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May 27, 2004

This is why I beat hookers.

Sgt. at Arms

Quick Links: Posting Guidelines and Helpful LinksGWS WikiGeneral Questions ThreadGeneral ChatThe Something Offal Kitchen Equipment ThreadKitchen Knives

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Lifestyle: The Restaurant IndustryInexpensive CookingHot SauceHome Canning and PicklingVeganHistorical Cooking

Cookware Deals can be found at the Wiki Here and you can sometimes find them in Coupons & Deals.

Knowing what cookware to buy is important even if it looks like a great deal. Choosing your equipment can be tricky. Luckily there are multiple guides on this. Like Choosing Pots & Pans. I keep one nonstick around for frying eggs but its probably best to have stainless steel for most of the rest and some cast iron. Cast iron takes a long time to heat up and has a natural non-stick surface and can be kept and extreme heat without issue unlike a its lightweight Teflon counterpart. Its extremely heavy which is why I don't use mine for eggs and keep that one cheap non-stick pan around. There are other choices like copper and aluminum that are covered by the Choosing Pots & Pans guide but they are less popular. If want to cook with cast iron then you may need to know how to Season it. Then head on over to the New Adventures in Old Cast Iron thread.

Continuing with the Knife Guide. Remember to always cut only on plastic or wood as ceramic, glass, rock and metal will ruin your knife. Once you buy it you need to keep it sharp. Dull knives force you to use much more effort which leads to knife injuries. Then head on over to The Kitchen Knife Thread. If your looking for more specific recommendations then head on over to the The Something Offal Kitchen Equipment Thread

Cooking Techniques
There are many techniques on how to cook food, Sautéing, Pan Frying, Deep Frying, Broasting (Pressure Frying), Grilling, Barbecue, Braising, Baking, Fricassee, Roasting, Sous-vide, Stewing, Smoking and so on. Knowing these techniques will allow a larger range of dishes and experimentation that a home cook can make. Recipes are an important first step towards becoming and excellent cook and learning these and other techniques. In some cases like baking it may be best not to stray too far from the recipe or risk disaster until you have a more full understanding of the chemistry of baking. Following recipes and learning good technique is much easier if you do your Mise en place.

Knife Techniques can determine not only how long a dish takes to prepare before cooking but how consistent and evenly food will cook and will end up effecting the presentation of the food. Good technique is also key to avoiding injury.

Success on most dishes can be determined by many things but I have found the most common mistakes can be traced back to two things: Doneness and Seasoning.

Doneness: Overcooked or undercooked food usually wont taste good and is the most easily detected mistake on any dish. You cooked it too high or too low for too long or too short. Your followed a recipe and you cooked it using the exact cook times found in the recipe you may have prepared a smaller or larger portion than the recipe called for thus increasing or decreasing the time needed to cook it. If you prepared the food in various portion sizes and cooked them all using the same temperature and time some may be under or over done. This may seem simple but if you are boiling potatoes to make a mash if you chunks aren't of similar size you will most likely end up with raw potato in your mash as the larger pieces will not have cooked properly.

Seasoning: Seasoning and tasting everything is key to making a good dish. This can be difficult on some items like roasts or steaks as you wont have an opportunity to taste them until they are finished. Unless the product you have purchased is already seasoned you should probably add at least Salt & Pepper to whatever dish you are preparing. Don't be afraid of Salt. Salt brings out the natural flavor in foods. Most foods that do not have a naturally high amount of salt will taste bland if you do not add salt. Some people like Supertasters have a saltier palate it is important when cooking for others to find the right balance between not enough salt (bland) to too much salt (salty) as many guests will not remember to add salt or pepper to their meal after it has been presented to them.

Salt & Pepper are just the beginnings to proper seasoning. Spices are a topic too long to be covered in this thread in depth. Buying spices them in bulk bins and then toasting them in pan and using a spice or coffee grinder will not only give you more potent and flavorful spices but they will almost always be less expensive than jars of spices.

Photography & Presentation
How to make your food look nice and then how to take a good picture of it. I have always been bad at both food presentation and photography. This section should be done by someone else but needs to be covered. There is the Food Photography thread and the GWS Wiki on these subjects as well an old thread Food Photography and You.

Edit: I asked sharkattack to contribute to this portion of the thread and boy did he deliver. This is what he came up with.

The first thing you need to do is get to know your camera.

Are you shooting with a point and shoot? Is it your phone? Or are you using a DSLR?

If taking quality food photos is something you’re serious about, I recommend investing in a DSLR because you can really take complete control over everything (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.). I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II with usually a 100mm fixed macro lens, and sometimes a 24-70mm adjustable.

All of the different settings and modes can be quite overwhelming at first (and honestly, even after you know a thing or two about how to use them, you never really stop learning) but it’s important to understand how your camera works if you want your photos to come out nice. Step outside the “auto” mode!

One book that really helped me is called Plate to Pixel ( It's written by a food blogger who does food styling/photography for a living, and it's super helpful when it comes to knowing what setting to choose on your camera in a given situation (and what those settings do). Plus, she gives great styling tips.

But, basically:
• Aperture controls depth of field. The lower the number, the smaller the focal point.
• Shutter speed affects amount of light in your photos. The lower the number, the more light allowed.
• ISO has to do with sensitivity to light. The lower the number, the darker your photo.

Some point-and-shoot cameras give the option to play around with these settings.

Your camera should also have a few different modes you can shoot in (manual, shutter priority, aperture priority, and auto). I usually shoot in Aperture Priority mode (Av) because I like to be able to control the depth of field in my images. Plus, it will automatically adjust the shutter speed after you choose your ISO and aperture.

Lastly, I always shoot in RAW mode because it make post-editing so much easier.

Okay, enough with the super technical side, let’s talk about lighting.

Lighting is probably the most important thing when it come so food photography. Natural light is usually best (even if it's overcast or dusk!), but if you don’t have that, you can either use what you have and do some major white balancing, or invest in a light kit. One with a white umbrella diffuser and silver umbrella reflector is what I personally use, usually in conjunction with an all white photo drop cloth background. Here’s some similar stuff on Amazon:

Your camera will probably have a few white balancing modes (auto, shade, daylight, tungsten, etc). I like to use “tungsten” while shooting indoor with just regular overhead lighting, “shade” whenever I’m outside not in direct light, “white fluorescent” when I’m shooting inside with a light kit, and “daylight” when I’m shooting in direct sunlight (my LEAST favorite lighting to shoot in due to harsh shadows and highlights).

If you have a great place to shoot, but the sunlight coming through is too harsh, try diffusing it with a sheer white sheet or curtain. You can also “fill” light in your house by using a white cardboard display board (or something similar) as a reflector if you don’t own a true reflector.

Another thing to remember is to turn off any lights in the room you’re shooting in (unless you only have overhead tungsten lights to use). Just use the natural light coming in, or the bright white light from your light kit. The artificial light can throw off your white balance. If you think it’s too dark, grab some reflectors. In my opinion, it’s a lot easier to up the lighting in a too dark photo in post than it is to correct the white balance in a way that makes it seem natural.

Let’s talk composition/plating.

Right off the bat I have to mention that my plating is specifically to look good in photos, and isn’t the same kind of plating one would use in a restaurant or something. In fact, most times I re-plate my stuff after photographing to actually eat.

With that being said, some tips I have for food photography plating to make your food look better would be:

• Plate your stuff on a smaller plate. The smaller the plate, the bigger the food looks, which most people find to be subconsciously pleasing.
• Step back from your food! This is one that I still struggle with sometimes. When you're photographing, you feel like you want to really get in there and capture that ONE drip of cheese or that ONE heirloom tomato in your salad that looks awesome, but that just does not translate well in a photo. Step back and make sure the entire dish is framed in your shot---even better if you have "props" around it…aka beverages, utensils, maybe some of the ingredients in the final dish like a bowl of tomatoes, some fresh herbs, etc.
• Don’t be afraid of things looking “messy.” A perfectly white plate with a muffin sitting in the center isn’t really that interesting. But take that same muffin, maybe pull down the wrapper and let a few crumbs fall, then throw some of whatever fruit you used in them in the background and your photo just got a lot more interesting.
• ¾ top down angle shots are almost universally appealing, but feel free to get creative with your angles!

This last part is my favorite---post processing!

I find that editing is the most satisfactory part of the whole thing because you can totally transform your photos. Plus, I like to use it as a crutch because I don’t always make the correct choices for the ISO or exposure, etc. What looks okay on the tiny camera screen doesn’t always look so great at full size.

I don’t think I could recommend Photoshop highly enough, especially now that Photoshop CC is only $9.99/month and you get any and all new updates.

I edit my photos in Photoshop RAW (photos will auto open in this first when they’re taken in RAW), where I basically tweak the white balance if I need to, the exposure, contrast, highlights, blacks, etc. Then I open them in regular Photoshop to do any last minute adjustments, cropping or resizing, and sharpening (which you usually have to do if you shoot in RAW because the image can end up feeling a bit flat).

Here’s an example of a photo straight out of the camera that was shot in very dim natural light:

You can see that it looks really dark, and pretty lifeless, but we’re able to lighten it up quite a bit.

Here I circled the changes that I made in RAW (including warming up the photo just a touch):

Here’s what the image looks like now:

Pretty good, but it lacks sharpness, and can use a few other tune-ups. I like to go and edit the image in regular PS. I’ve circled that last few things I did (not counting resizing):

And here’s the final photo:

Plus a .GIF of all the iterations:

by dino. with contributions by SubG

: I am currently/want to be in the food industry. (I realize this is not a question but you should be asking yourself why you want to be or currently are in the restaurant industry.)
: Head on over to the The Restaurant Industry thread. They have a nice FAQ there and explore this topic in depth.

: Is this safe to eat?
: If it's cooked food or meat, and it's been sat out in the "danger zone" temperatures of 40º - 140º for more than four hours, throw it out. If it's a dry good from your pantry, smell it. If it actively walks away from you, use your best judgement.

: Can I use my crock pot for literally everything?
: There are specific jobs to which the crock pot is uniquely suited: that is, jobs that require long, slow cooking to bring out the best in the food. Beans fit this criterion, as do tough cuts of meat, and any kind of stock that you're making. It isn't suited well for boneless skinless fill-in-the-blank. It's not suited for pasta. Use a loving pot, you goddamned lazy goon.

: What should I make for __________ (fill in the blank with dinner tonight that I can use as leftovers tomorrow that reheats well, now because I'm broke, potlucks, my vegetarian friend, my new significant other)?
: Daal. This has been my answer to more questions than I care to think of that involve any of those scenarios I listed above. It's cheap. It's filling. It reheats extremely well. It's easy enough for a novice to make, but can be fancied up if you aren't a novice. Just make the freaking daal, please.

: What knife set should I get?
by dino.: Victorinox Fibrox in whatever length you like. Don't get a knife set. They're all ploys to get you to spend more money on more poo poo you don't need. Get one good chef's knife, one good serrated (bread) knife, and one paring knife IF you find yourself wishing you had a paring knife. For most people, one good chef's knife is more than enough.
by SubG: It's also good advice to handle a knife before you buy it. The chef's knife probably the piece of kitchen equipment where personal preference plays the largest role, and so if you handle something and don't like it gently caress what the hive mind says you should go with something else.

Also, the (current) general hive mind recommendations seem to be, from least expensive on up: Victorinox/Forschner; Tojiro; whatever Wüsthof/Henckels/Global/Shun/whateverthefuck you happen to like; handmade/custom stuff (Moritaka gets special recommendation for being inexpensive for a handmade kitchen knife). Also: side recommendation for a Chinese cleaver, with the CCK small slicer being the canonical recommendation as an entry point into the world of the Chinese cleaver. For paring knives I'd also throw out that the Dojo paring knife is the tits and is totally worth it if you have the US$50 or so to blow on a paring knife. That being said, your knife budget is best spent on buying the best chef's knife you can afford, then if you want a bread and paring knife spend what's left over on them.

: What cookware set should I get?
by dino.: Again, avoid cookware sets. Get one good stock pot, in as nice a quality as you can afford. This one is your go-to pot for large meals. You want the bottom to be heavy enough that you can sautee aromatics without the stuff sticking horribly to the bottom, or getting burnt. You want the pot to be (relatively) large enough to boil 1 lb of pasta at a time (that is, it can hold 4 quarts of water, along with 1 lb of pasta).
by SubG: I'd say go with the biggest footprint sauté the burners you're going to use will comfortably accommodate. Unless you've got dinky burners 10" is probably the minimum you'd want for general use, but I'd go with a 12" if you've got the rangetop for it. More broadly I'd say you generally want to go with the bigger pot if you're going to go with only one, just because you can do less in a big pot but you can't do more in a little pot. Same applies to knife selection---when in doubt, go with the biggest one you're comfortable handling

Get one 10 inch sautee pan. This one's going to be your pan that you reach for every time you want to make a sauce that needs to reduce (because the wide surface area allows for quicker evaporation), sautéing vegetables as a side dish, quickly searing off proteins before throwing them in the oven, and pretty much any task that you'd traditionally use a skillet for (crepes, pancakes, dosa, etc). Avoid plastic handles, because you want to be able to throw your sautee pan into the oven. If you find yourself wishing that you had a smaller pot, get a decent quality saucepan in about 1 1/2 quart size (or thereabouts; 1 quart is fine, as is 2 quart). This'll be the one you reach for when you want to make ramen, or boil an egg, or cook in smaller quantities.

Aside from that, one good cast iron skillet is great to have, as is a cast iron or enamel coated cast iron dutch oven.

: What stove should I buy?
: If you have the money, gas or induction top range, and convection oven. Bear in mind that for induction, you'll have to get all cookware that works on induction. That is, if a magnet sticks to the bottom of the cookware, you're good to go. Convection ovens are really good at getting even temperature throughout, because the moving air seems to keep the heat distributed throughout the cooking chamber.

: What should I get for my cooking friend?
: Avoid knives, unless you know said friend wants a specific knife. Avoid stupid gadgets that do something gimmicky. This includes "cupcake makers" or "breakfast sandwich makers". Nobody ever uses them as much as you think they do, they're shoddily built to break after one decent use (if you even get that), the people who run those companies are shady as hell and don't honour their warranty in the way they say they will (IF IT EVER BREAKS, WE WILL REPLACE IT!!!111 But then you read the fine print, and it says you have to pay $100 to ship the broken part to them, and $100 for them to ship you a replacement one).

I've made a helpful blog post for those who want specific suggestions.

: My friend/lover/driver/pizza delivery man dislikes _______. I know I can convince him/her/it/they otherwise if they'd just try it in ____ way. How can I go about hiding said thing or convincing them to like it?
by dino.: Let it go. People dislike different things. There are a lot more important things to worry about.
by SubG: Eh. I mean you definitely don't want to be a huge nudzh about it, but I don't think there's anything wrong with encouraging people to broaden their culinary horizons. I could make an argument about trying different things, even things you don't like, as a way you learn about food in general and about yourself as a person, but I'm not going to do that here. I just think that there are a lot of people out there that dislike a lot of kinds of food just because they've been given a lot of crap food. Like there are a lot of people out there who dislike broccoli or whatever because their mother boiled the everloving gently caress out of that poo poo when they were a kid and now they think broccoli is a green paste. Which is loving gross. Or people who have only ever had watery supermarket tomatoes. And there are large numbers of ingredients---olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, honey---where people quite possibly have never actually had the real deal.

I mean speaking just from personal experience and off the top of my head, my girlfriend used to think she hated black pepper because she'd only ever had the pre-ground stuff that tastes like sand, and she thought she hated loving apple sauce because at home she'd only ever gotten sugary goop from a can. Like I said that doesn't mean that anyone should be a loving pain in the rear end food evangelist, but just making food as well as you know how and actively encouraging people you know to try it is, I dunno, good citizenship or some poo poo.

: My friend is a complete cooking newbie, and wants to know what book to buy.
: Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything is a good primer to get someone comfortable with cooking ... everything. The recipes err on the bland side, so make sure to adjust seasonings to your liking. Michael Ruhlman's Ratio also does a fine job of teaching the basics of cooking for day-to-day needs. Cook's Illustrated produces thoroughly researched recipes. They do tend towards the bland, and tend to cater to a WASP-y palate, but the recipes are tested over and over again to produce consistent results.

: I made ______ recipe, but it didn't turn out like I wanted it to.
: Did you follow the recipe exactly? If not, follow it exactly as written, and see where it takes you. The first time you make a thing, try to follow things to the letter, so that you have an understanding of how the recipe itself works. You can always add flavour easily. It's not so easy to take it out once it's in there. If you /did/ follow the recipe to the letter, and want to know what might have gone wrong, nobody can help you unless you post the recipe, and a reasonable recreation of what your steps were.

: If I have time, what are some things I should make ahead, and save in my freezer?
: Stock. Make large quantities, boil it down for as long as you have patience to reduce the liquid level, then cool to room temperature. Freeze in ice cube trays (never put boiling liquid into ice cube trays), and then pop the cubes out of the ice cube trays, and into zip top bags. They keep for ages.

Chili freezes great. No reason to spend all that time and effort and make a small batch. Make plenty of it, and freeze in INDIVIDUAL portion sizes, so that when you're in the mood for some more, you can reheat however much you like.

Dumplings/tamales work great in the freezer. When you are going to make a labour-intensive thing, like dumplings, samosas, pierogie, mandu, wontons, pot stickers, tamales, or any other stuffed finicky to make thing, make as many as you have ingredients for. Freeze on wax-paper lined cookie sheets. When frozen rock solid, remove from the baking sheet, and transfer to zip top bags. Freeze for later use.

Brothy soups (not creamy or roux-thickened ones) and stews. Creamy soups with lots of potatoes don't reheat very well. Those need to be eaten quickly and with great gusto. Brothy soups (without pasta/rice in them) freeze perfectly.

Beans work great in the freezer. Cook them up, and spice them according to your taste. Freeze in 1-cup increments, so that you can have beans without all the cooking.

Loanarn fucked around with this message at 02:21 on Sep 25, 2020


his nibs
Feb 27, 2016

Welcome to the
Dream Factory

Grimey Drawer


e: how dare this pun be made already

his nibs fucked around with this message at 15:06 on Jan 9, 2018

his nibs
Feb 27, 2016

Welcome to the
Dream Factory

Grimey Drawer

It is a good thread though

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