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Inconvenient Questions?

Due to some truly annoying circumstances, I found myself lately watching some food programs during the day, not something I usually do. Without getting into actual culinary philosophy (like what's with all the oil?) there are a lot of tendencies that I find just odd. Like
What's with the tongs? Useful, sure, but some of these guys seem to have nothing else- they use them for everything from turning meat to stirring mirepoix. I've never seen a rubber scraper.
Do they have no potholders?
Does anyone really keep an open bowl of salt around, and dip food-covered fingers into it regularly?
Are nonstick pans forbidden? They seem to cook everything in Gigundo enameled Dutch ovens.
I know they have real mixers- why use handhelds for everything- including egg whites?
And so forth- as a note, restaurant chefs tend to always be in a hurry, but that's a matter of commerce, not cuisine- rushing is not a good way to cook, or to do anything else.

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  1. I use tongs 75% of the time I cook. Once you try it, you get used to it very easily. They use a lot of Kosher salt on the shows and it's not easily poured. You pretty much apply it by feel.

    1. I use tongs all the time. Outside, I have the 18" plain ones, inside I have 2 - 8" and 10". Potholders are for wimps. I use the flour sack white cotton cloths for wiping everything as I go. I keep a pile of them in my kitchen. One is almost always over my shoulder or in my apron strings. If something's hot, I'll fold it over a few times on the handle. Kosher salt is always in the glass cup with a lid (Alton Brown model) next to the stove. I used to use a salt pig - how else can you quickly grab a pinch? I have a ceramic grinder on the table with sea salt. Non-stick pans are for wimps. No, actually, they're good for certain things (omelets) but why bother when you can do as well with well broken-in good heat-conducting pans that you can transfer to the oven as needed - without adding any PTFE in your diet. Dutch ovens aren't for "everything", of course, but they are great for braising. Braising is a great way to cook lesser meats that have a lot of fat and connective tissue. Seems that I, like a lot of people, are eating more and more pork butt and less and less beef rib-eye these days. And since I start most recipes on the stove with a mirepoix or something like it, and then brown the meat, I use tongs! And then I transfer the whole thing to the oven. I do like Alton Brown's philosophy about reducing the clutter in the kitchen - especially the number of uni-function tools. Why have 2 sets of pans, one with Teflon, one without, when you don't really need to. Why have potholders when you're always going to have a flour sack cloth around?

      In a hurry is a matter of how much time you have. Some folks have all day to cook everyday, some come home and need to feed a family in 30 minutes. Regardless of how much time is available, it's just good discipline to organize and to do things effectively. Do the prep - get all the mise en place ready before you start firing everything up. It's not a matter of rushing so much that you miss important steps, but of making sure that you're getting it all done, step-by-step.

      It's been over 35 years since I worked in a kitchen, but I still enjoy seeing real professionals, like Anne Burrell, over home cooks, like Ina Garten - even if she was once a Nuclear Policy analyst. Perhaps it's just a matter of who you prefer to be taught by, whose style you emulate.

      17 Replies
      1. re: applehome

        Most of us use nonstick because you can use much less fat. an important consideration if you're feeding a family regularly, rather than selling a dining experience. I agree they are impractical in a restaurant kitchen- I avoided them myself for a long time. You shouldn't stir things in them with tongs, of course, but tongs are pretty useless for anything bigger than a marble anyway. Salt is easily poured into a palm, also a convenient measuring device. I don't like to use towels to pick up pots because 1) in a busy kitchen they're likely to get wet and conduct heat and 2) the trailing ends tend to get into things, from flames to sauces.
        In a hurry is a matter of planning; if you plan to do more than you have time for, you end up rushing. If your planning is done for you by circumstances, or a boss, you may be out of luck, but it's a situation to be avoided;; certainly no way to learn anything, which these shows are presumably aimed at (except maybe Emeril). Under no circumstances would I emulate a style- in anything.

        1. re: oldunc

          "Most of us use nonstick because you can use much less fat. an important consideration if you're feeding a family regularly"

          I don't use fat for non-stick purposes in my All-Clad SS pans or my iron wok. I know how to wait for things to release - and also how and why to deglaze pans. I use fat for flavor as needed, but I doubt that I would use less in Teflon. I use high-temps and the PTFE thing really, really scares me, especially with young grand-kids.

          "but tongs are pretty useless for anything bigger than a marble anyway. "

          Don't get that... I turn chunks of meat and vegs of all sizes, stir pots (dutch ovens and otherwise), grill steaks... Even for stir-frying, if I know I'm going to end up with some bigger chunks, I'll just start with the tongs - why use a spatula or high-heat rubber/wooden scraper if you know you're going to need to switch to a tong anyway. For fried rice, I do use a Japanese shamoji, which is a wooden scraper - it's more convenient to break up the clumps of dried rice.

          In the time it takes you to pick up the big box of salt and get a measure into your palms, I've pinched, thrown into the pot and moved on. I season in layers, tasting as I go, so it's not like I'm measuring a 1/2t once and that's that (except when I'm baking bread or something - and then, it's just so simple to dip the measuring spoon into the cup).

          I've never had a towel fire. If I dip it into liquid, or it gets dirty wiping up stuff, I put it aside and grab another. 12/$12 at Sam's Club - easily washable.

          I sincerely doubt that these things make a difference in our food. It's just a matter of preference. But you did ask why people prefer to do these things, and I tried to answer you. As always, your mileage will most certainly vary.

          1. re: oldunc

            My guess is that most cooks on chowhound (at least who post on the Home Cooking board!)don't use non-stick, actually. Or necessarily avoid added fat, especially when it's vegetable, unsaturated fat. I know I don't, and I do feed a family. We're not *too* fat...

            1. re: julesrules

              Wait, I'm not supposed to use fat when I cook? Who knew? Vegetables are almost always cooked in bacon fat.

                1. re: donovt

                  I have a jar in the fridge right now :)

                  1. re: julesrules

                    I feel better. Especially since I currently have a big jar of duck fat next to my jar of bacon fat.

                  2. re: donovt

                    Unless you happen to have some duck fat on hand ;>)

                    1. re: chicgail

                      I had corn on the cob the other night that I slathered in bacon fat before throwing it on the grill. Amazing. Going to try it with duck fat in a couple of days.

                  3. re: julesrules

                    We use tons of oil here (mostly olive, because I love it), but I bake with butter, of course. Not one of us is overweight. Maybe that's the secret? Throw out your nonstick and grease those pans heavily!

                    1. re: Isolda

                      Not everything is better with lots of grease!

                      1. re: Isolda

                        good for you! if you were to make the all-too common error of using too little oil, your family would actually be consuming *more* oil. using more oil at the correct temp when frying means less of it is absorbed into the food. less oil will be cooled when it comes into contact with the food, equaling improper frying and more oil absorption/saturation into the food. nonstick pans and spray oil are advocated "for dietary health" based on a nice, sandy foundation at best and quicksand at worst.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          That's the usual explanation when it comes to deep fat frying, where the ideal oil temperature is usually around 375F. But does it apply to shallow fat frying?

                          And after watching the ATK segment of Rubuchon style French Fries. This starts with the potatoes in cold oil. Their explanation was that oil replaces the water that has been driven out of the potatoes. And water is driven out in several temperature dependent stages.

                          1. re: paulj

                            sure does! someone posted a link to a good layman's explanation on this on another thread recently, but using oil correctly is something that is taught in every culinary school and it's pretty easy to pick up with on the job experience as well. any line cook will tell you that using cold oil/too little oil will result in a greasier product that will not cook properly.

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              It doesn't make much sense to talk about the amount of fat one should use, without being specific about the food item - e.g. fried eggs, scrambled, breaded items, diced onions, rice, etc.

                              1. re: paulj

                                i don't think i ever mentioned quantities, as i'm talking about a basic technique, not a recipe. if you don't use enough oil, the small amt of oil will come in contact with the food and cool instantly, and the food will absorb grease and cook improperly. if you use enough oil, it stays hot and the food absorbs less, and cooks properly.

                                it's a bit like saying that if you try to cook pasta in too little water, in too small a pot, that is not properly boiling hot, you will have several problems, and at least a sticky mass of improperly cooked pasta. how much water, how big a pot? depends how much pasta you're cooking. when you know the technique you get a successful result no matter how much pasta you're cooking.

                        2. re: Isolda

                          I'm with you 100%. Except that I use nonstick more often than I probably should.

                  4. I became a tongs convert watching those shows. I still use wooden spoons for certain tasks, but I love tongs for flipping meat, tortillas, toast, and stirring non-liquid things. As for pothholders, they probably use whatever is to hand. That's what I do. Potholders never seem to be where I need them, so anything that will protect my hands is good enough. I will confess here that potholders are less likely to be set on fire, due to their size, than some of the towels, t-shirts, etc that I have used.

                    I totally agree with you about the mise en place. Some of my worst cooking disasters have occurred because I had to frantically prepare an ingredient I missed while the meal was already on the fire.

                    1. Don't knock it till you tried it, other than my knives, silicone spatulas and chopsticks, tongs are my most used tools in the kitchen.
                      I can turn,stir, remove,pull out hot pans from the oven or move them on the stove,pinch bulk seasonings, even measure liquid seasonings{standard commercial tong capacity is 1 tablespoon} so for me they are indispensable in my kitchen and my favorite will be 25 years old in September.
                      As for the oil...how else can you prevent sticking and add flavor? especially when cooking solely in Gigundo enameled Dutch ovens?

                      1. Don't knock it until you've tried it -- you might like it and learn something!

                        1. In some types of cooking, such as Chinese stir-fry, you actually need very high heat to cook the best tasting dishes, so speed is necessary so the food doesn't burn in the process.

                          1. Add me to the list of tongs users. Professional chefs have used them in restaurant kitchens for years. It's just with the current glut of cooking shows on television hosted by commercial chefs that we are seeing it for ourselves.

                            1. Add me to the ring users too. They are by far the most used item in my kitchen. I have a canister beside the stove with spatulas, rubber scrapers, etc. But my OXO tongs (multiple sets) are used more than the rest combined.

                              1. And not only are tongs useful, they seem to last forever. I picked up a dozen 12" tongs from an Edward Don Outlet store about 15 years ago (under $2 each) thinking I'd wear some out over time, I unwrapped 4 or 5 and those still look - and work - like new.

                                1. Me, too -- they're very literally an extension of my hands for an enormous number of heat-related tasks in my kitchen, and I use them all the time. I do have a silicon-coated pair that I bought to use with my teflon pans (a big saute pan and a dutch oven that I use nearly daily) -- but I frankly find I most often use that pair to take things down off of shelves that are beyond my reach! They don't slip, extend my reach by a substantial distance, and I keep both feet squarely on the floor -- an important point for a klutz like me.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    my potholders are thick terry-type things -- think two heavy-duty washcloths sewn on three sides so you can slip your hand inside. Protects my knuckles and leaves me with at least *some* dexterity (not much)...they'll do until I track down a pair of Kevlar gloves at the military surplus.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Never mind. I have fabulous pot holders that I can't describe and can't get Flick'R to release the photo of. ::sigh::

                                      PS It used to be easy to link to Flick'R. If anyone knows the secret to doing now that they've changed their formatting I'd appreciate the info.

                                        1. re: BangorDin

                                          Nope -- no thumb thingy.

                                          Like I said -- two thick terry squares sewn on three sides, and you slip your hand in between the two squares.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Oh! Yes--very simple, a potholder sandwich with your hand inside -- I've had those, they were great. That thick terrycloth was great -- do you know where to buy those now?

                                            1. re: BangorDin

                                              I got a pair in the box with my Kitchenaid mixer, of all things. I've burned a hole in one of them (don't ask me how - I don't know!) but I still use it for non-intensive oven stuff.

                                              I bought a 2nd set (for when I've managed to bury the first set under God-knows-what) a few years ago -- at KMart or Walmart, I think.

                                              I *never* used potholders before I got these -- and I really do reach for them every time. One too many burns on my knuckles and forearms, and one too many singed towels, but I eventually learned!

                                          2. re: BangorDin

                                            Yup, for me. I LOVE those things with the little thumb pockets!

                                      1. I think most of these things are a matter of efficiency.

                                        Tongs stir, toss, flip, fold. Kitchen towels or aprons as potholders reduce not only laundry, but clutter. I don't think I've seen the same chefs doing the aforementioned also using handhelds, but maybe we're just watching different shows.

                                        Not only do I do all of the above, but I totally do the salt pot. There aren't many cooties a pot of salt won't kill...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                          I just pour straight from the box of kosher salt. It's pretty controllable with a little practice.

                                          Bowl of salt works too. But a shaker is too slow for a lot of things, and problematic with a lot of types of salt.

                                        2. "Does anyone really keep an open bowl of salt around, and dip food-covered fingers into it regularly?"
                                          - thats what the tongs are for, to keep your fingers clean when dipping into the salt vat.

                                          You're questions may be inconvenient, but perhaps irrevelant. You're comparing home cookery to television which are, for the most part, two different things.
                                          Perhaps if you while away the afternoon watching porn, you might find a lot of tendencies odd as well. Maybe ask other inconvenient questions like does the pizza guy actually have sex on every delivery, or do all women have no body hair and fake boobs?
                                          In other words, televised entertainment does not necessarily reflect real life.
                                          Just my 2c...

                                          1. "Without getting into actual culinary philosophy (like what's with all the oil?) ..."
                                            Offhand, it often strikes me that many homecooks don't use enough oil for their sautees (I'm assuming this is what you're referring to). Most foods only absorb so much - you can pour off any extra. Skimping on the oil is really just a way of making sure your food doesn't brown evenly. Of course there are a few foods where less oil is appropriate, but they're more the exception.

                                            "restaurant chefs tend to always be in a hurry, but that's a matter of commerce, not cuisine- rushing is not a good way to cook, or to do anything else."
                                            If you think about it, so are TV cooks, usually. But either way, there is plenty to be said for cooking quickly, pro or not. You can get more done in the same time - a well developed, multi-course meal for four in an hour. If you're slow in the kitchen, your options are limited. Slow is fine as long as you're only cooking a couple things at a time.

                                            1. I became a convert to tongs over a decade ago watching early FoodNetwork. Yes, I use them for almost everything including serving at the table for the fam. I've also got a crock of silicone scrapers and spurtles. Wouldn't want to be without them either. But tongs are like extensions of your hand and nothing else is as versatile.

                                              I don't keep an open container of salt but I have two covered salt pots on my flat-topped vent fan. One is table grind and one is kosher. Yes, I use my hands. The salt that the hands touch goes on heat on the food but Julia Child told me (via The French Chef, of course) that my hands needed to be immaculately clean and then I needed to get over needless anxiety over using them.

                                              I own 1 nonstick skillet. I got tired of throwing nonstick out. I rarely use it. When good quality stainless is scrubbed immaculately clean and a modest amount of fat is employed at an appropriate temperature there's no sticking. I make omlettes and scrambled eggs in stainless with a fork for moving the mass around. A good rinse in really HOT water is usually enough clean up to keep them nonstick for a week or so before they need another pumice polish.

                                              Big heavy Dutch ovens and braising pans cook beautifully and keep the splattery mess down. Keeping "covered" pots with the lids cracked also cuts down on unintended boiling and more splatters.

                                              When a handheld mixer is easier to grab or the volume is not too great, handhelds work just fine. I often grab mine in preference to the heavy stand mixer that involves so much more clean up. If you (the generic "you") can't whip egg whites with a hand held, chances are you're going to overwhip them with a stand mixer that you can speed up and walk away from.

                                              Naturally, none of this means that that's the way you, oldunc, should cook. You should use what you're comfortable with and enjoy your cooking. Still, I think the answer to your original question is that, short of changing the color of every appliance to match what Sanda Lee is wearing, a lot of the way people cook on TV resembles the way many people really do cook.

                                              PS I have a favorite style of potholders and have them in both my cooking and baking areas. They're so important to me that I have them in two different colors so they never migrate out of their proper place and I bought 4 pair of each color so when they're beyond a good washing I have the replacements on hand.

                                              1. love tongs, loads of good olive oil, don't have a rubber scraper, hate nonstick but yes, I do have potholders since the handles on my cast ironware get really hot. I get the open bowl of salt and used to do this until I started buying the Costco salt grinders; rushing is necessary because timing is so important to the cooking process

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: crowmuncher

                                                  "what's with the tongs" tongs become an extension of your hand after a while,I couldn't cook without them.Non stick is good for eggs(low to med heat) and pot holders are a PITA.Cheap dish towels work for me at home.I only use Kosher salt,so a little bowl is always nearby.

                                                  1. re: petek

                                                    what is a PITA?; sorry i must be too old to get that

                                                      1. re: ferret

                                                        thanks Ferret! that's two acronyms that need to be explained to me today so far :)

                                                    1. re: petek

                                                      now that i know what PITA is...I want u to know i have these slip-on handle cover things so they are actually not a PITA. I was wrong calling them potholders cuz you would think they are are the bigger annoying kind of heat protection

                                                      like these... http://www.oswalt.biz/handle-cover-fo...
                                                      only mine are loud chili pepper decorated

                                                      1. re: crowmuncher

                                                        "only mine are loud chili pepper decorated"
                                                        nice..whatever works for ya..

                                                    2. re: crowmuncher

                                                      correction, i mean "working fast", rushing is not the right word (agree with Oldunc)

                                                    3. Do you think food programs necessarily compare to real life?
                                                      I think its maybe like watching soap operas (is this OK, Chow police?) during the day; perhaps you may find tendencies that appear just odd and ask similar questions. I dunno, "does everyone waking up look so beautiful?", or "is the neighbourhood completely full of successful people?".
                                                      Home cookery doesn't, for the most part, have to compare to television shows (like everyday life and soap operas).
                                                      I think they try to compare more to a restaurant cook than a home cook to appear more "professional".

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: porker

                                                        not even close; i've never seen them wash a single dish or do any of the prep work on tv; so to a novice it seems soooo easy to prepare their dishes

                                                      2. I have often wondered what was for show and what was their comfort. I've also been curious about product placement. I haven't watched a FN personality for a few years and remember them using Global knives. I saw them a while back and they were using something else. Hmm... l am an equipment junkie and plan on opening a Williams-Sonoma outlet store in my garage with my cast-offs. Once I find something I like, it is my completist nature to be every item in the line and stick with them.

                                                        There are different tools for different folks and it comes down to what you feel comfortable with. For example, I love whisks. My wife does not use them. Ever. Its a fork, an immersion blender, a hand mixer, etc- but never a whisk. I'm a fairly new convert to tongs- Thanksgiving dinner actually did it!. I'd previously only used them on the grill but have found out they are an extension of your hand indoors as well. I bought a couple silicone mitts thinking they'd be great. Nope, not for me. Give me a pair of tongs and a couple dense hotpads. I don't like using towels for things other than wiping/drying/mopping. I wash my hands frequently so one is close at hand. I've got a salt box with different varieties that I'll dip into and a salt pig for general use. But, if I'm doing a lot of something or working with things I do not want to cross-contaminate, I will pour into a ramekin and grab as I need.

                                                        I've made the switch away from non-stick. It used to be that we'd have six n/s pans for every one non-non-stick. The ratio has flipped and I absolutely love the A-C D5 line. They will be the last ss pans I will buy. My mother still prefers her copper and iron that are as old as I am. My wife hasn't yet embraced them. I rarely use enameled cast-iron as I've been trying different A-C stainless for braises and "start on a burner finish in the oven" dishes. However, I do prefer the LeCreuset for my comfort foods (stews, shepherd's pie, etc).

                                                        As far as being in a hurry, I'm a passionate amateur. I cook to relax, have fun and experiment. Sometimes things don't go to plan and it is double-time but meal prep may take a while.I haven''t worked in a restaurant since I was a teen. Yes, our chef and cooks were frequently animated and frantic but I wasn't ever sure what could be attributed to the nature of menu, their workload, or the drugs they were taking...

                                                        1. None of this is much by way of rebuttal, but that hardly matters. I think it does matter that people realize there's a difference betweeen working fast and rushing. I will also say that I almost never used nonstick until about 5 years ago, and have never had a weight problem, I just don't like oily food. Saw an evidently nice lady cook a pound of sausage in 1/4 c. of oil, and dump the whole thing on a 10" pizza without draining it, then pour more oil over the top- that sort of thing.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: oldunc

                                                            I think your previous point about planning was spot on - and always doing your mise en place makes you do that kind of thinking - planning your steps ahead so that you can indeed work fast. You might have a hard time in the North End of Boston (its Little Italy) watching the old timers drizzle extra oil (which is on the table in bottles) onto their pizzas. Of course, it's EVOO and not fat from a sausage. In NYC on the Lower East Side, you'll find Jewish (Romanian) restaurants that still have rendered chicken fat (schmalz) on the table. I guess it's no worse than a diabetic sitting down to a table (like at IHOP) with bottles of syrup. Ultimately a little extra oil is not necessarily any different than buttering bread.

                                                            1. re: applehome

                                                              i don't use butter because i do not digest it well. When i "butter" my toast that means drizzle a good bit of EVOO. And since i miss the saltiness of the butter, I grind a little salt on it

                                                          2. I'm also a tongs user, from steaks, sausages, fried fish and chicken, serving and my new use, getting spaghetti out of the pot after it has drained.

                                                            1. The thing that always sticks out to me is that TV chefs have the luxury of equipment sponsors (check the credits at the end of the show) who seem to provide brand new 'everything' for each show. I don't think I've seen a pan or dutch oven (or much else either) that looks even slightly used on these shows. From what I've read, most of these shows are done in short time periods (several a day), and still everything looks new.

                                                              Now THAT'S a difference between TV and real-life cooking !!!!

                                                              1. tongs - I learned to use them from TV shows, but I must have learned to use silicone spatulas from them as well. Tongs aren't ideal for stirring, but if I already have them in hand for moving large pieces, I might as well use them to move the small stuff.

                                                                I have a vague recollection of someone, on TV or print, ranting about excessive use of tongs. He thought cooks were manhandling food, especially delicate items like fish and breaded items. But I don't recall his preferred alternative. Some cooks use their fingers, even to pluck things out of the hot pan.

                                                                salt - I keep my kosher salt in a wide mouth jar (usually capped). When I am salting and tasting, I like to do it pinch by pinch. Alton's flip top salt cellar is almost his trademark, but salt cellars have been around a long time - longer I think than shakers. A shaker works best with fine, modern salt with drying agents.

                                                                Yes, some cooks appear to be careless when handling food and applying salt (and grinding pepper). I suspect the open salt cellar is cleaned and refilled for each taping. But when salting a piece of meat, it would be a good idea to put some salt and pepper in separate bowl, and sprinkle from that.

                                                                potholders - do you mean instead of towels? I have a potholder from a restaurant supply store that looks like a wash cloth with a thick backing. Things like that, and towels are more versatile than designer quilted pads from Walmart.

                                                                nonstick - I see more stainless steel on cooking shows, though enameled cast iron is common for braises. There was a long thread about 'why no cast iron on tv'. I suspect food shows up better in stainless steel. But I have also seen nonstick - Jacques Pepin usually uses nonstick.

                                                                Yes, there are threads about getting rid of nonstick - usually started by home cooks who have a full set (wedding gift?), and believe the stories about how evil it is. But I think experienced cooks use a variety of materials, realizing that each has its pros and cons.

                                                                hand mixers - my impression is that stand mixers are more common on TV shows. Even rushed Chopped cooks pull out the stand mixer. The stand lets them multitask - whipping whites while doing something else. But for egg whites, I find that modern hand mixers work just as well. The stand mixer is more valuable for cakes, and heavy duty processes. And of course for commercial quantities, the stand mixer is absolutely necessary.

                                                                Shows like DDD give a better idea of what restaurant cooks use than purely instructional shows. There you see a lot of aluminum skillets, and braising done in hotel pans with foil tops.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  "I have a vague recollection of someone, on TV or print, ranting about excessive use of tongs. He thought cooks were manhandling food, especially delicate items like fish and breaded items. But I don't recall his preferred alternative. "
                                                                  This was Thomas Keller, from his Ad hoc At Home cookbook; says they put too much pressure on the food. For gently turing items like fish filets he prefers a palette knife.

                                                                  Heres a link to the page on Google Books (check out the paragraph "idiosyncrasies").

                                                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                                                    David Chang (of Momofuku) has also publicly flipped out over people using tongs on delicate foods. Don't remember where I read or watched that though. His respect for Keller is well known, so Chang might just be taking his cues from him.

                                                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                                                      have you ever tried to flip an oiled corn tortilla with tongs? i tend to tear them this way so i use my hands; iIf it's too hot, a spatula

                                                                      1. re: crowmuncher

                                                                        Ahhh ...try the silicone spatula tongs from Ikea.I flip sunny side up eggs with them and haven't lost a yolk yet .Works great on tortillas and crepes too.

                                                                        1. re: Duppie

                                                                          i'm weird about using silicone; i only use steel, but i do see how the physics of "spatula" tongs would be better for tortillas

                                                                  2. I'm definately a tongs user; I have steel, coated and wooden and use them all. I don't have an open bowl of salt. Maybe it isn't unsanitary but it just seems that way to me.

                                                                    I do use non-stick pans though (oh, the shame of it) for almost everything I fry or saute on top of the stove. Mostly everything that I might want a crust on goes on the grill. I won't debate the merits, but just leave it at I have found that my particular brand of laziness encourages the use of the nonstick.

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Shann

                                                                      might help to keep in mind that salt has been used to kill various flora and fauna for centuries...makes you feel pretty safe that your salt really isn't as contaminated as the care trolls would like you to believe.

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        Personally, not so worried about germs- but these bowls, which seem to contain what would be several months worth of salt for me, will inevitably pick up moisture and turn to rock long before it's used up. I have no doubt that the TV shows replace them daily. Most of the stuff I started this thread with I just find sort of curious, but the wastefulness common to food tv is kind of disturbing. The salt will probably pick up random foodstuffs and grease, too, but not to a serious degree. Sugar has also been used as a preservative for centuries, but I wouldn't leave it lying about open.

                                                                        1. re: oldunc

                                                                          I use basic unadulterated sea salt and have never had a clumping problem when I keep 8-10oz in my salt boxes.

                                                                          1. re: rainey

                                                                            I've kept an open cellar of Kosher salt within arm's reach of my stove and prep station in every kind of weather for decades and have never experienced any type of clumping or contamination. when other seasonings appear on the surface {mostly cracked black pepper} I skim it off and top off after turning.

                                                                            1. re: rainey

                                                                              Nor have I. Have you tried bowls?

                                                                            2. re: oldunc

                                                                              Not as much as you think -- I used salt in a jar with a rubber gasket in Florida for YEARS (and if it won't clump in Florida and its 90% summertime humidity, it ain't gonna clump anywhere) and never once had a clump, and the same jar has kept salt clump-free in France for several years now.

                                                                            3. re: sunshine842


                                                                              Salt was one of the first methods of preserving food. And "salted earth" tactics of war were infamous for leaving ground sterile for a generation.

                                                                              To be a carrier of germs something has to be equipped to support life. Salt is not.

                                                                          2. most home cooks use bad technique/wrong tools because they don't know any better. . .

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                              My mom made many, many great meals without a care in the world as to whether she was using an appropriate knife (or whether it was Damascus steel or a Ginsu) and had the same set of mismatched pots (some stainless, some enameled, some non-stick, some aluminum) since the dawn of creation. She also watched Julia Child religiously but ultimately never really cared if she was doing it "right" or not. Sometimes not knowing any better isn't a bad thing.

                                                                              1. re: ferret

                                                                                yeah, i agree. your product in the kitchen has little to do w/ your tools; so many cooks aspire to make meals like my grandparents used to make (w/out the "appropriate" tools)

                                                                              2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                For most of human history we were all home cooks and seemed to manage okay.

                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                  I use some wrong techniques just because they're more fun. I know how to seed a tomato, but I love sticking my (well-scrubbed) index finger into the little pockets to see if I can get the little seed sac to pop out. This is slower and doesn't do as good a job as squeezing the tomato, but it is so much more satisfying.

                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                    jeepers folks. me pointing out that tv cooks may use correct tools and techniques to **teach people how to prepare food** is not in any way an insult to anyone's personal granny. likewise, a cook on tv using an induction burner or a japanese knife technique is not dissing anyone else's lineage or declaring that before induction burners people were not able to prepare food. the nice thing about tv cooking shows is you can tune them in or out, take or leave it, switch it off. . . not like it's a course at the culinary school you paid big bucks for.

                                                                                    tv cooking shows have production budgets and sponsors supplying plenty of brand new cookware and fresh ingredients and staff and formats. everyone's grannies worked & raised kids and scrimped some of the grocery and batterie-cuisine dough to pay for music lessons and birthday gifts and trips to the zoo. perhaps we could agree that a show on tv has nothing to do with your personal granny making a pan of brownies, or whatever?!?

                                                                                    the tv show is a televised demonstration, aimed at *instruction* where hopefully technique is valued and aptly demonstrated (haha, but that's another thread). granny's cooking put food on the table every night, she wasn't trying to instruct anyone outside of her own family. please separate the two spheres here, as everyone's granny can't have her own cooking show-- and if anyone's granny really did have a cooking show, my comments are not aimed at her personally, obviously.

                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                      Well said. It seems like every time someone mentions cooking technique or choosing one's tools well, someone else gets offended on behalf of their grandmother. This defensiveness is counterproductive for a food website.

                                                                                      I'll take it a step further with my own personal exampe. My mother is an excellent cook (neither of my grandmothers were). But she never learned to use a knife particularly well - just well enough to get by. And you know what? Excellent though she is, if she learned to use a knife well, she'd be even a little bit better. There's no shame in admitting this. It's a fact. She's a better cook than plenty of people who are skilled with a chefs knife (me, for example). But we all have our strengths and weaknesses - it's a lot harder to improve if you don't own up to em.

                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                        my granny with her own cooking show? that would get canceled for sure ;)

                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                          soupkitten, I had been cooking for decades before the FoodNetwork came on. At that time it really *was* instructive and I have learned things from Sara Moulton, Alton Brown, David Rosengarten and others that genuinely improved the way I cook today. And from Julia Child and the Frugal Gourmet, for that matter, before FN came along.

                                                                                          I've picked up recipes from lots of TV cooks. I've gotten laughs at others' expense before I gave up on FN altogether 5 years or more ago.

                                                                                          All the while, it was, just as you say, an opportunity to take in info and decide what was useful for me and what worked just fine my own way. Information is a resource. Resources are adaptable. They aren't dictation.

                                                                                      2. I buy Kosher salt in a shaker. It exists.

                                                                                        1. Thank you all for your interesting and informative comments. I think the second poster actually answered the question with his comment about imitating styles. I went into a store today and looked at some tongs, and they had some very nice, silicon rubber sort of spoon shaped ones that would stir adequately in many situations (as opposed to the dinosaur tooth style issued by the food network). I have outlived more absolutely essential stirring devices in my life than I care to remember- it usually takes about 1/2 hour to adjust to a new one. I used to know a Chinese lady who could do absolutely anything in a kitchen with a cleaver and a pair of chopsticks- watching her make cookies was an inspiration. I'm too weary to explain why things stick, and anyway, this is a media forum, not cooking or science. But it comes down to, water doesn't stick to teflon. If you like greasy food, live it up- I don't, but most weeks I use up at least a pound of butter and a quart of heavy cream on baking and ice cream. I'm 20 lbs. underweight by most standard measures.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: oldunc

                                                                                            Ha, I envy your ability to consume dairy fat and not gain weight :)
                                                                                            Since I did mention weight first I believe, I want to clarify. I never meant to imply anything about YOUR weight, just point out that not all or 'most' folks use nonstick pans for purported health reasons. Which was a response to your comment '....most of us use nonstick' or something close to that. But I think I misunderstood you. Anyway, for the sake of discussing cooking technique - I brown sausage in my cast iron pan, with no added fat. I don't like particularly oily food myself, preferring to get my lovely fat from rich meats and baked goods.