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Handy tools can speed up cooking processes

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Hello once again, my friends. Once more I come to you from the frigid arctic plains of Kentucky. Despite all of our good intentions, we still can’t seem to escape the inevitable forces of nature. Yes, I’m being Mister Obvious and talking about how cold it is, despite the fact that no one really wants to hear that the weather is going to continue its trend for the next couple of weeks. But, I’m over it now, so I’m moving on to a topic we all love: food.

This month I decided to switch up the topic just a bit from my normal routine. One thing I tend to get a lot of questions about is ways to make cooking go faster.

These questions come in many forms, from which knives I use to what kind of stove I have. But, in essence, they all boil down to making the kitchen experience easier. Well, either easier or faster and thus, we get to what I like to call kitchen gadgets.

Kitchen gadgets are all different and not all of them make things easier. Some are simply there to look better. Take, for instance, wine openers. We’ve all seen tons of different wine openers, everything from an electric one to the old timey corkscrew style. The fact is, corkscrews work and have seemingly forever. The new electric ones are faster, but they run on batteries or are rechargeable and they are infinitely more difficult to use. So, they might be a bit faster – unless that is your batteries are dead or you forgot to recharge. By the time you get the batteries and get them put in, you could have already had a glass of wine had you been using a corkscrew.

Now I’m going to touch on a few things that I truly do like and that have made my kitchen work easier and, in some cases, faster. One thing that I have only had for a short period of time is the NuWave oven. I’m sure many of you have seen the infomercials on TV for them and how they can cook anything and it comes out perfect no matter how hard you try to mess it up.

Of course, nothing lives up to the billing of TV, but I must say, the NuWave is one that comes close. So far, I have cooked vegetables, chicken, steak, burgers and biscuits in mine, and every time it’s done a fine job in less time than I could have done it on the stove. The cleanup is easy, and it seems fairly durable. I do typically add a bit of time to what it claims in the included “cookbook,” but for the most part, it’s a truly functional piece of equipment. I got one for my brother and sister-in-law, and they speak highly of theirs as well.

Another item I have that I tend to reach for quite often is herb scissors. If you follow my articles, I talk a lot about including fresh herbs in your cooking as a way to change up and add flavor to your dishes. Herb scissors are just what they sound like, scissors for cutting up herbs. Instead of having one set of blades like a typical set of scissors they have four sets, all in a row. So, you hold the herbs and chop away with the scissors, saving tons of time as compared to using a knife.

Speaking of knives, let’s talk about that topic for a minute. What’s the difference in an expensive knife and a cheap one? The answer is simple: time. The more expensive the knife, and thus the blade, the better it tends to hold an edge. The better edge it holds, the easier it is to use and the less time you spend cutting.

I have knives ranging from $3 to $200. In almost every case, the more I’ve paid for a knife, the longer it stays sharp, the better the balance and the faster the time spent using it. Also, I don’t use serrated blades. In some cases, tomatoes and bread come to mind, a serrated blade cuts a little better. For most things it simply rips whatever you are slicing instead of cutting it. They tend to be harder to sharpen and they don’t hold edges all that well.

All that brings me to ceramic blades. For edge retention, there’s nothing better than ceramic. It cuts super well, and I tend to reach for my ceramics as much or more than the steel blades.

The downfall of ceramic is that it’s super brittle. Drop one and you now have tons of ceramic knives because the blade breaks into tons of pieces. Also, like any good knife, they can’t be put in the dishwasher. Ceramic doesn’t like extended periods under water and dishwashers tend to remove the edge from a knife, so always hand wash your knives and you will find they hold up far better over time and stay sharp longer.

These are just a few things I have found that actually do what they claim to do and make the kitchen experience better. As always, if you have questions I’m always around and happy to help.

Eat well always my friends.

 

Shawn Keeton is author of the cookbook, “Keeton in the Kitchen, A Celebration of Family, Friends and Food.” He resides in Carrollton, Ky.