Cook Like a Man: Kitchen Tool Commandments
Posted By Manny Howard On September 10, 2009 @ 11:55 am In Food & Drink
1. Buy Only Two Knives
In his day-to-day work. Some prefer a boning knife to a paring knife, but all require a 10-inch chef’s knife. Don’t buy either until you’ve held them in your own two hands. Weight and balance are questions of taste: Some guys like knives that are dead-even balanced between handle and blade; others prefer a slightly weighted blade. Walk into a fine knife shop understanding that carbon-steel knives take the sharpest edges but are fussy to maintain, whereas stainless-steel knives don’t get quite as sharp, but they hold their edge longer and are way easier to maintain. But all good knives have a full tang (see below). With this you will wear the blade away before the handle comes loose. Wüsthof makes a particularly fine specimen at a surprisingly reasonable price ($140; wusthof.com).
Finally, look for a knife that can take an edge well or sharpen easily. That is not the same as one that can hold an edge. A well-used knife gets dull, but you should be able to put the edge back easily by sharpening it regularly.
The thick metal at the very back of the blade, in front of your fingers, creates a counterweight to the blade, for balance.
In good knives, the metal that splits the handle is an extension of the blade and continues all the way down to the butt.
2. Splurge on One Pan
Make it a heavy-gauge, three-ply stainless-steel, six-quart sauté pan with a lid and an oven-proof handle like this All-Clad ($255; all-clad.com). It has an aluminum core, which will be quick to conduct heat and provide even heat distribution. Sauté, stew, fry, and even bake and braise in this pan. Stainless, if well-maintained (washed after every use), is as good as any nonstick and much more durable. But don’t go overboard and blow $500 on a copper skillet — the performance is not superior, and they’re a pain to maintain.
Don’t put leftovers in the fridge; put them in the slow cooker. Pork chops, a roast chicken carcass, roast beef, even fish — any protein not consumed during round one can be dropped in a slow cooker with chicken stock, a dry white wine, sautéed onions, chopped vegetables (add early for flavor, then again at the end for texture), a bay leaf, and some thyme, and cooked on low. Set the timer for 12 hours, overnight — or during the workday — and dinner will be waiting when you get home from the gym. I like this 6.5-quart All-Clad ($200; all-clad.com) for its ceramic insert. It conducts heat better and is easier to clean up.
Crock Pot Beans
Beans are a miracle food in a man’s life. Store a pot of slow-cooked cannellini beans in the fridge and look forward to leftovers.
Bacon-Bean Soup: Take cooked beans from the fridge, heat with their cooking liquid, toss in some onion (sautéed with a chunk of bacon and garlic) and greens at the last minute, and bring to serving temperature. Then puree another half-cup of beans with a half-cup of their cooking liquid and toss that in to make it creamy.
Bean Butter: Heat beans with a bunch of olive oil, garlic, and rosemary until they fall apart, then spread on toast.
A dish is never done; it has simply reached the right temperature. When roasting meat, use a thermometer. This is much more critical than any directions a recipe will offer. Every roast is slightly different, as is every oven, and the only way to nail the doneness of big cuts is with technology. But don’t go digital, and buy one that can be recalibrated (which should be done often) such as this Comark ($5; comarkltd.com).
I put my rice cooker in the car the last time I drove across the country. With the steamer attached, it offered salvation from road food and room service. It will play the same role in your kitchen, offering the easiest, healthiest meal you will ever cook ($43; zojirushi.com).
I’ve had mine for years, and I have yet to make a lasagna in it. It’s the perfect size for roasts and ideal for braising. The stainless exterior and solid-state construction make it easier to clean than a flimsy roasting sheet, and the handles are high and tight ($120; all-clad.com).
The knife isn’t your only cutting tool in the kitchen. Scissors are actually preferable for breasting out a whole chicken or cutting bacon down to size. And you should splurge here rather than replace regularly. They do a lot of heavy lifting ($65; jahenckels.com).
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