Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking

Sous Vide is a cooking technique in which an ingredient is heated at a consistent temperature in a water bath. Since the heat can be precisely controlled, the end results can accurately and consistently be predicted.

Sous-Vide

Photo by Hana Dibe

Why Sous Vide?

1. Timing

Anova Sous-Vide

Photo by Hana Dibe

Traditional cooking techniques involve using heat that is much hotter than the ideal internal temperature of the food. Think about how hot an oven, barbecue, or a frying pan gets compared to the temperature of food that is edible.

This means that timing is crucial. With traditional cooking methods, the surface of the food is always hotter than the internal temperature. When food is taken off the grill or the pan to rest and wait for the cooling of the surface, the center becomes warmer.

This is why when a roast is the perfect temperature when it’s taken out of the oven, it’s well overcooked by the time it’s sliced into.

With a water bath that is set to the exact internal temperature of the food, the surface and the internal temperature are always at equilibrium. The water bath is also at that temperature so there is no danger of ever overcooking.

Sous-Vide Ready Vacuum Packs

Photo by Hana Dibe

This means that one can have horrible timing without worrying about the result of whatever is being cooked.

What is even more convenient is that food can be cooked in advance and stored in the fridge until mealtime. This can take a lot of pressure off during busier times, like finals season.

2. Simplicity

Sous-Vide Torch Finishing

Photo by Hana Dibe

Cooking sous vide often requires a finishing step. It’s usually desirable to alter the surface texture on something cooked sous vide, like a steak.

A crunchy and deeply coloured exterior is one of the hallmarks of a great beefsteak, so an additional finishing step is required to achieve this after the sous vide cooking process. This can be done in various ways whether it be in the pan, under a broiler, or even a torch if you are feeling fancy.

3. Precision

Sous-Vide Steak

Photo by ChefSteps.

Everyone has a preference for how they like their steak. The difficulty lies in describing your preference to whoever is cooking the steak.

Everyone’s interpretation of popular steak adjectives like “rare”, “medium”, or “well done” is different. One person’s medium might be another person’s medium rare.

Although these adjectives have a degree of ambiguity, it’s pointless to be more specific when using traditional cooking techniques.

This is because even within one cooked steak, one can find areas that are cooked to a different degree of doneness. The center is invariably less done than the areas near the surface.

Not Sous-Vide Steak

Photo by Jessica Spengler

Quantitative measures allow us to be specific about the level of doneness we prefer. The ability to precisely control these measures allow even someone with little to no culinary skills to be more consistent than the most masterful of professional chefs using traditional cooking techniques.

Photo by ChefSteps

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Cutting Boards 101: What makes a good cutting board?

This article is reposted from Spoon University of Guelph.

If you don’t normally require a microwave when cooking, it’s a safe bet your cutting board gets a lot of use. Too often, cutting boards are warped, split, flimsy, or just dulling your knives at a ridiculous rate.

What makes a good cutting board?

1. Stability

Cutting Board

Accordion Slices. Photo by Cheryl Ching

Nothing is more annoying than a board that doesn’t sit flat on your table. Even a slightly uneven board means that your knife can never make perfect contact with your cutting surface. The most flimsy boards have your vegetables rolling all over the place.

2. Durability

A good board should last you a long time. You can get the plastic OXO Good Grips cutting board, which will last you forever for $25. It doesn’t make sense to buy a $10 cutting board if it means you’ll have to buy another one in a year’s time.

It’s also annoying when wooden cutting boards split or warp since they are relatively expensive. If something that is $25 can last forever, you are going to want your much more expensive wooden board to do so too.

3. Not damaging to your knife

If you’ve put money into good knives it doesn’t make sense to use a cutting board that dulls your knife. Glass cutting boards have been shown to significantly dull knives after as few as 10 slices. Marble boards don’t do too much better.

You Only Need 2

Wood and plastic are the two most popular choices in terms of materials. Whatever you end up going with, it is still recommended that you own at least two boards; one for fruits and vegetables and one for raw meats. Cross contamination will ruin your day.

Suggested Materials

Wood

Cutting Board

Wooden Cutting Board. Photo by Cheryl Ching

There are many types of wood, as well as many different construction methods. In the end it’s up to you. It’s really your choice whether you want a “softer” board or a “harder” board.

Softer woods result in your knives sinking into the wood or being “gripped” more. Harder woods feel great under your knife but are sometimes more susceptible to cracking.

Another thing to think about is the fact that wood absorbs the smell of the liquids it absorbs. This is especially true with fats. This is why many opt to exclusively cut fresh fruits and vegetables on their wooden boards.

Plastic

Cutting Board

Plastic Cutting Board. Photo by Cheryl Ching

Plastic boards are the most popular material. A good plastic board is very durable, requires little to no effort to maintain, and in some cases are dishwasher safe. They are the best material in terms of convenience and cost. The only con is that they don’t feel as nice as wood.

Most people prefer to cut raw meats on a plastic cutting board because it does not absorb the smell of liquids and they are easy wash.

Suggestions

Two cutting boards stood out after America’s Test Kitchen’s rigorous tests were performed. For the wood category, the Proteak edge grain cutting board faired best. The OXO good grips plastic cutting board won the plastic category.

Ultimately, everyone values different things, but at $25, the OXO good grips plastic cutting board is the best reason to not have a crappy board.

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The only two knives you need.

This article is reposted from Spoon University of Guelph.

Knives are often sold in sets, but who actually uses them all? Even culinary school can be done with two. So two for the rest of a non-professional cooking life is plenty. There are much better—and fun—ways to blow money than buying a bunch of knives to take up space in your kitchen.

Why Good Knives Are a Must

The most important thing about a knife is how sharp it is. I’d prefer a cheap, sharp knife over an expensive, dull knife every time. Sharp knives are actually much safer than dull knives. Dull knives often slip on foods, like tomatoes, and it’s only a matter of time before they slip onto fingers.

It is also commonly found that after one gets used to cutting with a dull knife, their cutting technique involves a lot of downward pressure, making the case of the knife slipping all that more dangerous.

Sharp knives never slip, since they always break the surface of whatever is being cut. This inevitably leads to less downward pressure in one’s cutting technique. Even if an accidental cut occurs, the pain is less noticeable.

It is good to note that all new knives are sharp and that any knife can be sharpened. It may seem counterintuitive, but this is actually one of the reasons why the regular home cook may benefit even more from investing in good knives than a professional cook.

Knives

Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring) being sharpened on a Naniwa Professional (Chosera) 1000 grit stone (sharpening stone)

Although all knives come sharp, some dull quicker than others. Since the average home cook doesn’t know how—or even want—to sharpen their knives, investing in a good knife with relatively resilient steel will ensure a safer and more enjoyable chopping experience.

The Only Two You Need

Chef’s Knife

Knives

Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife)

Your chef’s knife is your workhorse. This is the knife you’ll use for 90% of your tasks. If you could only choose one knife, this would be it. It’s the one you’ll be chopping, slicing, and even smashing with.

Knives

Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring)

This is the knife you’ll use for those hard-to-reach places or for cutting jobs that a chef’s knife might feel too big for. Most people use theirs for mincing garlic, pitting strawberries, cutting up fruits, and peeling the skin off things like ginger and onions.

What To Look For

If you are going to put money towards a knife, it’s good to know what that money is getting you. The two most important things to look out for are comfort and the blade material.

Comfort

Knives

Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife) shredding lettuce

You’ll be holding your knife pretty often for the next few decades, so you might want to pick something that feels nice to hold. This means that it’s safest to buy the knife in stores where you can try it out or at the very least hold it.

It’s ultimately up to you, but larger hands generally call for larger handles. A lot of people advise to go with an 8-inch chef’s knife, however it’s more important to pick the knife that feels most comfortable.

Material

Knives

Peeling an apple with a Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring)

For a home cook, a good quality stainless steel knife is the way to go. It’s easy to take care of and it’s extremely durable. This means that your knife will stay sharp longer.

Where To Look

Knives Collection

Naniwa Professional (Chosera) 1000 grit stone (sharpening stone), MAC Black Ceramic Honing Rod (honing rod), Takeada Stainless Aogami Super Banno Bunka 6.8″, Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring), Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife), Kanehide Hankotsu 5.9″(boning knife), Tojiro DP Serrated Bread 8.5″(bread knife).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in Guelph with a good selection of high quality knives besides Casual Gourmet. If you want a second opinion and are willing to travel, Toronto is home to Nella Cucina; they supply to a lot of restaurants in Toronto. If you are feeling particularly fancy, Toronto also have Tosho and Knife.

Another option is to order knives online. It’s a bit of a gamble in terms of how it’s going to feel in your hand, but it’s convenient and the prices are often the best you’ll find. You can find most knives on Amazon.

A popular trick is finding the knife you want in a store and ordering it on Amazon for a better deal. If you want something ultra high end, Chef Knives To Go and Chubo Knives have pretty great selections.

What makes a good knife may be personal, but anyone that’s had one will say it’s invaluable. Once you get your hands on one, you’ll never go back.

 

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