All posts tagged: Reviews

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 …

Review: PolyScience Professional Creative Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

FCC Notice: PolyScience Culinary gave me a Sous Vide immersion circulator to use in my blog posts and for this review. PolyScience is the godfather of culinary sous vide circulators. They introduced their first immersion circulator, the Model 73, back in 1973. Did PolyScience know about sous vide cooking back in the ’70s? No. PolyScience makes laboratory equipment with precise temperature controls; the 73 was invented for lab use. In 2007, PolyScience was contacted by professional chefs – Mathias Merges and Wylie Dufrense – asking about their immersion circulators, and if they could be used in a professional kitchen. Philip Preston, president of PolyScience, is a enthusiastic hobbyist cook and immediately saw the possibilities. Soon after that, PolyScience started selling their first immersion circulator designed specifically for cooking – now known as the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional Classic, which costs about $1100. This is the first sous vide unit I was aware of, and I lusted after one for years – but oh, that price. It is designed for hard use in a professional kitchen, …

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 …

Review: Ceramic Knives

It’s sweet when people are in their “I just fell in LOVE w the mandoline” phase, before “MY GOD THIS THING TRIED TO KILL ME.”@Francis_Lam, twitter. I told my kids that quote as I set my new Kyocera mini mandoline in the sink. They were washing the dishes, and I wanted them to be careful with the ceramic blade. A few hours later, the mandoline was still in the sink where I left it, untouched and definitely not cleaned. Muttering to myself about how hard it was to find good help these days, I grabbed a dish rag and started cleaning the mandoline. I wiped across the blade…and it cut through the dishcloth and into the tip of my index finger. I looked at my finger in disbelief. The cut was a half inch deep. But that didn’t hurt as much as my pride – I felt like such an idiot.*Blogging with a butterfly bandage on the tip of your index finger is an adventure. Words with an “I” or a “K” were suddenly a …

Book Review: Pressure Cooking Perfection

I’ve been waiting for this book for ten years. I’m a loyal Cook’s Illustrated subscriber, and I bought my first pressure cooker in 2003, based on their review. Cook’s trickled out a pressure cooker recipes over the years, but not that many. I wanted to see what Cook’s ultra-analytical style would bring to pressure cooking. But that title – perfection? That’s a strong claim. I know it was probably the editor, unable to resist the alliterative P in the title. But still. And then the introduction made me sit up: In the many months of testing, we did come across an interesting fact. Almost all the times listed for basic pressure cooker recipes (vegetables, grains, etc.) were incorrect. We spent weeks testing the basics, getting the timing right, and we have included reliable charts so that you can use the pressure cooker as a useful cooking tool day in and day out. Was this it? The book I’ve been waiting for? Um…no. Now that I have it in my hands, I’m disappointed. I believe them …

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 …

Review: Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler is the best food book I’ve read in a long while. It isn’t a cookbook, though there are recipes. It is a narrative about a cooking centered life. Tamar talks about simple food as a source of joy and sustenance. It is a friendly, rambling story about ingredients. The book is full of hints, tips, asides and suggestions about how to use food to its fullest. I’m the kind of person who saves bones from a roast chicken to make chicken stock. This book felt finding a friend. Tamar writes about the best part of dried beans (the extra broth), the best part of oranges (the zest), and how she won’t buy meat unless it makes more than one meal (again, my roast chicken gives me a Sunday dinner, plus leftovers, plus bones for stock). My only problem with the book is how distracting it is. I’ve been dipping into it for a month; I’m still trying to finish it. I’m almost done. But I read it for five minutes …

Review: Splash-Proof Thermapen

Review: Splash-Proof Thermapen A few years ago I reviewed the original Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer. Here’s what I said: The Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks is the best instant read thermometer out there.  Many thermometers call themselves instant read, but the Thermapen is the only one that really is instant read. You get the temperature in four seconds, instead of the 30 seconds or so that other “instant read” thermometers take. After I wrote that review, the original Thermapen was replaced by a new, Splash-Proof model. Thermapen was kind enough to send me a new Splash-Proof Thermapen for review. I’ve been using it for about a month now, and here are my impressions. New Splash-Proof in red, old one in gray Same as the old Thermapen:  Fast: It takes a 4-Mississippi count for both the old and new thermometers to find a temperature in my testing. That’s about 25 seconds faster than any other thermometer I’ve used. Probe: It has a needle-sharp probe, which leaves a very small entrance hole in whatever you’re testing. …

Review: Cook Without A Book: Meatless Meals by Pam Anderson

Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals: Recipes and Techniques for Part-Time and Full-Time Vegetarians *Disclaimer: Pam is a major influence on my cooking, and one of my blog buddies. Pam’s How to Cook Without a Book taught me the difference between following recipes and knowing how to cook, a major step on the path that led to this blog. I can’t be perfectly objective about her books. But this one is worth writing about… When it comes to dinner, most of us open the fridge and see a daunting mass of isolated ingredients. Take away meat – the easy anchor on most plates – and it’s even more difficult to build an appealing meal…This book is set up to help you learn the skills and techniques you need to create fun, satisfying vegetarian dishes that feature the flavors and ingredients you like best. -Pam Anderson, Cook Without A Book: Meatless Meals I have been trying to eat one meatless dinner a week for a couple of years now. I have no plans to become a …

Weber Gourmet BBQ System Review

The Weber Gourmet BBQ System is a set of cast iron, porcelain enameled cookware designed for use on the grill. I love the concept – I’ve been experimenting with cookware on my grill for years now, and I wanted to see what Weber came up with. The Gourmet BBQ System consists of four pieces: Griddle  Sear Grate  Wok  Grill grate with removable center piece, to hold the cast iron cookware I should include a fifth piece. While not absolutely necessary, the Gourmet BBQ system was made to work with Weber’s charcoal baskets. The charcoal baskets are the perfect size to fit underneath the hole in the grill grate, or to move the charcoal over to the side for indirect heating. I’m glad Weber chose porcelain coated cast iron for these pieces. I love the heavy, heat absorbing cast iron combined with the no-fuss maintenance of the porcelain coating.I never have any luck with regular cast iron. Eventually, it starts to rust on me. I’m sorry, Greg. I’ve strayed from the one true path of black …

Review: Man With A Pan by John Donohue (with Giveaway!)

Review: Man With A Pan by John Donohue Man with A Pan is a collection of essays by guys who share my passion: cooking for their families. Not just one or two showy meals, not just grilling while the wife makes the rest of the meal in the kitchen. They find satisfaction in cooking every day. Some are writers (including some of my favorite food authors, like Michael Ruhlman, Mark Bittman, Mark Kurlansky, and Paul Greenberg), most do something else for a living. They all love to cook. This book felt like walking into a room full of old friends. Every essay had a note that resonated. From the satisfaction of feeding your family, the pride of well-honed kitchen skills, to the frustration of kids who only appreciate hot dogs and chips. These guys are my tribe: men who decided to be the primary cook in their house. They came to that place from a variety of starting points, but they all want to be in the kitchen when dinnertime rolls around. I loved reading …

Book Review: On A Stick! (With Giveaway!)

Review: On A Stick!, by Matt Armendariz Ask anyone…They’ll all tell you the same thing: eating food on a stick is fun, festive, and just plain delicious. Matt Armendariz, On A Stick And with that, Matt (from MattBites.com) is off and running. He covers traditional kebabs, like Greek lamb souvlaki. There are inspired ideas, like caprese salad on a stick, perfect for a party nibble. He has lowbrow recipes (corn dogs!), highbrow recipes (Korean BBQ pork belly skewers), and wild recipes (spaghetti and meatballs on a stick…how in the world?) *Can anything on a skewer really be considered highbrow? Discuss amongst yourselves. Can you tell I love this cookbook? It is filled with imagination. I see Matt and his partner, Adam Pearson, brainstorming ideas and laughing while they say “That’s a great idea! But how do we get it to stay on the stick?” Thanks to Matt’s photography and Adam’s food styling, On a Stick is also a visual treat. I was wondering how they would take eighty different pictures of a stick with food …

Top Cookbooks of 2010

Here are my favorite cookbooks from 2010, as chosen by my various cooking personalities.*Yes, I am afflicted with multiple cooking personality disorder. For the grilling fanatic:Steven Raichlen Planet Barbecue!: 309 Recipes, 60 Countries inspired more of my posts than any other book I read this year.(Honorable mention: Robb Walsh The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook) For the home cook:Pam Anderson Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers reminded me that I don’t have to kill myself in the kitchen to have people over.(Honorable mention: I have a tie between J.M. Hirsch High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking and Lorna Sass’s update of Cooking Under Pressure (20th Anniversary Edition)) For the geek who wants to understand what’s going on while they’re cooking:Harold McGee Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes explains how to become a better cook through science.(Honorable mention: Jeff Potter Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food) For the adventurous cook:Rick Bayless Fiesta at Rick’s: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends encouraged me with great Mexican …

Review: Four Fish by Paul Greenberg

Last year, I shared my personal philosophy towards fish in my Sustainable Seafood post. I just finished reading a book that helped expand my knowledge about fish, and the challenges we have ahead of us. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg is an entertaining, sobering, in-depth, and practical look at fish and sustainability. Mr. Greenberg focuses on the four fish that predominate in the modern fish market: Salmon, Tuna, Bass and Cod. He shows how fishing for each of these species has advanced across human history, and the problems and successes we have had with their sustainability. Don’t be fooled by this summary – the book isn’t just history and environmentalism. Mr. Greenberg approaches fish from his viewpoint as an enthusiastic amateur fisherman. Four fish is a fascinating view of today’s world of fishing, with stories of the people who catch and farm our fish. And, as a fisherman, Mr. Greenberg feels he has to catch these fish himself, and his personal fish tales are some of the best …

Review: Pam Anderson’s Perfect One-Dish Dinners

Pam Anderson’s new book – Perfect One Dish Dinners (With bookmarked recipes to try out, and my morning coffee) *Disclaimer: Pam is one of the major influences on my cooking, and one of my blog buddies. Pam’s How to Cook Without a Book taught me the difference between following recipes and knowing how to cook, which was one of the major steps I took on the path that led to this blog. So I’m not sure I can be perfectly objective about this one.  That aside, I think this is one of her best cookbooks. Usually, when I read a cookbook, I page through it and look for recipes that interest me. Not this one. Pam Anderson’s Perfect One-Dish Dinners grabbed me with the first recipe – Frogmore Stew, a one-pot seafood and sausage boil. From there, I kept turning pages and saying:  “I have to make that Choucroute. No, I’ll do the Cassoulet. Ooh – Tamale pie! Wait…I’ll try the Osso Bucco with polenta first. But…those Lamb Shanks with tomatoes and white beans are too …

Review: Kuhn Rikon 12 Quart Family Stockpot Pressure Cooker

Review: Kuhn Rikon 12 Quart Family Stockpot Pressure Cooker When I wrote about my love of pressure cookers, I said Size Matters. I mentioned that I’d love to try the largest pressure cooker out there – the Kuhn Rikon 12 Quart Family Style Stockpot pressure cooker. Someone at Kuhn Rikon read that article, and they offered to send me one for a review. I couldn’t say “YES!” fast enough. I have been a pressure cooker fan for close to a decade now, and I have heard about the quality of Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers. They are true second generation cookers, made in Switzerland, and are built really, really well. The Family Stockpot 12 quart cooker they sent me is no exception. It is huge, solid, and fits together like (excuse the allegory) a Swiss watch. *Also, the 1/2 and 2/3rds fill lines are marked inside the pot, which is a “why doesn’t everyone do this?” feature. Pressure cookers need head space to come up to pressure. They shouldn’t be filled beyond 2/3rds full. Why doesn’t …

Review of Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen (with Giveaway!)

Review (and giveaway!) of Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen *See the bottom of the review for the giveaway information Planet Barbecue is an all-new, globe spanning cookbook from Steven Raichlen. It follows the format of his other “big” books, Barbecue Bible, How to Grill, and BBQ USA. It is a monster of a book. Stephen leaves no stone unturned in his worldwide search for recipes. *He has said that he is going to step away from grilling books for a while; he thinks he has covered the topic in depth, and wants to try something new. I thought the same thing…two books ago. Stephen keeps finding new places to explore, and sniffing out new grilling recipes. So, here’s my personal plea. Stephen! Don’t go! We still need you! This book is stuffed with inspiration for a griller looking for something new to try. I’ve got two dozen recipes tabbed for future use…and that’s only because I ran out of tabs. I’ve already tried out some of these recipes; I was inspired by his section on …

Review: BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang

Review (and giveaway!) of BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang*See the bottom of the review for the giveaway information BBQ 25 is Adam Perry Lang’s (hereafter, APL) take on essential grilling recipes. He set out to perfect the 25 recipes people cook the most when they grill. The book is a fascinating look at the techniques a professional chef uses to build layers of flavor into his barbecue. I was expecting BBQ 25 to be a simplified version of Serious Barbecue, APL’s previous book, and a magnum opus on grilling. BBQ 25, with its 25 essential recipes theme, sounded like a book you give to a beginner. Oh boy, was I wrong about that. It is Serious Barbecue distilled to its essence, but not simplified. APL has a set of basic techniques he uses: marinate or brine, then season, then grill (while basting with butter and a herb brush), then glaze with sauce, then cut on a cutting board seasoned with board dressing.*When I grill, I have a two step process; marinate or brine or pre-salt, …

Review: All-Clad Stainless Cookware with d5 Technology

Remember my post about how much I love All-Clad Stainless cookware? Someone at All-Clad read it, too. They got in touch with me, and asked if they could send a sample of their new line of cookware to test out. “Of course!” I said. “What is it?” That’s when they told me they were updating their Stainless cookware line with new technology. I could not believe it.  I love their Stainless cookware, and thought they would have a hard time improving it.  I asked for a 12 inch fry pan for the review.  It’s my workhorse pan, and I thought it would be the best way to test their changes. *Remember the FTC disclosure policy I wrote a while back?  Here’s my first chance to disclose anything: All-Clad sent me a free pan to try out. What are the changes? The new “d5” Stainless pans have an extra layer of stainless steel in the middle of the cladding, resulting in five layers of metal in the pan: (picture below): Stainless with d5 technology, cross section All-Clad says …