Chef Egg Makes a Chefs Knife
I recently finished a metal class at the Station North Tool Library in Baltimore. The goal of the class was to form my own chefs knife out of a thin sheet of steel, 2 rivets and 2 thin pieces of wood. The steel had already been formed so there would be no open flames and hammering for me. However there would be plenty of cutting, filing, drilling and sanding to be done before my knife would reveal itself.
The first step, pictured above, was to pick out the shape and style of my knife using wood patterns.
The next step required me to use a hand held saw/grinder tool to cut out the pattern. With lots of sparks and flying metal dust, I made sure to use eye, ear and breathing protection
Now it was time to file down all of the sharp edges using a belt sander, making sure to get everything as smooth as possible.
After everything was smooth, I clamped the metal cutout to a wood block and began to shave the metal down. This creates a bevel or angle creating a strong spine and the start of a razor sharp edge. After several hundred passes over several grits of sanding belts, I finally reach the right angle.
Now it was time to heat treat my steel in a small kiln. This process would change the chemical and physical composition of my knife to create a very strong and flexible spine while keeping the blade edge soft and flexible enough to sharpen into a razor sharp edge.
Sometimes the heating process can twist and turn, or even crack your blade if it's not done just right. Luckily for me, we just had to use a torch to heat my blade and straighten it slightly. After the blade is straight, it is cooled in a bath of oil.
After this step, it was time to go home and do my homework. Now that the majority of the shaping had been done and the first heat treatment was complete, I had to do some more heat treating at home. In my home oven, I baked the knife at 400 F for 4 hours, let the heat come down naturally, and then repeated the process. This further "tempered" the steel to make it stronger. After that, I sanded the steel to remove any discoloration.
When I returned to the shop, I had to choose wooden slats or "scales" for my handle. After drilling through metal and wood pieces, it was time to secure the wood to the metal using epoxy and metal rivets.
On my last day, it was time to grind down the wood handle to match the steel and then sand everything until it was smooth. To finish the process, I used the sanding belt to create a very sharp and lasting edge on my knife. This took several grits of sand paper and a final polish. I finished the knife by oiling the wood and metal and wrapping it an oiled cloth for storage.
Needless to say, this class was totally rad and gave me a great appreciation for the common tools that chefs and home cooks use every day. Now off to the shop for round #2!!!
Why Pressure Cookers are Awesome!!!
Pressure cookers use high pressure to cook foods faster and more efficiently than other cooking methods and are a great tool to have in the house.
This is how they work. There is a large pot, about 8 quarts, with a lid that locks into place. You add ingredients and a flavored liquid like stock, wine or juice into the pot and start to heat it up. When the liquid in the pot starts to boil, the pressure builds up to 15 psi (pounds per square inch). This causes the liquid to boil at 250 F instead of 212 F. You also have high pressure locked in the pot, forcing the heat and flavor into the food instead of boiling away. With higher temps and pressure your food cooks faster and with more flavor.
1. Quick Cooking – Using high pressure and hotter liquids you can cook meat dishes (beef stew, chili, ribs, pork carnitas, roasts and chickens) and grains and dried beans (wheat berries, chickpeas, navy and black beans) in a fraction of the time. This can reduce cooking times for things like a whole chicken from over and hour to just about 20 minutes.
2. Great Value and Space Saver– Pressure cookers cost between $50 and $100 based on the materials they are made from, generally aluminum or stainless steel. Given the cost, a pressure cooker can take the place of many kitchen tools like a large soup pots, steamers and rice cooker.
3. Safety – Pressure cookers have gotten a bad reputation over the years for safety issues. Apparently back in the day pressure cookers did not fully lock into place. This would cause bad blowouts resulting in huge messes and bad burns. Todays pressure cookers have simple safety features and locking mechanisms that ensure you can cook safely and easily.
Check out this video link below for a great way to cook a chicken in your pressure cooker.
Aug 12 | Tools | 0 Comments
Top 5 Reason Why Hand/Immersion Blenders Are Awesome
1. Space Saver - This inexpensive tool (about $30-$50) will save you space because they small and replace large, bulky appliance like blenders, food processors and kitschy gadgets.
2. Self Contained - You can safely make hot pureed soups, sauces, smoothies, baby food, fresh fruit sorbet, and milk shakes in their own dish. This is awesome for homemade marinara sauce, cream of (name your own vegetable) soups, and quick bean stews.
3. Quick Prep - You can prepare whipped cream, homemade dressings, mashed potatoes and veggies, dips of all kinds in seconds.
4. Healthy Eating - The puree action actually aerates the food, giving you a lighter and smoother texture without added cream.
5. Quick cleanup Time - All you have to do is wash with soapy water, rinse well and air dry.
3 Ways to Steam Foods at Home
Steaming food is a healthy, quick and inexpensive way to cook foods. The hot steam can cook soft and semi soft vegetable like kale, spinach, asparagus, green beans and broccoli cauliflower in minutes. Hard vegetable and foods like carrots, potatoes, beats and corn on the cob don't take much longer and will hold most of there nutrients during the cooking process. You can also steam proteins like shrimp, salmon shellfish, Chinese dumplings and chicken with great flavorful results. Feel free to add different flavors to your steaming liquid like aromatics (herbs, onions, garlic, carrots and celery), lemon and lime, wine and beer.
Most importantly, be careful of the steam when removing the lid to your steam pot. The hot steam will burn you and those around you very easily, and it will hurt badly. To ensure that you are safe while steaming, keep your range fan on high and open the lid to your steamer away from your face with a dry kitchen towel or oven mitt.
How to Shop for a New Frying Pan
Cooking with a good frying pan can be the difference between a successfully prepared dinner and a big fat mess. You can use a frying pan to fry, steam, sauté or simmer vegetables, fruits, meats and grains with ease. A great pan should be comfortable to use, good for a variety of cooking methods, be reasonable priced and most important, last a lifetime.
Shopping for a good pan can be a costly and mind numbing task. Just walk into any housewares stores and look at all of the sizes, shapes, materials and celebrity name brands, its ridiculous. From shiny stainless steel, heavy cast iron and the countless space aged nonstick surfaces available, how is one to choose? This post will give you a good idea of what to buy when you purchase your next set of frying pan.
Nonstick pans are everywhere these days. They are easy to use and clean, lightweight, are cheap and can be found everywhere. My issue is that they cannot be used over high heat, are not oven safe and you cannot use metal tools with them. The big huge problem is that the surface scrapes off into your food and can release toxic fumes over high heat.
*Do not buy nonstick pans, they stink!!!
Stainless Steel Frying Pans
These can be a great option for cook. They look great and cook foods evenly. I like the all clad style that holds heat evenly, are solidly constucted and are oven safe. The down side is that they are not nonstick so you need to use oil, good heat control and they can be hard to clean. This is link for one of my favorite pans made by Tramontina and available at Walmart for a great price.
Link for Tramontina 12 inch stainless steel pan
Seasoned Cast Iron Pans
These heavy-duty pans have been around for over 400 years. They hold heat evenly, are non-stick, oven safe, inexpensive, easy to clean and literally last forever. Cast iron pans need to be seasoned with oil and salt before cooking food to build up the non-stick surface.
You need to be careful with cast iron because they are very heavy and smoke like crazy over high heat. When cleaning, scrub well using hot water only and lightly oil after every use. You want to keep that seasoned nonstick surface in place and soap will wash it right off. I like the Lodge brand of cast iron and it can be found in any home good store or department.
Link for Lodge cast iron pan
Carbon Steel Pan
These are commonly used in the restaurant industry and are know as "French pans". They are light, heat up very quickly, oven safe, turn non stick after several uses and are easy to use. Just like cast iron they do need to be scrubbed with hot water only, to hold the seasoned nonstick surface. I just started using these pans and really like the ease of use and cleaning.
Link for Carbon Steel Pan
Sep 5 | Tools | 0 Comments
Mac the Knife is the master of all that slices and dices in Chef Egg's kitchen. Follow his guidance and keep your mind sharp and your fingers safe while cooking!
How to Buy a New Knife
A sharp and comfortable knife is the most important tool for any home cook. If you are new to the kitchen, picking out a knife for the first time can be hard to do. The good thing is, there are plenty of great, inexpensive knives on the market that will give you razor sharp results.
A sharp knife is important because it makes cutting foods safe and incredible easy. Dull knives won't cut the food properly and have a greater chance of hurting you in the process.
Knives can be made out of many materials including stainless steel, ceramic and carbon steel. Stainless steel knives are made out of stamped metal, are inexpensive, and can be sharpened easily. Ceramic knives are generally white in color and are very sharp. The downside is that they are expensive and cannot be sharpened easily. The last material is carbon steel, which is very sharp but can be very costly and need to be carefully taken care of or they will rust and damage.
One Mans Trash...
Great knives can be found all over, in your home, garage sales or passed on through friends and family. You never know if you have an expensive and sharp knife hiding away in the basement or attic. If you happen to have a pile of knives sitting around the kitchen or stuffed in a drawer or box somewhere (like I did), carefully take them out and check them for rust and damage. Next find a knife that feels good in your hand. It should be comfortable with good balance and weight. Once you find a knife that is right for you, wash and dry it well. Check for rust spots, pits and cracks, which can be grinded out.
Now that you have picked your knife out it is important to have it sharpened professionally. You can get this done at your local hardware store for about $5 per knife, and it is totally worth it. A good sharpening will actually put a brand new and extremely sharp blade on your knife and should last a couple of months.
Buying a new knife can be easily done for a good price. A new cook should have a basic chefs knife that is 8 inches long. This is a great tool for all types of kitchen work and feels good when in use. I really like the OXO Good Grips 8 inch chef's knife ($12.99) for beginning chefs. It is lightweight, very sharp and flexible and also has a soft handle for a good grip.
My next pick is the Mundial 5100 8 inch chef's knife ($29.99, pictured above). This knife has more overall weight and sturdiness. It feels great when slicing, dicing and chopping meats, vegetables and fruits. It will also last a long time if cared for the right way. It is my personal favorite for the house.
Both of these knives can be purchased at Amazon.com for a great price. You can also buy good knives at Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Walmart, and at local grocery stores and restaurant supply shops. Remember that the knives should be strong, balanced, have a little weight to them and feel good in your hand.
Cutting Boards 101
Picking a good cutting board is different for every cook. Cutting boards come in different design, sizes, colors, shapes and materials. The key is to find one that feels right to you and is suitable for what your needs are. I like a big, plastic cutting board about 18 in x 24 in. This can be used for slicing and dicing as well as creating a huge space for all of my culinary adventures.
Good cutting boards are made from plastic, bamboo or wood. These options are easy to clean and will give you good blade control. Your board should also be strong and have good weight. Thin, wimpy cutting board are not safe to chop on because they can slip around.
Bad cutting boards are made out of materials like stone, glass and acrylic. Personally I can't believe they still sell these types of boards. If you have one I suggest you use it as a serving platter and call it a day. Not only will they dull your knives, but they are slippery and can cause your knife to slip on the blade as you cut.
You should always clean your board after every use and dry it well. This will help stop odors and bacteria from growing. You can easily wash your boards with soap and hot water. A squeeze of lemon will also keep your boards smelling fresh. When you are cutting raw or cooked meats a good scrub with diluted vinegar or bleach will do the trick at killing germs.
To avoid cross contamination, use a separate board for vegetables and fruit and another for raw and cooked meats. When you are cooking, always prep and store veggie type foods before breaking out raw meat. This will cut out any chances of cross contamination in your kitchen.
Cutting boards should be cleaned and air dried completely before storing. If you store a wet cutting board there is a a good chance that germs and bacteria will start to grow and that's just nasty!
When you are using your cutting board, make sure to place a wet rag underneath. This will keep it from slipping around while you cut.
A quality plastic or wood cutting board will give you a good surface to make your slices and dices while keeping your knives sharp and your fingers safe.
Now Get Crackin'! Chef Egg
Why do you need good knife skills?
As a cooking teacher people always ask me, what is the most important thing you need to know to be good cook? I respond the same way every time – learn good knife skills! Knife skills are the basis of cooking, leading a healthy lifestyle and earning your culinary independence. Here are the top 3 reasons you and your family need to learn good knife skills.
1. Safety First- Using the right knife skills in the kitchen will keep you from cutting yourself when you prepare food. It will also help you from using knives the wrong way and getting cramps in your hands and arms.
2. Even Cooking- Making all of your cuts are the same size, will ensure all of your food cooks at the same time. That goes for vegetables, meat, seafood and fruit.
3. What's Cooking, Good Looking – Food should taste good, but it should also look good too (Like me). Learning knife skills will allow you to make precise cuts so your meals look like 4 star masterpieces even with 2 star prices.
Now get crackin'!
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