Archive for the ‘Kitchen Equipment’ Category

A restaurant supply warehouse (RSW) is exactly what is sounds like. It contains virtually everything a restaurant might need in order to run its operation from the small things like glasses and plates all the way up to industrial sized stoves, friers, and cooling units. While you probably won’t ever really need a 12 burner, industrial stove, these stores will have something you can use in your everyday life.

Here are five reasons why you should never visit a department store like Kohl’s or Macy’s or kitchen supply store such as Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table before seeing if your local RSW has exactly what you need.

5. Open to the Public: You may have heard of RSWs before and never considered that since you are not a restaurant or run one, you are not welcome there. This is definitely true for some warehouses, but where there’s a demand, there’s a supply. For every one private or membership card required RSW, I have found one that is open to the public. It just makes good sense. Often times, this information can be found of the RSW website and if its not, a quick phone call will let you know if you can shop there.

4. Front of House Supply: I have never been disappointed when I’ve gone to a RSW looking for a serving platter or glassware. RSW exist to supply restaurant with everything they will need to serve you dinner, so it makes sense that they would probably have everything you would need to serve dinner at home. They have every kind of wine glass, plates in every shape and size, table cloths, candle holders, and pretty much everything else you might want on your table. Chances are, they have something for you. What I really appreciate about RSWs is there wide variety of price points. They have porcelain plates that run on the low end up to bone china fine enough to inherit as well as glasses cheap enough to break daily to crystal glasses fine enough to be snobby about.

3. Back of House Supply: Personally, the back of house supply is my personal favorite. RSWs carry cookware that the majority of department stores won’t carry due to lack of mass consumer demand. While you might not need a 32 quart stock pot, I sure do for the two times a year I make stock en masse. But they carry everything from small pots and pans that are used by restaurants including non stick fry pans that will never let you down – my personal favorite. I have stayed away from RSW knives only because most restaurants send their knives out weekly for sharpening (assuming they supply them for the chefs) and are meant to be cheap and replaceable. If your favorite restaurant has it in the back of their house, chances are your local RSW will too.

2. Durability: I have been shopping at RSWs for well over a decade and everything I’ve purchased (minus a few broken plates and glasses) I still own and use daily. Because these items are used in restaurants, they are built to endure a crazy amount of daily uses and abuses. I purchased a non stick fry pan five years ago and I cannot tell the difference between that and a new one because the non-stick surface has never flaked or peeled off.

1. Low Cost: Because you’re buying direct from the manufacturer, there is a no packaging, you’re not paying extra for a name brand, you may be getting a model from a year ago, and there is no additional middle man looking to make a profit, RSWs can provide most everything you need to stuff your kitchen to the gills for a fraction of the cost. I’ve calculated that I save anywhere between 30 – 50% on the things I’ve purchased at RSWs as compared to their department stores cousins. Sure, I’m not always buying the “top of the line” equipment and dishes, but they work exactly the same way, so who really cares?

For my rural readers who may not have a major city close by, it is well worth taking a two or three hour drive to a RSW if you plan to completely overhaul your kitchen supply. Do a quick Google search and see if they have a store closer by. You’d be surprised. If you can’t get to one, you can also go to The Webstaurant Store online. It’s not nearly as fun as shopping around, but if you have a general idea of what you want, this may be a good resource.  I have been fortunate enough to always have a RSW within a 45 minute drive and have been known to use these stores to shop around the day before I host a dinner party.

I want to conclude by telling you that you will not be greeted by overly helpful sales clerks in crisp uniforms. You will not find pleasing music and attractive displays that make you want to spend your money. The outside of an RSW is not usually welcoming by the average consumers eye and I have questioned multiple times whether I was walking into a meth lab. An RSW saves you money by saving itself money.

I have always found what I was looking for at a reasonable price and always gotten my questions answered quickly by individuals that know everything about their stock. I have been allowed to wonder through the whole store without being attacked by salespeople constantly asking if there is anything they can help me with. RSWs are everything I want in a kitchen store and I hope that you’ll be willing to give them a shot sometime too.

Inevitable, some pervert has found this page looking for something else entirely. I’m sorry for those of you that fit into this category, but the rest of this posting is going to let you down.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

I have long been a fan of wooden cutting boards. It took me nearly ten years before I found one that I liked and I use it every time I cook. I propose to you plastic, glass, and (eek!) countertop cutting folks out there to put down your knives and consider the benefits of a wooden cutting board:

5. Beauty: Although I am a fan of function over ascetics, wooden cutting boards provide the best of both worlds. I own an end grain cutting board set in a check pattern that is as much a part of my wife’s decorating scheme as a useful part of my kitchen. Granted, some cutting boards are pretty plain looking, but even these can quickly become a beautiful part of your kitchen that you will not hide away like other cutting boards.

4. Eco-friendly: I may be a broken record, but anytime you can use an eco-friendly or green product in the kitchen, you might as well. There is a plethora of wooden cutting boards out there, and the bamboo ones are not only sustainable, but incredibly affordable.

3. Resistant to gouging: One thing I hate about the plastic cutting boards is that they easily get gouged and scratched and nicked and these are prime locations for bacteria to live in. Wooden cutting board are almost self healing in that unless you intentionally cut the heck out of your board, it will resist any scratches and be as good as new year after year.

2. Knife friendly: Plastic also has this advantage over glass and stone cutting surfaces, but I prefer wooden cutting boards because they are easier on your knives. Your knives will keep there sharpness longer and you will have to make less trips to the sharpener or the emergency room. A dull knife is extremely dangerous as you tend to put more pressure increasing the possibility of a kitchen injury and a potential missing finger.

1. Ease of cleaning: Wooden cutting boards need only be sealed using mineral oil once a month and washed with warm soapy water. Plastic cutting boards have a tendency to need sterilization and if you place them in the dishwasher, there is a good chance that it will warp. Wooden boards are just easier to wash and keep clean and the antimicrobial properties of wood will decrease the chances that your cutting surface will contaminate your food without you knowing it.

Note: Now I do want to come clean and say that I do own both a wooden cutting board and a plastic. Plastic is used for raw meats and the wooden is used for everything else. I do use my plastic flexible cutting boards for display purposes for the blog, but mostly everything is cut on a wooden board.

When I was a kid, my mom always had an open box of baking soda hanging out inside the door. Periodically, the box would get tossed and replaced by yet another box of baking soda and so the cycle continued. My guess is that more than a handful of you also grew up with this and probably, like me, have a box sitting somewhere amongst our many jars of half used condiments. But for those of you that are asking yourselves why on earth we would have such an item in our refrigerators, I’m here to tell you why.

You may notice sometimes that your refrigerator is a smelly place and the majority of these smells come from strong acids (like lactic acid that comes from dairy products) or bases (spoiled meat and other proteins). Yes my friends, this should transport you magically back to your high school days when you were sitting in chem class wondering, “What the hell am I ever gonna use this stuff for?”

It all comes down to pH. If the pH gets out of whack, the odors will rise which should instantly sound the alarm that something has gone bad in your refrigerator. Baking soda, however, stabilizes your refrigerator environment by absorbing the odors and restoring sanctity. This may not initially seem like a big deal because at least if you can smell something funky, you know to throw it away, but the problem is much bigger than that.

You see, many of the products that you put in your refrigerator are like sponges and will absorb the stronger acids and bases. That means your freshly bought produce can and will absorb the moldy, stinky cheese smell and will thus taste like spoiled, stinky cheese. That bread dough that you just put in your refrigerator to rise; be prepared for your bread to taste like rotted meat. Pretty much anything you put in your refrigerator has the potential to absorb the odors of the items around it unless it is held inside an airtight, sealed container. This is why they have crisper bins for your produce and tupperware for your leftovers because you could ruin any open air food if left unchecked.

As for placement, I always keep mine in the door of the fridge because that’s where my mom kept it. But really, the baking soda should be near the most likely source of odors. If you tend to keep ripe cheeses at home, put the box right next to it. Making lox at home? Put the box there. It’s portable and just because you put it in one place doesn’t mean you can’t move it later.

So do yourself a favor. Go to your refrigerator right now and check the date on your baking soda box. Don’t see a date? That’s because you didn’t write one on there. If you can’t remember when you put that box in there, it’s time to throw it out and buy a new one. This goes the same for those of you without one. It’ll cost you $3 and will last for 3 to 6 months depending on how many odors it absorbs. If nothing else, consider it an insurance policy for your food.

Lots of people will sit down together at turkey dinners across the country tomorrow and many families will honor the age old tradition of saying aloud the things that they are thankful for. When I was a kid, I always thought this time was a good opportunity to fit in something hilarious like “I’m thankful for Nintendo” or “I’m thankful for air.” I’m not entirely sure what my sense of humor was back then, but at least I thought it was funny. I also find it amusing when husbands take the time to honor their wives in a rare moment of romance indicating to their family and friends how lucky they are to have their wives. Wives of the world, don’t let this dribble fool you this year. If after dinner they immediately head to the television to watch football, nothing has changed.

But I thought it might be fun to write a bit about what I’m thankful for in my life through my environment I know the best: my kitchen.

  1. I’m thankful for olive wood which is not only incredibly light, but marvelously beautiful. I’ve seen a vast collection of kitchen cutting boards, utensils, and  various serving dishes at higher end stores. I’d imagine that in the future this trend will trickle down and more manufacturers will begin using olive wood as well.
  2. I’m thankful for induction burners and the leaps and bounds the technology has developed. When modern induction burners were first on the market, it was almost impossible to set a temperature to anything but boil and they were often bulky and overpriced. Now the technology has produced pretty decent portable induction burner units that have variable temperature settings in addition to full cook top options complete with 4 to 6 different burners. While the better quality burners are still a bit out of my price range, I can see in a couple of years a beautiful shiny new model sitting on my counter top.
  3. I’m thankful for Cuisinart who are quickly becoming my favorite brand of mid range kitchen appliances. Their stand mixer makes me second guess the Kitchenaid version which dominated the market for 40 years and has forced Kitchenaid to rethink their models and offer higher end options.
  4. Lastly, I’m thankful for pie. Pie is without a doubt my favorite dessert. That’s all. I just wanted to mention that.

And to all my readers, friends, and family, Happy Thanksgiving!

If you own a roasting pan, you are probably like 99% of other Americans that take it out once a year to cook a turkey or roast for the holidays. There really is no shame in this. There is actually very little information out there on how to use a roasting pan in your everyday rotation and even less information as to why you should invest in one.

But this article is not for those of you that already own a roasting pan. This article is for the holiday cooks who buy the disposable roasting pans at the supermarket for around $4 and try to cook a 20 pound turkey inside its flimsy walls. Don’t let the packaging fool you. They have different sizes for different sized birds, but in the end, physics and gravity still play a vital role in the cooking process.

My message to those of you who are disposable pan buyers is simple and straight forward:

You have to stop the madness!

I present to you my top five reasons for investing in a quality roasting pan over their rival disposable.

5. Better for the environment: Perhaps my weakest argument, but still. A roasting pan gets cleaned up and put away until its next use while a disposable gets tossed away and sent to a landfill to sit for centuries.

4. Multi-purpose: Turkey, chicken, pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, prime rib, etc. The list of potential cuts in nearly endless, but the point is that your roasting pan is worthy of more than just one use. But wait, there’s more. Not only can the roasting pan be used for different meats, it can also be used for multiple steps in the cooking process. Need to sear your prime rib before cooking it? Just remove the rack and put the pan over two burners. Want to cook some root vegetables with your meal? Just stick them under your meat. Not only will everything come out hot together, the juices dripping off the meat will season your vegetables.

3. Easier clean up: This is one area that disposable lovers have tried to get me on for years, but my retort is air tight. Yes, at the end of a meal, the disposable pan gets tossed away and that’s it. However, in my world, it’s never that simple. What happens if your flimsy disposable has a tiny hole in it and turkey juice begins to drip into your oven creating a solid mass of carbon that no amount of oven cleaner or scrubbing will take off? What happens if on your way to delivering your turkey from the oven to the counter, the flimsy pan buckles under the weight and not only does the turkey hit the floor, but hot juice scalds you and ruins your nice new shoes? I find the potential risk of using a disposable to far outweigh the ease of throwing away a pan at the end of the night. Besides, you’ll have very little to clean up if you consider number two.

2. Ability to make pan sauces: Roasting pans are long enough to cover two burners making it easy to turn your post dinner cooking vessel into a stovetop pan that is ready to make some gravy. Pan sauces, especially after cooking a roast turkey or chicken, are wildly tasty and require no additional kitchen equipment. In fact, the idea of not using more vessels to make a pan sauce makes clean up even easier and by deglazing the pan, you’re going to cook out the worst of the mess from the pan. But if even after all this, consider taking a moment and….

1. Just look at that rack: The rack is put there not as a storage challenge; it’s put there to keep the meat off the bottom of the pan and out of the fat. While roasting, the fat on the meat tends to melt off and drips into the bottom of the pan. Disposable pans do not come equipped with a rack leaving your roast to sit for hours in its own fat. The rack also allows for more air to move around the meat which will give you even cooking and that crispy skin that you’re craving.

Roasting pans are generally inexpensive and by no means should you feel obligated to spend more than $50. I find that most stores offer a great bargain during the holiday season, and almost every department store will have a bargain basement deal on roasting pans the day after Thanksgiving. As for recommendations, ensure that the pan is made of aluminum (plain or hard anodized) in order to keep the weight down and that the handles are riveted to the pan. Some roasting pans have the handles fused to the sides. This is a problem because the handles will heat up as hot as the pan and the handles have more potential to break off over years of use. Calphalon and Cuisinart make a pretty decent pan in general and I find their roasting pans to be fit for the job.

I am not a kitchen snob about many things. I have never owned an All-Clad pan, my appliances are all consumer grade, and even my pantry is filled with a sprinkling of store brand and less than gourmet ingredients. But my knives are the most expensive quality I can afford.

There are three knives in my kitchen that I use on a daily basis and one really incredible pair of kitchen shears that are more than just a pair of scissors. My chef’s knife (pictured right) is made by Shun and retails for around $150. I know what you may be thinking, “Keith, for $150, I could buy an entire block full of knives and get a set of 6 bonus steak knives.” True, but here are 3 reasons why you shouldn’t.

1. Knife blocks are limiting: The wooden knife block that holds the knives is designed specifically to hold only the knives that come in the box. If you ever want to add an additional knife or replace an old one, you can only use the empty slots. My knife holder uses “freedom rods” to allow any size knife to fit into the holder. I also use it to hold a sharpie (for labeling frozen food) and my instant read thermometer. Let’s see a wooden block do that.

2. Knife blocks come with knives you will never use: I use two knives daily: an 8 inch chef’s knife and a three inch paring knife. There is nothing that I cannot do with these knives and the job would not be any easier with a boning knife, utility knife, 4 inch Santoku, 8 inch hollow edged Santoku, or the complimentary steak knives. I also own a 10 inch serrated bread knife, but this is used rarely.

3. Knife blocks can be breeding grounds for germs: For all you know, there could be an entire colony of bacteria living inside the slots. And then you take your knives and cut into food that you eat and serve to your family? Knife blocks are impossible to clean the slots where you store your knives and this is never a good thing.