Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cooking with Crap, Cooking with the Good Stuff

[Editor's note] This post is not some desperate ploy to get nice things sent to us.  I feel obligated to mention that because the fantastic friends and family we have might get some crazy ideas if I didn't...

When we got married (all those years ago!) we were blessed with so many generous gifts from our friends and family, many of which were high quality kitchen tools.  We had all sizes of stainless steel pans, non-stick cookware, sharp knives, and- most importantly- a place to keep it all!  We had any tool we could have possibly needed for new dishes and new techniques we wanted to try.  Our equipment made cooking so easy and pleasurable, until...

Moving time.  Space and weight were major considerations for us when packing for the move.  It would have been incredibly difficult to justify bringing even one piece of cookware, especially with most apartments here being 'furnished' with varying bits and bobs.  We decided to pack away (not sell or dump!) our nice equipment and cobble together what we could in Dublin.  "How bad can cheap cookware be...?"

Messy pancakes in a cheap skillet
How bad could it be?  Pretty bad, turns out.  We had seen the cheap cookware at stores back home, of course, but never had reason to use it.  We understood (at some level) that the high end stuff must be "better" somehow, but we never got to see just how steep the drop was.

Sad Pancakes
On our first trip to the charity shops, we picked up a non-stick skillet for two Euro.  "Sweet!" We thought, "A non stick skillet!"  The surface looked to be in good shape, and there wasn't much wear on the handle or bottom.  Sadly, when we put it on the stove (a flat electric cooktop above the fridge) it wobbled visibly as it heated up.  The metal was so thin and of such low quality that it literally warped into a convex bulge when hot.  Even cooking would be a joke with a surface like this, with less than a third of the skillet touching the heat.  Well...

Off to the store for a new skillet.  We dropped 10 or 12 Euro on a new non stick skillet at the supermarket to meet our cooking needs.  Thinking our problems over, we put the skillet in action and... yeah.  The pan warped, the food stuck, it was a mess.  What a disappointment.

Time to pop for something real.  Sara found on a heavy-duty non stick skillet that has been our kitchen workhorse.  The dense metal holds heat and doesn't warp when heated.  The surface has remained non stick through repeated use.  The all-metal design (including the handle) lets us use it in the oven for casseroles and pizza.

Good looking pancakes in a nice skillet
Real pancakes!

Pancakes, sausage, and fruit for breakfast
...Now That's Breakfast!
Our current kitchen equipment status could probably be rated as 'satisfactory.'  The skillet is a heavy hitter, as is a saucepan that was a nice score from a charity shop.  We are currently using a sub-par grocery store kitchen knife that mashes more than cuts through vegetables.  Our Wusthof 9" chef knife (currently awaiting our return to Iowa) is sorely missed.  The ceramic knife we obtained from Amazon was a nice sharp cutter, but the blade snapped when I was crushing a clove of garlic.

They say you don't know what you got 'till it's gone, and we learned that lesson the hard way... with mushy, doughy, burned, and crushed pancakes.

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