Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Complete Guide to Chocolate

We all love chocolate, how could you not?! Chocolates in all forms from chocolate bars, hot chocolate, chocolate sauce, chocolate milk, chocolate biscuits…there are just so many amazing things made with chocolate! However, not all of us know a great deal about this amazing thing that we eat so often. So, let’s get ready to learn a little bit about this amazing ingredient!

A Brief History of Chocolate

Chocolate itself comes from the cocoa tree that has been growing for over 3 million years. Records show that chocolate initially was used as a beverage around 1100BC in Mexico by the Aztecs and Maya. The cocoa beans were originally fermented and made into a type of alcoholic beverage. The Mayan’s were the first on record to serve cocoa warm mixed with chili peppers and corn meal- an original hot cocoa!

Cocoa beans were even as currency during the Aztec period and chocolate was considered to be a gift from the God’s. But something this good wouldn’t stay a secret for long and in the early 1600’s, the chocolate drink made its way to Spain and became extremely popular among royalty and the wealthy (the only people who could originally afford such a luxury item). From there, the evolution of chocolate continued to expand and when the industrial revolution came about, it became faster to roast and produce chocolate which made it far more affordable to everyday people.

Today, about three quarters of the worlds chocolate is produces in West Africa and cocoa is still, to this day, an amazingly popular and desired taste. Now that you know a little bit about how chocolate came to be, let’s look even more in depth into the world of cocoa!

Types of Chocolates

There are numerous types of chocolates found in the marketplace of today. Chocolate will vary based on many things from being produced from cheap cacao or being roasted from the highest quality specialty cacao beans. Its flavor and price may also vary with the kind of cacao has been used and the types and amount of additives that may have been added.
All chocolate is made by first fermenting and roasting cocoa beans. The shell is then removed and the cocoa nibs, the part remaining, is ground into a paste. The paste is then heated, this melted form is called chocolate liquor, and separated into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. These two parts of the chocolate are usually sold separately in mass production as the quantity of each will vary from brand to brand, and from type of chocolate to other type of chocolate.
Here are the most common types of chocolates:

White Chocolate

White Chocolate is made by combining cocoa butter with sugar, milk solids and flavorings like vanilla. When processing chocolate, the dark colored solids of the cocoa bean are separated from the fatty parts of the bean. This cocoa fat is then used to make white chocolate and as most of the cocoa solids have been removed, white chocolate has an off-white, beige color.
Due to the fact that most of the cocoa solids have been removed, white chocolate lacks the antioxidant properties of darker chocolates and many do not consider white chocolate to really be “chocolate”. However the subtle, creamy flavors of white chocolate are still quite appealing!

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate is simply made from cocoa solids, sugar and cocoa butter added to milk or milk powder. The U.S. government dictates that milk chocolate contains at least 10% pure cocoa solids while the European Union requires at least 25% cocoa solids. So Milk chocolate from a European country will be much darker than a milk chocolate bar from the United States. Milk chocolate is very common in candy bars as it has a less bitter taste than dark chocolate but is richer than white chocolate.

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate is a sweetened chocolate that contains high amounts of cocoa solids and small amounts of milk. Unlike milk chocolate, there are no regulations for what percentage of cocoa solids need to be used in dark chocolate. Because of that, based on the ratio of cocoa solids and sugars used dark chocolate my either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. Dark chocolate is usually labeled with a percentage right on the package which will tell you how much cocoa is in each type. 60% cocoa would be pretty dark chocolate but get up to 90% cocoa and you are about to try a very dark and bitter chocolate bar!

Dark chocolate is great for baking or eating. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and has much less sugar than milk chocolate or white chocolate and is deemed the healthier chocolate. Dark chocolate was recently declared a “super food” and this title has cause global demand to rise. Go dark chocolate!!
Subsets of dark chocolate are as follows:

Sweet Dark Chocolate – Contains 35 to 45% cocoa solids and has added sugar

Semi-sweet Chocolate – Contains approximately 40 to 62% of cocoa solids and is commonly used in cakes, cookies and brownies. It is considered as dark baking chocolate that is readily available in grocery stores.

Bittersweet Chocolate – Contains 60 to 85% of cocoa solids and is low in sugar giving the chocolate a rich and intense bittersweet flavor. Bittersweet chocolates are commonly used in baking and cooking.

Unsweetened Chocolate – Contains 100% of cocoa solids and half of it is fat. It is not suitable for eating because of its bitter taste. It is frequently used in baking.

How to Store Chocolates

Ideally chocolates should be stored away from other foods since they absorbs odors and aromas of other products. You don’t want your chocolate to taste like garlic, that’s for sure! Try to store chocolates in a cool, dry place at a consistent temperature of below 21 degrees C and a humidity of less than 55%. Sealing chocolate in an air-tight container is very helpful in keeping them fresh and flavorful and keeping chocolate away from light will also help preserve the flavor. Oxygen and artificial lights can cause unpleasant flavors and odors to chocolates.

Chocolate typically doesn’t contain additives and preservatives which is why they are better eaten fresh. If you have a significant supply of chocolates and you want to preserve them for an extended period of time you can refrigerate them to increase the shelf life. Furthermore, you can store chocolate for 6 to 12 months in the freezer. Before freezing chocolates, wrap them tightly to protect from odors and condensation. But always consume your chocolate at room temperature as that is the best for tasting the true essence of chocolate!

Cooking with Chocolate

Cooking with chocolate or making chocolate truffles themselves can sometimes be really tricky but it’s worth the effort to perfect the process. As we all know, chocolate desserts are the best desserts! Here are some tips for cooking with chocolate.

Add Shortening to Chocolate

baking with chocolateWhen making chocolate truffles or candies, adding shortening to the melted chocolate can help create a smoother and manageable consistency as compare to melted chocolate only. With this trick, it is much easier to evenly coat a product that you are dipping in the melted chocolate. Using the ratio of ½ teaspoon of shortening to each 25 grams of chocolate will result in a beautiful consistency.

How to Melt Chocolate

Always melt your chocolate slowly over a low heat. Chocolates typically melts at 30 – 32 degrees C. Don’t over melt chocolate because it will become grainy and too thick. Chocolate can burn quickly and become very bitter if melted quickly over high heat. Be gentle to your chocolate!

Chocolate for Baking

Baking chocolates are typically the unsweetened and bitter kind of chocolate that contains about 50% to 58% of cocoa butter. Baking chocolates are usually used in making brownies, cakes and frostings. You may need extra sugar (which is usually in baked goods anyway!) to make your chocolate taste delectable rather than overly bitter.

That’s Chocolate!

So now you know a little bit more about the detailed world of chocolate. Did you also know that every second, American’s collectively consume 100 pounds of chocolate? So join the crowd and go grab yourself a delicious chocolate bar!

Chef Jason Galletti’s passion for exceptional and unique catering experiences inspired him to bring together G`Day Chef to life in 2005. For over ten years now, Jason and his team has provided Melbourne with catering and event services that use the very best Victorian Produce, delivered with consideration of the newest and most delicious culinary trends.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crafting The Perfect Juice (Using a Juicer OR Blender)

home juicing

Today I want to talk about juicing. When people ask me about healthy cooking and how to incorporate more nutrients into their diet, juicing (either with an Omega Juicer or Vitamix Blender) is one of the things I always suggest first.

Think about it. With just a few ingredients and in no time at all you’re getting all the great nutrients, all the great vitamins, and all the wonderful taste of the garden in a drink. So let me go over you what I do and how I build out a great juice.

The Components of the Perfect Juice

I always like to start with a base. For this I use either celery or cucumber, but it’s up to you. You simply want a watery vegetable. So that’s the first ingredient I’m always going to put in my juicer.

After the base I’m going to go to the meat of the juice, which I like to call the bulk. For this I typically use dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. That’s the meaty base I’m going to put in with the other part of the vegetables and makes for a great start.

After the base, I personally like to finish it off with fruits or vegetables that contain a lot to flavor like carrots or apples. So typical I’ll add some apples, some carrots, or strawberries to my juice, which makes it taste awesome and is a good way to finish it off.

To make your juices last longer, my secret tip is to add some kind of citrus. My favorite fruit for this is grapefruit, but any citrus will work.

Juicer and Blender Tips

One thing you want to look for in a juicer is something that isn’t loud, and something that’s easy to clean. A lot of people will make the mistake of buying a juicer, finding out it’s too loud, and never using it. So do your research beforehand, and make sure that you don’t fall into that group! Blenders can work also work well for this, but they do tend to be much louder.

In our house, we like a good Omega masticating juicer, because they are super simple to put together, very simple to clean, and very quiet.

Fresh Juice Vs. Store Bought

A lot of people ask how making your own juice at home is different than buying a ready-made juice from the store that comes already bottled. The main difference is that you need to use a lot less fruit when you couple it with other vegetables. This means less sugar and more nutrients coming from other sources, as opposed to just straight juice.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kitchen Experiment: How Wild Salmon Differs From Farmed Salmon and the Best Way to Cook It

wild caught salmon compared to farmed salmon

Most home cooks pay close attention to internal temperature when cooking a steak, where know just five degrees means the difference between rare, and medium rare. But few people pay that much attention when dealing with fish, which is really too bad, because even fatty fish like Salmon, can go from tender and moist to chalky, and dry in a flash.

The Experiment

wild vs farmed salmon comparedIn our kitchen, we used an instant read, digital thermometer to tell when Salmon is done. And we’ve always preferred it cooked to 125 degrees, that the ideal balance of firm, yet silky flesh.

The majority of salmon we cook is farmed atlantic, but as we’ve cooked more wild species, we started to wonder if 125 was maybe a bit too high. To find out, we bought multiple filets of the foremost common species of wild pacific salmon. King, also known as Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, and Chum. We cooked samples of each to both 120 degrees, and 125 degrees sou vide, or sealed in a plastic bag, and cooked in a temperature controlled water bath. We also did the same for samples of farmed atlantic salmon.

We then asked tasters, blind to the differences in internal temperature, to pick which sample had the best texture. Everyone preferred the Coho, Sockeye, and Chum samples cooked to 120 degrees. And the farmed atlantic, cooked to 125. While a few folks preferred the King sample at 125 degrees, the majority preferred 120. These results may sound surprising. After all, salmon is salmon right? Well, not exactly.

Conclusion

salmon filletsIt turns out that farmed atlantic salmon differs in two important ways, from the half dozen commercial wild varieties caught in the Pacific ocean. One, due to their sedentary life, the collagen protein in farmed atlantic salmon contains less chemical cross links, than in wild varieties, which translates into softer flesh. And two, farmed atlantic salmon contains more fat than any wild variety, and up to four times as much fat, as the leaner species. We know that fat provides the perception of juiciness when cooked.

So, with naturally firmer flesh, and less fat to provide lubrication, wild salmon can have the texture of overcooked fish, even at 125 degrees. By cooking wild salmon to just 120 degrees, the muscle fibers contract less, and stay moist and tender.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Manual vs. Electric Coffee Grinders: Which is Right for You?

Electric coffee grinderThe coffee you drink is only as good as the grind you make and the difference in taste when you brew a fresh cup of coffee is immeasurable. Then there’s the all-important question every home brewer started with: Manual or electric coffee grinder?

To be able to answer this question, you first need to know what you are looking for from your coffee grinder. How much money are you willing to spend? How much work are you willing to put into brewing your coffee? Do you need an appliance that doesn’t make a lot of noise? Do you want the grinder to achieve a super-espresso grind?

Once you know what you’re looking for you can make a decision. This article explains what the two different types of grinders can offer you and your brew. By the end of it, you should be able to make up your mind and decide on the right grinder to fit your daily coffee ritual.

Manual Grinders

A manual coffee grinder requires a little extra work. You provide the power needed to grind the coffee through winding the swivel arm which grinds up the beans. If you’re looking for a fine grind, you could be spinning away for a while, but a coarser grind isn’t going to be as much work.

Manual grinders are portable and easy to travel with and usually smaller than electric. Meaning if you like your coffee ground to perfection at work, as well as at home, you can take it along with you without a problem.

The price range of manual grinders is also significantly less than electric, leaving you with more money to spend on luxury coffee.

Manual coffee grinder pros

  • Simple
  • Sturdy
  • Consistent
  • Portable
  • Low-priced

Manual coffee grinder cons

  • Require effort
  • Grind size limit
  • Extra labour

Electric Grinders

One word comes to mind when we begin talking about electric grinders, convenience. If you have enough to do in your day and cannot take the time to grind your own coffee beans, then an electric grinder is for you. They are easy to use, just a flip of a switch and a choice of settings and you can let the machine do all the work. You can choose from a variety of coffee grinding sizes.

They do, however, make a little more noise than the manual grinder, so if you are planning on a brew before the kids wake up to sustain your sanity before the day starts, electric grinders may just put a flaw in that plan.

They are usually also more expensive than manual coffee grinders, but the convenience is worth every penny. No elbow-grease required and more time to sit back and enjoy your perfectly ground brew.

Electric coffee grinder pros

  • High performance
  • Convenient
  • Multiple size settings
  • Hard-wearing
  • Long lasting

Electric coffee grinder cons

  • Loud
  • Requires electricity
  • Large
  • Expensive
  • Not easily portable

Think back to what you were looking for in your coffee grinder and filter through the pros and cons provided to make your decision. Go for the manual coffee grinder if you want a great tasting brew and a worthy coffee experience, but you want in on a budget. If you don’t mind a little elbow-grease and want the availability to grind coffee anywhere any place, this is the grinder for you.

If you’re able to invest a decent amount into your coffee experience, then you will want to go for an electric coffee grinder, providing you don’t mind a little noise and are happy leaving the grinder in one place. If you value excellent coffee and want it conveniently then this is the perfect grinder for you.

Whichever process you choose to grind your coffee, you’ll still experience the great taste, flavour and smell of home brewed coffee. When you home brew once, you’ll never go back, so get ready for an exhilarating coffee experience.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Do You Need to Wash Your Quinoa Before You Cook With It?

rinsing quinoa

Quinoa has a high protein content, contains all nine essential amino acids, and cooks up quickly with a firm, satisfying texture. The only real downside to quinoa, some batches can be unpleasantly bitter. This bitterness is due to a concentration of compounds called saponins, and they’re found on the surface of the seed. These saponins repel birds from eating the seed before harvest, which is a good thing, but their mild toxicity can cause stomach distress for some people, and that’s not such a good thing.

The Quinoa Experiment

washing quinoa before cooking itTo get rid of the bitter coating, many brands of quinoa come pre-washed, but not all of them. To find out if pre-washing guarantees less bitter quinoa and if you should still rinse the pre-washed stuff, we ran an experiment. We purchased all available brands of both pre-washed and unwashed white quinoa and rinsed half of each under cool water in a strainer for one minute while leaving the other half un-rinsed. We cooked each sample using 1-3/4 cups water to 1-1/2 cups quinoa and tasted them blind, side by side.

Tasters were asked to write the samples according to level of bitterness. There was no discernible difference in bitterness between pre-washed quinoa that we did not rinse and unwashed quinoa that we did rinse. Both of these samples fell in the middle of the pack in terms of bitterness. The pre-washed quinoa that we rinsed was deemed the least bitter while the unwashed quinoa that we did not rinse was by far the most bitter.

The Verdict

Our results show that making the best tasting quinoa begins at the supermarket where you want to buy brands that are labeled as pre-washed, but your work isn’t done yet. Even pre-washed quinoa benefits from a quick rinse in a fine mesh strainer to produce the least bitter, best tasting pilaf. Happy cooking!

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Delicious and Easy 5-Seed Dutch Oven Bread

cooked dutch oven breadWhen it comes to baking at home, it seems that making delicious loaf of bread can be one of the more daunting tasks. Many home chefs never attempt it because it seems like between the exact ingredient measurements to the cooking time required, the chances of nailing the perfect loaf are slim to none.

Well, today we want to change all that! Cooking bread in a dutch oven is surprisingly very easy and there is no kneading or special baking equipment required (If you don’t own one, you can check out our dutch oven comparison reviews). Everything you need you already have around the kitchen! Just use a spoon and a bowl to stir the ingredients together, let the dough rise, and in about 3 hours you will have delicious, hot, and healthy freshly baked bread.

To make this bread extra tasty, we will be adding some seeds for a rich, complex flavor that we are confident you will love. It comes out of the oven with a perfectly thin crust on the outside, while still being softy and spongy on the inside. It makes excellent bread for a sandwich, a hearty breakfast toast or just served up plain with some warm butter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100˚F)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 3/4 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups better for bread flour, plus extra flour for dusting
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted, plus more for top of bread
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted, plus more for top of bread
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 Tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds

Equipment Needed
Dutch Oven
Parchment Paper

How to Make the Most Delicious 5-Seed Bread

Preparation: Cut the parchment paper into a round shape to fit into the dutch oven. Dust the parchment paper with about 1 tablespoon of cornmeal or semolina and set it off to the side. The dusting is an optional step, but it does and an extra crunch to the crust that’s pretty tasty.

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 Tbsp honey and 1/2 Tbsp salt until the honey is completely dissolved.
  2. Sprinkle with 3/4 Tbsp yeast.
  3. Let set for approximately 5 minutes
  4. Stir in 3 cups flour and all of the seeds.
  5. Use a spatula to mix until it comes together and seeds are well incorporated (no kneading required).
  6. Cover bowl with lid or plastic wrap and let rest at room temp (70˚F) for 2 hours or until tripled in volume.

After Your Dough Has Risen

Sprinkle dough with flour and use a spatula to fold the dough in half then fold in half again.
Sprinkle generously again with flour and with well-floured hands, lift up the dough and form a ball in your hands. Place over the center of your prepared parchment paper with the folded seam side down.
Place over the center of your prepared parchment paper with the folded seam side down.
Sprinkle the top with extra sunflower and pumpkin seeds if desired.
Let rise uncovered at room temp for 40 minutes.

Baking Your Bread

  1. Place the empty dutch oven and lid inside the oven and preheat the oven to 450˚F.
  2. Once preheated, remove dutch oven and place on the stove.
  3. Lift bread with the parchment paper and set it in the center of your hot dutch oven.
  4. Cover with lid and bake at 450˚F for 30 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove hot lid and bake another 2- 5 minutes or until top is golden brown.
  6. Remove bread from dutch oven with the help of parchment paper and place bread directly on wire rack to cool until it’s nearly room temperature before slicing into it.

This dutch oven bread is a staple in our home and I hope you’ll come to love it as much as my family does.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

12 Creative Cooking Hacks that Will Make You Cook Like a Pro

Once you get a good grip on the foundations of cooking, you realize there is no need for you to keep that cookbook handy. After all, cooking becomes second nature to you, regardless of whatever dish you’re preparing. Admit or not, we all need express kitchen karate skills – as there is no better joy than drooling over a tasty meal over dinner. Whether you were born a cooking master, or just skilled by practice or interest, you need some tricks to add a little fire to your game.

Check out these cooking hacks that will change the way you cook, and probably even leverage your skills to wow your family and friends.

1. Grill fish in a bed of lemons.

Grilling is an all-time favourite outdoor experience. Whether you are somewhere at the beach or having a nice backyard family bonding, it’s quite impressive to cook meat over a bed of lemons so as to avoid getting the flesh stuck to the grill and being torn apart. Save yourself from a unwanted load of cooking disasters and excite your guests with a cool zesty flavour of grilled succulent fish.

2. Wrap your bottles of soda and beer with wet paper towel to cool them faster.

The party isn’t complete without a few good drinks, so you might need to grab some bottles of soda before it ends. Take your wet paper towels to the rescue! Use them to wrap your bottles before dumping them to the fridge to cool them faster than the speed of light!

3. Keep your greens fresh by puffing some air.

Are salad greens your favourite? Keep them fresh and prevent them from getting soggy by storing them in a plastic container and blowing some air inside. Twist the top and tie it close with a rubber band. The secret? Spell C-O-2.

4. Wear gloves when mixing meat.

Save water and time. Wearing gloves when mixing meat makes hand washing a lot less frequent.

5. Anchor your cutting board.

A sliding anchor board is such a hassle. Prevent this from happening by placing wet and textured paper towel beneath. Chopping has never been faster and easier. You can even use the wrung out paper towel to clean the counter when you’re done.

6. Peel ginger with a spoon.

Every person who’s been in the kitchen at least once knows how hard it is to peel fresh ginger with a lot of nooks and crannies. Just use a regular spoon to peel and mince it.

7. Partially freeze your raw and slippery chicken.

Firm up the meat right before working with it. Place your raw chicken in the freezer for around 15 minutes. This helps the meat to become less slippery and easier to cut into thin slices.

8. Use two plates to slice cherry tomatoes at once.

Cutting tomatoes in half can be a tedious task and a slow process. Do it at once by holding them in place between two plates or plastic container lids, then slice them in a horizontal fashion through the opening. Remember to use a sharp knife when doing so.

9. Revive your stale bread.

Run your loaf of bread through some water and pop it in the oven for around 10 minutes. It will make the bread just as fresh and crunchy as a newly-baked one.

10. Use dental floss to make quick and precise cuts.

If you don’t have a knife large enough to cut mushy treats like cakes and pastries, avoid mess by using dental floss to cut them out precisely. This is also ideal for Swiss rolls and cheese.

11. Keep ice cream soft by locking them inside a Ziplock bag.

Ice cream in containers can get super hard when stored in the freezer. Keep them as soft as when you first bought it by placing the container inside a ziplock bag before storing it in the freezer.

12. Use pasta water to even out sauce consistency.

Save the last half-cup of water used to boil your pasta to improve the texture of your sauce. After draining, mix the liquid to your stodgy or thick sauce to thin it and even out the consistency.

Cooking is much more enjoyable when you have some sturdy little tricks in mind. It’s not just a matter of skill after all, but also a mix of creativity and good logic. Cook in style. Be the pro you want to be. Apply these hacks and you’ll never cook the same way again.

Mumsy & Bub is an Australian-based community of mothers who aim to inspire and educate mothers about the ups and downs, and in-betweens of motherhood. Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for exciting news and updates. You may also send them an email at info@mumsyandbub.com.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Best Non-Stick Cookware Sets – Top 5 Reviewed and Buying Guide

Non-stick cookware is the unsung hero of the kitchen. It’s one of those pieces of cooking equipment that you can easily take for granted until you deal with a pan that has lost its coating and you’re forced to wrestle with the bits and chunks of food left behind in the pan, ruining your otherwise flawlessly cooked dish. I use my non-stick pans almost daily, and reach for them when I’ll be cooking more delicate foods that have a tendency to stick like eggs or a nice white fish. And even though a nice wok is preferable, I have been known to whip out my trusty non-stick cookware when preparing stir-fry because the bits don’t stick to the pan and I’m not left with burnt pieces in my food. Not to mention that when food doesn’t burn into a pan, it also means that cleaning it will be a much easier and take less of your valuable time.

I also love non-stick cookware because it means that I only need to use a very small amount of extra oil when cooking, and when I’m trying to cook healthier, this is invaluable. There are a ton of non-stick cookware sets out there, many of them not so great in terms of durability and quality, so we set out to find the best buys for your money. Also, as the convenience of non-stick cookware has become more and more a part of the home cooking standard, many different types of non-stick surfaces have hit the market. In this guide, we clarify not only what the differences are, but also which is the best one for your kitchen.

A hot topic in recent years is the debate the health effects of non-stick surfaces. Our goal with this review guide is to not only provide you with the best non-stick cookware sets, but to also educate our readers so they have the information they need to make informed choices. If you just want to check out the reviews, you can find those immediately below. But if you want to know more about what to look for when buying, what to avoid and also what you need to know about non-stick cookware surfaces in general, check out our buying guide after the reviews.


Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set

Rachel Ray’s Cucina Non-stick Cookware Set features hard-anodized aluminum pans coated with the triple-layered Eclipse nonstick coating system manufactured by Whitford. The first, basecoat layer contains reinforcing elements that include resins and “unusually hard materials.” The second layer contains more reinforcing materials, and the third, espresso-colored topcoat layer consists of PTFE or Teflon. This set, however, is manufactured without the use of PFOA.

It includes a 1-quart and 2-quart saucepan, an 8 ½” and a 10” skillet, a 6-quart stockpot, and a 3-quart sauté pan, and glass lids for everything except the skillets. The set also includes two slotted, nylon, cranberry red cooking utensils – a spatula and a ladle-shaped spoon. The cookware handles are made of stainless steel coated with cranberry red silicone, and two rivets secure each handle. The sauté pan also features and extremely convenient helper handle. The handles on the lids have a high arch to help avoid burns from contact with hot glass. The set is dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 400°F, and the pans can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops but require an induction disc for use on induction cooktops.

Pros

  • Has a PFOA-free triple-layered non-stick coating with two layers of reinforcing materials for increased durability.
    Contains two saucepans, two skillets, a stockpot, a sauté pan, slotted nylon cooking utensils, and glass lids for everything except the skillets.
    Has stainless steel handles coated with silicone that are securely attached by two rivets.
    Is dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 400°F.
    Can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops.

Cons

  • Cannot be used on induction cooktops without an induction disc.
    Has a PTFE- or Teflon-based non-stick coating.

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Hard Anodized 17 Piece Set

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Hard Anodized Cookware Set also features hard-anodized aluminum pans, but this set is coated with Whitford’s titanium-enforced, silicon-based QuanTanium coating. That means that it is both PFOA and PTFE free. Cuisinart states no oil or butter is needed for cooking in their Chef’s Classic set. The set includes a 1, 2 and 3-quart saucepan, an 8” and a 10” skillet, a 3.5-quart sauté pan with helper handle, a 4-quart Dutch oven, and an 8-quart stockpot with glass lids for everything except the skillets.

The set also includes a 20 cm uncoated steamer insert with a cover. The tight fitting lids seal in moisture, nutrients, and flavor. The stainless steel handles are secured with two rivets each. The pans feature drip-free rims and are oven safe up to 500°F, but they are not dishwasher safe. Also, although Cuisinart says that it is safe to use metal utensils with these pans, we recommend extending their life by staying with nonmetal utensils. While these pans can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops, they require an induction disk for use on induction cooktops.

Pros

  • Uses Whitford’s silicon-based, titanium-hardened, PFOA and PTFE free QuanTanium coating.
    Provides a very complete set including three saucepans, two skillets, a Dutch oven, a sauté pan with helper handle, a stockpot, and a steamer insert with glass lids for everything except the skillets.
    Features drip-proof rims on the pans.
    Is oven safe up to 500°F.
    Can be used on gas, electric, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops.

Cons

  • Is not dishwasher safe.
    Should not be used with metal utensils.
    Requires an induction disk for use with an induction cooktop.

T-fal Ultimate Hard Titanium Non-stick PFOA Free 12-Piece Cookware Set

The T-Fal E765SC 12-Piece Ultimate Cookware Set uses titanium to strengthen the non-stick PTFE interior, but the Thermo-Spot heat indicator is designed to prevent overheating. When the dot becomes a solid red, the pan is properly preheated. The pans are made of hard-anodized aluminum and feature TechnoResist Anti-Warp bases. It contains a 1, 2, and 3 quart saucepan, an 8” and a 10 ¼” skillet, and a 5-quart Dutch oven with lids for the saucepans and the Dutch Oven. It also includes two nylon utensils – a slotted spatula and a solid spoon. The silicone handles are securely attached by two rivets each. The tempered and vented glass lids seal in moisture and nutrients.

T-Fal says the set is safe for daily dishwasher washing and that it can be used with metal utensils. Nevertheless, we recommend hand washing and nonmetallic utensils. The pans are oven safe up to 400°F, and the lids are oven safe to 350°F. The set can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops, but requires an induction disk for use on an induction cooktop. The set is PFOA, cadmium, and lead free.

Pros

  • Features TechnoResist AntiWarp bases on the pans.
    Includes the ThermoSpot heat indicator to guard against overheating the pans.
    Provides vents on the tempered glass lids for releasing steam before lifting the lid when cooking is done.
    Is dishwasher safe.
    Can be used with metal utensils.
    Is PFOA, cadmium, and lead free.
    Is oven safe up to 400°F for the pans and 350°F for the lids.

Cons

  • Uses a Teflon-based non-stick coating.
    Requires an induction disk for use on an induction cooktop.

Rachael Ray 14 Piece Hard Enamel Non-stick Cookware Set

Rachael Ray’s 14 Piece Hard Enamel Non-stick Cookware Set in marine blue features a colorful, porcelain enamel exterior over a hard-anodized aluminum pan, but all of Rachel Ray’s cookware is coated with Whitford’s triple-layered, PTFE-based Eclipse non-stick system. The coating is PFOA-free, however. The set includes a 1 and 2 quart saucepan, an 8 ½” and 10” skillet, a 3-quart sauté pan, a 6-quart stockpot; lids for every pan except the skillets; an Oven Lovin’ Crispy Sheet for roasting and baking; a Spoonula, a combination spoon and spatula that helps remove the last tasty bit of food from the pan; a slotted Lil’ Devil Turner; and a Lazy Spoon with a slot in the handle that allows you to hook it to the rim of the cookware and keep drips from the spoon in the pan.

The silicone handles on the pans and baking sheet stay cool, and the shatter-resistant glass lids lock in heat, moisture, and nutrients. The handles on the pans are securely attached with two rivets each, and they are oven safe up to 350°F. These pans can be used on electric, gas, glass, and ceramic cooktops, but require an induction disk for use on induction cooktops. The set is not dishwasher safe and should be hand washed.

Pros

  • Uses Whitford’s durable, three-layered Eclipse non-stick coating system.
    Includes the Oven Lovin’ Crispy Sheet for baking and roasting.
    Includes the Lazy Spoon that hooks to the edge of the pan to prevent drips.
    Can be used on electric, gas, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops.
    Is PFOA-free.

Cons

  • Uses a PTFE-based non-stick coating.
    Requires an induction disk for use on induction cooktops.
    Is not dishwasher safe and should be hand washed.

Simply Calphalon Non-stick 10 Piece Cookware Set

The Simply Calphalon Non-stick 10 Piece Cookware Set consists of hard-anodized aluminum pans, and are double-coated with a non-stick coating that, according to TheKitchen.com, is PTFE-based. The coating is PFOA-free, however. The set includes a 2- and a 4-quart saucepan, a 10” and a 12” omelet pan, a 3-quart sauté pan with a helper handle, and a 6-quart stockpot with tempered glass lids for everything except the omelet pans.

The silicone handles are securely attached with two rivets each. The set is oven safe up to 400°F. Although Calphalon says that the set is dishwasher safe, we recommend hand washing. You should not use metal utensils with this set, but you can use it on electric, gas, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops. You will need an induction disk to use it on induction cooktops.

Pros

  • Is PFOA-free.
    Includes 2 saucepans, 2 omelet pans, a sauté pan, and a stockpot with tempered glass lids for everything except the omelet pans.
    Is oven safe up to 400°F.
    Can be used electric, gas, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops.

Cons

  • Has a PTFE-based non-stick coating.
    Should not be used with metal utensils.
    Should be hand washed.
    Requires an induction disk for use on induction cooktops.

What to Look for When Purchasing Non-stick Cookware

First, you should look for the same things you would look for when purchasing any type of cookware. If you are purchasing your non-stick cookware in a store, you can and should pick it up to judge the weight. Move the pieces around by the handles as you would if you were cooking with them to judge how well balanced the pieces are. If you are buying online, look for some indication of the thickness or gauge of the walls and bottom of the pan. Heavier pieces with thick walls retain and distribute heat better than lighter weight pieces, and they allow you to cook at lower temperatures. That saves energy and saves you money over time.

The lids should fit tightly, which also helps retain heat as well as retaining moisture and nutrients. Glass lids are convenient because you can observe the food while its cooking without removing the lid and losing heat and steam. Whether welded or riveted, the handles should be attached securely in several places. Riveted handles provide more nooks for food residue to collect; welded handles aid easy cleanups. Heat-resistant handles will stay cooler while you are cooking.

What to Look for in Non-stick Coatings

You will find non-stick coatings on stainless steel and anodized aluminum. These coatings include Teflon, diamond-coated Teflon, thermolon, ceramic, and porcelain enamel. Cookware manufactured by the French company Tefal, which sells in the United States under the T-Fal label, also uses Teflon. Non-stick cast iron cookware comes with ceramic coatings.

Teflon, T-Fal, and Classic Non-stick Coatings

Concerns about Teflon are long-standing. Some are unfounded, but others are accurate.

Until 2015, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was used during the manufacture of Teflon-coated cookware to cause the coating to adhere to the pan. That chemical is associated with the appearance of thyroid problems, tumors, and developmental problems in animals and may be a human carcinogen. Eight manufacturers, including DuPont, the company that created Teflon, signed an agreement with the EPA to phase out the use of that chemical by 2015.

However, PFOA appears to be more of a concern for those involved in the manufacturing process, and, possibly, those who live near one of the factories where PFOA was used. PFOA is only present during the manufacturing process and is not present in the cookware and PFOA burns off during the manufacturing process. Therefore, using Teflon cookware, even that manufactured before 2015, will not expose you to PFOA.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the chemical name for Teflon an is a fluoropolymer, and that compounds such as PTFE that contain fluorine are generally toxic. When used at the recommended low temperatures, Teflon, or PTFE, is safe. However, at temperatures above 500°F, PTFE begins to break down at the molecular level, which is invisible to the human eye. In the process, it begins to release fragments of its chemical components.

A study by the nonprofit watchdog organization, the Environmental Working Group, found that at temperatures above 680°F PTFE emits at least six toxic gases, two of which are carcinogens. However, it is unlikely anyone would inhale enough of those gases to become ill while cooking in an open area like a kitchen where the fumes would dissipate rather than become concentrated, especially if you use the vent fan above your cooktop. However, results from studies regarding the long-term effects of exposure to overheated Teflon pans have not yet been collected.

To learn how quickly Teflon pans reach 500°F, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute used pans of three weights – 1 lb., 3oz.; 2 lbs., 1 oz.; and 2 lbs., 9 oz. – to prepare five dishes – scrambled eggs, chicken and pepper stir fry, bacon, hamburgers, and steak. While the pans remained within the safe temperature ranges during the preparation of the scrambled eggs, stir fry, and bacon, with the medium-weight pan reaching 465°F in 5 ½ minutes as the bacon fried, other activities were risky. Preheating the empty lightweight pan for 1 ¾ minutes raised its temperature to 507°F. Preheating two tablespoons of oil in the lightweight pan for 2 ½ minutes raised its temperature to 514°F. Frying the hamburgers for 8 ½ minutes in the heavy-weight pan raised its temperature to 577°F. Frying the steaks in the lightweight pan for 10 minutes raised its temperature to 656°F. This was the only test that brought the temperature of the pan above 600°F.

However, classic Teflon coated pans cook meats in their own juices and do not brown or sear meats as well as uncoated cookware does. So, these pans are not the best choice for frying thick patties or cuts of meat. However, the medium-weight and heavy-weight pans appear to have been safer than the lightweight pan in this limited test. If you intend to use Teflon-coated pans for all-around, general purpose cooking, we recommend purchasing the heaviest weight pans that you can afford.

DuPont sets the maximum safe temperature for Teflon pans at 500°F, and DuPont and other manufacturers regard use at temperatures above that limit to be abuse of the cookware, which would likely void any warranty. So, when using Teflon cookware, we strongly recommend that you read the manufacturer’s instructions and stay below the manufacturer’s recommended temperature limits.

Industrial Diamond Coated PTFE (Teflon)

One company, Swiss Diamond, mixes miniscule industrial-grade diamonds into the PTFE coating for their pans to create a harder, more scratch-resistant surface. Nevertheless, Swiss Diamond states on their website that neither sharp or pointed utensils should be used with their cookware, and metal utensils should also be avoided. According to the manufacturer, it is also safe to put them in the dishwasher or in the oven up to 500°F. However, Swiss Diamond also recommends washing their cookware by hand and using only low to medium heat settings on cooktops.

Thermolon and Ceramic Non-stick Coatings

Thermolon is a ceramic, non-stick coating created by Greenpan to be 100 percent PFOA- and PTFE-free. The coating is made with silicon, not silicone. Silicon is a hard, brittle crystalline solid with a blue-gray sheen which it confers upon Thermolon coating.

Other ceramic coatings also use silicates like silicon, and some use titanium.

Greenpan claims that they release 60 percent fewer greenhouses gases during the manufacture of Thermolon-coated cookware than would be released during the manufacture of Teflon-coated cookware because Thermolon cures more quickly than Teflon, and it cures at a lower temperature than Teflon.

Silicates have the same crystalline structure that makes it easy for a jeweler to create facets in diamonds. This characteristic leaves ceramic coatings vulnerable to impacts and chipping. So, as with Teflon, you should not use metal utensils in pans with ceramic coatings, and don’t tap utensils on the edge of the pan. In addition, repeated cycles of heating and cooling can cause ceramic coatings to lose their non-stick quality. You can partially restore the non-stick quality by occasionally cleaning the coating with a mild abrasive like baking soda. Ceramic coatings can breakdown and release gases, as Teflon does, but they do not do so until they are heated to temperatures of 850°F or higher. Still, keep temperatures below 500°F, because higher temperatures age the coating more quickly, speeding the loss of its non-stick quality.

Porcelain Enamel

This coating turns to glass as it is baked, or fired, onto the pans. It is PFOA and PTFE free and will not scratch, but it is vulnerable to chipping. So, again, you should avoid metal utensils when cooking with porcelain enamel pans, and you should avoid tapping any utensil on the edge of the pan. You also should avoid abrasive cleaners like scouring powder or steel wool. If needed, use a plastic scouring pad instead. Cookware that has the exterior coated with porcelain enamel is generally light in weight and easy to handle. It also comes in a range of colors and even two-tone gradients of colors. Porcelain enamel coated cookware can be used on cooktops, and it is oven safe up to 350°F. The manufacturing process used to create porcelain enamel and ceramic non-stick cookware is environmentally friendly.

Do Your Research

In writing this review, we discovered that cookware manufacturers and brands may provide only minimal information about the non-stick component in their non-stick coatings. If you would like more information about the coatings manufactured by Whitford, the company provides an online Housewares Coating Guide.

Advantages of the Best Non-Stick Cookware

All non-stick cookware makes cleanup faster. It also reduces the chances of scorching sauces, although, with enough ensuing distractions, it can be happen. The non-stick surface also makes it easy to slide foods like pancakes, omelets, and fried eggs right out of the pan. With a non-stick surface, you also can use less oil when you’re cooking. That is a great health-related benefit.

Disadvantages of Non-Stick Cookware

Because the non-stick surface is a coating, all non-stick cookware shares an issue with durability. Although diamond-encrusted PTFE–coatings are harder, other Teflon- or PTFE-based coatings are soft, and subject to scratching and eventual wear. Silicate-based coatings, such as Thermolon, ceramic, and porcelain enamel coatings, are hard but brittle and prone to chipping due to the crystalline structure of their silicate base. While metal utensils can scratch PTFE-based coatings and cause them to begin to flake, they can chip silicate-based coatings. While manufacturers of some non-stick cookware say that their products can be placed in the dishwasher, all recommend hand washing as the preferred cleaning method.

Compared to the long life-spans of uncoated cookware, DuPont recommends that you replace Teflon-coated cookware that has received moderate use every three to five years, even when it has received proper care. Teflon-coated cookware that has received heavier use should be replaced every two years.

Also, as previously mentioned, heating Teflon/PTFE-based coatings above 500°F causes them to begin to breakdown at the molecular level. At 660°F, these coatings release fumes that can kill pet birds and cause a temporary flu-like condition called polymer-fume fever in humans. At temperatures above 680°F, Teflon-based coatings begin to emit toxic gases. However, DuPont has set the maximum safe temperature for Teflon-based coatings at 500°F, and the manufacturers of Teflon-coated cookware regard use above those temperatures as abuse of the cookware.

While overheating silicate-based cookware has less serious consequences, repeated cycles of heating and cooling does cause the coating to lose its non-stick properties. As with Teflon-based coatings, the manufacturers of silicate-based coatings rate the cookware as safe only up to temperatures of 500°F and recommend the use of only low to moderate temperatures on cooktops.

How to Maintain Your Non-Stick Cookware

When using a cooktop, do not preheat Teflon cookware, and use no higher than medium temperatures for preheating silicate-based cookware. Do not use non-stick cookware at temperatures above 500°F. Set cooktops only to low or moderate temperatures when using any type of non-stick cookware. Avoid metal utensils and sharp or pointed utensils, and do not tap utensils on the edge of silicate-based cookware. Hand wash your non-stick cookware. You may use a mildly abrasive cleaner, such as baking powder, to help restore some of the non-stick properties of ceramic-coated cookware.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

How to Season A Brand New Carbon Steel Wok

how to season a wokIf you have been reading our blog for a while, you will know that we love cooking with woks. And it you happened to read our wok buying guide, you’ll also know that we prefer woks made from carbon steel. The reasons are simple: they heat up quickly, are incredibly durable, and when seasoned properly,will add delicious flavor to your food that only gets better with time. It can be a bit of work upfront, but once it’s done all you have to worry about is properly storing and maintaining your wok, instead of cleaning it after every use.

Why Do You Need to Season a Wok Anyway?

how to season a wokWe hear this question a lot, and people wonder why you cant just unpack your wok and get cooking? Well, with a carbon steel wok, it’s important to season it as this is the process that is going to help it develop a nice patina and more importantly a natural, non-stick coating. You see, woks ship with a coating of oil on them that you are definitely going to want to remove before you cook with it. Additionally, the process of seasoning the wok sets you up for painless non-stick cooking down the road. And here is the real beautiful thing: the more you cook with it, the more non-stick the surface becomes and the less oil you will need to cook successfully with it. Also, the more mileage the wok has, the more flavorful your food will become.

So know that you know the why, let’s get to the how!

How to Season Your Brand New Wok

Theoretically, you will only need to do this once, maybe twice, during the life of your wok. After that, you gain the personal satisfaction of knowing that you created a totally natural, non-stick surface on your wok.

Wash the Wok Thoroughly

As we mentioned above, your wok will ship with a layer of oil from the machine production. This is a good thing because it prevents your wok from rusting during storage, but it also means you need to remove it before you can season. Luckily, this is easy. Just wash the wok with hot water and a tiny amount of liquid dish detergent. You may have to take a couple of passes at it and use something a little more abrasive that a sponge like a stainless steel pad, but eventually you will be able to get rid of it all.

Season Over A Very High Heat


To properly season a wok you are going to need a very high heat.
While any stovetop should work, if you’re is less powerful you will probably need to spend a little more time getting it up to the proper temperature. You’re also going to need heat resistant gloves to handle the wok. If you have single handle this won’t be an issue, but if you have the Cantonese style handles which are just small handles on each side of the wok, you’ll need protection. The other important step to consider here is ventilation. You’re kitchen is about to get very smoky so make sure you either open all of the windows or turn your range hood up to full power to capture all the smoke.

Once you are ready to season, just move the wok back and forth over the heat source until you get your wok up to a searing blue color. In our kitchen, this took about 30 minutes. While this may seem like a long time, you probably will never have to do this again so take the time to do it right. Keep heating work wok until the entire surface turns a very dark color.

Finishing the Seasoning with Vegetable Oil

carbon steel wokOnce you have the wok and nice dark color, take if off the heat and turn your burner down to a medium to medium-low flame. With your wok still off of the heat, add about a 1-2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, or just enough to coat the entire surface with a thin layer. To avoid the risk of burning yourself, you can use long tongs and a clean rag or paper towels with vegetable oil on it to coat the wok.

With the wok properly coated, place it back on the burner for around 10 minutes. After, wipe of the remaining vegetable oil with a paper towel and tongs. Once the paper towel is completely black with residue, it’s time to add another thin coat of oil. Again, heat the wok for around 10 minutes and wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel. You are going to repeat this process until the paper towel no longer collects a black residue after heating. In our experience, this usually take about 4-5 cycles.

Congratulations!

After all that hard work, you are now the proud owner of a well-seasoned carbon steel wok. Even though initial seasoning can be a pain, it’s well worth the reward. Happy woking!

 

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Monday, January 23, 2017

How to Clean Burnt Food Out of Enamel Cookware

clean burnt enameled cookwareThere is nothing worse than getting busy in the kitchen, walking away from the stove for just a minute (or maybe a few :)), only to come back to find a burnt mess in the bottom of your beautiful enameled cookware. Not only is this a bummer because whatever you are cooking is now ruined, but your cookware is in a bit of trouble too.

Well fear not, because we have a super simple method that is going to save that shiny enamel AND time spent cleaning it in the kitchen. The only thing that would make the situation worse is if you had to spend time scrubbing your enamel cookware with a possible abrasive scrubber and cause even more damage.

Luckily, the method I’m about to show you use all natural ingredients that you probably already have around the kitchen. What is this magical little ingredient you might ask? Cleaning up even the most burnt enamel cookware is easily fixed by just a few tablespoons of baking soda.

Here is the rundown:

  1. Bring water to a boil in the burned cookware and add in the baking soda.
  2. Stir in the baking soda until it’s completely dissolved.
  3. Bring the boil down to a simmer and let it cook for a few minutes.
  4. Using a wooden spoon gently start scraping the burnt bits off the bottom of your cookware.
  5. Be amazed at how easy that really was.

And just like the, the cookware is saved. And best of all, you didn’t need to use any harsh nasty chemical to do it, or go out and buy something special.

Do you have a favorite method for cleaning burnt cookware? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Making Tea in Your Ninja Coffee Bar

ninja coffee bar to make teaIf you read our blog at all, you’ll know that we have a special place in our hearts for the Ninja Coffee Bar. We use ours daily (sometimes several times a day), and it always makes great coffee. But one thing that you might not realize if you own one that is that is has more talents that simply making coffee. Believe it or not, we have been using it to make really good tea as well!

One of the the reasons we constantly reccomend it besides being well made is that it’s versatile and you can get a lot out of it for what you invest into it. So when we realized that making tea in the Ninja was possible, we were naturally very excited. Buying tea in bulk can bring down its cost, and the Ninja makes it easy to brew whole tea leaf. The process is  straightforward and is great for brewing large batches of tea as well as single cups.

How to Brew Tea in the Ninja Coffee Bar

  1. Place a #4 coffee filter in the Ninja Coffee Bar. You can opt not to use the filter, but for teas that are extremely fine, it can come through into the batch. If you don’t mind a little sediment in your tea, then go for it, but the filters are always an option for those that don’t
  2. Place about 1 cup of dried tea leaves into the filter. We have found the chamomile works well as the leaves are larger and don’t make too much of a mess in the Ninja.
  3. For the brewing, we use the “specialty brew” mode because it seems to have the best brew timing for extracting the tea well.
  4. Store in the fridge or enjoy hot.

Making tea with the Ninja is really that easy. We you buy tea in bulk, it can save you a lot of money but also be hard to brew without a dedicated tool for doing so. So if you already have the Ninja Coffee Bar, this is just another added benefit!

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

How To De-Scale Your Jura Coffee Machine

de-scaling the jura coffee machineThe Jura Coffee Maker is a true coffee lovers dream. As we covered in our complete guide to the Jura Coffee Machine, there is very little you need to do in terms of maintenance to keep it humming. Basically, every few months you need to run it through a cleaning cycle and a de-scaling cycle. Keep in ming that these are not the same things. The cleaning cycle will clean the entire unit with hot water and a cleaning tablet, while the de-scaling cycle uses de-scaling tablets designed to specifically remove limescale build up in the machine.

How often you need to do this will vary with how often you use it, wether or not your Jura model has a filter, and the mineral content of your water. Jura recommends running the descaling cycle every other filter change. Since they reccomend you change your filter every two months, this comes out to running the de-scaling cycle every four months. If your model does not have the filter, every 3 months is a safe bet.

Why Bother De-Scaling Your Jura Coffee Machine in the First Place?

While the Jura is very good at making great coffee consistently, it does need a little help on your part to make sure it continues to taste as good as it possibly can. Obviously, to make any coffee drink you need water. Well, as you continuously run water through your Jura during every operation, limescale and other minerals contained within the water begins to accumulate on the heating elements. A little build up isn’t a big deal, but over time this accumulation of minerals will start to affect the flavor of your coffee. Luckily for us, Jura sells these convenient de-scaling tablets that make this process quick and easy.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Purchase the Jura de-scaling tablets online or in store if you don’t already own them.
  2. Place a container(s) under the spout(s) to capture run-off from the Jura Machine. If you have a model that makes cappuccinos or lattes, you will need two containers for each spout.
  3. Dilute 3 de-scaling tablets in about 2 cups of warm water. The amount of water and tablets will be the same for all models. 
  4. Remove the filter if your model has one.
  5. If you do have a Jura with a water filter, you must first navigate to “Maintenance” in the menu and confirm that the filter has been removed before the “De-Scale” option will appear under the”Maintenance” section.
  6. Select the “De-Scale” mode.
  7. Remove and empty the coffee grounds tray.
  8. Add the solution to the water tank. If you already have water in the tank, remove it first as the machine uses a precise amount of liquid to run the cycle and the excess water will make the cycle run longer. 
  9. Confirm and leave the machine to de-scale for approximately 45 minutes.

And that’s it! The machine will occasionally beep and prompt you to perform different tasks over the 45 minutes but other than that it’s pretty hands off. We have also included a video from Jura below if you are more a visual learner.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

How to Clean Stainless Steel Cookware Naturally


Clean Stainless Steel Cookware NaturallyIn 2017, I have a new goal to move my mother’s household away from Teflon completely. Teflon has been linked to all sorts of nasty things and without me really realizing it, it’s everywhere in her kitchen. The pots, pans, spatulas, etc. are all made from Teflon and as her daughter, I naturally worry about her well being.

So I recently purchased her some inexpensive stainless steel cookware online and the first thing she tried to do was clean it with harsh chemicals that are going to strip away the chromium that gives it some of its non-stick coating! Many times, cleaning cookware naturally and with items you can find around the house is less expensive and more convenient than conventional cleaners. You usually already have the items so you don’t need to go out and buy anything new and you can rest a bit easier knowing that there are no toxic chemical touching the surfaces that you use to cook your food.

Earth Friendly Cleaning for Stainless Steel Pots and Pans

Clean Stainless Steel Cookware Naturally (The Old Fashioned Way)

I feel like our grandparents knew something we didn’t and a little old fashioned elbow grease goes a long way when cleaning things naturally in the kitchen. Even though most manufactures will advertise their stainless steel cookware as dishwasher safe, and while this is probably true, I prefer to wash them by hand. The dishwasher can easily damage the finish and washing them by hand will guarantee that your cookware keeps it shine and stays beautiful for years. The old fashioned way is not only green, but pretty basic:

  1. Let the pots and pans soak in warm water overnight.
  2. In the morning, finish the job with warm soapy water made from an an eco-friendly dish soap.

The Vinegar and Baking Soda Paste Method

This paste is great for when the food is stuck on a little tougher and you need something extra to get it off.

  1. Pour a thin layer of vinegar to cover the bottom of the pot or pan.
  2. Sprinkle in just enough baking soda to get a reaction between the two going.
  3. Let the mixture site for 3-5 minutes and wash out with warm soapy water.

Heating the Pan After Cooking

Another great method for tougher or burnt food.

  1. After cooking, reheat the pan.
  2. Once the pan is hot, add room temperature water.
  3. Once the water is hot, use a wooden utensil to scrape the food bits off.
  4. Once you have the majority removed, wash the pan with warm soapy water.

The Boiling Vinegar Method

This is a great tactic if you are trying to clean a large stainless steel pot or large vessel.

  1. Make a mixture of one part vinegar to 3 parts water.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn off the heat, and let it cool down.
  3. Empty the solution and clean with warm soapy water.

The Kitchen Sink Method

This method is for the absolute toughest stains and burnt on food. It generally isn’t necessary, but we have all burnt that one pan a little too bad at one point or another. These steps should take care of it in short order.

  1. Make a paste out of water and baking soda. A 1:1 ratio should work well.
  2. Rub it in thoroughly into any burnt food or stains on the cookware.
  3. Let the past sit for 20 minutes while it does its thing.
  4. Rub away the paste with the soft side of the sponge or cloth.
  5. Add a cup of vinegar and water and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  6. Let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. The worse the burn the longer you will need.
  7. Pour out the mixture and wash with warm soapy water.

Keeping things green and cleaning stainless steel cookware naturally doesn’t have to be hard OR expensive.

If you are looking to clean your stainless steel appliances in an eco-friendly fashion, check out the YouTube video below.

If you have any other green cleaning methods we should know about please let us know in the comments!

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

What Makes A Cookie Chewy? The Ingredients You NEED Revealed.

What makes a cookie chewy?When baking cookies at home, the hardest part is attaining the perfect chewiness. While some prefer their cookies a bit harder or even crunchy (we know, it’s strange), we love our cookies soft to the touch, but also slightly firm striking the perfect balance between yielding and hard. Chewy cookies hold the ingredients just right while still coming apart at the right time in your mouth.

But how do you make a chewy cookie? What ingredients do you need to include to make sure your cookies come out perfect every single time? We set out to discover just that, and we are happy to report that we discovered the tips and ingredients required for the best cookie we have ever made.

What Ingredients Do You Need for Chewy Cookies?

Less Fat Means More Chewy

The one thing you always want to remember is that when trying to make cookies chewier, you are going to need less fat. As a general rule of thumb, less fat equals more chewy and more fat equals less chewy. Sounds counterintuitive, but these are the delicious facts!

More Moisture Means Soft and Chewy Goodness

When we say more moisture, we don’t mean adding extra liquid into the recipe. You simply need to adjust the existing recipe to allow it to retain more moisture. This looks like reducing the cooking time and baking temperature slightly so the moisture doesn’t bake out in the high heat.

Another tactic is to bind the water, butter, eggs, brown sugar with flour . This helps because the brown sugar contains molasses (which is approximately 10% water) and adding the flower is going to slow down the evaporation of any liquids, results in a softer, fuller cookie. Remember, a fuller cookie is a chewier cookie

Cut Down on Cooking Time

While we mentioned this above, it’s deserves to be expanded on a bit because it’s important when chasing chewiness. We asked several bakers what their go-to trick was for making sure their cookies stayed soft and many of them said to cut down on the baking time slightly. For many, it was really as simple as that. Try upping the baking temperature and shaving between 5-10 minutes off the baking time and you’ll find that the cookies hold their shape and stay extra soft.

More Mass Means a Better Cookie

When using larger dollops of cookie dough when forming the raw cookies, you ensure that the cookie will stand a better chance at retaining moisture and not getting too hot when baking. This is more of a preventive tactic than ingredient but it works!

Untested Methods For a Chewier Cookie

Everything mentioned above we have been able to test and confirm for ourselves. Here are a few things that we have always heard contribute to chewiness but haven’t tried ourselves. Your mileage may vary but we have heard these time and time again so they are definitely worth a shot:

Inverted Sugars – replacing your sugars with inverted sugars can lead to a chewier end result.

Using Melted Butter – many people swear by this technique. Instead of folding in your butter at room temperature, melt it first and then add it. Legend has it that you will be rewarded by the chewy cookie gods.


Hopefully with the tips and tricks outlined in this post, you have your arsenal full of baking techniques that will help you create the chewiest cookie you have ever tasted!

Do you have a tip that we missed? Let us know in the comments. We would love to hear it!

 

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