Archive for the 'Kitchen Tools' Category

Kitchen Safety and the Sliced Finger

This past Sunday, I was helping make dinner. I decided to make the Japanese cucumber salad with sugar and rice wine vinegar (recipe here). Rather than get the food processor out, I  got our plastic chef’s mandolin, pealed the cucumbers and started slicing away.
As luck (or unlucky) would have it, my hand slipped off the cucumber and I cut an 1/8th-inch slice off the end of my middle finger. Worst accident I have ever had cooking.
So, what happened?
First, I did not use the guard.
Lesson learned: always use the guard.
Second, I tried to cut the long cucumber without cutting it down to size first.
Lesson learned: cut vegetables down to manageable size before slicing on the mandolin.
I know this sounds like common sense, and it is. It’s just when you do not use a piece of equipment often, remember to review the safety procedures and think about what you are doing before you start.
Oh yea, watch out for the edge of the blade on the food processor. It is really sharp, too.
So, think before you start and work  safely in the kitchen.

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Is it done yet? What’s the best internal temperature?

Well? Is it done yet? That’s the question I am asked by my wife when I am cooking meat or poultry either in the oven or on the grill.
You don’t want to cut into an expensive piece of meat to check if it is done because all the juice will run out. So an instant read thermometer is the best way to check the meat. The one I recommend can be found here.  An inexpensive alternative is the CDN ProAccurate Quick Tip Digital Cooking Thermometer DTQ450. You can find out more about this thermometer here.
Now that you have a thermometer, at what temperature is the meat cooked? I have scoured the Internet and as usual I found different answers to that question. Generally I have found that the federal government wants you to over cook your meat to be on the really safe side. I have landed somewhere in between.
You do need to cook meat to a temperature at which certain bacteria are killed. The chart below lists the temperatures I use for various cuts of meat and poultry. To be on the safe side, you should develop your own list of temperatures to follow (this sentence is designed to keep me out of jail. LOL)

Internal Temperatures in Degrees F
Beef
Brisket……………………………….175
Eye of Round …………………..125
Roast ……………………………… 130
Chicken
Bone-in……………………………160
Boneless………………………….160
Leg/Thigh ……………………….185
Hamburger
Med Rare ………………………..130
Medium ………………………….. 145
Well Done………………………..160
Pork Chop……………………….140
Pork Loin……………..135 to 140
Prim Rib Roast
Rare……………………………………120
Med Rare:………………125 to 130
Medium…………………..135 to 140
Steak
Rare……………………………………..120
Med Rare…………………..125 to 130
Medium…………………….130 to 135
Whole Turkey
Breast…………………………….165
Thigh……………………170 to 175
(reading in thickest
part of thigh)
Yeast Bread……….190 to 205

Kitchen Tool #14: Cuisinart Standing Mixer


About a year ago, my wonderful wife bought this mixer for me for my birthday. Yea!
It’s the one that won the recent tests by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine and it replaced my 25-year-old KichenAid mixer that was on its last legs.
After getting acquainted with the new mixer and its controls and the way it mixes, I can say that this is truly a fine addition to the MuirFood kitchen.
It is powerful enough to knead the dough for two loves of hearth-style bread and it handles eight dozen chocolate chip cookies with no whining.
There are a couple of nice features on this mixer. First is that it as 12 speeds and the top speed is very fast.  On speed 12 you get whipped cream in a jiffy.
But, one of the nicest features is the built in timer. For example, if the recipe says to knead the bread dough for 8 minutes, just set the onboard timer for eight minutes and the mixer goes off when the time is up.  However, the best part is that if you stop the mixer to scrap down the sides or add something to the mixing bowl, the timer stops, too.  So you get just eight minutes of mixing.
All well built standing mixers are an investment and are not for all kitchens.  But, if you do a lot of baking or bread making, you should check out the Cuisinart standing mixer.

Kitchen Tools #13: Reynolds Non-Stick Aluminum Foil


There’s a new helper at MuirFood: Reynolds Non-Stick Aluminum Foil.
This stuff is amazing. I recently made Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from a recipe by Shirley O. Corriher’s new book Bakewize (recipe to come, they’re delicious by the way).  In the recipe, she recommended using this product so I gave it a try.
Nothing sticks to this the dull side of this stuff.
It is easier to use than parchment paper because it conforms to the pan without curling up.
And, it is less expensive than parchment paper:
Parchment paper: $0.1130 per square foot
Non-stick aluminum foil: $0.0997 per square foot.
I will still have parchment paper in my kitchen for sliding bread off a wooden peel and into a hot oven, bread parchment paper and all.
But, for lining cookie sheets to protect them from sticky stuff oozing out of pies or to keep cookies from sticking, non-stick aluminum foil it is.

Kitchen Tools #12: The Cookie Scoop

If you like to make cookies, you should consider getting a cookie scoop, aka an ice cream scoop.
But, a cookie scoop is usually smaller. I have three sizes of cookie scoops and usually I use the smallest one.
My family likes to eat two smaller cookies instead of one larger one. Go figure.
What a cookie scoop does is make each cookie the same size.
Thus, all the cookie bake at the same rate and all finish baking at the same time.
As with the digital scale, the cookie scoop gives you consistency. And that makes your baking better and more enjoyable.
So give the cookie scoop a try. It’ll make you a better cook.

Kitchen Tools #11: Microplane — zesty for zest

Lemon or lime zest is a great addition to many dishes. But until I found the Microplane Zester, zesting was not a task I looked forward to.
The Microplane company is an interesting story. They started out as a woodworking company supplying many different kinds of stainless steel rasp-like tools to woodworkers worldwide.
Then one day, the owner’s wife asked him if he had something that would take the zest off a lemon. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Microplane now has two divisions: woodworking and kitchen.
My guess is that the kitchen division is out selling the woodworking division.
The Microplane Zester is also good for shaving that pinch of nutmeg off the nutmeg nut or shaving garlic off the clove to make a garlic paste that just melts away in olive oil.
If you haven’t tried the Microplane Zester, you should give it a try. The one shown is without a handle, but they do make them with a handle for a little more money.
I bought mine at Lee Valley, which is a great website if you have never visited.

Kitchen Tools #10: Flat Wire Whisk

Whisks is an important tools in the kitchen. Usually they are round in shape and are used for all kinds of mixing and whipping.
But, using a round wire whisk to make gravy is not very efficient. That’s where the flat wire whisk comes in.
For example, it does a great job of mixing flour and other ingredients. But, it is at its very best when you plan on making gravy.
The flat wire whisk allows you to get right on the pan bottom to completely mix butter and flour when making a roux to thicken chicken, beef or turkey stock to make gravy.
It gets into the corners of the pan and makes the job of combining the flour and butter that much easier.
If you do not have a flat wire whisk in your kitchen, you should consider adding one.