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Aug 9, 2011 09:20 AM

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 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!