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Author Topic: Any cooks out there? Cookware recommendations?  (Read 972 times)
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Turtle
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« on: May 17, 2010, 12:38:14 PM »

So, living on my own I've gotten into cooking in kind of a big way. I was wondering if anyone had any good quality cookware recommendations.

Right now I'm looking for two things, a good electric mixer (for mixing batter and the like), handheld preferred since it's more portable, and a small pan for cooking lean burgers (one of my after workout staples).  What should I look for? How much to spend?

I checked review sites of course, but it's a lot of info I'm also looking for anecdotal and personal opinions, especially after some of the stuff I bought earlier turned out to be crap and broke.
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MonkeyFinger
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2010, 12:55:15 PM »

Curious if all you're looking for is something "non-stick" or are you willing to venture out into the stainless or cast iron world?  icon_wink

ps. Small pan could also equal small grill, something George Foreman like might be a possibility.
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wonderpug
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2010, 01:00:58 PM »

If you can talk yourself out of the portability need, you want a stand-up Kitchenaid mixer. For the burgers get a really heavy old fashioned cast iron pan.

Is a gas grill an option for you?  I know some people who just treat their outdoor grill like another standard part of their kitchen, and it'd do wonders for your burger habit (and be less greasy to boot).
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Turtle
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2010, 01:38:02 PM »

In fact, I am very willing to venture out into the stainless and cast iron world. But remember that I'm basically apartment living for the most part, so nothing too out there. I asked here because I remembered someone recommending such cookware.

I can go with a stand mixer yes, in fact a lot of recipes I've been looking at mention it, and I know why they do ever since I nearly busted my arm trying to mix up a batch of cupcake batter using real butter.  They're expensive, but I can save up for one, thing is, if they're going to cost that much I want to make sure I don't get one that will break down in a week, or while I'm moving between apartments. So long as I can store it in my cubbard, and box it up when it needs to be.

Still, I'd prefer a hand mixer since there isn't much kitchen space in a renter's house, I'd have to unpack and repack it every time I used it.

No gas grills, I just use the stovetop. What cast iron cookware would you recommend, just a flat one? What about those ones with raised grilling lines? This would be the first thing I purchase since it'd get more immediate use. Can't buy a big one though, but at this point I'd rather deal with maintaining cast iron or stainless steel than scrubbing down these not so non-stick el cheapo cookware.

What about utensils on such cookware, I have a good quality plastic ended spatula, works well on that non-stick cookware since it's designed to not scratch, but I can't imagine the rougher cast iron being good for it, and I can probably go with something tougher for stainless steel.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2010, 01:45:52 PM by Turtle » Logged
wonderpug
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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2010, 02:04:22 PM »

The Kitchenaid mixers are built like tanks and will last a lifetime, but yeah: pricey and bulky.

I'm skeptical about cast iron skillets with grill lines. It's not like there's hot coals providing heat in between the grill bars, and you're probably not going to get it hot enough to make grill marks appear. Go with a traditional flat one, I say.

Does your stove have a proper ventilation hood above it?  One that actually vents to the outdoors?  A steak can come out great on super-hot cast iron but it can produce a shit-ton of smoke.

I don't get you spatula question--are you concerned about your spatula getting damaged?  Just get a nice metal one if you want something new.  I mainly use just a regular slotted metal one, but I often use a longer fish turner as well depending on what I'm cooking.
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Rubyeye
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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2010, 05:34:09 PM »

Get a cast iron grill pan. 

It will keep the meat out of the grease and you can also use it in the oven.  They are like $20 on Amazon and while it doesn't replace a grill it is probably the best thing you can do in your situation.  The benefit, you can get it super hot and it won't destroy the pan to be able to sear.  Also,  America's Test Kitchen will answer any question you can think of pertaining to pots/pans/utensils/cooking methods.  They are the Consumer Reports of the food world.  Their books are great.
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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2010, 07:34:39 PM »

I'm just about to graduate from culinary school, so I'll chime in with my professional opinion. biggrin

I'd say go with a flat iron skillet since you can do more things with it versus the grill one.  If all you want to do is grill burgers and steaks, then the grill pan is the better choice.  But you can even cook some pancakes in the iron skillet if you so choose later on.

As for what to use on an iron skillet, there are good quality heat proof rubber spatulas you can get.  I don't like using metal, because you can stratch the pan even iron skillets.

And for mixing, if you can't do it by hand, you should really get a stand mixer.  The handheld mixers are too weak and break easily.  I wouldn't recommend buying one.  If you have any more specific questions, feel free to PM me.  Good luck and happy cooking!
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Turtle
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« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2010, 10:36:13 AM »

Picked up an inexpensive flat cast iron pan to get used to using it. I followed the directions and the first burger I grilled I made some mistakes.

I did a quick rinse with hot water followed by a light coat of canola oil. Unfortunately, I used a frozen patty which I read in the next step that it's a bad idea. Of course, it sticks and a bit burns into the pan, but otherwise turns out okay. Unfortunately, it's left some burnt stuff in the pan.

Second try goes much better, I clean up again with hot water and a wire brush, reapply a thicker coat of canola oil and the burger comes out really well, but it's still sticking a bit but I suspect it takes time to build up that non-stick.

Rinse again with hot water and wire brush, recoat the whole thing with canola oil. I may pick up some vegetable shortening as other guides have described and try re-seasoning the thing to see if it works better than the seasoning from the manufacturer.
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Zinfan
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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2010, 10:57:06 AM »

For a hand mixer Cook's Illustrated rated the Cuisinart 7 speed one as the winner of their tests, here is a link to it on amazon, I think you have to have a subscription to CI in order to see the review.

http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-HM-70-Advantage-7-Speed-Stainless/dp/B000TVPCEE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1274180002&sr=8-3

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wonderpug
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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2010, 11:15:01 AM »

Quote from: Turtle on May 18, 2010, 10:36:13 AM

Unfortunately, I used a frozen patty

I think upgrading your ingredients will help your end results more than upgrading your equipment.  smile
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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2010, 11:35:08 AM »

Quote from: wonderpug on May 18, 2010, 11:15:01 AM

Quote from: Turtle on May 18, 2010, 10:36:13 AM

Unfortunately, I used a frozen patty

I think upgrading your ingredients will help your end results more than upgrading your equipment.  smile

Yes, nothing beats fresh ground beef or turkey.  Spice you meat up the way you like and then have at it
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Boudreaux
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« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2010, 04:57:39 PM »

Quote from: Turtle on May 18, 2010, 10:36:13 AM

Rinse again with hot water and wire brush, recoat the whole thing with canola oil. I may pick up some vegetable shortening as other guides have described and try re-seasoning the thing to see if it works better than the seasoning from the manufacturer.

Give this a try next time you clean your pan - rinse out the loose crud, but don't scrub with a wire brush.  Dry the pan a bit, then pour in a couple of tablespoons of oil and then, on top of that, about a tablespoon of kosher salt.  Wad up a paper towel and use it and the salt as an abrasive.  When the pan looks clean, just wipe out the salt.  You can add a touch more oil if you want but the first bit should be enough. 

I do this every time I clean out our cast iron pan and it's slicker than teflon after a few years now.
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Turtle
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2010, 05:36:54 PM »

How soon after cooking can I rinse this thing out with hot water? So far I've rinsed it out right after use.  Oh and I use a nylon brush, not a metal wire brush so it should be okay.

Overall, despite there being more steps with the cast iron to use, it's a little faster overall to cook with since I'm not scouring burnt in carbon off it after every use, something I can't get right with the older non-stick pans I used before, weird.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2010, 05:41:59 PM by Turtle » Logged
namatoki
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« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2010, 05:51:14 PM »

Quote from: Turtle on May 18, 2010, 05:36:54 PM

How soon after cooking can I rinse this thing out with hot water? So far I've rinsed it out right after use.  Oh and I use a nylon brush, not a metal wire brush so it should be okay.

Overall, despite there being more steps with the cast iron to use, it's a little faster overall to cook with since I'm not scouring burnt in carbon off it after every use, something I can't get right with the older non-stick pans I used before, weird.
Did you properly season your pan before you started using it?  Once you develop the coating, you really want to avoid too much water or scrubbing.  Check out this link for some tips: http://www.epinions.com/review/Lodge_12_Inch_Cast_Iron_Skillet/content_130615709316
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Turtle
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« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2010, 01:40:36 PM »

Alright, I'm going to pickup some veggie crisco and get a proper season. I don't think the manufacturer's pre-season and my canola oil is cutting it.

But, on to another question: Anyone use immersion blenders before? The cheapo stand blender I bought was, well, cheapo, and it's taking more space in my cubbard than I want it to.

I was looking at the Cuisinart Cordless Immersion Blender set, but I'm not sure if that style of blender is effective.
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« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2010, 05:28:35 PM »

Immersion Blenders are great, we use one to make all of my son's baby food. Again though, I have to suggest Kitchen Aid, it really is a top brand that will last. We've abused both the blender and the mixer.

Also, coming back to the stand-up mixer. When shopping for the Kitchen aid, you may be tempted to buy the less expensive and smaller model that that has the tilt up head. Don't. While it is still a good mixer, you should save and get the bigger one that has a crank that raises and lowers the bowl. It's a little more durable, and you can get a bigger bowl too. It's also got a bigger motor. My buddy, who went to Culinary School and has a tilt head version, really really likes our Kitchen Aid, it just takes more abuse.
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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2010, 08:00:31 PM »

Back to the Cook's Illustrated cave!!

Top rated immersion blender is this one
Kalorik Sunny Morning Stick Mixer, found on Amazon here
http://www.amazon.com/Kalorik-MS-18676L-200-Watt-Immersion-Handheld/dp/B001A5W6HY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1274644487&sr=8-1

By the way the Cuisinart blender they tested was the only one to get a "not recommended" rating, no idea if it was the cordless version but I can't see a cordless blender having the power and battery life to be very effective.
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« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2010, 07:02:37 AM »

Quote from: Tebunker on May 23, 2010, 05:28:35 PM

Immersion Blenders are great, we use one to make all of my son's baby food. Again though, I have to suggest Kitchen Aid, it really is a top brand that will last. We've abused both the blender and the mixer.

Also, coming back to the stand-up mixer. When shopping for the Kitchen aid, you may be tempted to buy the less expensive and smaller model that that has the tilt up head. Don't. While it is still a good mixer, you should save and get the bigger one that has a crank that raises and lowers the bowl. It's a little more durable, and you can get a bigger bowl too. It's also got a bigger motor. My buddy, who went to Culinary School and has a tilt head version, really really likes our Kitchen Aid, it just takes more abuse.

I actually disagree with this. If you're constantly baking and making double batches of stuff, then by all means get the heavy duty 6QT Kitchen Aid mixer, but if you do only a normal amount of baking and aren't planning on making pizza dough for six people at a time, the 5QT Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer is the bomb. It's lighter, stores easier, and I prefer the tilt head mechanism to the raising and lowering of the bowl. I do a fair amount of baking and bust out my stand mixer a lot. I've never regretted going for the smaller mixer, and that was after spending time using my former mother-in-law's heavy duty mixer. I've yet to throw anything into my 325 watt mixer and thought to myself gee, I wish this had more power .... Check out eBay for deals on your cookware. You can frequently find new, top-of-the-line All-Clad, Calphalon, Le Creuset, Kitchen Aid, etc., cookware for significantly less money than you can pick the stuff up for at Amazon (which generally has the best prices of any major retailer). Just price what you want on Amazon, give yourself a 20% discount, and bid on stuff until you get what you want.
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Turtle
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« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2010, 07:19:14 AM »

Just posting an update. Finally got my cast iron pan seasoned well. I didn't do the whole oven reseason yet, but I did cook with veggie crisco coating the cooking surface quite a few times.

It's hard to get used to leaving oils on the pan after cooking, and just mainly wiping off excess bits and fat using no soap.

One question I have is that what are some good indicators to watch for of the oil on the pan going rancid? Despite being good at it, I'm still a pretty new cook.
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Boudreaux
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« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2010, 12:56:00 PM »

Huh, I've never even thought about the oil left on my cast iron cookware going rancid.  You really want to get almost all of it wiped off, and leave just a film, just enough to keep the pan from rusting.  If you can see pools of oil or fat in your pan, you're leaving too much on it.
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