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The Most Important Tools in Your Kitchen – Your Knives

April 21st, 2012 No comments

A sharp, well balanced knife that feels good in your hand is a pleasure to work with and makes cooking that much more enjoyable…when the right knife is used properly, it really makes you feel very “cheffy”. I’ve already posted how to sharpen knives and keep them sharp, and the amazing chart below (which I totally copied from Kitchen Kapers) really helps you figure out exactly what knife to use (or buy) for the job at hand.

There is need to go crazy buying knifes. I recommend starting out with a good quality 8″ chef’s knife (the workhorse and the most important tool in your kitchen, imho), a 3″ paring knife, 5″ Tomato/Utility Knife, a 10″ serrated bread knife and a honing (sharpening) steel. Just make sure you store them properly (I love my magnetic knife holder) and you should be ready to tackle any kitchen cutting job with ease.

Style of Knife Shape of Knife Ideal Job for Knife
2 3/4″ Peeling Knife For peeling of all round vegetables – potatoes, onions, etc.
3″, 4″ Paring Knifes For paring, peeling and slicing small fruits and vegetables.
5″ Tomato/Utility Knife (Serrated) For tomatoes, salami, croissants.
5 1/2″ Boning Knife For separating meat from bone, cooked and uncooked. The smaller the size of the meat (or bone) the more flexible the blade should be and vice versa.
5″, 6″ Utility Knives As the name indicates, for many, but not for all cutting jobs. Peeling, slicing, chopping, carving.
8″, 10″ Carving/Slicing Knives For carving medium sized roasts and fowl, cutting large vegetables, fruit.
6″, 8″, 10″ Chef’s Knives For chopping and dicing. The knife handle is rocked up and down with one hand while the fingers on the other hand rest slightly on the back of the blade, towards the tip.
8″ Bread Knife (Serrated) For cutting bread or any other food of soft substance with a tough skin or crust.
5″, 7″ Santoku Knives For slicing and chopping. Hollow edge allows air between blade and item being cut for extra thin cutting. Unique edge must be sharpened by professional.
Cleaver For chopping through joints or bones.
10″ Sharpening Steel For sharpening the knives. A sharp knife will provide maximum safety. Use the sharpening steel regularly, preferably every other time the knife is used.

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer…Best in Class

June 14th, 2011 No comments

The Super-Fast Thermapen is, without a doubt, the best food thermometer available and an essential really cool kitchen tool.  Sure, it’s way expensive, but sometimes it makes sense to just buy the best.  The thing that sets this apart from all other kitchen thermometers (and there are some pretty good ones out there) is its speed, accuracy and ease of use…it takes just 3 seconds to register an amazingly accurate reading. Another great feature is that the Thermapen is splash-proof, with molded-in seals that protect the thermometer from wet hands and kitchen splashes. I also love the way it operates…just open it and it turns on and close it and it turns off…no buttons, cables, slides or switches (and it comes in some really great colors!). When buying things for the kitchen, I always take pricing into account, but I believe that in this case, because a great thermometer invariably leads to great results when cooking, if you can afford it, it pays to go with the best. This also is absolutely one of the coolest gifts you can buy for someone who cooks…they’ll use it and love you forever!

OXO Good Grips Scale – An Essential Kitchen Tool

May 27th, 2011 No comments

OXO food scaleThis is one of the kitchen tools that I really can’t live without…the OXO Good Grips Food Scale. It has large, backlit, easy to read numbers and, with one click, switches from metric to U.S. (avoirdupois) weight. When adding each ingredient to a recipe, just press the zero button (tare weight) to set the scale back to zero, add your next each ingredient, repeat for each additional ingredient, and all your mixing and measuring is done in one bowl, making for much easier cleanup. One of the best features is that the display can be separated from the base (it’s attached by a long, sturdy wire) so even if you’re weighing your ingredients in huge bowl that would normally hide the readout on a lesser scale, on this one, just slide it out and you can easily see the weight. If you bake, you know how important weights and proportions are to achieve a great result. I never bake without it, and I guarantee once you try it, you won’t either…this is the real deal!

The Best Bread (and Bagel) Knife

May 22nd, 2011 No comments

Bread Bow KnifeIf you bake your own bread and love to eat it straight out of the oven, you know how hard it is to get a good, even slice from fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm bread. This Oregon Bread and Bagel Slicer (another non-essential but really cool kitchen tool) bow knife, made  of Red Alder, a sustainable hardwood, has a beveled, scalloped edge (it never needs sharpening) that works like a super-sharp saw to cut a neat, uniform width slice of that crusty, aromatic freshly baked no-knead sourdough whole wheat pumpkin seed encrusted loaf that you can then slather in butter and watch as it melts into the nooks and crannies…ok, I’m getting a little carried away here, but there really is nothing better then homemade bread.

This knife is also perfect for cutting bagels, ripe tomatoes and just about anything else that you may have trouble slicing with a conventional knife…and, with the beautiful Red Alder handle, it looks really great just sitting there on the kitchen counter.

This also makes a great gift for the cook who has everything…that’s how I got it (thanks Ned and Debi)!

Oxo Pop Up Vegetable (and Chicken Wing) Steamer

January 17th, 2011 No comments

OXO Vegetable SteamerAlthough I did post a technique a while back for simply steaming a small quantity of vegetables, there are times when that method isn’t practical (like for prepping my Oven Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings). For these times, I highly recommend the Oxo Good Grips Pop-Up Steamer.

All you have to do is press on the handle and it pops up to make it safe and easy to insert into and remove from a steaming pot. One of the best feature is that you can unscrew the handle and it’s then perfect for steaming larger items like fish fillets (or huge batches of chicken wings!). It has foldable feet to keep the basket above the boiling water and it also expands to fit just about any pot. It’s a really cool kitchen tool with multiple uses…a practical (and inexpensive) addition to any kitchen!

And, if you really want to steam a huge batch of wings this simple, Asian-style 3 Tiered Aluminum steamer is great…it’s also perfect for steaming a couple of different vegetables (or a variety of seafood) all at the same time for a quick, healthy dinner.

Sausage, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza with a Sourdough Whole Wheat Crust

August 10th, 2010 2 comments

SMO PizzaJust wanted to post a shot of the pizza I made tonight…it tasted as good as it looks. This was, of course, made from scratch and here is the printable recipe for the crust.  One of the most important tricks to making a great pizza is using a pizza stone…you just can’t bake a great crust without it. A pizza stone has a greater thermal mass then either a glass or metal pan and therefore holds and distributes heat better. It’s also porous, so it absorbs moisture from the dough as it cooks, all of which contributes to an amazing, crisp, uniformly browned crust. Also, get yourself a pizza peel…they’re inexpensive and make putting the pizza in and, more importantly, taking the hot pizza out of the oven, a breeze.

Pizza stones are available just about everywhere, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes (and prices). They should be put in a cold oven, then preheated for at least 30 minutes before using. Because they are porous and absorb liquid, the stone should never be washed with soap…just a dry brush or some plain, warm water if needed. They are also ideal surfaces for baking bread and also for making crispy, homemade crackers.

t stone or piece of ceramic or earthenware used to evenly distribute oven heat to pizzas or other baked goods, more or less mimicking the effects of cooking a pizza in a masonry oven. Such bakeware has more thermal mass than metal or glass pans. The porous nature of the stone used also helps absorb moisture, resulting in a crisp crust.

OXO Good Grips Food Scale…a must have tool for the kitchen

August 3rd, 2010 No comments

OXO food scale This is one of the kitchen tools that I can’t live without…the OXO Good Grips Food Scale. It has large, backlit, easy to read numbers and, with one click,  switches from metric to U.S. (avoirdupois) weight. When you press the zero button (tare weight) to set the scale back to zero, you can continue to add ingredients and then zero it out again, so all your mixing and measuring can be done in one bowl. One of the best features is that the display can be separated from the base (it’s attached by a long wire) so even if you weighing a huge bowl or plate, you can still easily see the readout. If you bake, you know how important weights and proportions are to achieve a great result…this is the  real deal!

A Really Great Knife at a Really Great Price

March 1st, 2010 No comments

Now that I showed you the best tool to sharpen your knives, let me tell you about a really great knife that has the added benefit of being very inexpensive. I love my Henkel and Wüstof knives, but for real value and exceptional quality, I recommend the Victoronix Fibrox 8″ Chef’s Knife. It has a stamped, high-carbon stainless steel blade and, although it doesn’t have quite the weight of a forged blade, it feels good in your hand, has nice balance and excellent edge retention. You can’t go wrong with this knife…it’s really a pleasure to use. And here is a great, FREE way to keep your knives sharp.


Knife Sharpening…The Best Tool for the Job

February 28th, 2010 No comments

I love my knives and, as incongruous as it might sound, a sharp knife is a safe knife. When a knife is dull, more pressure  is needed when using it and that increases the chance that the knife will slip and do some damage…a sharp knife is not only much easier to control, but it really adds to the joy of food preparation.

Sharpening a knife using a sharpening stone is best left to professionals. It’s a great skill to learn, but it takes a lot of practice as it’s tough to get the proper angles. The Accusharp Knife and Tool Sharpener is an inexpensive, safe and easy to use tool that makes knife sharpening a pleasure. It has diamond honed Tungsten Carbide sharpening blades set at the proper angle so you can’t make a mistake, and in about 10 seconds, you have a nice, sharp edge.

The are a lot of myths and facts about knife sharpening, but if you use the right knife for the job and you keep it sharp, you’ll find food prep to be a pleasure.

No need to go crazy buying knifes. I recommend starting out with a good quality 8″ chef’s knife (the workhorse!), a 3″ paring knife, a 5 1/2″ boning knife, 5″ Tomato/Utility Knife, an 10″ serrated bread knife and a honing (sharpening) steel. Just make sure you store them properly (I love my magnetic knife holder) and you should be ready to tackle any kitchen cutting job with ease.

Cheaper and Neater…another Really Cool Tool

February 13th, 2010 2 comments

Plastic Squeeze BottleAnother unessential-but-cool-to have tool in the kitchen is the simple plastic squeeze bottle. It’s another one of those diner/restaurant tricks that makes life in the kitchen just a little simpler. Filled with your favorite type of oil, just a quick spritz in a hot pan and you’re ready to sauté. The great thing about it is, not only is it much neater than pouring straight from the container (you know you hate that oil slick that always forms on the bottom of the cabinet it’s stored in) but you can also buy a huge container of oil at a really inexpensive price and just refill your squeeze bottle when needed. This is also great for ketchup. You can buy the 114 oz. restaurant-size container of Heinz at Costco for about half of the cost per ounce of the standard size you find in the supermarket. Simpler, neater and way less expensive…what’s not to like?

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