I thought it would be nice to set aside the wiseguy blog persona I've featured over the last few posts to offer my readers something that would be deemed by most as "useful."
Or at the least, "inoffensive."
We all know, or at least should know, that the best things in life are free.
Think about it.
The passionate kiss from your lover. The snuggly-hug from a child. A walk in the sunshine after a chilly rain. The warm wet nose of a puppy against your cheek. The aroma of a simmering soup prepared by a loved one. The offer to pick up your bar tab by the half-lit stranger next to you because you remind them of their long lost cousin. Or the fact that the neighborhood kids never tagged you with the nickname "Groinhead."
But even though the best things in life are, indeed, free, there are a couple of really good things that you can pick up dirt-cheap.
And I'm going to list them and tell you where to find them.
However, when I first mentioned this to my editor she said only a complete jackass would recommend items to people without getting a percentage of the action.
Look at my blog, dear. I have no ads or sponsorships. Why start now?
And besides, I was already an incomplete jackass before I came up with this brilliant idea, so now I've at least completed something. (Are you reading this, ma?)
But truth be told, I have another reason for offering these suggestions. When I first started cooking I was overwhelmed by recommendations from what I would call the Food Snob Mob.
Perhaps you've met them. They're the one's who insist that in order to cook well you must purchase a set of copper cookware that would rival the GNP of some third world countries. Or a collection of knives that would set you back the price of a used car. Or that no serious cook would question the price of any kitchen gadget, even if it meant putting off your kid's appendectomy to do so.
Oh puh-lease. Are these folks in the dainty white uniforms for real?
Do you need good gear to cook good food? Yes. Does it need to drain your bank account and max out your credit cards? Absolutely not.
So here, in spite of the objections from those who insist I make some money off this, I'd like to offer some suggestions that will help take your culinary skills to the next level. And you won't have to sell off your youngest child or a spare organ to do so.
Pots and Pans
Wouldn't you just love a 9-piece tin-lined copper cookware set fresh off the boat from France? Me, too. But at $2,000 retail/$1500 on sale, I've unfortunately had to pass. Of course, one could settle for a really nice stainless steel All-Clad set for a mere $600 to $800 (and well worth it if you have the cash lying around.) In fact I almost picked up a set until my wife uttered what surely must be the five most dreaded words in the American parent lexicon: "Honey, our child needs braces."
So I had to pass on the French copper and All-Clad. But I've been around long enough to know every good craftsman requires good tools to do a good job. However, shelling out that kind of dough for great kitchen cookware just wasn't an option. And it may not be for you. If that's the case then you need to check out this wonderful set of stainless steel tri-ply cookware from Tramontina. Sure, it is not All-Clad but it comes very, very close. And the price? It will knock you so hard you might be the one needing braces.
Check this out. Under $150. I have a set that gets regular use and I've given some away on my webpage. Buy it here:
Tramonina Triply-Clad Cookware
When I'm doing a cooking demo, there's usually someone who asks what's the best investment they could make in their kitchen. I hear this from folks who are just starting out and from folks who are remodeling.
A really good chef's knife.
Because a good knife will perform many tasks and will last a lifetime if well taken care of. I usually don't hesitate recommending one of the good German forged knives like Wustorff or JA Henkels. But these will set you back $100+. Which, to be honest, is not too bad for a tool that will give you a lifetime of service in the kitchen.
But if you begin adding other similar knives to the mix, like a paring knife, slicing knife, or bread knife, well, it starts to add up. Can one get an excellent set of knives at a reasonable price without resorting to those hawked on late-night infomercials? Absolutely.
And here you go. Forschner (the folks who bring us Swiss Army Knives) offers a set that has gotten rave reviews from the culinary world. And the best part? You can purchase a 3-piece set for half the price of one German chef's knife. Find the Forschner Victorinox Fibrox Chef's Set here:
Victorinox 3 Piece Knife Set
So...how does one keep those knives sharp and in tip top condition? Well, honing them before each use on a steel is a given. But when it comes to sharpening? A great option is to find a professional knife sharpener in your area, but that may not be doable for many of us. If that is the case, then you can't go wrong with a Chefs Choice 120 or 130. But some may balk at a $120 price (which is not bad considering the fact that a sharp knife is a safe knife.) So how does something under $10 sound? Good? I thought so. Check out the Accusharp knife sharpener here:
Accusharp Knife Sharpener
Okay. One last item and we'll call it a day. I'm not a huge fan of non-stick pans with the exception of this: my omelet pan. And I must say, it gets a workout in my kitchen. So I knew I needed a good one. But I wasn't about to spend $50 to $100 for one.
"But," I hear someone yelling, "They'll last a lifetime. It says so on the label!" Um. No it won't. You can probably count on a year or so at the most before the pan loses it's non-stickness. So...knowing that I'm going to need to replace it frequently, I want a good pan that doesn't cost a lot. So I usually buy my omelet pans at my local restaurant supply store. They're well-made and cost a lot less than those you'll find in the high end gourmet shops. If you don't have a restaurant supply nearby, check out this baby from Sam's Club. A good pan at a good price:
Sam's Club 8" Omelet Pan
Well, that's about it for now. Hope this was helpful. What was the latest deal you got on great cookware? Let's give the Food Snob Mob a run for their money!