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Cooking techniques and recipes are making their way from east to west and manufacturers and chefs are spreading the word about ethnic cooking. The best place to search out these new cooking vessels, procedures, ingredients and recipes is online.
The wok has been widely available in the U.S. since the 1970s and the Japanese sushi craze took hold in the 80s and 90s and brought us sushi rolling mats, sushi serve ware and chopstick sets. Now there's even more cookware for creating fantastic new (to us) Asian foods with flair. Joyce Chen Cookware offers a non-stick Tamago Pan, gorgeous ceramic Chinese style cook pots with lids, bamboo steamers of every type and size, as well as rice steamers and cookers. Since different spices are used, a mortar and pestle may be a new addition to your kitchen along with a ginger grater. For Asian cooking, bamboo utensils are recommended, both for its availability as a renewable, natural resource and it's non-abusive nature when used on cookware. Knives are important in this type of cooking as foods need to be sliced thinner and smaller. And, if you collect teapots, don't miss Joyce Chen's gorgeous collection of authentic style tea pots.
A cooking vessel called the Tagine is all the rage these days. It's ceramic cone shape is said to capture flavors and return moisture to the food as it cooks stove-top. A Tagine and recipes are offered by All-Clad cookware, while T-Fal cookware, Emerilware and Le Creuset also offer this colorful vessel with Moroccan flair.
Panini, risotto, lasagna. These are classic Italian dishes that have made there way to the American mainstream. If you like to make these things at home, you'll need a panini press. Chef Mario Batali has introduced his Italian Essentials line of colorful, heirloom, enameled cast iron and you can check his website for new recipes every day!
An omelet is a meal in itself, whether for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, it requires its own special pan. If you love eggs, you'll want to invest in a non-stick omelet pan from a high quality cookware manufacturer. You want your omelet to cook up perfectly and slide onto your plate expertly. The best thing about a 2-egg omelet is that it always cooks up the same way and has fairly dependable steps.
Everything, but the kitchen sink is in a 27-piece cookware set! If you're just starting out and have not one pot or pan to call your own, a set can build a kitchen in one easy step. Large cookware sets often contain more than just cookware.
The largest set (totaling 27 pieces from Wolfgang Puck's Bistro Signature Series) contains a full set of tools and cooking utensils, plus a matching canister, essential bakeware pieces, stockpots with colander lids, steamer inserts and saucepans with pourable spouts. Plus, every necessary Wolfgang Puck cookware pan is included, like a small and large saucepan, a Windsor pan for heating liquids, two stock pots large and small, the perfect omelet pan, a large sauté pan and a fry pan. To decide if a set is right for you, follow these three easy steps and voila … instant kitchen!
You can get your waffles on Sunday morning imprinted with Emeril's signature “BAM!,” but when the Good Housekeeping Institute tested 25 different brands of cookware, they found that many celebrity brands were not up to par, although some were excellent.
The Good Housekeeping Institute tested both celebrity and non-celebrity cookware for ease of use, heat distribution, cleanability, browning and simmering and found that many did not make the cut! What's important in evaluating cookware is not the celebrity name on it, but five important elements:
Cookware needs a heavy-gauge base for even heat distribution. Words like “clad” or “ply” tell you additional metals bonded together form a heavy base. This allows for even heat distribution with less chance of hot spots and burning food.
High quality materials: Look for words like "heavy stainless steel" in All-Clad stainless and Farberware cookware, "hard-anodized aluminum" which Calphalon One offers, "copper core" available from All-Clad and "copper base" in Belgique Cookware.
New specialties added to cookware that the Good Housekeeping testers found useful: pots with spouts, measuring markings, see-through lids, stay-cool handles, heat indicators in the base and lids that drain.
Price. The cheapest are not the best and usually the flaws are in the heat distribution of a low-quality cooking base and surface.
Exteriors: High quality, enameled cast iron cookware, such as Le Creuset, comes in fun colors. You can also find colorful enamel exteriors in less expensive stainless steel cookware, like T-Fal and Rachael Ray. Enameled coatings are not care-free because they can chip and scratch. Hard-anodized aluminum is known for its durability and cool black style, but it cannot go in the dishwasher. Non-stick coatings are always delicate and need to be hand-washed.
How can you determine when a knife is high quality? There's the blade, the handle and how the two are attached. The most important aspect, though, is how the knife feels in your hand.
When it comes to blade materials, chefs agree that high carbon stainless steel is the best choice. It has a high carbon content for hardness and just enough chromium to keep it from getting stained. Regular high carbon steel actually does have the best performance value and ability to keep a sharp edge, however it is not stain-resistant and will discolor over time.
Handles are made three different ways: stainless steel, composite and wood. Many home cooks choose wood for its beauty, however wood is not allowed in most professional kitchens because it's a fire hazard and cannot be put in the dishwasher. Most high-quality kitchen knife handles are made from composite materials to form a black ergonomic (shaped to the hand) handle that feels just right when you hold it. Also, stainless steel and composite handles require no maintenance whatsoever, so they are any easy choice.
Next to consider is the construction. You can choose a "forged" knife, which is created by heating a steel blank and shaping it from a single piece of steel. This is also the most expensive method. A "blocked" knife is made in a cookie-cutter fashion from a single sheet of steel. These are the least expensive, cheapest knives. They are not well-balanced, although they are light in the hand. Sintered knives are made by fusing together all the knife parts that are produced separately. This allows you to create a knife that is simply not able to be blocked, and if forged, would be too heavy. Newest knives from Wusthof® Emerilware (created with renowned chef Emeril Lagasse) are triple riveted for balance and control and feature composite handles. Shopping tip: It's a good idea to try knives out in person either in a retail store or at a friend's house because good quality knives are well-balanced to feel like they fit in your hand and move in the direction of cutting easily.
Once you decide on a knife style and brand, buy the best you can afford one by one and purchase a block or magnetic strip separately to store them. This way you can build your collection little by little with just the knives you need. After all, not every cook needs a fillet knife for deboning fish.
When it comes to storing your favorite new cookware, you need to decide if you want to hide it away or show it off! The newest cookware lines from all the best brands now look so stylish it's almost a shame to stick them in a cabinet.
· Gorgeous colored cookware, like enamel on cast-iron Le Creuset in Carribean blue, French blue and classic red, are so stylish and colorful they beg to be seen. Copper cookware by All-Clad, Ruffoni and Mauviel also add shine to your decor when brought out of the pantry. Try a black iron cookware stand meant for an open corner to keep surfaces safe from chipping and show off your cooking style.
· Whether your cookware collection is gleaming stainless steel, soft polish aluminum or stylish black hard-anodized aluminum, they all look modern when hanging from a fabulous pot rack because the newest cookware finishes match appliance finishes. Shapes are oval or square and fit perfectly over a kitchen island.
· If you really want to store your cookware out of sight, invest in a lid organizer to keep lids from getting scratched and chipped. Storage tip: Line each pot nested in a cabinet with a paper towel to avoid chipping or scratching of any surfaces.
· The newest cooking utensil sets usually come in a show-off canister to display counter top for easy access. Choose curved, white ceramic in a country kitchen, brushed aluminum or stainless to match your cookware and appliance finishes. Choose colorful if your cookware and kitchen is decorated that way!
New to the United States, this "heatless cooking" method has been used in Europe and Australia for quite some time. It does not require the open flame of a gas stove or the red-hot coil of an electric stove. Instead heat is generated by electromagnetic currents that respond to the metals in your cookware. This way, only the portion of the stove under your pot gets hot, while the rest stays cool to the touch. In the same light, as soon as you remove your pot from the stove, the magnetic bond is broken and the heat dissipates almost immediately. This is a great feature for forgetful cooks and busy cooks with lots of little hands around. These "burners" heat up fast, too. As soon as they receive the magnetic bond between the pot, they generate heat, but not enough to make the kitchen hot.
You should know about the drawbacks of this new technology. These stoves can be expensive, running as high as $1,500 for the 4-burner type. And, if you had a gas stove before, you'll have to rewire for the 240 amps necessary to run an induction stove. When it comes to cookware, only certain metals cause the heat reaction. The cookware needs to be made of a ferrous metal -- one with iron in it -- like cast iron and stainless steel cookware. Copper and aluminum do not engage the reaction. Quick test: hold a magnet to the bottom of your cookware. If it's magnetic, it will work with these new induction stoves.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|