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Food We need to talk about cooking and food prep tools and utensils.

Discussion in 'Tilted Food' started by Borla, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. Borla

    Borla Moderator Staff Member

    What are your most used items for food prep and/or cooking?

    What items do you consider high quality, and worth recommending to others?

    What item do you have your eye set on that you hope to one day (maybe soon) add to your arsenal?

    My two favorite things (kind of combining the answers to 1-2 here) are a cast iron skillet and my Big Green Egg. A large, well seasoned cast iron skillet is incredibly useful IMO. You can cook so much in it, and it's one of the best ways to prepare so many dishes. We got ours passed down from my wife's aunt. It's a very large one with a lid. One of the first things we did, since it hadn't been used in a very long time, was to cook a couple batches of bacon in it. Properly seasoning a cast iron skillet makes a huge difference. Once you do that, they are almost maintenance free.

    As far as the BGE, that thing is a beast. As much as I love to grill, I hardly know what I did without it. I've cooked woodfire pizzas on it, all the traditional meats and veggies you'd grill, as well as smoked briskets, ribs, and pork shoulders on it. It amazes me how well it regulates heat and how simple it makes grilling. They aren't cheap, but considering how long they last, they are well worth it if you are a regular griller.

    Another key prep item is a good knife, or a few good knives. We have a few Henkel knives that I really like. They keep a good edge and are comfortable to use. My wife would probably add her KitchenAid stand mixer to the list. It's not one of the super-high end ones, but it's very nice and very versatile.

    I'd love some really high end knives. I just can't justify spending the money on them. I'll admit, part of it due to laziness though. My wife does the dishes (no, I'm not a cave man, I do ALL the laundry, we work things out fairly evenly :p ), but she's not had a great record of caring for knives properly. "Accidently" leaving them to soak for several hours, or putting them in the dishwasher, or missing a tiny crust of food at the base of the blade that leaves a rust mark that needs SOS'd off. And I HATE doing dishes, so it's not worth it to me to take that extra chore over just to have a couple slightly better knives. :eek:

    I also really like the look of some of the copper pots and pans, but 1) our kitchen isn't set up to display them, which would be half the fun, and 2) good ones are stupid expensive.
  2. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    I cannot live without my enamel cast iron Dutch oven from Lodge.
    The last one I had chipped, and Lodge replaced it right away, free of charge. Their customer service is awesome. While we were without, we also bought a 5 qt. Lodge cast iron Dutch oven that we use when we go camping or when we need an extra one.

    I also have a decent chef's knife that I love from Zwilling J.A. Henckels.
    And my stand mixer:
    As well as my new food processor, which is great because it has a 4 cup bowl inside the 12 cup bowl, so I can use it for a variety of jobs:

    One of my favorite small appliances that many people probably don't think of is my rice cooker. It's just a little 3-cup model but it's perfect for the two of us. When we have a family, I plan on upgrading to something larger. If you eat a lot of rice, or like having food ready to go when you get home, I cannot recommend it enough. Between it and the Crockpot, we can have rice and beans ready for dinner when we walk in the door.

    There isn't a whole lot I don't have. Everyone who knows me knows I love to cook, and so I tend to get gifts that reflect that--almost everything above was a wedding present or a Christmas present. I'd like to get a Lodge pizza pan and a peel, maybe a higher grade knife at some point. I could use a good saute pan, but I'm waiting until I can afford the All-Clad one that I want. I would also like to replace my existing electric kettle with an adjustable temperature kettle, and I would love to ditch my toaster oven for a Breville smart oven.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    When learning to cook I made the mistake of choosing a knife set rather than a really good chef's knife. In retrospect it was a terrible decision -- I rarely use the other knives from the set and the chef's knife that I use almost daily is mediocre. I can't remember the last time I felt the need to filet something.

    I will invest in a proper chef's knife, but the issue is that I don't know how to properly care for it as of now. My knife technique has improved substantially over the last year or so (though it's still not and almost certainly never will be at anything resembling a a professional level); however, I have yet to actually practice sharpening a knife. My plan is to get a sharpening steel and practice on the crappy knife first, so that if I ruin the edge it's not the end of the world. Once I'm confident that I can do that properly I'll go pick up a proper one.

    So I suppose that's my amateur advice: having a good chef's knife is less useful if you don't know how to care for it. Learn that too. And also learn proper cutting technique; the last thing you want to do is pick up a good, sharp knife and then end up severing a fingertip because you didn't learn to use it safely.
  4. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    Martian: Get a sharpener like this one:

    It holds the knife at the correct angle so you don't have to worry as much. Additionally, professional sharpening is not prohibitively expensive--usually just a few dollars.

    My technique has improved a lot since I got my better knife. When you do get around to looking for a better knife, go somewhere and actually handle the knife. I know this is a concern for me personally because I have tiny hands, and so many knives just don't feel right.

    Someday I want this cleaver:
  5. Borla

    Borla Moderator Staff Member

    I have that exact sharpener. :)
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Phi Eyed

    Phi Eyed Getting Tilted

    Cannot function without the following:
    Wusthoff knife.
    Kitchen Aid Mixer
    Wisks - any type
    Garlic press - any type

    The single best thing I ever bought was an immersible hand held mixer. You can do anything with it. It is a challenge to clean, however.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  7. fflowley

    fflowley Don't just do something, stand there!

    I love my All Clad large stainless pan. It's deep, with upright sides and a small second handle for when its heavy.
    Beautiful even heat, makes great fond, and can go from stovetop to oven.
    The coated cast iron Dutch oven is also much loved for the same reason.
    And the Kitchen Aid food processor ain't bad either. But if you make a mistake with that blade you will pay dearly. It's the single sharpest, most dangerous thing in the kitchen.
  8. Bear Cub

    Bear Cub Goes down smooth.

    #1 is my Henckel chef's knife. It's truly amazing how much easier it is to cook with a properly weighted, razor sharp knife.

    Next thing I'm likely to buy is a 16 quart stainless pot for home brewing.

    Something I REALLY want is to get rid of my POS GE ceramic cooktop (for being induction, it truly is a piece of shit. It takes FOREVER to boil water, heats very inconsistenly, etc.) and have a gas line run for a nice 6 burner gas range. I have gas hot water, fireplace, and heat, and I'm hoping that having the gas line run will be relatively cheap (if I don't do it myself) since I have a crawlspace foundation.
  9. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    Before you buy a pot for homebrewing, check that it won't scratch up your cooktop--many pots for brewing are not recommended for glasstops (if that is the kind of induction stove you have). Or you can also invest in a crab cooker while you're at it ;)
  10. Pixel

    Pixel Getting Tilted

    Cast iron skillets and an enameled cast iron Dutch oven are irreplaceable. Some good spring loaded, locking tongs are super useful. As far as knives go, I really like the high end brands, but I have also found a lot of great cheaper brands. They don't hold an edge for as long, but it you have a steel and a double sided stone (and don't mind using them) you can get great results. Just look for good heavy steel, full tang and for the love of all that is holy don't buy a serrated knife. Unless of course it's a good heavy bread knife. I've found that a good end grain cutting board will help your knife skills a lot also.
  11. Borla

    Borla Moderator Staff Member

    Our wedding anniversary was last week. My parents, sister, and her husband took us out yesterday to celebrate.

    We were given several gifts by them, including two very awesome gifts that relate to this thread:


    A Wusthoff 18pc knife set w/block.


    Ours is yellow, but it's the same Le Creuset 5.5 qt French oven.

    Awesome gifts for two people who love to cook!! :D
    • Like Like x 1
  12. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    You are one of the few people I know that might actually use all the assorted knives in a knife block.
  13. Borla

    Borla Moderator Staff Member

    Haha!! :D My wife is even better at knowing what to use when than I am, but she hates knives so I'm usually the one doing the cutting.

    I was unpacking the knives from the box last night and arranging them in the block. I called into my wife in the other room "it has a tomato knife?", because I didn't even know there was such a thing. She calls back "does it have a serrated edge?" It did, and I told her that, and she goes "good, because tomato knives are supposed to".

    My wife, the tomato knife expert.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    I have a serrated utility knife for tomatoes. Admittedly, my sharpened Santoku does a fine job.
  15. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    As a pretext, a Chinese chef's knife is pretty much the only knife I ever use. It is pictured below (top) compared to a North American cleaver (bottom):

    However, it's not a cleaver at all and shouldn't be used as such. Wikipedia lays it out well:

    Kitchen knife - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The above-mentioned materials are key. My knife? It's made from high-quality stainless steel. I've had it for about ten years, and I have kept its edge well-maintained using a honing/sharpening steel:

    If you don't have a steel, you should get one. Now. And bear in mind that there is a difference between a honing steel and a sharpening stone. You use the steel to maintain your blade between sharpening. If you use your knife regularly, you can hone it daily. It allows you to keep your knife's edge so you don't require proper sharpening as frequently. The important thing is the steel ensures your blade's edge is kept sharp between sharpening for safety reasons. (Also realize that frequent sharpening of your knife will wear it down faster.)

    If you've never used a steel before, it's pretty simple. You basically do this:

    Just keep in mind that Ramsay says sharpening, when he basically means honing (there is a difference).

    Anyway, I'd highly recommend a Chinese-style chef knife. It's great for multi-purpose prep. The flat edge gives you some extra surface area for doing stuff such as crushing garlic or lifting ingredients into a pan/pot.

    We do have knives of other sizes/shapes, but more often than not, I'm reaching for my Chinese knife. It was gifted me from a chef friend of mine when I worked with him at a restaurant (his parents were suppliers of this wonderful tool). It was probably the most thoughtful and useful gift I've ever received. I'll likely be using it until the day I die. It may even be an heirloom item.

    I use it for most things, even slicing tomatoes, peeling and carving up mangoes, chopping vegetables, julienning carrots... you name it.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  16. Hektore

    Hektore Slightly Tilted

    I have a knife sharpening kit very similar to this: Amazon.com: Smith's DFPK Diamond Precision Knife Sharpening Kit: Home Improvement

    Though mine provides a bit more flexibility in the angle desired, and is good for way more than kitchen knives, it works very well.

    While that is handy, my pizza stone is really my baby:
    Amazon.com: Pizzacraft PC0101 16.5' Round Cordierite Baking/Pizza Stone: Kitchen & Dining

    Again, not this exact one but something very similar. I use it more for baking bread than pizza but it makes a huge difference vs. a pan/cookie sheet, especially on the pizza if you're trying to get a nice crispy crust.
  17. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    In my opinion, the only thing better than a stone for cooking pizza on is a BBQ grill. This is especially the case in the summer. And who wants the oven on in the summer, amiright?
    • Like Like x 2
  18. genuinemommy

    genuinemommy Moderator Staff Member

    Our kitchenaid stand mixer is an incredibly useful tool. It makes souffles and meringues a possibility. We have vegetable chopping tools that attach to it, too.

    My breadmaker is also helpful. I usually just use it to make a big batch of dough - it's helpful having a machine do all the fiddly steps involved with getting the dough to rise. Refrigerating the dough for a week makes it easier to form it into whatever shape I need throughout the week. We're pretty spoiled with home-made bread, the stuff they sell in the store always seems like it has too much sugar.

    Rice-maker. I couldn't ever get rice consistently delicious until we got a rice-maker. So simple to toss rice in and leave it going while I deal with the rest of dinner. Ours even has an extra rack to steam vegetables over the rice. It's a more nutritious method of cooking, since the vitamins from the vegetables aren't lost in waste water.

    I inherited a set of molybdenum knives from my grandmother. They are lightweight and incredibly sharp, excellent for thinly slicing anything from tomatoes to difficult root vegetables and frozen tofu. Since they're an older style knife they are a bit difficult to maintain. They have to be hand-washed and I occasionally oil the rosewood handles to prevent the wood from warping. But they're worth the extra effort. It took a while for my husband to appreciate these vintage knives, he still sometimes mistreats them, but not as often as when we were first married. He has tried to convince me that they're obsolete, but I've never seen a modern knife like them.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  19. Tophat665

    Tophat665 Slightly Tilted

    I've got a set of Cutco Knives (two actually. They both came with Mrs Hat). Of them, the Cleaver gets used Rarely, the Veggie Slicer and Butchers knife infrequently (and more often than they should at that) and the rest in pretty heavy rotation. The Carver, Petite French Chef, and Hearty Slicer are my particular favorites.

    Immersion Blender

    Bench Juicer (Cost me $100 and paid for itself in fresh squeezed citrus in a month. Yes, I go through quite a lot.)

    Kitchen Aid - Cuts prep time for Baking by 2/3.

    And a big ol' Caphalon Skillet. Yes, Cast Iron would be better, but I know Mrs Hat or one of the girls would wash the darn thing and ruin it.
  20. cynthetiq

    cynthetiq Administrator Staff Member Donor

    New York City