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I think I ruined my CS wok while seasoning! Help please!

I think it is hard to season a wok using only a burner. I know there are all sorts of youtube videos on the topic, but the bottom line is that the heat is not very even from a standard burner.

The absolute evidence of this are the uneven color changes you see. The color changes are basically oxidation, and the varying colors represent different temperatures. They go from amber to purple to blue, going from cooler to hotter. So, when you see a pan with a spectrum of color, the amber parts were the coolest (furthest from the flame), the light blue parts were the hottest (closest to the flame). This color change, in itself, doesn't have much to do with seasoning a wok.

I found it is much easier to season using the wokshop technique of putting the entire wok in the oven. It needs to be very hot, otherwise the oil stays sticky.

By the way, there are 2 different color changes that occur. The first is the oxidation that occurs on the steel itself from oxidation, the second color is the oil being burned. Seasoning a wok is basically just burning oil onto the surface, which results in an amber to black clear finish over the entire wok. This is different than the oxidation colors.

Feb 04, 2012
pweller in Cookware

Best SMALL toaster oven?

I can't offer too much help, other than to pass on one simple tip I learned. I also had an older Black and Decker that died, and I ended up getting a similar newer model to replace it.

My biggest complaint with some of the newer (non-digital) models is that they come only with a 60 minute timer. You have to use this timer for everything, including toast. For toasting, you have to turn a 60 minute timer only a very small amount otherwise you'll burn the toast. So, it just isn't very repeatable. The old models had a different design that worked a lot better.

I'd suggest if you are looking at the ones with non-digital timers to find something that has a 15-30 minute timer on it, and no more. A 60 minute timer on a toaster oven is kind of a dumb idea in my opinion.

Oct 17, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Calphalon

You may have the old Calphalon 'Commercial' pan, and it should say commercial on the bottom. If so, these likely have a lifetime warranty on them. I'd just send it back to Calphalon and get a new replacement.

I have a Commercial set about as old as yours, and I have gotten replacements for a few pieces over the years. Go to their site, get the address, and mail it back. That's what lifetime warranties are for.

Oct 14, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Best popcorn popper uses least oil or butter?

My preferred way to make popcorn is in the microwave. I use a pyrex glass bowl, regular popcorn, and use a plate to cover the bowl placed slightly off-center (with a small gap so steam can escape). I like to use olive oil, but you can use butter or whatever you want. I mix salt and pepper in with the oil, and cook it that way. It takes about 2 minutes in my microwave.

I think this method is a good balance of convenience and quality. I think all of the chemical butter/flavorings are gross in the pre-packaged microwave popcorn bags - it makes everything taste like Cheetos. This way, you get the convenience of the microwave with the flavor of real popcorn.

Oct 03, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Help with buying a ‘leave in oven’ thermometer

That is what I use. I find it works very well for many applications. I use mine when grilling, in the oven, and even for stovetop cooking (like doing chicken parm). It works very well, and takes the guesswork out of cooking meat properly.

When grilling, I've gotten into the habit of doing everything based on temperature. So, for a chicken breast, I flip it at 125 degrees, add toppings/cheese at 145 degrees, and it's done at 160-165 degrees. This gives repeatable results. Cooking by time doesn't work as well, because of the size/thickness variations in the meat.

I have found that the probes fail, typically after a few years. So, don't spend a lot of money on them. You'll see that the probes alone are about $16, where the whole thing is about $20, so it doens't make any sense to buy a new probe. Just plan on using the thermometer for a few years and then replacing it.

Oct 03, 2011
pweller in Cookware

need advice re best skillet brands

I've been very happy with my T-Fal Professional non-stick skillets. I had a Calphalon Unison non-stick that I received as a gift, and it lasted about 2 months before it showed signs of wear. I sent it back and got another one as a replacement, but in the meantime got one of the T-Fals as recommended by Cook's Illustrated. They are pretty inexpensive ($30 or so), and after 8 months of regular use show no signs of wear and are still very non-stick.

I think the whole game with non-stick pans is the quality of the coating. Don't get too worked up over how the pan looks/feels/how heavy it is/how expensive it is, etc. None of that really matters - it's all in the quality of the coating. The T-Fal seems to be best, even though the overall quality of a Calphalon at first glance appears to be much higher.

For me, I prefer non-stick, even though I have other choices at hand. You can always go with stainless so there's no finish to wear out, but I like being able to flip the pan to move the ingredients around, and that always works with the T-Fal.

The T-Fals are easiest to find at Amazon, though I have seen them at Bed Bath and Beyond. The 'Professional' line, by the way, has a perforated stainless disc imbedded in the bottom of the pan. I don't know if that really makes much of a practical difference, but it does look cool!

As indicated by will47, non-sticks don't last forever, so expect to replace them every few years.

Sep 23, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Stainless steel stockpot recommendation

I agree with the Tramontina recommendation. I have a 12 qt tri-ply that I ordered through Walmart (just did the ship-to-store and picked it up). It's a very nice quality pot with a nice lid. I think it was about $80. I use mine mostly for pot roasts.

That being said, I'm not sure that spending extra money on a tri-ply is really worth it - I think a simple ss pot with a disk bottom would work just as well for a stockpot. I think the tri-ply is probably more useful on fry pans where you might want some heat conduction up the sides of the pan. But, for a stockpot, I think this is a non-issue.

Furthermore, the tri-ply stockpot itself is pretty heavy, so when it is full of soup it will be even heavier. I think a disk bottom stockpot will be lighter.

Your practical needs may be met with a $40 disk-bottom stainless pan.

Sep 21, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Rusty Jar Lid Rehab

You can try using something like CLR (calcium, lime, rust remover). I have used the Home Depot 'Zep' brand with good results. I would try filling the lids partway with the solution, and see what happens. You'll want to wear gloves when doing this, as the stuff is not nice to your skin. It may also tend to remove the screenprinting, so try to keep it off that. I have used this stuff to clean rusty bolts from a car, and it worked nicely.

Alternatively, you could use steel wool (like a brillo pad). I think the chemical solution might be most effective, though.

Sep 13, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Worst Kicthen Gadget???

I got 3 kitchen gadgets over the years as gifts that were terrible.

1. Rice cooker. It was hard to tell if the thing was on/heating or not. Tried to make some brown rice that would take 45 min on the stovetop, took over 2 hours with this. Really, rice isn't that difficult to make, so I just don't see the point.

2. George Foreman grill, again, another 'what's the point' gadget.

3. Got a hand-me-down breadmaker, which made mediocre bread. Again, I can get better results the old-fashioned way. In the end, bread just takes too long to make, and it is cheap enough to buy, so it's not the sort of thing I make regularly anyway.

In contrast, I used one of those electric griddles once that worked suprisingly well. Of course, that place didn't have a nice set of pans which probably would have worked just as well, but...

Sep 03, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Are all 18/10 Stainless Steel Cookware Created Equal?

I think it is possible that the hardness of the stainless can be different, even with the same alloy, so maybe this has something to do with your observations that some are more 'marred and scratched' than others. Both of those terms suggest a softer material to me.

Generally, it is easier to machine and form softer metals, so using softer grades of stainless is a way for manufacturers to keep their costs down. I suspect these pans are made by stamping, so they have to be pretty soft to be formed.

This is just a guess on my part. To know for sure, you'd have to do some scientific hardness testing of your pans to see if there is indeed a difference. But, I have seen this trade-off between cost and hardness of stainless within my field of expertise.

Aug 08, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Knife Toolsteels... What Do We Really Know? An Earth-Returning Counterexample

I think it is 95% marketing. This is basically one company trying to distinguish their products from their competitors. This is a common practice, especially when you combine 'old-tech' products and luxury goods.

Say that you want to start a boutique knife company, and you need to have a price point around $200 in order to be profitable. You can't use the same steel as in a $10 knife, even if it is the best on the market, because no one will pay $200 for a knife when they can get the same steel on a $10 knife. So, you find a different kind of steel, market its 'benefits', and sell away.

It's done all the time, especially in luxury goods. You've got to justify the cost somehow, and so you give your customers some techno-babble that only an expert can prove or disprove. Since there aren't many true experts out there, it's easy to fool enough people to make a good business.

Aug 06, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Fitting a 36" stove in 30" space.

Probably the best way to do this would be to take the extra 6" from the right side only. Leave everything to the left as-is, because that is the bigger side and you have the symmetry of the 3 equal sized drawers on that side. This way, you would at least be limiting the damage to 3 cabinets only, and you would have a much smaller piece of granite to cut down. You may have to move that electrical outlet also. You might see if your original cabinet manufacturer has something that is 6" narrower that you could just swap out, as modifying your existing cabinets would probably be a lot of work.

Jul 24, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Re-packaging frozen fish into smaller pieces: tips?

I do this all the time with frozen salmon - it's easy as long as the fish isn't too thick.

Take a bread knife, or other serrated knife, and score a break mark on both sides. There's no need to cut all the way through. Then, just break the frozen fillet at the score mark. I do this by hanging the part you want to break off over the edge of a cutting board, then just press hard with the palms of both hands (obviously, one on each side of the score mark).

Now, if you find that you are not strong enough to break it with your hands, you can just put the cutting board on the floor, put the fish back in the bag, and use the above technique just standing on the fillet.

Jun 27, 2011
pweller in Home Cooking

Calphalon or plain steel wok?

I would also recommend a plain carbon steel wok. I use regular non-stick pans frequently, but I think carbon steel is best for wok cooking. Basically, wok cooking is done at high heat, but I'm pretty sure non-stick is not recommended for high heat cooking, so I just don't think non-stick is the right application for this use. Also, I don't mind heating the heck out of a $20 carbon wok, whereas I might be more concerned with a $100 pan.

I got my carbon steel wok at wokshop.com. They also have good recommendations for seasoning it. The trick with seasoning is that you need to do it at very high heat in the oven, otherwise the coating gets sticky. I also liked the book 'The Breath of a Wok' by Grace Young. I think it gives a good understanding of the techniques.

Jun 24, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Cook

I am the greatest cook that has ever lived, and I find this article to be deeply offensive.

Jun 24, 2011
pweller in Features

How hot can a home oven in a range get? - Would like pizza oven temps

I agree with what you have said. From my experience cooking pizzas in both an oven and a grill, I much prefer the oven because the heat is more even. I've made some nice pizzas in some very cheap/old ovens that cooked up right.

A good pizza has got to look good from both the top and the bottom. I tried one on my Weber grill, and the bottom was burnt before the top was even halfway done. I could have shown a picture of the top only, and it would have looked fine. But, you turn it over and it's a horror show! :-)

Jun 03, 2011
pweller in Cookware

How hot can a home oven in a range get? - Would like pizza oven temps

Not to state the obvious, but I think the thickness of the pizza is what determines the temperature of the oven. So, if you like a thicker, standard American style pizza, then 475-500 should be fine. I think the higher temps are better if you want to do a very thin crust pizza. I've made plenty of pizzas in a variety of cheap ovens, and they come out fine, but I like the standard American pie thickness. If you try and cook them at too high of a temp, then the crust doesn't cook all the way through.

(As an aside, if you get the big idea that your outdoor gas grill will get real hot, it does a terrible job at cooking pizza because all of the heat is on the bottom. Again, if you like a real thin crust it would probably work fine, but not at all for a thicker crust).

Jun 01, 2011
pweller in Cookware

stoneware bowl gets very hot in microwave

I don't think the 'white on bottom' observation is conclusive, because I have some earthenware/stoneware that looks pretty white (though if I compare it side-by-side with known porcelain, I can see a difference). Obviously, if the color of the clay is beige, then you know it isn't porcelain,

The flashlight test is conclusive for porcelain, because neither stoneware nor earthenware transmit light. That being said, I don't know if there is such a thing as 'white glass' tableware that could look like porcelain and transmit light. I have seen some really thin translucent plates at Wal-Mart, and I'm not sure what they are made of - they might be marked but I've never checked.

Jun 01, 2011
pweller in Cookware

stoneware bowl gets very hot in microwave

I can't really give you a definitive answer - I'm not an expert, I just know what I've learned by trial and error. I have found some people use the term porcelain as sort of a catch-all phrase. I know if you fire real porcelain, that it generally comes out pure white. Now, if you want that same color on stoneware, you can just glaze it white first. So, my question on your mugs, is it really porcelain or is it stoneware with a white glaze?

One tip-off is to look at the foot of the piece (that is, the unglazed rim at the bottom of the piece). Porcelain will be pure white, and will be fairly smooth. Stoneware is typically beige, or some other color, and isn't nearly as smooth. You can study whatever pieces you have laying around and see what you can learn. Generally, porcelain feels heavier/denser to me than stoneware.

From what I've read, stoneware can absorb moisture through the foot, and it is this moisture that causes the pieces to heat up. Porcelain is fully-vitrified, so it is basically the same from the surface to the inside, and doesn't absorb moisure.

The phrase 'never place empty items in microwave or oven' puzzles me. I don't know why it would matter.

For some reference, I bought a few things from here, and they do describe the items as 'fully vitrified' and indeed they are: http://www.bryanchina.com/white_china...

I think the main problem is that many people don't know the difference, and the descriptions can be misleading.

Here's one decent article describing the differences. http://www.bestofthehome.com/metal/ce...

So, I just learned something new myself. I saw a number of references to porcelain being translucent, but I thought my everyday tableware was too thick to transmit light. However, I put a powerful, modern LED flashlight on the back of my plate, and could faintly see light through it. That seems to be a valid test, but you need a bright light for thicker pieces.

May 30, 2011
pweller in Cookware

stoneware bowl gets very hot in microwave

I have found that most all stoneware gets hot in the microwave - that is, the stoneware itself gets hotter than the contents if left in the microwave long enough. I have also found that some stoneware repeatedly microwaved will show crazing in the glaze.

The simple answer is just to use porcelain - it just works much better in the microwave, and it can be put in the oven as well. You have to do some studying to learn to tell the difference, as pieces aren't always marked clearly if they are stoneware or porcelain. Personally, I don't buy any stoneware at all for just this reason.

Porcelain is fired at higher temps than stoneware, and is fully vitrified. It generally isn't any more expensive than stoneware, but typically it is white colored only - I don't see many colorful porcelain pieces.

May 29, 2011
pweller in Cookware

Help us wok tall (haha . . . no, really, help!)

I would strongly advise you to season the pan in the oven, not on the cooktop. If you do it on the cooktop a second time, it will come out just as bad as it did the first time (because the same process yields the same results.) The reason why the bottom got black and the sides were left unseasoned is simply because the bottom got hotter than the sides. This is mainly due to the shape of the wok with sloping sides, obviously the sides aren't going to get that hot on a typical US range. If you want your wok to be seasoned evenly, you need to use very even heat, like a hot oven, at 450 degrees or more. It will smoke, so have your fans running.

I'd use steel wool, and just strip as much of the first mistake off as possible. The oil may be rancid by now anyway, so you may as well get rid of it.

May 25, 2010
pweller in Cookware

gas grill experts, can you comment?

I have an older Weber grill, very similar to the Genesis. I don't think there's any chance of successfully baking a cake in an outdoor grill. A grill and an oven are quite different in their design. For example, I find the temperature of my grill varies wildly depending on how windy it is (easily 75 degrees). In my opinion, some of your requirements in your original post will not be met with a Weber Genesis.

May 02, 2010
pweller in Cookware

Do I want or need an electric griddle?

I made chicken parm on an electric griddle once, and it came out real nice. The surface heats very evenly, so you can brown the chicken easily. The one I used had a fairly deep lid with it, and the sides were about 2 inches high, so it could hold some volume as well. I don't know if the depth would classify this as something other than a 'griddle' per se, but it does add to its versatility.

That being said, the only real reason why I used the griddle was that the cookware at this person's house was all junk and didn't work very well with their glass top range. I don't own an electric griddle myself, because my range works fine and my cookware is decent.

Mar 25, 2010
pweller in Cookware

Looking for an oven but can a good one be had for less than $900?

Consumer Reports generally advises people to stay away from the 'pro' ovens anyway, as they indicate they are usually not very reliable and are don't work any better than a consumer grade oven.

I think you can easily get a nice quality oven for less than $900. Currently, I have a 'builders grade' oven (i.e. cheap as possible) in my home, which I am considering replacing. At a minimum, you'll want to get a self-cleaning oven, as they tend to be insulated better than the cheap-o non-self cleaning ones. Ovens can be had for as low as $350, and some of them will be reliable, but they don't have a quality 'feel' to them.

Also, you can look at some of your local appliance showrooms/dealers. There is a local place that has a display model GE stove at a clearance price of $500 - it is about a $1500 unit new. So, there are some deals out there.

Consumer Reports tends to like Kenmore appliances, if that means anything to you. One of their highest rated ovens for the past few years is made by Hotpoint, and is about $600. It's nothing fancy looking, but it does perform well according to them.

Mar 01, 2010
pweller in Cookware

Dual Fuel Range - Help!

The main difference between a gas oven and an electric oven is the amount of 'waste' heat that goes from the oven into your kitchen.

A gas oven has to 'breathe', because it needs oxygen for combustion. If you look at any gas oven, you will see a good sized hole in the top of the oven that vents just overtop of the burners. Hot air is actively flowing through a gas oven to support the combustion process - therefore it pumps a lot of heat into your kitchen.

An electric oven doesn't have to breathe to get hot. So, the oven box can be sealed better. This is a particular advantage in warmer climates.

Feb 11, 2010
pweller in Cookware

Genmert Inc Sonoma White Open Stock Dinnerware Collection

Porcelain will be the most durable for you. It is also fine in the microwave (stoneware is hit and miss in the microwave), oven safe, etc. I recently bought some plates to fill in a Crate and Barrel set from here: http://www.bryanchina.com/white_china...

This is basically restaurant grade dinnerware. It's simple, and the pieces are a good thickness. The pieces I got were all 'Tuxton' brand, made in China. I like them.

Crate and Barrell also has a nice selection of porcelian dinnerware, some of it is very reasonably priced.

Feb 11, 2010
pweller in Cookware

Does anyone use slate/tiles as plates?

This seems highly impractical to me. I have a few slate tiles (not for food), and if you get them wet they smell like a river bottom - not very appetizing in my book. Also, you don't really want to cut anything on a tile or stone surface, as it will dull your knives. Furthermore, the underside of tiles are unglazed, so they will absorb any liquids through the bottom.

Porcelain plates are really the best. Very hard, durable, non-porous, fine in the oven or microwave, and they are pretty inexpensive.

Jan 29, 2010
pweller in Cookware

BREVILLE COUNTER TOP SMART TOASTER/CONVECTION OVEN

I think it is wise to ask yourself what you'd like to do with the toaster oven. Personally, I use my toaster oven all the time, and I really prefer something small and very simple. I use it to toast sandwiches, bagels, and maybe cook some small single-serving vegetables or potatoes. To me, the Brevilles over-complicate what should be a very simple appliance. For example, I personally see no need for a toaster oven with a 60 minute timer, as anything that I would be cooking for that long would go into the regular oven. In my opinion, convection, digital readouts, etc. are all unnecessary for this sort of appliance. For me, simpler is better.

Jan 25, 2010
pweller in Cookware

Properly using a Meat Thermometer

I cook beef to med-rare at 135 degrees or so. I think the 155 degrees is probably too high - that may be your problem. I'd expect beef cooked to that high of a temperature to be pretty 'gray' all the way through.

Jan 25, 2010
pweller in Cookware

8" Chef's knife - $30 Henckel or $130 Shun?

Seems like a lot of drama over a knife. Keep in mind, whether you are using a $200 knife or a $10 knife, the food is pretty much going to taste the same either way. For me, that's the bottom line.

Personally, I like the stamped blades, because they tend to be thinner. I find a thinner blade cuts easier. Take, for example, cutting a squash. If you have a thick (usually 'forged' style) the knife will tend to act more like a wedge, and tends to get stuck in the middle of the squash. If you have a thinner blade (usually the case with stamped blades) they will go through with a little less effort.

I think focusing too much on the gadgetry of cooking is a waste of time. Oh, I know some people appreciate a fine knife, and I can understand that. But, in the end, it's just a knife, and it ain't going to make your food taste better.

Dec 09, 2009
pweller in Cookware