The following is a guest article from Dorian of Blade and Skillet, the cooking destination for simple, stylish, and satisfying dishes.
Let’s face it gents, with the rise of reality food shows and celebrity chefs, there’s more pressure than ever to perform in the kitchen.
If you’ve fallen into the belief that you need a blow-torch, food processor, and Michelin status to do that, take a sigh of relief, we’re here to help.
With these four steps we’ll equip you with the hardware, knowledge, and resources to take your cooking game from embarrassing to impressive.
1. Start Sharp, Stay Sharp
Whether it’s your closet or your kitchen there are a few items that you can’t skimp on. First and foremost, a proper chef’s knife. A chef’s knife is to a kitchen what a navy blazer is to a closet – it’s a staple.
They range in size, usually between 8-10 inches, but don’t let that distract you. Pick one that feels good in your hand. Everybody’s different so it all comes down to preference. Generally speaking, lighter ones are built for speed whereas ones with a little more weight will do more of the work for you.
In terms of materials, avoid stainless steel. If you want the nitty gritty, stainless steel is a steel alloy, meaning it’s combined with other metals – in this case, usually softer ones – making it more susceptible to nicks. Despite your best efforts to keep it sharp, over time it will lose its edge and be more of an inconvenience than anything.
Japanese steel is known to be the best, but if you talk to anyone who really knows knives they’ll concede that French and German steel is pretty damn good, too. Stick to brands like Global (Japan), Henckels (German), and Sabatier (French), and you should be fine.
Opt for their higher end lines and pay the extra cash now – it’ll last you much longer, and again, it’s made with better materials. You’ll pay anywhere between $150-$250 for a knife of this caliber.
2. Build with Blocks
Next you’ll need a surface to use your handy chef’s knife on, so pick up a proper cutting board. At the end of the day, you can’t really beat a nice wooden chopping block. They’re strong, durable, and always look nice.
The trick with wood is in the maintenance. Never throw it in the dishwasher, don’t let it soak, and if you’re going to use a lot of soap when washing it make sure you have some mineral oil in your cupboard to restore it.
A good trick is to have a nice big board for chopping all your fruits and vegetables, and have a small cheaper one for your meats. Veggies won’t contaminate your board and you can just clean up with a damp cloth. If you’re not afraid of raw meat, just make sure to scrub with a little soap in the places where the meat sits.
Mineral oil is the stock standard for wood cutting board maintenance. Depending on how often you use your board or how heavily you clean it, you may need to apply it anywhere from once a month to once every 2-3 months.
3. Quality is King
Next, you need something to cook with. No matter what type of synthetic material comes out next, nothing will replace a cast iron skillet. Your cast iron skillet will out live you, and it can probably take a harsher beating, too, so adding it to your arsenal is a no-brainer.
Go for a 10 inch fry pan – it’s all you really need. Don’t worry, you can still use that pots and pans set you got when you moved into your place, but use the old faithful for all the heavy lifting.
Like the cutting board, maintenance is the biggest factor to getting the most out of your skillet. You can buy them pre-seasoned, season it yourself, or just let it season over time. Regardless, like your selvedge denim, avoid washing with soap as much as you can.
Hot water and steel wool will do the trick for pretty much anything. Again, keep it away from the dishwasher and soaking – it’ll keep your skillet and you much happier.
4. Get Inspired
From the seasoned veteran to the fresh faced rookie, everybody needs a good source of inspiration and/or guidance in the kitchen. It keeps your personal menu fresh, your cooking skills on point, and can open you up to things you may have thought were out of your league.
Established chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay are always helpful when it comes to mastering techniques or discovering dishes with a little more flare to them.
Bloggers are great with experimentation and pushing boundaries with ingredients and flavours.
Also, the New York Times has recently given their cooking section a makeover, making their vast database of recipes more appealing and accessible.
That said, we naturally have a bias towards our own service, Blade & Skillet.
When we created Blade & Skillet, we were looking to combine the best of all worlds – simple steps, small servings, few ingredients all wrapped into a short 3 minute video. Through the eyes of a young professional in a big city, it relates to the busy life we all live.
Whether you get inspired by us or any other source, it’s important that your source fits your lifestyle as much as it fits your difficulty level. Much like your clothing, it’s not just about the fit, or the brand, or the material, it’s a combination of everything and how you pull it off at the end of the day.
To Wrap It Up…
Cooking can be intimidating especially if you don’t cook often, but with the proper hardware, simple direction, and a little inspiration, you can impress even the most experienced foodie (not to mention yourself)!
TELL ME, GENTS:
Do you fancy yourself a chef? Or, at least, a person who enjoys cooking? If so, what’s your favorite meal to whip up? Let me know in the comments below.
[photos via Sebastién Dubois-Didcock]