Over the years I have learned what suits my tastes and works well when preparing recipes. Below are some of my tips:
Use Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter unless the recipe calls for salted.
I have 1″ and 2″ cookie scoops and these are excellent for getting cookie dough onto a cookie sheet quick. I also recommend using these because they prevent the dough from getting too warm in your hands.
Yes, grocery stores sell something by this name, but please don’t buy it. If you won’t drink it from a glass, don’t cook with it!
Don’t use the minced garlic that comes in a jar; you are compromising on flavor! Invest in a good garlic press and buy a fresh head of garlic and store it in an open dish next to your spices. This Rossi Garlic Press is my favorite.
Lemon, Lime, Orange Rind
If a recipe calls for one of these, use the real thing. A microplane grater works really well for giving you very fine strands of rind so that the flavor is an appealing accent and doesn’t overtake the recipe.
Lemon or Lime Juice
In my opinion this should always be fresh. Purchase one of these juicers so that you can make lemon or lime juice anytime. You could also quarter oranges and put them inside the juicer. I squeeze the fruit over a measuring cup to I can measure out the perfect quantity.
DO NOT use cooking spray on non-stick pans. Trust me on this one, I have ruined two pans before I learned the proper way to use these. Add a pat of butter or olive oil depending on what you are cooking and you won’t have any issues with sticking and your pan will last for years. I use these two frying pans for any recipe that calls for nonstick, especially eggs and Chicken Parmesan. See below for my favorite brands.
This tool is not only great for pie crusts, it works exceptionally well on guacamole.
Pots & Pans
My favorite everyday pots & pans are by All-Clad. I have the LTD pans which have an anodized exterior which means they cannot go in the dishwasher. This can be a deal breaker for some, but the even heat distribution makes these pans worth a little extra elbow grease to me. These do not have a nonstick interior, I have found I really only need to two frying pans shown above for nonstick. What I love most about these, they are virtually indestructible. I have had these for over twenty years and aside from a few scratches on the outsides, they are serious workhorses. Below is a list of the sizes and what I use each of them for.
I have three saucepans, small (2 quart), medium (3 quart), and large (4 quart). I also have two inserts that fit into the 3 and 4 quarts, a double boiler insert and a steamer. These meet every reheating, boiling, melting, job I have. I use the double boiler for melting chocolate and the steamer for veggies and tamales.
I have a 6 quart sauté pan. This is perfect for browning ground beef or sausage and cooking meatballs.
A 10″ fry pan
A stockpot. This is basically my dutch oven for large amounts of soups, sauces, and boiling artichokes.
A roasting pan with rack. This pan shines at Thanksgiving as it holds the Turkey, but I also use it for roasting chicken.
Cracking an Egg
This may sound basic and silly, but when a recipe calls for an egg, crack it open in its own bowl before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. A piece of shell or one egg that is tinted red will cure you from cracking the egg directly into the batter!
Grease/Flour Cake Pan
When baking I highly recommend greasing and flouring the pan versus using a cooking spray. It makes a difference in the texture of your recipe. Purchase Crisco Baking Sticks (I know, I know, but it really is the best and you use so little!). Peel off a little of the paper on the end and run the stick across the bottom and sides of your pan. Then smooth it out with your fingers. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of flour and gently tap the pan, spreading the flour completely over the bottom and sides then tap out the excess into the trash.
A good friend of mine once asked me what type of sifter I use (battery vs. hand crank). While I love a good gadget, I find that a high quality strainer works excellent as a sifter without taking up anymore cabinet space. Simply add your flour or powdered sugar and tap against your hand into a bowl.