Kitchen Tools
Knives, pots, pans, etc. – What to buy and tips to use.

Food Safety
Preparation, Storage and Serving


Cast Iron Skillet

By Chef Jerry Cook (yes that’s his real name)

If your cast iron skillet has turned color don’t throw it out. All it takes is a little elbow grease and you can bring back your cast iron or steel skillet. Use a steel scouring pad or a copper mesh pad and a heavy-duty scouring powder mixed with hot water to scrub the skillet.

Scrub the skillet vigorously. If it still has some old “seasoning” or glazed on oil, scrub this of as best you can. You can also use a drill fitted with a wire brush attachment if there are deep pockets of rust. When all the rust is scrubbed off wash the skillet with regular soap and water. Dry the skillet in a 350 degree oven for a half-hour and let it cool completely.

Now we have to re-season our skillet.

  1. Use a paper towel to coat the skillet with vegetable oil.
  2. Heat, uncovered, for four hours in an oven at 300 degrees.
  3. Let cool before use.
  4. Once seasoned avoid washing it with soap
  5. Clean by wiping with a damp cloth and kosher salt.

Now your skillet should be good as new.  

If you need a new cast iron skillet, here are the best sellers from Amazon.


Frying, Searing and Sauteing

By Chef Jerry Cook (yes that’s his real name)

To cook food (non-submerged) in hot fat or oil over moderate to high heat is called Frying. There is very little difference between frying and SAUTEING although sautéing is often thought of as being faster and using less fat.

To cook food quickly in a small amount of fat or oil is sautéing until brown, in a skillet or sauté pan over direct heat. The sauté pan and fat must be hot before the food is added; otherwise the food will absorb oil and become soggy.To brown meat or fish quickly over very high heat either in a fry pan, under a broiler or in a hot oven is searing. Searing seals in the food’s juices and provides a crisp tasty exterior.

Seared food can then be eaten rare or roasted or braised to desired degree of doneness.

Here are top selling sautéing products from Amazon.

 


How to Cook Rice

Q. My rice is always chewy or gummy. What am I doing wrong? Thanks.

A.  By Chef Jerry Cook (yes that’s his real name)
There are many types of rice on the market but for a basic long-grain type that will cover most of your recipe needs I would suggest white basmati rice.

Rice will swell to around three times its volume during the cooking process. Before cooking the rice it needs to be washed. Washing is important because it removes additives and milling dust that can make the rice sticky and gummy.

Put your uncooked rice into a large bowl or pot and cover the rice with cold water. Then you must rinse it in the water with your fingers before pouring the (now milky) water off. Repeat this process four or five times until the water runs clear.

Finally, cover the washed rice with clean cold water and set aside for around half an hour. Longer is ok. The soaking process will turn the rice white and ensure it cooks very quickly.

Drain the soaking rice and put it in a pot. Remember that the rice will expand threefold during cooking so make sure your pot is big enough and that it has a close-fitting lid.

Season the rice with salt and butter, about one tsp of butter for every cup of rice. Cover it with cold water (rice volume + 1/3) then put the lid on the pot. Place the pot on the burner and bring the water to the boil.

When the water comes to a boil take the pot off the burner and turn the heating element to it’s lowest setting. Place the pot back on the burner and allow the rice to simmer until all the water has cooked off.

When the water has cooked out take the pot off the burner. Your rice is now cooked.

Before serving allow it to sit in the pot for five minutes or so with the lid on so as to allow the excess steam to rise out. This will prevent any stickiness. Your rice will now be fluffy and perfect.

If you want it to be aromatic then try adding a few herbs and spices to the pot before you cook.

Here are some Amazon best sellers for Rice

 


Cooking with Alcohol

By Chef Jerry Cook (yes that’s his real name)

Alcohol not only evaporates without heat, but the majority also burns off during the cooking process. How much remains in the dish depends on the cooking method and amount of cooking time. Those bourbon-soaked fruitcakes would have to turn into bricks before the alcohol evaporates. A bottle of Guinness in a long-simmered stew is not going to leave a significantly measurable alcohol residue, but will add a rich, robust flavor.

A quick flambé may not burn off all the alcohol, whereas a wine reduction sauce will leave little if any alcohol content. Heat and time are the keys. Obviously, uncooked foods with alcohol will retain the most alcohol.

Take a liquor that is 100-proof. This means it is 50 percent alcohol by volume. So a baked and/or simmered dish with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of 100-proof liquor cooked for 1 hour will have 12.5 percent alcohol content remaining, about 1/4 ounce. Divide that by the amount of servings, and the quantity goes down proportionately.

The same dish with 10-proof wine, or 5 percent alcohol by content, would end up with less than 2 percent alcohol content remaining after baking or simmering for 1 hour.

Longer cooking and/or higher heat gets rid of even more alcohol. If you’re worried about legalities, long cooking should do the trick. Always inform your guests when you are cooking with alcohol.  Here is an Alcohol burn off chart by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Alcohol Burn-off Chart

Preparation Method Percent Retained
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes cooking time 40%
30 minutes cooking time 35%
1 hour cooking time 25%
1.5 hours cooking time 20%
2 hours cooking time 10%
2.5 hours cooking time 5%

 


Tips to Make Sure Fish is Done Right

By Chef Jerry Cook (yes that’s his real name)

When fish is done, it becomes opaque and flakes. To test for doneness, poke the tines of a fork into the thickest portion of the fish at a 45 degree angle. Then gently twist the fork and pull up some of the fish.

Undercooked fish resists flaking and is translucent. If your fish is undercooked, just continue cooking it until it is done.

There’s a delicate balance between perfectly cooked fish and overcooked fish. First of all, remember the principle of residual heat: a pan will hold heat when it’s removed from the heat source, continuing to cook the food for several minutes.

For best results, cook fish until it’s almost done, then remove the pan from the oven, microwave, stovetop or grill and let it stand for a few minutes to finish cooking.

Some fish, especially tuna and salmon, can be served medium rare. I myself do not enjoy fish cooked this way, and serve all of my fish well done, but the choice is up to you.


Which kitchen knives should I get?

By Chef Jerry Cook (yes that’s his real name)

Your Knives are your most important tool in preparing food. It’s easy to choose a good knife, some can be very expensive, but good ones are still affordable. You’ll need a few good knives even if you don’t cook that much.

Look for a “Chef’s Knife” or “French Knife”. This is the standard knife in modern day kitchens. This is a wide knife that tapers to a fine tip and can be used for cutting, chopping, and slicing. Select a Chef’s knife with an 8-10 inch blade.  Longer knives are easier to work with because there is more blade to work with, look for a chef’s knife with a stainless-steel blade. The entire length of the blade should be sharp.

Next you should select a 6-inch utility knife and a 3-4 inch paring knife; almost all your kitchen tasks can be done with these basic knives.

To augment your basic set you should add a serrated knife for cutting breads and fruit and a honing steel to keep your knives sharp. Sharpness matters! Sharp knives are safer and easier to use than dull ones. Even good knives need to be sharpened from time to time.

Avoid serrated knives that are said to last forever and never need sharpening. They work by sawing through food and not cutting cleanly. Expect to pay $20 dollars for least expensive knives and up to $500 for fine forged steel cutlery.