Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Eentsy Weentsy Spider Went Into the Frying Pan

My husband and I have been married, and most night making dinner for about thirt-five years now..but there’s one thing that I have noticed. I tend to gravitate toward those cooking methods that do not require you to stand by the stove for forty-five minutes “keeping an eye” on something…and actually lean more towards stirring some stuff together, putting it in a 9×13, and walking away.

I guess there are two reasons for this.

First of all, I have this terrible fear ofr being burned.

But secondly, I am plain out lazy and just don’t want to stand up.

But that won’t get your fried okra or fried squash or fried anything else on the table, so I am determined to learn how to master these “stove-top” cooking methods…e ventually making it my goal to be like one of those impressive home chefs that can cook without using a recipe…kinda like those people who can sit down and play piano by ear, having not one day of the way-too-many piano lessons to count.

So far in this attempt to create not only healthier eating habits and cooking skills, I have been thinking about what I should, or would< keep in my kitchen if I totally gutted everything and started all over., we have collected a few things along the way…

Even though frying is considered a quick and easy cooking method, there are still issues that come up—such as ruined meals, messy oily splatter, burned fingers, and even minor kitchen fires.

But half the battle is having the right equipment and knowing how to use it the right way.

 

 

1.PanItems that you should have in your kitchen so far based on the cooking methods that we already talked about—sauteeing and stirfrying–you should at this point only have two pans—a saute pan and a wok.

 

Now we need to add two more pans to our collection—one for panfrying, and the other for deep frying.

 

As far as pan frying, many people like to fry with cast iron skillets because they retain heat well, cook evenly, and are just the right weight.

Enamel  or stainless-steel would also be a great option.

 

As far as non-stick pans, some people will tell you not to buy them because the coatings are not always able to stand the high heats  required for certain types of frying….while others will tell you that they are a good option because they help keep the breading on the food, rather than on the pan.

The size pan that you need will obviously depend on what you will be cooking.

If you’re making fried chicken,  you will need something like a large cast iron skillet,but if you are making something more like apple fritters, you will need to grab your taller stock pot or something similar.

 

The pan that you decide to use for any type of frying should be

  • deep enough to keep most of the “oil splatters” that happen as your food fries, contained in the pan itself
  • heavy-bottomed so that the pan will distribute heat evenly without hot spots.
  • large enough to avoid overcrowding your food…always choose a pan that is bigger than you might think you need

 

If you are buying a pan for deep-frying…(more on this later)…you will need to find a pan that will be able to hold 4 to 6 quarts of liquid…deep enough to hold at least 3″ of oil with another 3 inches space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan…something like a 6-quart, or even larger, Dutch oven or cast iron skillet

 

 

So at this point, you shoulld have four different types of pots in your kitchen…

  • Sautee pan…for sauteeing
  • Skillet…at least a 12” cast iron or similar…for panfrying
  • Dutch oven or something similar…for deep frying
  • Wok…for stirfrtying

 

2. Cookie Sheet/Wire Cooling Racks…A cooling rack like the one that you probably use whenever you’re making cookies placed over a sheet pan to drain fried food is a much better option than using a paper towel-lined plate.

Setting hot food on paper towels can make your food even more soggy and greasy. Having the food lifted up from the counter onto a rack will keep steam from forming between the paper towel and the hot cooked food.

Using a cooling rack and cookie sheet will also allow you to keep one batch warm in the oven on low heat while another batch cook.

Line the cookie sheet with paper towel, and then set the cooling rack on top. The paper towel will collect any excess grease that may drip from the food.

3. Spider…A “spider” is a wok tool with a wooden handle and a wire mesh basket designed to drain excess oil from foods when removing them from hot grease…and turn food while “hanging out” in the hot oil.

Because spiders are originally designed to be used with a wok, they are generally larger than what you need to be using when pan frying…so choose a smaller one out of the selection.

4.  Spatula…You will need some sort of spatula for flipping your food. Metal works so much better than either rubber or plastic, which might melt under the heat.

5. ThermometerKnowing the exact temperature of the oil that you are frying your food in is so very important.

As more food is added to the skillet, the oil will drop in temperature…and you may  need to adjust the heat on your stove.so tthat that every single cutlet is cooked to the same golden-brown perfection.

There are two different types of thermometers that you can use when frying food—candy thermometers that clip to the side of the pabn…’or probe thermometers.

Regardless which type of thermometer you are using, It is important that the be able to nake accurate measurements, especially in the temperature range of 350-400 degrees.

The candy thermometer simply clips onto the side of the pan as the food is frying so that you cacn keep an eyer on exactly how hot your grease is.

This type of thermomemter allows you to control the temperature of the oil that the food is frying in. If the oil  is too hot, your food can burn, but  if the oil isn’t hot enough, your food can burn on the ourside bvurt still not br cooked through on the inside.

The proble thermometer can be stuck into each piece of food as it is taken out of the pan to get an exact measurement of its internal temp. You at least want the inside of your meat to read 165°F.

6.  Tongs… You will need to use long-handled tongs to lower food into the hot oil and to flip items so that you can evenly fry both sides.

Use a second pair of  tongs to remove the cooked meat from the oil. It is never a good idea that the same utensils touch both raw meat and cooked meat…might make you sick of something..(another reason not to go eat Korean barbecue.perhaps(?!__…

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Finding the Perfect Pot to Pea In

Before you start making your own homemade soup, there is certain equipment that you must have on hand.

And the most important equipment of all—a big enough pan.

You could find the very best recipe, spend hours making your own stock, buy the best ingredients, take the time to finely dice all of your vegetables exactly the same size, and so forth…

But will all that effort mean one darn thing if you don’t have a big enough pot.

Pots and pans are like bath towels. All of us have them—in various sizes and shapes and colors.

But most of us simply settle for the first towel that we happen to grab we get out of the shower.

How much thought do you put into your bath towels and pots and pans on a daily basis?

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Here is some advice as far as what to look for when finding “the perfect pot to pea in”…

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.Base…The bottom should be heavy in order to keep ingredients at the bottom  from scorching during long cooking..

Handles…There should be two short, sturdy handles that have been bolted on, not simply pressed and adhered on. Remember you’re going to need a “good grip” when you will be picking up a heavy pot with hot liquid.

Height…A pot that is higher than it is wide prevents too much liquid from evaporating.

Lid

  • Glass—Glass lids allow you to see the progress of your stock or soup.
  • Oven Safe—If you plan to use the pot in the oven, be sure your lid and your handles are oven safe.
  • Steaming—Look for a small hole in the glass lid with a grommet.
  • Tight—The lid should fit tightly so that you close the lid and steam properly.

Material

Material is probably the most important thing to consider when buying new pots and pans.

There are several options available, including…

Anodized aluminum…

  • Cost…$125-200
  • Dishwasher Safe…no
  • Example…Calphalon
  • Heats fairly evenly and quickly

Aluminum…

  • Cost…$21 w/o cover
  • Heats quickly

Coated Carbon Steel, enameled…

  • Cost…$80.00
  • Example…Le Creuset
  • Weight…Lightweight

Copper…

  • Dishwasher safe…no, requires constant upkeep
  • Heats rapidly
  • More of a collectible or display item, not very realistic for the real world

Stainless steel…

  • Cost…as low as $10
  • Heats rapidly and evenly
  • Weight..sturdy without being too heavy

Stainless Steel w/ aluminum or copper core base…

  • Cost…around $60
  • Heat…rapid heating thanks to the base of either aluminum or copper surrounded by stainless steel

 

 

Shape…Taller pots allow less water to steam out from the stock, but also consider how much difference in temperature there might be at the bottom of the pot than at the top of the pot.

And if you’re as short as I am, be realistic. Imagine stirring your soup as it cooks and then also picking up and pouring the contents of the pot.

 

Size…The pot should be large enough to hold at least four quarts.

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