All posts filed under: Things I love

Review: Instant Pot Silicone Mitts

I gave in to gadget lust and bought the new Instant Pot IP-Smart pressure cooker; a pair of silicone mini-mitts came in the box. When I first saw them, I thought “why would I bother with those tiny things”? Side note: The new Instant Pot IP-Smart pressure cooker is the same machine as my favorite pressure cooker, the Instant Pot Duo. The IP-Smart adds a bluetooth connection, a smartphone app, a fancy blue backlight on the redesigned display, and a few extra program modes. If money is no object, or you really love the idea of directing your pressure cooker from your phone, it’s an excellent pressure cooker, every bit as good as the IP-DUO. But, I can’t recommend it at double the price of the IP-Duo. You wind up paying a huge premium for bluetooth connectivity. Now that I’m using the mini mitts, they don’t seem tiny; they’re perfectly sized. They are a silicone version of the pinch potholders I have come to love. They make it easy to grab the pot liner lip that …

Review: Anova Precision Cooker – Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Anova’s Kickstarter for their second generation sous vide unit, the Anova Precision Cooker, was a roaring success. I was an early backer and got a great deal on the Anova Precision Cooker. It finally arrived last month. I had to wait longer because I wanted it in red. It was worth the wait. The Precision Cooker is light, compact, inexpensive ($179), and easy to use. The controls are simple – a temperature display, a touchscreen play button, and a glowing blue scroll wheel to adjust the temperature. (The play button acts as the control button for the other functions – press it for three seconds to switch between °F and °C; press it for eight seconds to turn on the timer mode). I love the simple interface – it’s obvious how to adjust the unit, and easy to get started. It also has an adjustable clamp; it slides up and down on the unit, so it will fit in a wide range of pots. Is it perfect? Almost…but not entirely. Unlike the all-in-one SousVide Supreme …

Mellow Hot-Cold Sous Vide Water Bath

Photo courtesy of Mellow I’m a geek. I admit it. I love technology and cooking. Cooking technology? I’m all over it. (That’s why I’m fascinated by sous vide cooking.) The Mellow is the coolest new cooking technology I’ve heard of since sous vide was introduced.As you’ll see, “coolest” is a pun. Sorry. I heard about the Mellow in passing at the end of the This Week In Apple podcast – the mentioned a sous vide machine that is a heater AND a cooler. That’s…that’s…genius! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? My first thought was time shifted sous vide cooking. I drop a bag of vacuum sealed food in the Mellow as I leave for work, and it keeps it chilled all day – until it is time to cook. Then it turns on the heater, and ten minutes later it is at sous vide cooking temperatures. I walk through the door, and my sous vide is ready to go. They had me at “built in cooling”, but then I watched their video – they …

Book Review: Man Made Meals by Steven Raichlen

I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Steven’s new cookbook, Man Made Meals. (Subtitle: The Essential Cookbook for Guys. Perfect for me, right?) I have to tell you up front – this review is biased. Steven Raichlen is a major influence on my cooking. His Barbecue Bible series of cookbooks are essential references for grilling, and How To Grill is the first book I recommend to novice grillers. I even used his Beer Can Chicken cookbook as a model for my own Rotisserie Grilling cookbook. I owe Steven a debt of gratitude. Even though we’ve only met once, at a book signing, he taught me a lot of what I know about cooking. Strengths This is Steven’s “Joy of Cooking” – a massive collection of globetrotting recipes, covering everything from breakfast through dessert, with techniques from sauteing to baking, roasting to stir-frying. (And, don’t worry, he doesn’t abandon the grill – there are plenty of grilling recipes sprinkled throughout.) If there is a recipe you might want to try at home, it’s in …

Kickstarter – Anova Precision Cooker

Image courtesy of Anova Culinary [FCC Update 2014-05-12] After I wrote this post, but before it was published, Anova contacted me to see if I wanted a test unit. (I said yes.) This doesn’t change anything I say below – I backed this project before they contacted me, because it looks like a great deal. Interested in Sous Vide cooking? Looking for a deal on an immersion circulator with some fantastic features, including the ability to drive the cooker through your phone? Have I got the Kickstarter for you… Anova Precision Cooker – Cook sous vide with your phone [Kickstarter.com] Anova is Kickstarting a redesign of their popular immersion circulator. The new version has a simpler interface on the unit itself, and a iPhone app that lets you control the unit from your phone. The best part? The new Anova has a list price of $169 – a new low for sous vide immersion circulators. But, if you act fast, you can preorder through Kickstarter for the low price of: $99 for the first 1000 …

Gifts For Home Cooks 2013

Looking for a gift for a home cook? I’ve got a few ideas for you. Essential Grilling Tools I’ve covered these before, but just in case, every grill master needs: a good set of tongs, a grill brush, a spatula, an instant read thermometer, silicone basting brushes, skewers, aluminum foil, welding gloves, a griddle, and a vegetable grate. Oh, and a rotisserie ring for their kettle grill – but I may be biased about that one. Did I already mention my rotisserie grilling cookbook? And that it makes a great gift? I did? Sorry. Crow Canyon Enamelware Large Roasting Pan I get asked about the speckled enamelware pan I use in my grill. Here it is, the Crow Canyon Large Roasting Pan. Enamelware is extraordinarily durable – I’ve had the same pan for over five years – so I don’t have to constantly buy new aluminum foil drip pans. It’s available in a wide range of colors; my favorites are red and blue. ThermoWorks ChefAlarm with High-Temp Probe ThermoWorks makes my favorite instant read thermometer, …

Vitamix Reconditioned Month

My reconditioned Vitamix 5200 Vitamix has announced a sale on reconditioned blenders! Now through December 2nd, you can get up to 30% $30 off any reconditioned blender you buy on their website:Vitamix Certified Reconditioned Blenders The blender I own, the “standard” model (a Vitamix 5200) is on sale for $299, (down from the $329 price I paid for a refurbished model, and $449 for a brand new one):Vitamix Certified Reconditioned – Standard If you want to buy their newer, quieter, and more powerful model (the Pro 300 series), it’s on sale for $439:Vitamix Certified Reconditioned – Next Generation They have some other models on sale as well, but I’d recommend one of the two models above. Their cheapest least expensive blender only has two speeds; I prefer the variable speed knob, so I can slowly turn the speed up to 10. The other models come with programmable settings; I just crank the blender up instead of needing a dedicated “smoothie” button. Why buy a Vitamix? Read all about it (and my visit to their outlet store) …

All-Clad Factory Sale: Winter 2013

All-Clad Factory Sale: Winter 2013 *The dates for this winter’s All-Clad factory sale have been announced, so as usual, I’m posting a heads-up for my readers… All-Clad’s factory is located in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Twice a year, on the first weekend in June and December, All-Clad holds a factory seconds sale at the Washington County Fair and Expo Center. This winter’s All-Clad Factory Outlet Sale is scheduled for: All-Clad Factory in Washington County Fairgrounds, Washington PA. Friday, December 6th from 9am-7pm Saturday, December 7th from 9am-4pm Location: Washington County Fair and Expo Center: 2151 North Main Street Washington, PA 15301 Phone: 724-225-7718 Website: WashingtonFair.org This is about a two hour drive from the Akron area. You get prices from 40% to 70% off on factory seconds. In most cases, the damage is cosmetic; a little scratching on the stainless, or a lid handle that’s a bit offset from center. Most of All Clad’s cookware is available  but not their entire line. Some favorites (like the 12″ stainless fry pan and its lid) are hard to find. Overall, …

Things I Love: Dalton-Ruhlman Wooden Paddles

A few years back, I wrote about how much I love flat edged wooden spoons. My long-time favorite, a cheap bamboo wok paddle, had finally cracked. I was looking for a new favorite spoon, and bought a bunch of different spoons to see if I could find a replacement for my trusted wok paddle. I realized I had my new favorite as I was rooting through my utensil crock, pushing aside other wooden spoons, and hoping that Michael Ruhlman’s flat edged wooden paddle wasn’t in the dishwasher. Ruhlman’s paddles come in three sizes, and I have the set. My favorite is the spankette “spankie” flat edged wooden paddle – 12 inches long, with a 2 3/4 inch wide head, made of acacia wood. It fits into all my pots, and is the one I reach for the most. I only use the medium “spankette” size when my spankie is being washed, and I save the jumbo “spanker” for when I’m stirring a huge pot of chili. Or when I need to get the kids attention. The …

Bonfire Smoked Sea Salt

My vacation is over, and I miss it. It doesn’t help that my wife and kids are still on vacation this week, out at my family’s cottage on Lake Erie, splashing around in the water and toasting marshmallows over a bonfire on the beach.*Sigh. That bonfire is what I’m sharing today. I bought a package of Bonfire Smoked Sea Salt from Urban Herbs at the West Side Market in Cleveland. It sat in my pantry until this week. I pulled it out, took a sniff, and was instantly back on the beach, with an imaginary stick and a marshmallow in my hand. I sprinkled it liberally on a steak. It tasted like it was cooked it over that bonfire on the beach, while the kids toasted marshmallows next to me. It was amazing – the wood smoke shone through. Next, I tried it on my morning eggs – backing off on the amount, because I didn’t want to over-smoke them – and the results were excellent. I can’t wait to use bonfire salt with gas …

Fun Food Finds: Cooking Graphic Novels

I was a comic book geek when I was a teenager, and worked in a comic book store for a few years. I cut my teeth on Frank Miller’s Daredevil, and Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Scott McCloud’s Zot! still move me.*Just…don’t ask me about the movies. I’m trying to pretend they don’t exist. I love storytelling that combines pictures and words, and I’m excited to share these graphic novels with cooking themes. Relish: My Life In the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley Ms. Knisley’s autobiography is a full of the joy of growing up in a foodie family, with illustrated recipes after every chapter. Also by Lucy Knisley: French Milk. If you love Paris as much as I love Paris, this book is for you. It’s less cooking centered – a travelogue about a trip in her early 20’s to Paris with her mother. If you enjoy Relish, you’ll enjoy French Milk, and seeing the characters through Lucy’s younger eyes. In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef by Christophe Blain …

Grilling Accessories From the Hardware Store

I can’t wait to visit the hardware store in spring. The new grills are in stock, bags of charcoal are stacked to the ceiling, and the grilling accessories take up an entire aisle. I’m like a kid in a toy store. The grilling aisle isn’t the only place I look. There are grilling accessories hidden in the rest of the hardware store. Here are a few of my favorites. Note: I have Amazon links to all of these items so you can see what I’m talking about. And, I do get a commission if you buy anything after going through those links. (Thank you!) But, please compare prices: these things tend to be cheaper at the hardware store. Steel Mesh Side Table I need extra space around my grill, a staging area where I can put platters, supplies, and a tasty beverage. I lust after the Weber Summit Grill Center with Social Area. But there’s nothing wrong with my 7 year old Summit 650 – it keeps chugging along. So I picked up a steel …

Things I Love: Oxo 4 Piece Mini Measuring Beaker Set

When I saw these colorful mini beakers, I had to have them. I wasn’t the only one. As I was opening the Amazon box, my wife and daughter walked into the room. ArtisticDaughter and MomTeachesScience [In unison]: What’s that? DadCooksDinner: It’s my mini beaker set. ArtisticDaughter: They’re so colorful! Can I have them? DadCooksDinner: No, I got them for the kitchen. MomTeachesScience: Those are great. I could really use them at school. DadCooksDinner [Clutching them to his breast]: They’re for me! For the kitchen! ArtisticDaughter and MomTeachesScience [In unison]: Can you get me one? How much are they? I’ve had them for a week, and I use them every day. They’re like pinch bowls for liquids, perfect for measuring small amounts. Yellow is one teaspoon, blue is one tablespoon, green is one ounce, and red is two ounces (a quarter cup). If you enjoy adult beverages, they make a great replacement for imprecise jiggers and shot glasses. Most importantly, they’re cute! I always like an extra splash of color in my kitchen, and they make …

Things I Love: Kitchen Timers

I like to think I can multitask. In the kitchen, it’s the only way to be efficient. Professionals can spend the time to get their mise en place before they cook, because they need to cook many meals at the same time. As a home cook, I try to fit my prep work into the down time between steps. For example, making a stew. I heat the oil in the pot while I cube the meat, then mince the onions while the meat browns, then prep the veggie side while the onions sauté, then work on the starch while the stew cooks.The only time I don’t do this is with a stir fry – I want all my prep work done before anything hits the hot wok. But even then, I’m cooking the rice on the side, and marinating the meat while I prep the vegetables. The problem is, I’m terrible at multitasking. If it’s something I don’t have to think about any more (dicing an onion), I’m fine, but if I have to engage …

Book Review: Modernist Cuisine at Home

I’m a geek who cooks. I learned to cook by watching every episode of Good Eats twice, and reading the detailed head notes of every Cooks Illustrated recipe published between 1993 and 2005 (I asked for the back issues for Christmas.) Harold McGee was my bedtime reading. I tried out what I learned in the kitchen, made a lot of mistakes, and learned from them as well. I’m the kind of person who needs to know “why” when I’m cooking, and knowing “why” helps me become a better cook.It took Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book to pull me back from the bleeding edge of cooking. That’s when my dinners went from “It’s eight thirty, I’m starving, when is dinner going to be ready?” to “Dinner will be on the table at six thirty. Maybe six forty-five.” Modernist Cuisine, by Nathan Myhrvold and his team of chefs and scientists, is an encyclopedia about the cutting edge of food. The four volumes contain 2,348 pages, totaling forty pounds of science and technology applied to cooking. Modernist Cuisine has …

Things I Love: Weber Charcoal Kettle Rotisserie

I love it so much, I wrote a cookbook… The Weber charcoal kettle rotisserie is my favorite grill accessory. Yes, at $150, it costs as much as grill itself. But it turns a simple kettle grill into the best rotisserie oven money can buy. Why does that matter? Because a rotisserie turns out the best roasts I’ve ever cooked. Perfect chicken, prime rib with amazing crust, pork shoulder to die for. If you want to roast on your grill, you want a rotisserie. Setup is simple – there is a large ring that sits between the grill and the lid, with a motor mount on one side and a notch on the other. The rotisserie motor slides onto the mount, the spit plugs into the motor, and rests in the notch on the other side of the ring. Configure the grill for indirect heat – put coals on both sides of the grill, add a drip pan between the coals, under the spit, and you’re ready to cook. My only complaint about the kettle rotisserie? Sometimes, when …

Review: Weber’s Smoke by Jamie Purviance

Weber has made their Weber Smokey Mountain bullet smoker for years. For a long time it seemed like an afterthought in their grill lineup, but the internet changed that. Fans of the WSM started to gather at the Virtual Weber Bullet and the popularity of Weber’s little smoker took off. It got so popular that Weber recently added a jumbo 22 inch WSM to their lineup. It was only a matter of time before they published a cookbook to support the now-popular smoker. Here it is – Weber’s Smoke, by Jamie Purviance. I assumed the book would be about low and slow barbecue standards, flavored with wood smoke, and I was not disappointed. Baby back ribs are on the cover, and all the classics are there – pulled pork, spare ribs, beer can chicken, and the king of barbecue, beef brisket.My apologies to Memphis, St. Louis, and the Carolinas. My favorite barbecue is whatever is in front of me right now; I’ll never turn down good barbecue. But, if I was forced to choose only one …

Things I Love: Canning Jars

A toast to canning jars! I have the canning bug. I had to buy a new shelf to hold all my jars. Most of them are empty, waiting for the start of summer produce season so I can start pickling. With all those jars lying around, I found out that canning jars are for more than canning. They’re multitaskers, useful to have in the kitchen. Just in case.*I’m sure McGyver had flats of canning jars in his pantry. He probably used them to make a solar microwave, but still. I use them as all purpose storage containers, from spices to spare change. But my favorite alternate use is coming Thursday – canning jar margaritas. Until then, here are some creative ways to use canning jars. My top five favorite non-canning uses for canning jars: Salt Carton Pour Spout Retrofit Need a quick and easy pour spout for a jar? ReCap How about a pop-top lid, for drinking or shaking salad dressings? Redneck Wine Glasses These were the inspiration for this post. My brother-in-law, who lives …

Things I Love: Essential Grilling Tools

Tongs – my hands on the grill Memorial Day has passed. Grilling season is now open! To start you off right, here is my list of essential grilling tools. *PS: Want a summer of worry-free grilling? Now is the time to clean your grill. 1. Tongs Tongs are my hands at the grill. 16 inch tongs give me a little extra distance from the fire; 12 inch tongs are better for close-in work with a lot of flipping (like chicken wings). 2. Grill brush The key to non-stick grilling? A hot, clean grill grate. I preheat my grill grate (five minutes for charcoal, fifteen minutes for gas), then brush it until all the burnt pieces of my last grilling session are gone. 3. 8 inch by 3 inch offset spatula Tongs are my tool of choice at the grill, but for burgers and flaky fish, I need a spatula. Get a long spatula with a flexible metal head. I’ve used one with a wooden handle for years, but a inexpensive food service model works just …