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Homemade chicken soup question

It's a personal taste decision. I opt for roasted chicken with the skin removed before adding to basically a vegetable soup made with organic chicken broth base.

Store-roasted chickens are good for speed, but you'll need to find out what they put on the chicken. I get the plainest roast possible because I don't care for the amount of rosemary many stores use - it sells/smells like a fast-mover should in grocery retail.

Feb 16, 2015
Rigmaster in Home Cooking
1

best affordable way to improve knife skills

Two worth checking out of a library or buying new or used are: 1) book Zwilling J.A. Henckels Complete Knife Skills and 2) DVD Mastering Knife Skills.

For practice, nothing's going to replace repetition so you can video yourself with a smartphone and play it back afterwards to see how you really are. It's feedback that cooking schools give through instruction and though you'll not get the experienced chef's suggestions for improvement you will see where you make mistakes and have room for improvement in technique and/or speed.

These will set you up with enough to keep you engaged for a long time for $25-50 should you buy used or new through Amazon (not a promo - just where I know you can get the book and DVD) and already have a smartphone or video-capable recording device.

Feb 16, 2015
Rigmaster in Home Cooking

Is the Breville 800xl the small oven to get?

Others can comment on the smaller, separate ovens; but it might be worth it to check out a Kenmore or GE Profile range double ovens. I have the GE Profile in gas (also offers similar model in electric) and the smaller oven is perfect for 1-2 and can hold enough to do a couple items of a small meal. The lower oven in full-size for those occasions. Best part is it fits in a traditional 30" stovetop-range combo opening and leaves counters free for other items.

Admittedly, I don't toast in it as I prefer toast from a pop-up toaster that does a much better job of dual-side toasting in a hurry.

Feb 16, 2015
Rigmaster in Cookware

Charred Steak question

Here's a link to the Salamander oven I referenced/described. It operates kiln-like in that it's built to withstand high temps in the fire box without melting itself, which is critical at such high temperatures. You can cook many things in a Salamander, and steak is one of them in the true, high-temp versions that claim and do reach 1800 or more degrees. I've not seen them installed in a home though - probably a fire code issue.

Ruth's Chris, in fact, openly describes cooking it's steaks at 1800 degrees in butter. Other restaurants finish steaks either with butter or a butter-compost. And many chefs and cooks do indeed cook and/or finish with a rapid butter baste. Almost any cooking show will show that.

I see it all the time. I've been to Ruth's Chris and had them explain the entire cooking process (as well as observing from just outside the kitchen)

Charred Steak question

I'd guess the grills you're talking about are ceramic kiln-type grills, commonly known (accurately or not) as Salamander ovens. Salamanders are actually a type of ceramic kiln, and are designed to cook very quickly. They work particularly well with steaks.

As to what you can do to get that char? Well, without burning, I'd suspect the first thing to do should be to heavily salt the steak and let it sit for 8-24 hours. It'll start to look aged, and the salt will actually start the cooking/breakdown process. Then, get the highest heat source you can using a broiler or grill at highest heat, and then cook.

Many steakhouses finish their broiled steaks on the grill with a bath of fry-hot butter because straight char doesn't actually taste very good.

The Food's Great, So Why Is the Place Empty?

There are lots of great places that simply don't survive due to lack of traffic. Far too often I see the problem based on 1) not being able to thrive on the nearby dining community - restaurants need to have close by regulars because drive-by/commuter diners just are too hit and miss or infrequent; 2) it's not enough of an experience to come back or to become a fave - I make a point to go back to places that make the experience memorable as much or more so than the food because good food can be found everywhere while good experiences can't; and 3) not enough "signature" yet focused meals - too many non-American cuisines just don't have the to-die-for menu item that people travel to try when they should focus on that and a smaller selection of great food rather than too many selections that simply cannot be prepared with the same level of taste and execution.

I wish I had a place to nominate, but very little in the Princeton area fits the criteria. Too many overrated, popular places. Too many bad, justly-undervisited places. You've described the sweet spot I'm always looking for though.

Jan 13, 2015
Rigmaster in New Jersey

Most Essential Tools for Home Cooks

Not a great list to me. I'd suggest as essential: 1) Chef's knife; 2) carbon steel or cast iron chef's sautee pan - is big enough to do almost any cooktop chore; 3) Serrated bread knife that can be used for anything requiring large cuts - don't even use mine on bread nearly as much as to carve/slice meats; 4) half or full backing sheet because it can handle most oven duties; and 5) a good reference cookbook - I personally like the America's Test Kitchen Seasons 1-15 because it has so many recipes, instructions, information, and things that spark other ideas once cooking becomes more second-nature.

Jan 08, 2015
Rigmaster in Cookware

Food Savers/ Vacuum Sealers: Do you use them and are they worth the expense?

The bags/consumables are where the costs add up. My advice is to accept the expense of getting the types and sizes of compatible reusable containers and lids and use them for storing things that require storage. I also advise you to buy a few zip resealable gallon size bags for fishes, meats, and items that can be broken down into freezable amounts, but put them in a cheaper, Ziploc-type freezer bag first. Double-bagging has virtually eliminated my need to buy lots of machine-compatible bags but still get the vacuum seal that holds off freezer burn.

Jan 08, 2015
Rigmaster in Cookware

Taste Of Smoke BBQ Jackson NJ

They're worth a trip to try. A bit pricey for takeout. The service there was great, but they were out of a few of the sides.

Would I go back? No. Would I confidently recommend someone go there and try for themselves? Yes. The BBQ was cooked well, but I didn't care at all for their sauce - just too sweet for my liking and it's in too many of the sides.

Oct 22, 2014
Rigmaster in New Jersey

Best grease cutter for overhead exhaust?

Goo Gone Foam from H-Depot or Lowe's works fairly well.

I just use a DIY water+Dawn spray combo. Just requires thorough rinsing wipes with wet towels.

Oct 22, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Avoiding oil residue from wok stir-frying?

A weekly wipedown with mildly soaped dishwater or an orange-based cleaner is all that's necessary. It's the layers of buildup that are the problem - not the oil itself. Cabinets and countertops suffer from this too.

I never go more than two weeks without a good wipedown, and that's all that's ever really needed. Probably 2-5 mins max.

Aug 04, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware
1

How do you keep your lettuce fresh?

You and me both. I wish I had time to do this routine for even one day. I don't buy more than 3-4 days of lettuce at any time. Even if it stores longer, it doesn't taste the same in green smoothies.

Jul 16, 2014
Rigmaster in Home Cooking

Advice for operating without Kitchen (during remodel)

Had to live without a fridge for 3 weeks. Ended up having lots of fresh salads (picked up daily either pre-made or DIY), bakery breads, and bottled water (gallons are reasonably priced for drinking - you can wash in the outside hose for a short period like this).

For milk or infant food - you should be fine with whatever you keep on hand in the fridge.

Ironically - barely used the microwave but more to do with not having fridge/freezer.

Jul 07, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Mongolian BBQ.... is it extinct in NJ?

Never saw popcorn there when I went to Khiva.

Jun 30, 2014
Rigmaster in New Jersey

What's the biggest obstacle you face when it comes to learning how to cook?

I don't view anything as an obstacle so much as something I've not mastered. Why cook? I'd love to be able to know how to prepare and share an enjoyable meal with any ingredients presented. It's important because good health is impacted every day by what we eat; and far to often what we eat is more of what's most easily accessible than what's best for us. Truly knowing how to cook lowers or removes the effort and knowledge barriers.

Two most important skills for me ongoing are 1) improvement of knife and prep skills and 2) improvement of knowing spice/seasoning combinations.

Cooking's also enjoyable. It's probably the only "art" I've ever enjoyed creating.

Jun 05, 2014
Rigmaster in Home Cooking

cookie question

Just about any OR cookie recipe can be made crispy by either reducing the amount of butter or increasing the amount of flour. Start with 1/4-1/2 cup more flour in whatever recipe you're using or 1/4-1/3 less butter. You'll have to watch the baking time because the butter-flour ratio's changed.

Apr 24, 2014
Rigmaster in Home Cooking
1

How can I get rid of the toaster oven on the countertop?

Hide it behind an appliance garage - looks like a bread keeper, at least one I saw on HGTV did.

The simplest thing is to clean it and put it away after use or when company's coming.

Apr 15, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware
1

Graniteware

If you're going to use it on the stovetop, watch the heat. For sweating onions, I'd suggest lowering the heat a little and covering so that steam helps the process along with less heat. You just have to allow for some of the water to escape after the initial softening.

As others have indicated, it shouldn't react.

Apr 14, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Self-Rising Flour?

1.5 tsp per cup of flour is about right. Making your own self-rising flour and cake flour are good for reducing the number of flour sacks in the pantry.

Mar 24, 2014
Rigmaster in Home Cooking

Better to cut a London Broil into two pieces and freeze half, or cook the whole thing and have leftovers?

Depends on when you plan to eat the second portion. If it's in 3-5 days, make it all at once. I generally would do the first serving hot and the subsequent serving(s) as sandwich - cold. LB tends to tighten up when reheated.

Mar 24, 2014
Rigmaster in Home Cooking

Confusing Information on using and caring for pizza stones.

Never heard of oiling stone. It's not metal and won't rust so probably no need. Unless I'm doing a recipe that calls for a cold start, I preheat most of the time.

As for cleaning - just hot water. You can use mildly soaped water, but it won't be necessary.

Mar 24, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Full sheet pans for home oven use?

I don't care for full sheet pans with home ovens because the heat can vary quite a bit from the outer edges to the middle of the rack. Large sheet pans will only exaggerate that issue.

I use half sheets in a double oven.

Mar 24, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Pizza in Hamilton (Mercer County) I haven't tried

Gennaro's Brooklyn Pie - best in Mercer.

Mar 13, 2014
Rigmaster in New Jersey

What to bake asparagus in?

I make it almost every week. A cookie sheet lined with the non-stick side of aluminum foil baked at 400-425* for approx. 30 mins with a flip or turn at the 20 min mark. Season as you wish, but it will need a little oil to prevent burning and sticking.

No cleanup if you do it this way.

Mar 13, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

stainless steel

There's not a specific definition for "surgical" steel but one condition manufacturers must comply with is that it be "corrosion-resistant." Technically, surgical means that it's application in medical environments is safe.

316 grade is the most common, but it has higher nickel content. 420 and 440 are common with knives and cutlery as they have higher carbon content and chromium added to make them stronger.

Will nickel leach into your food from 316? If it's poorly manufactured. However, 316L is used for most food applications (and jewelry) specifically because it's manufacturing process greatly reduces nickel leaching likelihood.

Most likely the kitchen and food items you've been exposed to or using throughout the years is either 316 or 316L. Some of the higher-end cutlery is more likely the 440 or 420.

Mar 13, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Do I really need to oil my cast iron everytime? I don't use them a lot, and don't want the oil to go rancid..

I oil every time, but it's probably less the 1/2 tsp for a full-size 12- to 14-inch pan inside and out. I use my pans regularly though so I don't worry about rancid oil.

Oil goes rancid due to bacteria/microbes, oxygen, or water. Plant oils tend to be less rancid, but even some of them go bad quickly.

Mar 13, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

I didn't see this question asked recently. If I have gas burners, should I get a round or flat bottomed wok?

Flat bottom will give you more options than just Asian or stir-fry. Round bottoms really are much more limited to that style of cooking.

Electrics almost necessitate flat bottom so they can conduct more heat to the pan. Gas flames will go over the bottom and up the sides to some degree on their own.

Mar 13, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware

Grilling?

What do you want to grill? It's not hard to do steaks, burgers, and chicken indoors with a somewhat "grilled" feel and taste. You can get "grilled" flavor by liquid smoke too.

I'd suggest you start out by highlighting a few things you want and the 'hounds can help you.

Drew's Bayshore Bistro, Keyport

Just went there for the first time. The food was fabulous. The parking - a little troublesome and sparse. The service - a bit grumpy and snobby - took our waitress a few trips to begin smiling. Actually, the servers who delivered the food were a gem - it's just the person who took our order didn't give off a very welcoming vibe.

Food highlights - the pork meatballs with grits and shrimp and grits entrees were incredible and the Salted Caramel Tart was the best dessert we've had in a long, long time. Voodoo shrimp appetizer was good, but I'd say a bit overrated.

Heavy hand on the spices so people not wanting N'awlins-lite will be overwhelmed. It was great for me though since virtually no place offers authentic flavors that aren't mostly salt - I appreciated that Drew got the spices balanced with the salt.

Our table wasn't near the window so I can't comment on structure. I wouldn't want a window seat on a cold, windy night any way.

Mar 06, 2014
Rigmaster in New Jersey
1

CHOW Reviews: Vitamix 5200 Standard

What's up with this review? This model has been and still continues to be the standard against which all serious blenders are measured, including VM's new releases.

The tamper's only needed when the machine is so crowded that food cannot circulate. That's it. Want smooth peanut butter without using the tamper - fill to half volume, start slow, and increase blend until butter begins to form, open top clear drop-in add more peanuts, increase speed and blend until smooth. By the way, I can get peanuts to burn-hand hot in less than 5 mins so I'm not sure why this reviewer couldn't do hot soups.

That's pretty much how to blend ANYTHING unless you want a rough chop.

The only advantage newer VM's have are the shorter, not better, jars.

Mar 06, 2014
Rigmaster in Cookware