Buying cooking gear a little at a time

Discussion in 'Food for The Floor Pro' started by Jim McClain, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    I really got into this new cooking thing I started last December. I can't cook stuff every day and some things are just too much for my lungs to handle (not to mention the dishes that are way over my head at the moment). I had a couple of friends over last week to try out a simple steak dish I found. I flubbed a couple of steps and had to make some alterations to the recipe, but they really liked the meal. So did I.

    Today I decided to splurge on a few items I've been wanting and will prob'ly use a lot. Seems like all the best recipes call for ground pepper and I do like it better, but haven't had a pepper mill for years. Some of the recipes call for coarse salt too, so I got a salt mill and a pepper mill. I tried several out and liked these the best, although there was one pepper mill I liked better, but it was way out of my price range (nearly 50 bucks for that one).

    A lot of the recipes also call for Extra Virgin Olive Oil too. I prob'ly don't use a very good quality (Star), but it's what's in my cupboard for now. I occasionally use vegetable oil too, so I got a couple of oil dispensers. These might not be the best, but they were in my price range and will help me keep from spilling too much EVOO on the food.

    The big purchase wasn't all that expensive, but up there for me. I discovered I can cook some things ahead of time and either re-heat or keep warm while I take the time I need to cook the rest of a meal. Mashed potatoes, which I love more than most other potato types, are a tough one. All the steam and the exertion it takes to mash and whip them kinda wipes me out. Last week I tried making the mashed potatoes earlier in the day, then kept them in a covered steel bowl. About 20 minutes before I started the steaks, I boiled about half a 3qt pot of water, then put the potatoes over the boiling water with the lid on it. Nothing fit quite right, but it seemed to work pretty good. My potatoes were a little on the dry side, but I'm not sure if that was because of the lack of wet ingredients, or the way I heated them up.

    I'm hoping it was my preparation because I bought a 3 quart Cruisinart Sauce pan, with a glass lid and a 3½ quart Tivoli stock pot. The glass lid fits the stock pot perfectly too. Both pots have very flat bottoms (good for even cooking and for mashing them potatoes) and are stainless steel inside and out. The bottoms are both layered - stainless, aluminuminuminum and stainless. Each pot was about $25.00. I know that's much lower quality than the good stuff, but I'm hoping I did okay for what they will be used for.

    A little feedback from you cooking pros and amateurs would be appreciated. I'd like to get a little something every month or so, but I don't really know what is important or even what to look for.



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  2. Daris Mulkin

    Daris Mulkin The One and Only Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    Jim I don't cook a lick but there is one thing in your story that threw up red flags all over the place for me. If I read you right you used 2 different pans to heat the spuds. One with water in it and the steel dish itself. Here is why the flags. My ex did the same thing. The upper pan kind of sealed the lower pan. It all exploded and all the hot water and steam hit her all over her chest and arms. Now she was a big busted woman but the blisters on her ta ta's and arms were almost as big as her ta tas.
    They make pans designed to do what you do, but I can't remember the name of them I'm sure Barry would know. Oh my ex was melting chocolate that ended you on her also.

  3. Tandy Reeves

    Tandy Reeves Resting In Peace Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    The pan you are thinking about is called a double boiler. A very handy tool in the kitchen.

    Jim try sea salt in your salt mill. You will find it to be miledr and sweeter than iodine salt. Also, if you grill, the iodine salt will give you a bitter taste.
  4. Barry Carlton

    Barry Carlton I Support TFP Senior Member Published

    Welcome to the club Jim ;)

    Usually, coarse salt means Kosher. Probably cheaper than the salt your getting. Less work too as you don't need a grinder.

    If you ever get to Costco, their brand of EVOO is pretty highly rated and not a bad price. With the double pack you would buy, it would last you a long time. Keep it in the pantry out of the light.

    For the mashed tates, you can't beat a ricer. Less exertion, and you won't have to peel the potatoes. Oh, and always add the fat (butter) to the tates first, then the mmilk or cream.

    If you need knives, don't skimp on quality. Most chef's only use 3 knives in their kitchen so you don't need to buy an entire set.
  5. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    Yeah, what Tandy said, it's a double-boiler. I went to 3 different stores and all I could find were 1½ and 2qt double-boilers. Too small. What I got is essentially the same thing, but the pots weren't mated the same way - no recessed ridge to fit the 2 together. The fit is very good in my setup, but it's not so tight that steam can't escape. The bottom pot won't be doing a hard boil, just enough to maintain a low boil and heat the top pot to keep the potatoes hot. I do realize that steam is very hot and I will take care not to get burned.

    That's what's in the mill right now. I've heard some of what you said before, so I do plan to buy some sea salt. Thanks.

    Thanks. I don't know why I found this so late in life or why I'm willing to take on the challenges it presents to my lungs. Microwaving my meals is so much easier, but I am happy to say that I've actually lost more weight since getting into the cooking (well, it's a little up and down, but more down than up).

    It doesn't say Kosher on the container, but I do have some coarse sea salt that I usually keep in a covered dish. I take pinches of it during the cooking. I have taken too big a pinch a couple times and ruined those recipes. :( The salt grinder was an after-thought when I was looking for a pepper mill. It was only 4 bucks, so I thought I'd try it out. I guess I thought I would look as cool using it as the stars of those cooking shows do. ;)

    Thanks for the tip. A friend gave me a Costco card several months ago and I've been to the Costco in Reno a few times. I'll look for the EVOO next time I go.

    I didn't know what a ricer was until I googled it. I like lumps in my mashed taters - makes them feel more home made. Maybe I should try using the electric mixer. And yep, somewhere I learned to add small cubes of real butter to the potatoes first, then half and half and other ingredients.

    Do you think my too-dry potatoes the other night were because I just didn't have enough wet ingredients, or were they affected by the faux double boiler thing? How do you keep mashed potatoes hot in the restaurant?

    Knives might be a ways off. Even one of those knives are well over my budget. But please do mention what 3 knives are the important ones - pictures would help too. :D


  6. polestretch

    polestretch Senior Member

    Extra Virgin Olive Oil?:eek: Is that when an olive has never even looked at another olive? :cool:
  7. Barry Carlton

    Barry Carlton I Support TFP Senior Member Published

    You might want to split the EVOO w/ someone. Each bottle is 2 qts. A gallon might be a little much for you to use and store. It is only about 20.00 (18 and change) here.

    A mixer will whip the potatoes smoother than a ricer would. With either you could pull a tate out and smash it lightly and add it to the smooth mixture for your lumps. The ricer will give you a little heavier texture than the mixer would and you would not have to peel the potatoes. (Did mention that you get more real potato flavor if you boil them with the skins on? That's what I ALWAYS do).

    I have never seen mashed potatos at our restaurant. So far they have only used Au Gratin ( My wife has a very simple recipe that is heavenly if you're interested).

    I think the dryness is a combination of both not enough liquid and the re-warming. Putting them on a DB is a good idea, but it still is only gently heating them. If you choose to whip them, try re-whipping them like you would a floor patch compound to reincorporate air into the batch then add your warmed "lumps". If that doesn't work I would add butter (yeah, just cal me Paula ;) )

    Knives...Mostly a 7 inch chef's knife, although many chef's are crossing over to the 7 inch Santuko. Some say you need a longer chef's knife but for your needs a seven inch will work fine and be less expensive. It is the longest I have in my kitchen (I have 3 santukos and a chef's)

    Then a paring knife of your liking usually a 4-5 inch.

    My personal third choice is a good boning knife for a wide variety of reasons.

    Those are my choices for a beginning cook on a budget. Others may have other suggestions.

    Finally I would strongly suggest you get a steel. This will help keep the sharpened edge aligned making for a better and safer cutting/chopping experience.

    As to the salt, Kosher has little to do with what it sounds like, Jewish blessings or the like, it has to do with the shape of the crystal. It was found to absorb more blood when the animals were bled. They are fairly large crystals.

    I am glad to hear you are using your fingers to salt and pepper the dishes. Once you get the "feel" of how much adds how much you will never go back to the shaker, grinder, or measuring spoon.

    Good job.
  8. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    I always use Yukon Gold or Red potatoes for mashed. Depending on the potato, I will either peel a little, but not all of a potato, or I will use a knife to slice through the skin in strips. This will minimize the amount or the size of the skin pieces. I like the skin also, but sometimes I want a smoother, more whipped batch, or just don't care for the large pieces.

    "Seven-inch chef's knife" could mean anywhere from a few bucks at Walmart, or hundreds of dollars at Williams-Sonoma. I'm a rank beginner and don't know a good knife from a bad one. :( You're scarin' me. I might just go back to microwavin' my meals. ;)

  9. Barry Carlton

    Barry Carlton I Support TFP Senior Member Published

    You can find decent ones for around 70.00 +-

    [ame=] Zwillilng J.A. Henckels Twin Four Star 8-Inch High Carbon Stainless-Steel Chef's Knife: Kitchen & Dining[/ame]

    Then there's Pampered Chef (which I don't sell any more ... not enough shows, but still really believe in) for 75.00. It is a little heavy, but a really good knife.
  10. Chris Mha

    Chris Mha Charter Member Senior Member

    Along with a lot of butter and milk, I also add sour cream to my mashed taters.
  11. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    Barry, what's your opinion of this: Zwilling J.A. Henckels Four Star® Promotional 7-Piece Set - It has the 8" chef's knife you linked to, which was $93.00, but this set is 160.00. I can't afford either right now, but I could save for a bit, if those were worth it.

    Pampered Chef has most of the knives in that set - missing the steel and shears - but combined, a similar set would be nearly 300.00.

    Chris, yeah, I like to add sour cream to mine too. There are several ways to make mashed potatoes, depending on the meal they are accompanying.

  12. Demonseed

    Demonseed Pro Member

    Henckels are very good knives (I have a set), always better off buying the block sets vs individual. May seem like an afterthought, but invest in a good set of wooden utensils, also some of the silicone ones, these will increase the life of your cookware vs the metal utensils (which have uses, but can damage some of the coatings on your pots and pans etc). Pyrex baking dishes and bowls are also very useful to have. If you are on a budget, you can always look on craigslist or for clearance sales/clesouts, a lot of the items are a bit pricey at full retail. Restaurant depot is also a great source for buying what you are looking for, but not as easy to get a card.

    In general, I wouldn't go to nuts on top of the line items, it really comes down to your needs and how much use you will get out of the products. For the most part even inexpensive cookware will last well if it is properly cared for, the same with less expensive knives as long as they are honed and sharpened. I bought one of those (ferget what they are called, magic superduper knives) years back at the Big E, got 2 for like 20 bucks, and I will be darned because that thing will still cut bread like a razor.

    Lastly, try to stay away from the gimmick type items, they may seem like they are great, but not so much. Almost forgot, Ziplock freezer bags and storage containers, are also a good investment.
  13. Barry Carlton

    Barry Carlton I Support TFP Senior Member Published

    Like "D" said, it depends on your needs (or perceived needs). I have bought 2 complete sets of knives in the past and there are some in the sets I just never use. I am all for saving and buying the 2,3 or 4 really quality knives your are going to use every day. I like the Henckels Professional S series. Great balance, light weight, and good knuckle room (you won't be beating your knuckles on the counter much while cutting/chopping)

    The last "set" I bought was the 4 star. It is my secondary set. I use the Pro S Santuko. and the 4 star boning knife the most. Next comes the bread knife of choice for me.......the "miracle blade", it is great for bread, tomatoes. and... hammers ;) Seriously, I have used (don't own) very expensive bread knives, this beats them all...and it comes in a set!!!! Our local Fred Meyer carries the set for about 20 bucks. The steak knives are actually okay too (I think the rest of the set is junk, but oh well) and lastly, I use a cleaver, Henckels also, for a lot of my prep. If you keep it sharp and honed it will do a lot more than just cleave large cuts and bones.

    "D" is right about storage too. I should have thought of that as well as the pyrex and silicon. Nylon tools will help non stick last longer too and are usually a little cheaper and sturdier than silicon but both have their place. As to the wooden tools, I am more a fan of bamboo. Bamboo seems to scorch less and hold up better w/o splitting than wood. (IMHO)

    Good info and thoughts from "D".

    I am sure you have info overload right now......and this is just the beginning.;)
  14. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    I appreciate all the great advice from everyone. The reason I linked to the 7pc set was because it had 3 of the important items you suggested, Barry, the chef's knife, a paring knife and a steel. Those 3 items add up to more than the cost of the 7pc set, so I thought that might be something to strive for and save some money, which is pretty important and in short supply.

    The set also had the storage block, which I thought would be better than banging around in a drawer - safer and sharper. I thought the shears would be good to have too. It has the santoku knife too, but it's only a 5". The utility knife is prob'ly something I wouldn't use too much because I haven't used a knife like that ever, that I remember anyway. The block still has room to grow - maybe a bread knife later on and a boning knife.

    I have a lot of storage containers already. More than I have room for. I also have some tools I like to use: silicone spatulas and scrapers, nylon spoons and spatulas and a set of wooden spoons of various sizes I've used for many years. There are a set of Pyrex measuring cups (2c, 4c & 8c) in my cupboard, several stainless and heavy glass bowls, a stainless colander, and a small drawer full of small utensils like an egg slicer, measuring spoons and cups, desert knives and spatulas and serving tools.

    When I think about it and look over my stuff, I guess I have a pretty good start. I think it's mostly the important things ($$$) that I don't have or need to upgrade. Although I've thought about getting a couple specialty pots and pans, I actually have what I thought was a nice set.

    I bought a set of WearEver for a friend for Christmas one year (one of those girls I wished was more than just a friend back around 2002or3). It had 3 different size stainless pots, a big stock pot with a steamer insert and 2 sizes of coated skillets. She cooked a few meals for me and I thought she would like the set.

    The following year she hinted around that she was going to give me something she thought I would enjoy for Christmas. Stupid me thought she was talking about sex. No, it was the very same pots and pans set I bought her. I think she forgot that it was me that gave it to her and she just re-gifted it to me. Needless to say, our relationship kind of stagnated over the next year or so, but I got a nice set of pans. :D

    The smallest pot and smallest skillet disappeared over the years. And just a few months ago I baked the large skillet in the oven when I was preheating for a cake. I forgot I put it in there because I don't have a regular place to put it when I'm not using it. The handles on the pan and the lid are a kind of rubber material and they both got kinda crispy and melty at the same time.

    Anyway, I don't know why I didn't go to bed a few hours ago. I shoulda 'cause I think I just put all of you to sleep too. :eek:
  15. Canuck

    Canuck Pro Member

    I have a set of Kershaw Shun knives that I absolutely love. They are a little pricey but I bought mine one at a time when I could find the ocasional sale. I have a 10" chefs knife, a 7" santuko, a bread knife and a paring knife. Each one is great for it's purpose but the chefs knife was my first purchase and worked well for a variety of tasks. If taken care of these knives will last a lifetime and could easily last another generation as well. I just got them back from sharpening.... first time in 5 years.... which is free for the life of your knives. The right knife for you is the one that feels most comfortable in your hands it's best to see and feel several brands before you make your final decision.

    KAI USA : Shun Search Results
  16. Darren Ramey

    Darren Ramey Charter Member

    I bought a whole set of Ginsu knives off Amazon for $30 that do me just fine. If I lose one to rust, in the garbage disposal or throw one at the neighbors dog, I'll just buy another set for $30.

    Having never used a $100+ knife what are the advantages? My cheapies are pretty damn sharp.
  17. Demonseed

    Demonseed Pro Member

    A couple of the advantages of the more 'expensive knives' is they will keep their edge longer and handle more extended use on a regular basis. I guess it is kind of like buying a $100 Chop saw and a $900 chop saw, if you are only using something once in a while and not in a commercial way, you will never really utilize all of the features of the $900 product. That is why need and use come into play.

    There really is no reason to spend extra money for cookware/utensils/knives if you are really just cooking at home on a limited basis (it doesn't say anything about your skill or dedication). With the knives it comes down to preference, balance, weight, etc. When you are doing a lot of prep work, slicing/dicing, etc. You start to appreciate how the knives perform.

    For example, I don't really install ceramic tile, I may have to cut a few pieces once in a while for a door way or a transition, so I have an $80 7" wet saw. If I was going to cut ceramic tile every day, I would invest in a better saw.
  18. Barry Carlton

    Barry Carlton I Support TFP Senior Member Published

    "D" said it well above. I think the set you are looking at would be a great starter set for you.

    As to the Shun, I cannot afford anything in that price range, but the restaurant has a couple o Shun knives that were given to them as gifts by a regular customer.....they are absolutely great!!!! I hope to be there long enough to receive a gift like that (the same customer has given several Shun knives to the chef and kitchen staff in the's hoping)

    Bottom line jim, it sounds like you have a good start and a good line on what you want/need in the future.
  19. Canuck

    Canuck Pro Member

    I bought all my knives at sale prices. The chefs knife was the most expensive at $125.00 considering that I hope to live at least 30 more years it works out fairly cheap in the end ! Their balance and the way they felt in my hand sold me, and there definately is a big difference between them and a cheap knife.
  20. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    Right Under My Nose

    So close, they coulda cut me...

    I had no idea until last night that what I have been using for knives for at least 8 or 9 years are a set of J.A. Henckels. I don't remember buying them, or why I chose these. I'm guessing it was a shopping trip with a girlfriend or maybe the recommendation of a store clerk that seemed to know what they were talking about (or saw someone with too much money and too little sense).

    Given the price I've seen for these knives since Barry brought them up, business must have been pretty good for me to fork out the dough for theses when I wasn't all that into cooking. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking that the girlfriend might spend more time in my kitchen. I don't know.

    So, it looks like I have a 7½" something or other (please help me out on the names of these I don't know), an 8" Chef's Knife, a 7" Santoku Hollow Edge, 8" Bread Knife, 5" Serrated Utility Knife, a 4" Paring Knife, 5" Boning Knife, a 5½" version of the first knife and a set of four EverSharp Steak Knives.

    It looks like I have not taken care of these knives very well. There are a couple dings in the blades of the ones I use the most. I don't have a steele and have prob'ly used some cheap knife sharpening tool on most of these. Of course, I've never sharpened the serrated knives and the steak knives don't seem to need any sharpening (I've eaten at restaurants sometimes wishing I had my own steak knife with me). I'm thinking it might be a good idea to take these to a professional knife sharpener and then get myself a steel and a knife block.

    When I realized what I had here, it made me feel pretty damn good - sorta like finding a hundred dollar bill (or maybe a 300 or 400 dollar bill?). Most of these appear to be from their Classic Series, but the 2 I didn't know the names of weren't on the page with the rest (J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL :: Product Range :: Cutlery :: Series overview :: Classic). I have a feeling these weren't in a set, but individually bought all at one time - or maybe a couple different kinds of sets. The steak knives come in a set of 8, so I don't know why I only have 4, unless the other 4 are in storage, which may very well be. I should take a trip to my storage unit and see what other gems I might have.


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