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Got a Wok at a garage sale. Got some questions about it!

You got plenty of replies, but haven't written to tell us if you found out what you needed to know. Well, it's bee only about a week so I'll add some of my opinions. First, I see an electric range behind it, which is a bit harder to use a wok with than a gas range. But the wok is the right kind to be used with an electric range. That's because the flat part can press down against the coils to allow maximum heat transfer. Is the underside of it copper? If so, that would be pretty fancy, and useful because copper conducts heat pretty well, and that extra heat conduction would come in pretty handy on an electric stove. It looks like the previous owner never cleaned the varnish off of it. Some solvent might come in handy getting all of the non-metal off of it before you season it. Did it come with a lid? On an electric stove a lid comes in handy because you're working with less heat than you'd have on a gas stove.

The wooden handle impedes seasoning in an oven. You may want to find out how to get the wooden part off of it so you can season it in an oven. Otherwise, a gas stove would be nice for the first few times you season it, because you might not be able to get the whole of it hot enough for seasoning it on an electric stove.

Aug 30, 2013
LJones in Cookware

How to Hack Your Slow Cooker

I have been using a Rival oval 7 quart CrockPot SCV700B for years to cook my family meals sous vide. To control temperature I have preferred a Johnson Controls A419 thermostat over the JLD612 PID controller. I use an aquarium air pump and air stones to circulate water. Wiring was easy, involving some crimp-on lugs and a NEMA 5-15 extension chord. I calibrate the sensor temperature using a digital fever thermometer with rated accuracy of 0.2 degrees F. I found these on sale two for the price of one at Walgreens pharmacy. It's nice to have two to guarantee agreement.

The A419 thermostat has adjustable hysteresis, but this cannot be set to zero degrees as I'd prefer. But I have learned through long experience (nearly 550 meals cooked sous vide) that this does not cause problems with the quality of the meal. A meat thermometer inserted into the roast or chicken breast stays steady at the average water temperature while the water temperature oscillates.

This should not have been overly technical to readers. I have cooked beef (favorite is tri-tip) at 131F for 24 hours, pork loin 138 F for 24 hours, and boneless/skinless chicken breasts most often. The greatest advantage to this kind of cooking is that meals come together quickly because the meats are already fully cooked when I get home from work with only the need to prepare vegetables, etc. Meals go on. The table quickly, so cleanup is quickly done. A new sous vide meal for tomorrow is started in just a few minutes after the dishes are cleared away. Without that it would take me a long time for meal preparation. And, I may save hundreds of dollars per month in the summer time because I don't have to cool the kitchen with air conditioning after roasting meats in the oven.

These meats are great in stews, stroganoff, soups like gumbo, pilaf, etc. Allow the meats to cool before searing to prevent overcooking, then cube them. Allow the veggies to cool to around the cooking temperature of the meats before combining.

Aug 19, 2013
LJones in Features

Most annoying/useless appliance you own

Electrics wok, couldn't agree more...

Jul 24, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Most annoying/useless appliance you own

My wife loves her Kitchenaide. It is used to make cakes, cookies, and candies, kneed breads and pastries, and is indispensible for her frosting creations: see photo.

Jul 23, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Please help me impress her with a Restaurant suggestion.

For me, the quality of the food isn't quite as important as the experience that surrounds it. I'd take out-of-towers to see the Star of India, walk along the waterfront, maybe tour the Midway, and eat at a modest restaurant across the street from the Maritime Museum.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in San Diego

Losing faith in cast iron cookware

I could never blow on the dried, burned chocolate milk in my cast iron and have it flap and fly out like they do in the non-stick advertisements, but one year when making breakfast for adults at a Boy Scout weekend I had the cast iron releasing fried and scrambled eggs when inverted against a plate and coming out clean...

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Losing faith in cast iron cookware

That was pretty standard for most backpacking in the past, but done with lightweight aluminum cookware. Sand is a great abrasive for removing food, and while backpacking you're a bit short of other implements for cleaning such as spatulas. I clearly remember inverting aluminum bowls and pans against sand both under water and above and twisting to clean. But in modern times backpacking food has gone over to "cook in the bag" practices where only water is boiled and cleanup is just re-sealing a ziplock for carrying out.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

What cut is "flap meat"? Having a hard time finding it. Is it sometimes called something else?

Carne Asada is a recipe that is frequently made from flap meat; so often that at many California butchers shops flap meat will always be marinated in preparation for use in carne asada.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in General Topics

Most annoying/useless appliance you own

I had a family-owned hand-cranked mincer when I was a child but one of my sisters has it now. Very useful and probably one of those would have a price similar to the attachment...

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Most annoying/useless appliance you own

These come in handy when you want grill marks on steaks but it's raining outside so you don't want to use the barbecue

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Most annoying/useless appliance you own

My family wants one to make thin sliced sandwich meat from my sous vide chicken and beef.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Most annoying/useless appliance you own

A wire brush does the trick!

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Losing faith in cast iron cookware

The use of oil is required on new cast iron to prevent the free flow of oxygen against the iron during heating, which would result in rusting. With oil slowing the oxygen, a porous iron oxide that is much harder than rust forms in lieu of rust. oil and food ash fills pores, and the lubrication of the non-stick surface is provided by the trapped oils. More food ash and oil builds up on the surface, and is flattened by spatulas, but the surface is essential an iron oxide with trapped oils. Even if new oil isn't added after cleaning before heating, the trapped oils from cooking still prevent rust.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Losing faith in cast iron cookware

I grew up in the 1950s in a home where "Revereware" copper bottom and cast iron were used. Revereware is used like Alclad. Today I use the same combination in my kitchen. A cast iron fry pan is definitely a specialized tool, not the best choice for everything, but indispensable for certain things like searing meat. Yes, a similar weight of copper would also serve well, if lined with stainless steel. The difference between copper and iron here is that the copper oxide is essentially poisonous, so the cooking surface should be some other metal (a shiny copper bowl at low temperatures is OK).

Where the cast iron pan is indispensable is.when you want to pre-heat the cooking surface to "extremely hot" before dropping a dry piece of meat into it for quick browning. You take the pan up to such a high temperature that a spoonful of oil in it smokes right away -- a temperature that would warp high quality cookware. My Revereware would go into a trash can after that. You don't boil rice, pasta, or soup in it unless you don't mind that some of the iron-and-oil-based no-stick coating flakes off into it. Boiling water, over time, will turn the no-stick coating into rust.

But having used cast iron for many decades in places where cleaning pots and pans is difficult indeed, I beg to differ about the notion that cast iron is hard to clean. In particular, when camping cast iron is particularly easy care. You need the right tools -- a metal spatula, stainless steel scrubbers, and a camp stove with ample fuel or open fire and no shortage of wood. Charcoal is also a great tool here. Food is burned to ash right on the pan and loses it's affinity for your cast iron cookware under the influence of heat and the spatula. And even if you don't guarantee cleanliness this way, you guarantee sterility when you pre-heat the cast iron before use at the next meal. The process is a little time consuming, but the ease of care is remarkable once you've learned how it's done.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Lodge Unseasoned Dutch Oven

Lodge would have the choice between applying a thin seasoning layer, or, as they previously had, applying a wax or varnish coating to prevent rust on the store shelves. And the wax was really annoying -- it took more effort to clean that than to season the cast iron in the first place. I'm sure they'd choose a non-allergenic seasoning method. Once at home, anyone who wants to go ahead and season the pot to their liking can go right ahead, the pre-seasoning will no longer be in evidence afterwards.

Jul 17, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Lodge Unseasoned Dutch Oven

It's probably worth adding a few other opinions on the subject of which oil to use for seasoning cast iron. The chemical reaction responsible for the non-stick coating is a complex one. It's built up on a framework of iron oxide. It's similar to rust, but black in color and much harder because oxygen does not easily penetrate the oil covering the iron.

It's also porous, and the pores fill with oil and ash. The oil present means that the surface exudes tiny amounts of lubrication. This is what gives it non-stick properties, but it also means that the pan should be brought up to a temperature that kills off bacteria during cooking because the mix has nutritive properties that allows bacteria to live until temperatures are raised.

But though

Jul 16, 2013
LJones in Cookware
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Cast Iron Skillet Lid Necessary?

When I am at home in a kitchen I rarely have a need for a lid -- instead I cover with a screen to cut down on splashing oil.

When I camp I use a cover. But sadly instead of the wonderful cast iron cover that is available, when I bought this pan what was for sale was a cheap aluminum cover.

Regardless, it serves to keep wind-blown debris out of the meal and hold heat inside prior to serving.

Jul 16, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Lodge Unseasoned Dutch Oven

As it happens, I do not own this particular Dutch oven. One of the other scout leaders bought it right before camp and had no idea it needed seasoning before use, I think. So I sent it home with him and I might not have seen it since. But it is fairly standard practice among camping scouts to scrape, rinse, and re-season Dutch ovens immediately after use and generally using charcoal as the heat source (though a campstove could serve, as I would do if I had cooked with a Cast iron fry pan). My own Dutch oven has been cared for primarily using charcoal, though it had a very nice cure on it delivered on a stovetop when it first went to camp. To avoid excessive scorching adding unwanted flavors to my food I have come to prefer stovetop re-seasoning.

Jul 16, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Lodge Unseasoned Dutch Oven

I once seasoned a Dutch oven with charcoal as the heat source while on a week-long camping trip with Boy Scouts. I continued to season it for five successive nights, though I began to cook with it on the second night. I used corn oil. It was what was available. After the first treatment, you could tell where the charcoal had been sitting on the lid. After the third night you could not.

Jul 16, 2013
LJones in Cookware

Carbon vs. Stainless Steel Fry Pans

Cured cast iron or carbon steel is not merely a poor choice for acidic foods, but also poor for boiling and simmering. For instance, you wouldn't prefer cast iron for boiling rice. The coating can flake away from the pan and look like black pepper in your rice.

Jul 16, 2013
LJones in Cookware
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