Here are two recipes I made right around Super Bowl Sunday. The first is my usual go-to pizza recipe (note that Cook’s Illustrated has an updated recipe in the latest issue). The second is Ree Drummond’s Spicy Shredded Pork, which fueled a near-endless supply of tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches, and other lunches.
Looking at these photos, I feel more compelled to talk about equipment than food. Cooking can be more enjoyable and less stressful when you have the right tools. The few times i’ve using the ‘wrong’ tools, i’ve ended up with lopsided cakes, giant messes, broken glass, and burned fingers. In most cases, good equipment can reduce errors and improve product. You’ll bake better cakes in pans that heat evenly and hold their shape. You’ll get a better sear on meat in a pan that’s not non-stick. And so on.
Good equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. I buy a lot of my cook and bake ware secondhand. In some cases, the stuff you find in thrift stores or relatives’ garages (or on ebay) will serve you better than the newer stuff. I don’t especially like it when I buy something new and it breaks after one or two uses. Recently, this has happened to me with 1) a cheap nonstick skillet and 2) a citrus juicer. Hence another reason to buy cheap or secondhand- if it breaks, you aren’t out much on your investment. When I find older things in good condition, I’m inclined to think they will stand the test of time. I especially love vintage baking pans, cake carriers, table ware, and serving pieces.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t new items of quality and value. Recently i’ve acquired a number of new kitchen doo-dads, some which i’m using more frequently than others. I have a few new things that have brought me a lot of pleasure in the kitchen including:
1) A fancy-pants garbage can.
2) A pizza stone.
3) A set of small, locking tongs. (Pictured above)
I try not to buy anything new unless i’m sure I will appreciate it and use it often. I also try to shop TJ Maxx or restaurant supply stores before going to more expensive retailers. I’m also really wary of online product reviews- they’re often unreliable, and most of the time they don’t account for wear/longevity. I’m more likely to buy new kitchen products when i’ve test-driven them in a friend or relative’s kitchen beforehand. The one exception is when I travel- when i’m buying ‘souvenir cookware,’ I’m not always thinking about function…
So that’s my two cents. Look for things that will last, and try to get them free, cheap, second-hand, or on sale. If you have to buy new, do some research first.
How have you built your collection of cookware/bakeware?