Kitchen Decisions You Must Make for a Delightful 2016
I don’t really make decisions like “run” or “eat right,” but I like to “take responsibility for my life!” the energy that every January brings. Instead of using this energy to diet, consider making several decisions to improve your cooking and related skills.
While there is nothing wrong with starting the diet as such, I prefer to focus on the changes that force me to cook more at home than focusing on calories or “cleanliness.” The better I become a cook, the more likely I will be to cook my own meals that are healthier and cheaper than eating out. Here are seven ways to improve your cooking in 2016, and unlike some resolutions, they can last an entire year.
Get rid of the non-stick coating
Due to the fact that everything was ok with the non-stick coating, I was always afraid of utensils not covered with Teflon. The cast iron pans were especially intimidating because I just didn’t trust what needed to be “treated.” However, my fears were unfounded, because cleaning and maintaining cast iron is not that difficult, and if you treat it right, your food will not stick. (It won’t be as non-stick as Teflon, but which one?)
We’ve talked in great detail about how to buy, season, and clean a cast iron skillet , but let’s sum it up. Above all, know that you don’t have to give up on a lot of changes to get a great skillet. The 12-inch lodge will set you back just twenty-five dollars and is a Cook’s Illustrated favorite . Speaking of Cook’s Illustrated, the video below is a great guide to adding seasoning and cleaning up your new cast iron.
I solve one small problem with the no soap rule. I would certainly not recommend soaking cast iron in soapy water, but as Mr. Kenji explains , when you season a cast iron pan, you chemically change the oil so that it bonds to the metal. A small amount of soap will not undo this change, so feel free to use it, just dry thoroughly and grease the pan after each cleaning.
If you are like me at all, you have collected many cooking books. You may want to display them in a prominent place to show that you are “a person who really loves to eat, to be honest,” but rarely cook with them. There is no shame in that, especially if all your cookbooks are very chef-y-chef Toro Bravo mesmerizing, but no home cook needs twenty-five servings of duck liver mousse on Tuesday, but it’s a shame to pay for a book you don’t going to use. Fortunately, there is a very elegant solution to this problem: the cookbook club .
The idea is pretty simple: get a group of friends (or future friends) together and agree on a book to cook from. Let everyone choose a recipe and bring their creation for a get-together-style lunch. This not only makes everyone use their own book, but it also allows everyone to try different recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. If it’s unrealistic to get everyone to cook from the same book, the topic can always be expanded to include author, style, or “something you wanted to try.” The point is to get everyone to cook from all those culinary tomes that would otherwise gather dust on the refrigerator lid. (I don’t know about you, but I keep my cookbooks on top of the fridge.) For tips and tricks for planning and organizing club meetings, check out this guide from Serious Eats .
Take care of your knives like adults
Until I left home and started cooking on my own, I thought it was perfectly okay to buy new knives every year or so, and never once thought about taking any steps to get them out. I’ve since come to the conclusion that all of my parent units still work this way and buy new sharp knives whenever their current ones get too blunt to use. It’s not a way to live, and even if you don’t make any other changes to your kitchen in 2016, I highly recommend you find a knife care method that works for you .
But before we get into sharpening, we need to talk about sharpening, which is just as important, albeit different. I’ll let Alton Brown tell you about this.
As AB explains, a properly sharpened knife only needs to be sharpened once a year. There is nothing wrong with sending them to a professional, but if you want to do it yourself, you can do it. If you are the type of person who can visualize the difference between ten and twenty degrees, learning how to use a grindstone is a great way, and this video will show you how. (I personally would not test the sharpness of a knife with my finger, as shown here, but I am weird in that sense.):
I recommend practicing on a not-so-good knife until you feel comfortable and confident in your ability to keep the blade at a constant angle to avoid damaging your fine cutlery. If you don’t think you’ll ever get comfortable with a sharpening stone, consider purchasing a controlled angle sharpening system like Lanksy , which costs less than forty dollars. Much less than buying a new set of knives. (Though, to be honest, you don’t really need one of those expensive sets; you really only need these four .)
Raise the bar
It’s okay and good to have a bottle of wine while you are having fun, but the host who has the most should be able to make some classic cocktails. To improve your game almost instantly, check out Serious Eats’ extensive 3-Ingredient Cocktail Guide . It is not necessary to memorize all thirty-five, but two or three of them will be a good starting point:
Daiquiri: 2 ounces of light rum + juice of half a lime + teaspoon of superfine sugar
Moscow mule : 2 ounces of vodka + juice of half a lime + ginger beer on top.
Margarita : 2 oz tequila + 2 oz Cointreau + 1 lime juice
Old Fashioned : 2 ounces bourbon or rye + 1 sugar cube + 2-3 drops of bitter (you can also garnish with an orange wedge and a cherry if you feel like it.)
Stroller : 2 ounces VSOP Cognac + 1 ounce Cointreau + juice of half a lemon.
If you really want to create the best bar without the money, check out our guide on how to cheaply equip your bar with the five essential bottles every home bar should have and our recommended faucets . If you’re looking to expand your range, check out the 12 Bottles book ( less than ten dollars on Amazon ). As the name suggests, the book covers how to create a complete home bar of twelve bottles, as well as brand recipes for each price point, some cool cocktail history, and DIY bar side dish recipes.
We are very obsessed with fried chicken, and for good reason. Not only is it a great light meal on weekdays, it’s also perfect for making salads and sandwiches during the work week. Before the bird gets into the oven, a decision must be made. For very even cooking, try removing the base and whipping or butterflies. (This also works very well with turkeys .)
If that’s too much for you, check out our comparison of several bond methods for the juiciest meats and the crispest skin . (Warning spoiler : the method below from ChefSteps was the winner of the chicken dinner.
Once your bird is tied up, cut the cooking time in half by cooking it in a preheated cast iron skillet . The cooking process will begin in a hot frying pan, and the poultry will remain for half an hour at 450 degrees.
Do not get lost in vain
Some of you have criticized me for being “always trying to get you to eat trash,” and you are right. Almost all the time I try to remove the notes from the trash. If you need to freshen up, some of my favorites include using strawberry stalks to flavor the water , making your own infused bourbon with apple peel , and this time I told you to eat the banana peel . (I feel like some of you are still mad about the latter.)
Of course, reducing waste is about more than just eating the skins of foods; it requires a little planning. To better understand food storage and prevent food waste due to spoilage, print out a couple of these handy designs and glue them to your refrigerator. Please refer to these illustrations for guidance on storing stock in your pantry.
Just take a good lunch with you
We write a lot about brown bag lunches because they are so important. Packaged lunches are not only healthier than takeout food, but they can save you literally thousands of dollars . In addition to health and finances, a sad written lunch is bad for productivity. It makes you afraid of the best part of the work day and sets you up to be grumpy all day. (Or maybe it’s just me. I’m very interested in food.) Either way, there is no excuse for collecting a sad afternoon meal, and you are not going to do that anymore.
First of all, make sure you are packing the correct container. Whether you prefer to carry your food in an insulated bag, cute collapsible cans, or a neat little bento, make sure you’re getting the best of the best with our guide to the best lunchboxes . Once you choose the right container, make sure you are packing what you really want to eat. One way to pump yourself up is to pack a wide variety of delicious meals in small portions , like a bento or a plowman’s lunch. If you want to get rid of the sandwiches, consider making and freezing your own burritos, or simply decorating your turkey sandwich with enhancements like pre-cooked bacon or basil leaves.
For a finishing touch, consider packing an “ emergency lunch kit ” or leaving an entire drawer full of condiments, spices, and good cutlery. These additions really enhance the cockpit dining experience.
Sure, there are tons of other ways to make your kitchen happier in 2016, but these are great basics to start with. If you have any other kitchen related solutions, please share them below. I would love to hear how you plan on making 2016 the tastiest year ever!