Cooking Smooth with Silicone Kitchen Utensils

flickr photo by Jim MooreIf you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you can pretty much surmise that I’m not a big fan of Teflon. I like that it is nonstick, but I DON’T like that it gives off toxic offgas at high temperatures.

That being said, making an omelet in my Lodge Logic cast iron skillet is pretty near impossible. It is scrambled or nothing. So, assuming everyone is safe with the temperature of their nonstick cookware, you also need to be careful not to scratch the Teflon coating…and THAT is best avoided by using silicone cooking utensils.

silicone kitchen utensils

flickr photo by Jim MoorePretty much any of the utensils in your cooking utensil set can be found in a silicone version. If you checked my basic cooking tool list, I was able to find everything on that list in a silicone version except the serving fork.

There are plenty of benefits to having silicone kitchen tools around:

- Smooth yet Durable: This is the biggest one. Silicone kitchenware is great for your Teflon coated cookware, since it won’t scratch Teflon’s delicate barrier. Silicone is flexible and tough to break, crack or tear. This is a great quality for cool kitchen utensils, but makes it tough for cookware…more on that later.

- Great Insulator: Silicone doesn’t conduct heat very well, which is great for utensils and the silicone pot holders that are out there. If you have a silicone spatula with a stainless steel handle, the heat is less likely to make it through to the handle if the silicone isn’t passing that heat along. Because it doesn’t conduct heat it is also able to withstand high heat. Usually up to 500-600° F (depending on the product specifications).

- Safe: Because of both properties listed above, silicone can be used in the microwave and washed in a dishwasher with no worries or concerns.

flickr photo by Jim MooreWith all of these modern kitchen utensils at your disposal it is pretty easy to get a decent collection going. Another perk with silicone kitchen gadgets and tools is that it is easy for silicone to be manufactured in different colors. Not that that is an “advantage” per se, but if you want a pop of color, or just something beside black plastic utensils, stainless steel utensils, or wood utensils, silicone is a great go to.

silicone cookware

flickr photo by Jim MooreAs I had mentioned earlier, the flexibility of silicone can make using silicone bakeware and cookware a little more difficult. Yes, it is nonstick and will help you cook more evenly, but one common complaint is that the silicone is too flimsy and you’ll just end up putting the silicone bakeware on a metal cookie sheet so it doesn’t flop around.

And using a silicone baking mat to make flat cookies might be even easier than attempting something like muffins in a silicone muffin mold.

unique kitchen utensils

There are a couple cool little silicone kitchen gadgets that I’ve been seeing around.

flickr photo by Jim MooreOne pet peeve of mine is that my pasta strainer takes up a good amount of cabinet space. Anyone with me on that? There are now collapsible pasta strainers on the market that use silicone and its flexibility to fold in on itself for storage. Brilliant!

flickr photo by Jim MooreAnother cool little item I’ve seen (and will soon be getting) is a utensil clip. It is mad out of stainless steel and silicone and clips on the side of your pot or pan so you can rest your utensil over the food to drip instead of where ever else you might put it that you would later need to clean up.

Overall, silicone cooking utensils are a good choice, whether you have delicate Teflon cookware or not.

Stainless Steel As An Odor Remover?

Note the question mark in the title. I HAD to write about this because I had never even heard about it before, and once I did, I couldn’t find any concrete info on HOW it works.

The other day I was walking around Sur La Table (name dropper!) and saw something I hadn’t noticed called the Wonder Bar. It looked like a metallic bar of soap in packaging boasting that it could safely and effectively wash away odors without soap. Specifically, it targeted onion, garlic, fish, and poultry…along with chemicals, solvents, fishing bait, and my personal favorite, human-scent.

does it work? if so, how?

But nothing on the package said exactly what it was or how it worked. It was a $10 mystery that I was willing to pay the price for. I figured it had to be some interesting mix of complex alloys and minerals. Essentially, it is stainless steel in the shape of a bar of soap. This ability of stainless steel to remove odors is also one of the listed features of the Joseph Joseph Garlic Rocker.

As I started trying to look up how this thing even worked I came across a lot of literal wives’ tales. Or, more like moms’ tales. Someone would ask how stainless steel works for removing odors, and while no one had the exact answer, many people had stories about their mother saying after cutting onions, just run your hands under cold water and wipe them on the faucet. Or, run your hands under cold water and rub them on the flat part of a stainless steel knife…or a spoon…or a bowl…anything stainless steel with cold water seemed to be the consensus.

speculative theories

So, many people knew of it working, but no one knew HOW it worked. Most of the theories agree that when the cold water flows over the water that helps the odor molecules bond temporarily to the metal and then get washed away. Some feel that it creates an ionization process that eliminates the odor of the molecules.

You may remember learning about how stainless steel is made and that it is a mixture of steel, chromium, and nickel. As people continued to guess at how it worked, some said it was the nickel in the stainless steel that bonded with the odor molecules. But, some also said it was the chromium, and other said it was the steel.

It seems to work. It doesn’t get rid of 100% of the odor, but it knocks it down a couple notches for sure. The nice thing about the Wonder Bar, in regards to the hunter/fisherman types out there who want to keep fresher hands in the outdoors, is that it is hollow inside, so it floats if you accidentally drop it in water.

human-scent

One thing I can’t pass up sharing, in regards to it fighting “human-scent” is this little story from from Larasaurus at straightdope.com:

“Stainless steel worked great on garlic smell, yadda yadda. But what was really cool was our friend (and masseur) Jonathan showed up straight from a massage he’d given some icky old guy who wore a lot of icky-old-guy cologne. Jonathan reeked–I mean, reeked of it. He’d already washed his hands twice, and he washed them again after the smell was still knocking me out and I gave him shit about it. So we had him try the SS treatment. Now, it didn’t totally eliminate the cologne smell, but it reduced the offensivity factor by about ten: you couldn’t smell it unless you were sitting next to Jonathan, instead of across the room from him. True story.”

Wonder Bar Patent

The packaging didn’t have a website, but it had a patent number. The best explanation they give from good ole Patent 6,039,938 is as follows:

“The present invention is a permanent, hollow, buoyant, metallic bar which upon rubbing removes odor as odor molecules bond to the metallic bar instead of hands and are then washed away by liquid.”

So there you have it. Has this ever worked for you? What is your trick?

Sub-Zero: a Triumph in Food and Wine Preservation

flickr photo by citymamaThe world’s most loved refrigerator brand for built-ins has always been Sub-Zero Preservation. Whether we are talking about properly storing your food or preserving your wine, Sub-Zero delivers the most optimum performance needed, more than the consumers’ expectations. Even the luxurious side by side models and french door refrigerators from other luxury brands such as Amana, Jenn-Air, and GE Monogram cannot be at par with the considerable range of Sub-Zero fridges. The brand is just effortlessly designed to be triumphant both in the arena of technical cooling performance and ergonomic design and style.

Many consumers find new inspiration to restyle their kitchen settings with a Sub-Zero refrigerator on board. The Sub-Zero fridge, in its dashing exterior ergonomic design and a technical prowess for food and wine preservation, will enhance your lifestyle by not providing you any hassle as far as refrigeration is concerned. The idea that you can also transform your kitchen into a trendy area where you can enjoy food preparation best may also appeal to a greater number of consumers.

flickr photo by JoeInSouthernCAFeatures such as a dual refrigeration system, water filtration system, air purification system, microprocessor and low temperature storage zones and highly accessible storage are to be expected in Sub-Zero refrigerators. If you are banking on a wine fridge from Sub-Zero, then some of the features are still applicable – two storage zones, roller glide shelves, wired shelves and many more. The temperature is very precise with digital temperature control and the interior is well lit with a LED lighting system.

The wide range of technical cooling features draws many people into buying this fridge despite the fact that Sub Zero appliance prices are notoriously high and expensive. Still, if you’re really looking for a fridge that’s outstanding in all aspects – design or technical – you just have to pay hard for it.

The Best Restaurant Can Openers

In restaurants, the staff in the kitchen often open cans. Because of this, they need to have the best can opener in today’s time. Can openers are a necessity in the kitchen to help you open up cans safely and conveniently. If you happen to own a restaurant, or feel like you’re running one in your own kitchen, here are some examples of can openers to use.

Commercial Can Openers

In general, commercial can openers can be divided into two categories – electric can openers and manual can openers. The commercial can openers are widely used by these days, not just in restaurants, but in homes. Let us further discuss the two types of commercial can openers.

Electric Can Opener

flickr photo by jordanfischerElectric can openers are the most convenient type of can openers to use. They are easy to use and also portable. Most electric can openers are powered by a motor that powers the blade to cut even thick metal cans. The electric can openers come in two types – battery powered can openers and plug-in can openers. While the cord can openers use electricity straight from the outlet to let the can opener work and the battery powered can opener uses batteries, you can also find some that sit in a rechargable base…the best of both worlds. Most people prefer to use the can opener that has a cord since using a battery powered can opener will cost more in terms of buying new set of batteries (if it isn’t rechargable). Can openers with cords are also time-saving compared to the battery powered one.

Manual Can Opener

flickr photo by papalarsThe manual can opener has been around for many years now and they are still used by some people. These days, the manual can opener is rarely used in the market because it is time-consuming and unsafe. The cutting of the manual can openers is not smooth and the ragged edges may cut or hurt your fingers or hands. It will also take time to open a can with a manual can opener. It is also possible that the manual can opener will jam whenever it is used. Manual can openers are not recommended when dealing on large cans made of thick metal.

flickr photo by vasenkaAnd that is keeping in mind that manual can opener technology has come a long way. I can’t imagine trying to open a can with some thing as out-dated as this.

The Best Kitchen Gadgets for Garlic: A Vampire’s Nightmare

flickr photo by carubaWith the Halloween spirit in full-force, and the latest Twilight movie on the way out, I can’t help bu think of garlic.

Always a classic way for keeping vampires away, I was inspired to go out and see what kind of kitchen gadgets for garlic were out and about in the world. There are many ways to prep garlic and I think I’ve found a gadget for each of them.

zak! designs garlic peeler

When I first looked at this thing on the shelves it didn’t seem right. It was marked as a garlic kitchen tool, but it looked like some kind of apple corer. This garlic peeler is made out of flexible silicone. You just pop some unpeeled garlic inside, push down and roll it, and you’re good to go. When you push and roll, the sides of the tube grip and rip the peel off. These peelers come in 6 different color, are easy to clean, and they keep you from having hands that smell excessively of garlic

The Zak! Designs Garlic Peeler costs around $10

Now that you have a way to easily peel your garlic, here are some cool kitchen gadgets for breaking it down.

zyliss garlic slicer

Holding onto garlic and slicing it has always been a precarious adventure for me. I’m always worried I’m going to cut my fingers. The Zyliss slicer is one of those food gadgets that is set up to protect while making it all oh so easy. You just pop your peeled garlic in and shuffle it back and forth. All of the slices are contained in the base for you to access once you’re done with your slicing.

The Zyliss Garlic Slicer costs around $10

chef’n garlic zoom

Now, I know I JUST talked about this when I was covering the great kitchen gadgets by Chef’n. But, that doesn’t stop it from being a great kitchen tool for garlic. The Garliczoom opens up, you put a couple garlic cloves inside, close the top, then roll it back and forth on your counter like a 5 year-old with a Hotwheels car! The wheels spin the blades inside to chop and dice your garlic up. Open it back up, take out the blade, and you have access to your diced garlic.

The nice thing is that they also have an XL version that allows you to chop more garlic, or throw some herbs in there to dice them up.

The Chef’n Garliczoom costs about $10, and the XL costs about $15.

joseph joseph rocker stainless steel garlic crusher

We’ve peeled, we’ve sliced, we’ve diced…but this is one of those food utensils that is an interesting twist on the old fashioned garlic press. The Garlic Rocker is very easy to use, just push down on the garlic while rocking it back and forth and you’ll get nicely crushed garlic. An added bonus that Joseph Joseph boasts is that the rocker is stainless steel, and that rubbing your hands on it under cold water will remove the smell of garlic. Why does this work?

The Joseph Joseph Rocker costs about $15

Get yourself some of these handy garlic gadgets and see how many ways you can thwart this season’s vampires!

6 Unique Kitchen Gadgets from Chef’n

Last time I made a list it was about cool kitchen appliances and gadgets that make great gifts. While they definitely were some cool kitchen gadgets, they were a little expensive.

Recently, while on vacation, I walked into a cool kitchen gadgets store that had everything I’ll be writing about just sitting there all perfectly lumped together. They were begging to be looked at!

All of these unique kitchen tools are made by Chef’n (or “chefn” if you’re webbin’ it). Not only will their funky kitchen stuff go great in your own kitchen, but these items are great as unique kitchen gifts AND they are very affordable.

Chef’n Pepperball

This is one of the cool kitchen accessories that can solve a major problem in my kitchen. Spilling.

By that I mean that I keep my salt and pepper right by the stove and, more frequently than I care for, I end up knocking one or both of them over. Good thing I’m not superstitious! So, bonus number one: there is a magnet on the Pepperball! I can just attach it to the vent over the stove, the top part of the stove, the side of the refrigerator…anywhere metal that is nearby. It is also clear plastic so you can see when you’re running out of pepper.

The Chef’n Pepperball costs about $12.

Chef’n Palmzester

The next three unique kitchen accessories all caught my eye for one reason: I have big hands. Sometimes it is harder for me to use smaller kitchen utensils, but these attach right to your finger.

Just clip the Palmzester to your finger, grab whatever you’re going to zest, and the rest is easy. There is just one tiny blade, and a little compartment with a lid to collect your zest. With the long zest wand I have at home I’m always worried I’m going to cut myself. The Palmzester gives me a little peace of mind in that department since I only have to focus on the one blade.

The Chef’n Palmzester costs about $8.

Chef’n Palmpeeler

Another one of these cool cooking gadgets is the Chef’n Palmpeeler. Like the Palmzester, the Palmpeeler clips to your finger and lets you peel away.

My only worry with this one is carrots. As I said, I have large hands, and the problem comes more from holding a narrower carrot than the palm peeler. But, having the blade in my palm and obscured from view makes me just a little uneasy with smaller foods. With larger foods like potatoes and cucumbers, I have no worries.

The Chef’n Palmpeeler costs about $6.

Chef’n Palmbrush

The last of the cool kitchen tools in my list that attach to your palm is the Chef’n Palmbrush. This is just an overall handy way to scrub down vegetables before cooking. Again…large hands. The handle on the brush I have isn’t very big, and it is hard for me to grip it comfortably. Just like the other two unique cooking gadgets above, the Palmbrush slips onto your finger, then scrub away!

Since there isn’t a blade on the Palmbrush, this one is all pluses in my book.

The Chef’n Palmbrush costs about $7.

Chef’n Garliczoom

NOW we’re really talkin’!

For reasons I shouldn’t have to mention yet again (my hands), dicing is a little harder for me. The Chef’n Garliczoom is high up there among other cool kitchen gadgets. With the Garliczoom you put a couple garlic cloves inside, close the top, then roll away! The wheels spin the blades inside to chop and dice your garlic up. Open it back up, take out the blade, and you have access to your diced garlic.

The nice thing is that they also have an XL version that allows you to chop more garlic, or throw some herbs in there to dice them up. To me, this seems like the perfect chef gadget since garlic is a key ingredient in so many recipes.

BONUS: Dreamer’s Tips to a Work-Free Meal
- find a chef at place where you can find chefs cooking
- observe chefs cookware in place
- befriend chef by complimenting on their chef cooking skill and chef cookware
- chef makes you food
(this method has not been tested)

The Chef’n Garliczoom costs about $10, and the XL costs about $15.

Chef’n Flexicado

The last of the six items is the Chef’n Flexicado. This is one of those unique kitchen utensils that has a very specific purpose: cutting and scooping avocados. I’m sure you could find another use of some sort for it, but it has avocados in mind.

I personally don’t care for the taste of avocados, but my wife loves them. Cut an avocado in half, take out the pit, squeeze (a.k.a. “flex”) the Flexicado to match the size of the avocado, and slice away! Not one your standard chef utensils, but great for you “guac” fans.

The Chef’n Flexicado costs about $7.

BONUS ITEM: RSVP Onion Goggles

SURPRISE! A bonus item!

This is one of those funny kitchen gadgets that isn’t really the most necessary thing to have, but it was interesting enough to me that it was even a product on the market in the first place.

Sometimes cool kitchen ideas can come from just getting fed up with dealing with a problem. I think it is common knowledge that cutting onions can make your eyes water. If it is that big of a problem in your household, maybe it is time to get some?

I see this as more of a secret Santa type gift, but I don’t have a problem with onions. At least not as bad as the lady in the video.

The RSVP Onion Goggles cost about $15.



Making Great Coffee in Your Kitchen

Everyone wants to drink good coffee – and it isn’t as hard as it seems.  Day after day you fork a few dollars over a counter to get your coffee, but did you know you could be making the same coffee at home.  Yes, you could, well – you could actually be making it better at home, if only you had the right coffee gadgets in your kitchen.

A Conical Burr Grinder

All the professionals in the specialty coffee community agree: you can’t have good coffee without having a grinder that properly crushes the whole beans into grounds for the right extraction.  What kind of grinder do you need?

You need a conical burr grinder.

http://coffeenewbie.blogspot.com/2010/10/my-thoughts-on-hario-skerton-hand.htmlThese are not expensive, and an investment in one will last a lifetime.  The one I recommend above all others is the Hario Skerton hand grinder.  We use one in a lot of our exploits at Project Vvlgar and it has never failed us.  Not to mention, it is dishwasher safe, the burrs are made of ceramic, and the entire thing is very easy to take apart and clean, or put together for more use in the kitchen.

A Brewing Method Other Than a Drip Coffee Maker

Yet again, at Project Vvlgar we highly recommend trying pour over coffee with any number of apparatuses.

Our personal favorite is the Hario v60 ceramic dripper.  The first time that we ever used it the brew came out perfectly, I personally use it any time that I want to make a cup of coffee without brewing a whole pot at a time.  If you are drinking a single cup of coffee by yourself there is no better way to drink it than from a pour over extraction.

It is simple, the ceramic dripper can be purchased for under $20, and even a lot of espresso bars and cafes are starting to offer it to their customers because of the phenomenal taste associated with this method.

It Really Is That Simple

Making fantastic coffee at home isn’t difficult, it isn’t complicated, and it isn’t expensive.  You need a grinder with conical burrs and a brewing method other than a drip coffee maker.  Once you’ve acquired these simple appliances your coffee drinking experiences will reach an entirely new level.

How to Cook Pasta in the Microwave

While I do prefer a home cooked meal to be made on the stove, sometimes I don’t have time for that. Today I set out to look into the mysterious world of cooking in the microwave (I use “mysterious” lightly).

Some of the following items combine the worlds of microwave cookware and microwave cooking utensils to give you an all-in-one wonder product.

I’ve used my microwave for a lot of things, but I had never really looked into today’s topic: The As Seen On TV Spaghetti Cooker.

Pasta in the microwave? Let’s dig in.

microwave pasta cooker instructions

All of the products I looked at follow the same principles:
-put pasta in the microwavable pasta cooker
-fill the pasta cooker with water
-microwave it (for mere minutes!)
-strain water (through the easy-to-use strainer lid)

It is just that easy! Right? The one thing that all of these microwave pasta makers have in common is they all have “as seen on TV” ads in the classic format that shows how difficult cooking pasta was BEFORE the microwave pasta cooker.

I’ve included the videos because, well, they made me laugh.

pasta express pasta cooker

The Pasta Express pasta cooker is the only one that doesn’t involve cooking with a microwave. You boil the water ahead of time, which you could do in a microwave if you want.

Put some pasta in the Pasta Express, pour in the water, put on the lid and let it sit.

Since Pasta Express isn’t a microwave noodle cooker and a bit outdated, you can find them for roughly $5.

pasta n more microwave pasta cooker

Pay careful attention to the video for this one and compare it to the next.

The Pasta N More microwave pasta cooker follows all the instructions I previously listed. It also has a handy attachment for measuring the correct amount of pasta.

The Pasta N More retails for $20, but can be found cheaper online. Before you get too excited and go running off to purchase this, check out the PastaBoat.

pastaboat microwave pasta cooker

I trust you watched the Pasta N More video. Watch this one before continuing on.

Hmmm…something seems familiar.

My guess is PastaBoat is the new and improved Pasta N More. Remember how I said the Pasta N More went for $20? Right now as I write this, PastaBoat is $10 for TWO of them, two PastaBoat cookbooks, and a bonus dicer/chopper. Ahhhh, As Seen On TV never fails.

fasta pasta microwave pasta cooker

Same concept as the others, just a slightly different design. And possibly a more accurate portrayal of how the real world cooks pasta.

Well, I might have been lying about that whole accurate portrayal thing.

Fasta Pasta runs for $12.95, but doesn’t come with all the fantastic built-in microwave utensils of the PastaBoat.

Take a second to think about how you cook pasta. If you’re NOT cooking like the people in these videos I think you’ll be okay. If you ARE having that much trouble…pick your favorite from microwavable cookware and ORDER TODAY!

5 Cool Kitchen Gadgets That Make Great Gifts

One thing that has been passed down generation to generation is the ideal that we show appreciation in the form of gifts. Whether you like someone, are invited to a wedding, or are about to take part in a job mandated company-wide secret Santa party, chances are you will end up buying a gift for someone at some point in your life.

I looked into a few things only focusing on what I thought would be cool gifts for friends. So, budget-wise, these gadgets and gifts are all across the board.

SodaStream

If you know someone who drinks soda, this is a fantastic gift. I like the SodaStream not just because it is different, but because it is environmentally friendly. That’s right. I like Earth.

SodaStream lets you take a reusable bottle, fill it with your own water, add CO2, and mix in the soda flavor of your choice! The full info is in the video below, but here are my favorites:
- Reusable Bottles: this should be enough of a reason. We have enough plastic bottles in the world as it is.
- Multiple Flavors: They have a lot to choose from. It takes me back to the days of getting “graveyard” snow cones (a little of each flavor).
- No High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Take that, corn!

The lowest priced model is the SodaStream Fountain Jet Seltzer Starter Kit. It sells for around $79.95 and comes with 60L worth of CO2, a reusable bottle, and a small assortment of syrups. Just enough to get your gift recipient started.

Keurig single cup coffee brewer

Keurig brewers have been around for awhile now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a cool electronic gift. If any of you are looking for items to put together in honeymoon gift baskets, this is a great option. Since it brews by the cup, the happy new couple will each be able to enjoy their favorite drink without brewing a full pot.

Another good thing about the Keurig brewers being out for a few years is that there is an almost absurd amount of flavors out there. And not just coffee. Tea, hot cocoa, apple cider, and iced drinks.

Similar to the SodaStream, the cheapest model is the Mr. Coffee Brewing System – KG1 for $79.95.

Nespresso

I didn’t really think about this as I was looking into these electrical gadgets, but apparently I like caffeine.

Nespresso brand espresso (please, tell me you don’t say “expresso”) makers use technology similar to that of the Keurig coffee brewers. The Nespresso coffee capsules are smaller, but the process is just as easy. There are also multiple flavors available, like Keurig, but only 16 in total at this time.

Most of the Nespresso models are designed to provide quick and easy espresso, but some of the higher end models come with steamed milk capabilities for making mochas.

There are also several types of storage racks for keeping your Nespresso capsules organized.

Admittedly, the Nespresso is on the high-end, starting around $190. Whether you’re looking for cool electronic gadgets for men or electronic gift ideas for women, everybody drinks something sometime. Hopefully one of these top three work for you.

Ready to get away from caffeinated beverages?

Microplane herb mill

I have just enough space outside to set up a few planters and grow my own herbs. Throughout the summer they’ve been growing like crazy and getting them finely diced for meals was taking more time than I liked.

The Microplane Herb Mill is one of those cool cooking gadgets I saw in the store and decided I knew just the right person for this gift…me. It is best described as pepper mill meets flour sifter meets ominous fan blades on any given sci-fi spaceship. Just put the herbs in and rotate back and forth while the dual set of toothy blades dices them quickly.

If you’re looking for kitchen gift basket ideas this is perfect. Farely new on the market, and it starts at just around $20. Perfect for someone you like, but don’t “$190 Nespresso machine” like.

BonJour’s Chef’s Crème Brûlée Torch

Number five on the list is the perfect add-in to any cooking gift basket. Cooking is pretty much taking food and adding heat. Combine science and caveman and you get the Bonjour Chef’s Crème Brûlée Torch.

Is it great for crème brûlée? Yes. It is in the name.

Can it be used for other stuff? Of course! If someone you know has anything that needs to be melted or toasted can be done while looking, well, awesome, then this is one of the gift gadgets they’ll need.

At $30, still a decent gift while being affordable as well.

There are plenty more cool electronic kitchen gadgets out there, so stay tuned!