Equip your kitchen: Think you’re a bad cook? Could be your pans   

I am a passable cook — not great. I get the job done, mainly because I get hungry. Eating is my sole motivation for cooking. However, since COVID has me cooking most every night, I have more motivation to become a better cook ― starting with my previously ignored pans.

Until lately, my relationship with pans went like this, “Oh, this is a pan. It will work.”

But the other night, as I was cooking meatballs, I experienced pan panic. I buy meatballs premade at the grocery store, cook them in a skillet for 25 minutes, turning them so they brown on all sides. I pour a jar of Italian sauce on them, let them simmer, add a side salad and that’s dinner. Like I said, passable.

I had made these meatballs dozens of times, only this time after just a few seconds, they were instantly black on one side, not brown. What the heck? The only difference was I’d grabbed a different skillet. This tripped the what-don’t-I know lightbulb, which is how most of my columns start.

I placed an SOS call to Lisa McManus, executive editor of America’s Test Kitchen reviews, who reassured me, “It’s not you. It’s the pan.” A multimedia company devoted to making home cooks feel more confident, ATK teaches home cooking basics through its public TV series and cooking magazines, including Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.

“How do you know it’s the pan and not me?” I asked.

“You’ve made this recipe before successfully, and the pan is the only factor that changed,” McManus said. Her job involves testing cookware, by cooking the same recipes in different pans, to find out which performs better and why.

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“Everyone can cook,” she said. “But often home cooks have a bad experience, blame themselves and give up. They buy ingredients for a recipe and make a mess of it. It’s not their fault. They’re ill-equipped. Their cookware lets them down. Your pan should be your partner, not your adversary.”

She told me about the time she was staying at a rental ski condo with a group of friends and offered to make dinner. “The kitchen was outfitted with the cheap cookware typically found in rental units,” she said. “I’ve cooked in many sub-par conditions, including on a camp stove, so I figured I could overcome this. Instead I found myself fighting the battle of my life with this thin, crummy cookware. I didn’t think this could defeat me, but I barely pulled it off.”

I love this woman.

Next, I shared my meatball story with my friend Heather McPherson, a food writer and cookbook author, and asked, “How have I come to this stage in life and not known pan basics?”

So McManus and McPherson gave me a crash course in cookware, and the assurance that better meals were just a pan away. Here’s what they said to keep in mind:

Don’t buy a set. Both experts agreed, cookware sets are full of pieces you don’t need and which take up space. Retailers like sets, because they can sell 21 …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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