Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Outdoor kitchen ideas: Viking gas wok/cooker

February 11, 2011

 

Viking outdoor wok / gas cooker

Wok this way.

In Minnesota, when the winter weather starts creeping above freezing, I start pulling my shorts out of storage.

And especially this past Super Bowl Sunday, I started thinking of how much I’d like having a kitchen outdoors.

Outdoor kitchen designs usually always include a gas grill. And sometimes, gas grills are built in to a grill island, which offers counterspace and — more interestingly to this blog — space for more outdoor kitchen appliances.

(I’m going to feature several outdoor kitchen ideas over the next week or so, so subscribe to my blog and you won’t miss any of the beautiful outdoor kitchens photos you know are coming. See instructions.)

Outdoor gas wok / gas cooker
from Viking Outdoor Kitchen

Unlike any outdoor gas burner, the Viking outdoor wok burner/gas cooker just has more power. The super-high 27,500 BTU burner handles huge stir-fry portions, and a center trivet converts for large stock pots – perfect for crab or shrimp boils.

All that power means you can saute super fast in the 20-inch wide steel wok, but the wok burner also has enough control to let you simmer at low temperatures.

You can choose to run the WFWT241T on either an LP tank or a natural gas line using an easy, push-button electric ignition. The large knob carries easy-to-read labels, but is childproof, so you don’t have to worry about curious little hands.

The removable, stainless steel pull-out drip tray and grease pan makes clean-up easy.

Plus, it just looks really good, doesn’t it?

Big Green Egg: The winter grill?

February 9, 2011

The Star Tribune reported that winter grilling is on the rise, and credited the uptick — in part — to our very own favorite smoker, the Big Green Egg.

But a big reason that winter grilling is on the rise is almost certainly the increasing popularity of the Big Green Egg, whose kiln-like structure keeps the heat sealed in and the chill wind out. Chuck Bulson, manager of the Warners’ Stellian store in Edina, said sales of the Eggs and their specially made charcoal have climbed steadily in recent winters.

Compared with our sales in the winter, our grilling accessory sales understandably slow down. But, Bulson observed, “People with the Eggs really want to grill in winter.”

I love hardy Minnesotan grill die-hards, refusing to migrate their cooking from the (Egg) nest just because of some subzero temperatures.

Any Eggheads want to personally vouch for this trend, and explain to the nonbelievers why Big Green Egg grilling or smoking is worth braving the elements (photos encouraged)?

Preventing freezerburns

December 22, 2010

Right about now, you’re probably unpacking months’ worth of food from your refrigerator and freezer to make room for all that holiday food.

And you might found some of it had been freezer burned (i.e. brownish, leathery spots indicate freezer burned meat). What causes freezer burn?

Freezeburns are caused by cold air directly contacting your food and/or when your food dries out in the freezer.

Don’t fret, as freezer burnt foods remain safe to consume. The FDA recommends cutting off freeze burn spots before or after cooking (so you don’t have to taste the evidence that you failed to push all the air out of your plastic storage bag).

To prevent freezer burn:

Use only freezer-safe containers, bags and wraps and get as much air out of the packages as you can. It’s the trapped air that will cause your food to dry out, discolor or develop “interesting” new flavors.

This means some frozen foods from the grocery store shouldn’t really go straight to the freezer. For best results, meats should be removed from their packaging and wrapped in freezer wrap and placed in a freezer bag with all the air forced out.

But knowing how to use your freezer in general can help maintain the quality of frozen foods longer.

Don’t put a bunch of warm food to the freezer at one time. This overloads the freezer, slows the rate of freezing, and can raise the temperature of frozen foods. To that point….

Set the freezer at 0°F. The higher the freezer temperature, the faster your frozen foods lose their quality.

Keep the freezer full. It seems logical that less food means you need less cold air to keep it frozen, but that’s actually not the case. A freezer operates most efficiently when it is at least two-thirds full.

Avoid prolonged storage. Make sure you eat the oldest food first. Long-term freezer storage is best suited to a manual defrost freezer, not a freezer compartment, which are mostly frost-free these days.

Make some breathing room. Leave space between items so air can circulate freely, which allows food to freeze as quickly as possible.

 

 

Convection oven baking tips

December 20, 2010
.christmas snowflake food

It's cookie season. Do you need to brush up on your convection baking knowledge?

 

Are you taking full advantage of your convection oven (if you don’t know what that is, read What is convection?)?

You probably already know to decrease your oven temperature 25 degrees and decrease the bake time about 25 percent for convection oven vs. conventional oven.

But if you already know how to use convection cooking — and you probably do if you partake in holiday baking and cookie exchanges — I bet you’ll still learn something from Dacor’s convection oven baking tips (PDF).

Also, if if your convection oven cooking times seem to be longer now than when you first bought your convection oven, perhaps you need to clean your convection filter.

In a convection oven, the fan draws air through the filter. So especially if you do a lot of roasting,  grease particles will stick to the filter and could obstruct the airflow. Check your use and care manual for instructions on how to clean your filter. Some, like Dacor convection oven filter, are dishwasher safe.

Convection oven cooking/convection oven turkey

November 24, 2010

Those who spent a little extra to get convection in their oven will breathe a little easier while preparing for Thanksgiving.

Convection basically uses a fan to circulate warm air, eliminating hot spots and cooking foods faster and more evenly.

What does this mean for Thanksgiving cooking?

  • The turkey’s done quicker, which is huge for those eating earlier in the day.
  • No need to baste or cover the turkey. Convection ovens quickly sear in the juices, so use foil only if the turkey is browning too quickly.
  • Cook several dishes at a time. Convection ensures air circulates among all racks.

Dacor posted a fabulous resource of frequently asked questions and tips concerning turkey and holiday cooking, especially for convection ovens and convection microwaves.

For instance, ever been stuck with a partially defrosted turkey (the skin, legs and wings are defrosted and can move freely, but there are still some ice crystals and the inside of the turkey’s cavity is still hard) on Thanksgiving morning? Dacor suggests using its convection setting at 150°F for approximately 8-11 minutes per pound to defrost the turkey.

Visit Dacor’s FAQ page to see more info on brining, how many pies an oven can really fit and how to use your convection microwave to cook a casserole (aren’t you glad you bought that?).

 

Cooking tips: Checking oven temperature

November 22, 2010

Before you trust your oven to your family’s turkey and pie this Thanksgiving, make sure the oven heats to the correct temperature.

Some manufacturers say that using an oven thermometer (available at most hardware stores) isn’t accurate because once the door opens, the temperature changes, I think it’s probably a better measure than trying to decipher how far off your oven is by experimenting on baked goods or other methods.

First, check your thermometer’s accuracy by sticking it in boiling water for a minute. Boiling temperature is 212 degrees F, so if that’s not what your thermometer reads, note the difference.

Next, put your thermometer in the oven and select 350 degrees. Check the thermometer after about 20 minutes. If it doesn’t read 350 degrees (after factoring any difference you found in step one), you know whether your oven temperature runs high or low and how many degrees.

If you were smart enough — or organized enough — to save your Use & Care manual, your manufacturer might include instructions on how to calibrate your oven so that the temperature settings can be adjusted for accuracy. Otherwise, just make a mental note and select a 355 degrees (for instance) next time a recipe calls for 350.

Many ovens now come with built-in temperature probes, which offer another great way to ensure your meat cooks perfectly.

And the best way to ensure consistent temperature in your oven is to minimize opening the door by using your oven light. Having the oven door open for just seconds can decrease the temperature by 25 degrees!

Simmer down, now! Pay attention to burners’ BTU minimums, not just maximums

October 12, 2010

When Warners’ Stellian entered in the Builders Association of the Twin Cities Chili Cook-Off, I enthusiastically volunteered to make our entry.

We were encouraged to make more than 2 gallons, with the logic being more chili means more tasters means more votes for Warners’ Stellian. So, I made six batches. Observe:

 

Two-thirds of the chili produced, getting ready to "simmer"

 

When it came time for the massive amounts of chili to “simmer” for an hour, I lowered the controls on my (15-year-old) gas range to the flame’s lowest point before disappearing and tended to other responsibilities.

When I returned to dutifully “stir occasionally” 55 minutes later, all three pots of my chili were not simmering, but boiling. Of course chili isn’t as delicate as say, chocolate or Hollandaise sauce, but I don’t like the idea of keeping my chili at high heat for nearly an hour.

Apparently, flames on most ranges nowadays can only go so low.

Astronomically high BTU burners are trendy right now, but several brands also offer cooktops and ranges with extra-low settings for safer simmering.

 

Wolf gas cooktop

 

Wolf burners go down to 300 BTUs and absolutely will NOT scorch chocolate.

When I went to Wolf product training, a tiny Hershey’s square sat in a saucepan atop a Wolf simmer burner all afternoon, perfectly happy and melted.

 

Dacor gas cooktop

 

Dacor has burners that can go as low as 650 BTUs, but also includes a simmer plate with some models.

A simmer plate is an accessory that protects your delicate foods from the direct heat of the burner, holding it at the safest low temperature possible.

 

Thermador gas range

 

Thermador ExtraLow Simmer burners can simmer as low as 100°F at 375 BTUs.

If you’re wondering, I didn’t place in the top three, though I did win the prize for Most Colorful Chili (you are what you eat, right?). Of course, I blame my lack of victory on my non-simmering range.

Stoves with double ovens: Hot trend

September 22, 2010

(pun intended in that one)

With the official start of hot dish season Thursday, the migration of cooks inside from their grills to their ranges commences.

At least that’s what I’m cooking. Sure, a couple times a year, we clear out the racks to accommodate a turkey and ham. Or you might be a bread-baker. (I’m more of a meatloaf-maker, myself.)

But I’d venture that most of you most the time need the height of just one rack.

So why do you need to use such a big oven all time? You don’t, which is we’re seeing more kitchens with double oven ranges and more brands making them. Using the smaller oven means you preheat faster, use less energy and, best of all, don’t have to bend down so far to put in/pull out your pans.

Here’s a roundup:

Maytag Gemini Gas Double Oven Range

Jenn-Air Dual Fuel Double Oven Convection Range

Jenn-Air Electric Double Oven Range

Frigidaire Gallery Gas Double Oven Range FGGF304DLF

Whirlpool Gas Double Oven Range GGG388LXS

GE Electric Double Oven Range JB850SPSS

What’s microwave safe? HOW TO: test microwave cookware

September 17, 2010

I CAN BE MICROWAVD?

Today’s HOW TO tip is a quick, but useful one.

If you’re unsure whether you cookware or dishes are microwave-safe, put them in the microwave with a cup of water next to it and nuke it for 1 minute.

If the cookware or dishes become hot and the water stays cool, don’t use them. Simple as that.

(Just so you know, baby bottles and baby food jars should never be microwaved.)

Happy Friday!

Gas stove troubleshooting: Stove won’t light

September 10, 2010

Need a light?

Despite a general dislike for most of the appliances I inherited with my first house, I feel lucky to have a gas stove (or range, as in appliance jargon).

I love cooking, so I appreciate the power and responsiveness of gas.

However, unlike their electric counterpart, gas ranges can’t just be dialed on; their burners must be ignited.

I occasionally struggle with lighting my burners — and I know I’m not alone — so here’s what to check if you’re struggling.

Burner cap
A lot of ignition problems and uneven flames result from food spills and related dirtiness. Routine cleaning and general unslobbiness will avoid this.

After a spill, use a nonabrasive plastic scrubbing pad and mildly abrasive cleanser or soap  to thoroughly clean the cap.

Make sure the cap is completely dry before replacing it over the burner. Take care that alignment pins are lined up with with the cap.

(I know I usually would never say this, but) Don’t put them in the dishwasher.

Burner ports

Burner flames should be about 1″-1.5″, with a proper shape like the flame labeled “A” in the adjacent spiffy illustration. The flame should be blue, not yellow.

If these aren’t the case, your burner ports could be clogged, so you should clean it, following these steps:

  1. Make sure all the controls are off and the stove is cool. Don’t use oven cleaners, bleach or rust remover.
  2. Clean the burner cap as instructed above..
  3. Clean the gas tube opening with a damp cloth.
  4. Clean clogged burner ports with a straight pin as shown. Do not enlarge or distort the port. Do not use a wooden toothpick. If the burner needs to be adjusted, call appliance service.
  5. Replace the burner cap, as shown in the first illustration.
  6. Turn on the burner. If the burner does not light, check cap alignment. If the burner still does not light, call appliance service.

Knobs

(This one falls under the “duh” category, but you never know…) Push in the burner knob before turning to light to ensure that it’s set correctly.


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