s best Italian restaurant, Mistura.

The technology is pretty remarkable.  Each unit on the stove generates a magnetic field that reacts with iron in a pan to produce heat.  The beauty is that the stovetop doesn’t get nearly as hot as other stoves because heat is only being created in the pan and only a small amount of it leaks onto the cooktop.  This means that spills can be wiped up immediately and there is a greatly reduced chance of burning yourself by accidentally touching a hot unit.

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Kitchen Tools I: The Chef’s Knife

Our arsenal of kitchen knives

Our arsenal of kitchen knives

Foodies tend to have a strong impulse to acquire more and fancier kitchen tools.  I have found, primarily through the heeding the advice of Alton Brown, that less is more and simple is better.  There are enough useful kitchen tools–wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks–to fill several drawers that everyone who cooks will eventually acquire on their own.  I’m going to take a look at four tools that I wouldn’t cook without but that I don’t think are natural acquisitions.  I use at least one of these everyday that I cook but I’d be willing to wager that no more than one in four or five of all home kitchens have all four.  In my opinion the most important of these is a good chef’s knife.

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