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Fat Guy

When Cheaper is Just Fine

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I just caught up with this thread now and was amazed to see all my IKEA kitchen stuff here! I bought a couple of their regular pots when they first opened in NJ many years ago, and they're still going strong. I also bought that set of 12 glasses with the horizontal lines one year because we were having 12 for dinner and my SO wanted matching glasses. I'm going to Philly in a couple of weeks & making a trip there & to Sur La Table-- can't wait!


Author of the Mahu series of mystery novels set in Hawaii.

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IKEA has great cheap kitchen accessories. If you're in the market for cheap teflon cookware, the 365+ line is high quality and low price.

Carp, Which boards are no longer available? IKEA still sell end-grain cutting boards in 50x50cm size. Their GROLAND butcher block is cheap-as-chips at $200.

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Set of ironstone Johnson Brothers dinner and salad plates for 4 from England: Goodwill.

Porcelain coffee cup and saucer byHutschenreuter: Goodwill.

One placesetting of flatware: (knife, fork, spoon), Christofle: Goodwill

Donvier icecream maker: ditto

So when I have dinner parties, everyone gets different plates and flatware. It's lots of fun.

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Lastly, I think the basic Krups coffee grinder is all you need, but I know many disagree. With practice and the right amount of gentle shaking you can get a perfectly even grind, and the small amount of heat it produces has no effect on the final coffee, in my opinion.

I agree, particularly on the Krups brand for a cheap whirly blade grinder and most especially about shaking it to get a more consistent grind.

Now I'll point that for espresso I disagree. My espresso grinder cost $375 and after two years of use i've come to realize that it's a bargain. That brings up the importance of context - I use it a couple times every day and more on weekends. Some things don't work well in cheap.

Has anyone else noticed how much better the cheap stainless steel stuff made in China is relative to the stuff made in India? Damn - there is really a difference even though they're both cheap.

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Oh -- I dearly love my everyday "meat" dishes -- purchased from a synagogue which was tearing down its old building to build a new one and didn't want to store everything. They are old Walker China with the synagogue name and a seven candle menorah motif -- $3 a place setting. I bought 12!


Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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I bought my immersion blender at Target for $7, thinking, well this will fall apart and by the time it does I'll have figured out which "good one" to buy.

It's still going strong after two years, really does just fine in soups, berry sauces etc... If it ever dies, I'll buy another one just like it.


What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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Winners for wierd oils and specialty salt mixes and pepper mixes. Not to mention odd ball teas.

But shhhhhhhh don't tell anyone.

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I have a relatively big and complete collection of Farberware, now called 'Classic', pots and pans; for 'reserve' I have several still in the original boxes unopened in each of a few sizes. Seems to me, often the best pot has a stainless steel interior, and, given that, Farberware does the rest quite well.

I even use the frying pan: It was good the last time I sauteed, in two batches, 6 pounds of 10% fat ground beef with quite a lot of OO and then drained and loosely froze the result.

Recently have been able to buy cooking spoons apparently just stamped from a sheet of stainless steel. So, the spoons are 100% stainless steel with no seams, wood, plastic, etc. There are enough ridges, etc., in the shape to make the handles strong enough. I have two lengths for the handles, one normal and the other longer. They are terrific -- I prefer them to the cooking spoons I've had for decades with the spoon part attached to the handle with rivets and plastic attached to the handle with rivets. The new ones look less 'homey' but are really more functional, really darned near indestructible unless start using them to clean bricks, crack concrete, etc.!

I'm a big fan of many of the Pyrex products. Favorites include the 1 1/2 quart and 2 quart covered casserole dishes. Dinner tonight was 1 C of the loosely frozen ground beef, 1 C of relatively spicy tomato sauce, 1 can of ravioli, in a 1 1/2 quart dish, covered, heated for 30 minutes at 50% power in microwave, and topped with quite a lot of Pecorino Romano. Other favorites include the 2 C measures, the older 4 C measure that was taller (instead of the newer one that I believe is too short), and the 300 ml custard dishes, recently made heavier. The 300 ml dishes are good for Chinese dipping sauces, lemon juice and coleslaw when I pig out on fried scallops and hush puppies, the 2 T each of minced ginger, minced garlic, minced scallion, and crushed red pepper flakes for a stir-fry I do, etc.

The Pecorino Romano was grated with a simple -- nearly simplest possible -- stainless steel grater. Yes, with such a grater it's possible to get some 'fresh meat' in with the grated cheese, but that little grater has big advantages in simplicity and ease of cleaning and handling.

My 170,000 BTU/hour propane cooker cost all of about $35. It's nearly indestructible and works great.

The cooker works especially well with an inexpensive stamped sheet steel Chinese wok, 14" in diameter. That wok is nearly indestructible, has great surface, is easy to 'clean', and is great over a big propane fire.

Once at a department store in DC got the sales person to let me see their collection of glassware catalogues, and they had one from West Virginia Glass with some classic stemware including some gorgeous tall ones for Champagne. I called the company and they shipped me a collection of five dozen for average price a little under $2 a glass. They remain terrific -- no Chambertin, Meursault, Champagne, Barolo, Chianti, or Asti Spumanti deserved better! My mother got a lot of stemware from Fostoria in West Virginia; they are prettier but a little less functional and, really, too delicate -- once I broke a stem just by picking up the glass. One of the programs on Jackie Kennedy has her saying that when she went shopping for stemware for the White House, she found what she wanted in West Virginia. Hmm?

Wal-Mart carries some Rubbermaid ice cube trays. I got a stack; so far the first four kept in the freezer have lasted and worked perfectly -- the cubes come out very nicely. The trays have yet to start to crack or tear. I put the ice cubes in a simple covered plastic storage container, of course, also in the freezer; so, I have a ready supply of loose ice cubes that don't freeze together or sublime.

About the cheapest is for free, and some years ago we started keeping some of the microwave safe trays from some TV dinners. The dinners weren't very good, but the trays have lasted for decades as good microwave proof tools! One use is to put some pork shoulder BBQ in one of the 300 ml Pyrex dishes, set on one of the trays, top with another tray, and heat in the microwave.

Hardware stores sell sheets of abrasive intended for smoothing drywall. The sheets are black with a very open mesh and some really tough abrasive. I have some, cut into quarters, I keep in the kitchen for cleaning stuck food! Yes, Virginia, they can scratch some surfaces!

One of the most functional 'kitchen tools' is a wet-dry 'shop' vacuum cleaner. Mine is the real thing, 3.5 HP motor, large diameter hose, on four wheels, etc., I got years ago from Sears for about $105. It's great for spills on the kitchen floor! Occasionally, dump the insides onto the compost heap in the woods out back. For the filter, a flexible cylinder of pleated paper, when it develops a full 'beard', put it on a horizontal stick and rinse off the beard with a spray on the end of a garden hose. While I got some extra filters, really, with reasonable care, can make one filter last for through many rinsings for years.

Over the years I went through enough paper towels to destroy a large forest, so I found an alternative: Recently Sam's Club has been selling packages of a few dozen rectangular white cotton terry towels of an appropriate weight for a bit less than $12 a package. So, on my kitchen 'island', I have a big stack, about 18" high, with each towel flat, not folded. So, when I need a towel, I just take the next one from the top of the stack. I use the towels to dry hands, dry pots and pans, wipe up spills, etc. For cleaning, a pass in the washing machine with cold water, chlorine bleach, and liquid detergent, a pass with hot water and liquid detergent, then the dryer, then stacking gives me a new supply. Curiously somehow even soy sauce washes out nicely.

White plastic cutting board -- big enough to get the work done, small enough for easy washing, drying, handling, storing. I got tired of seeing all that beautiful maple crack!


Edited by project (log)

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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1 cup french press.


"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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...

Over the years I went through enough paper towels to destroy a large forest, so I found an alternative: Recently Sam's Club has been selling packages of a few dozen rectangular white cotton terry towels of an appropriate weight for a bit less than $12 a package. So, on my kitchen 'island', I have a big stack, about 18" high, with each towel flat, not folded. So, when I need a towel, I just take the next one from the top of the stack. I use the towels to dry hands, dry pots and pans, wipe up spills, etc. For cleaning, a pass in the washing machine with cold water, chlorine bleach, and liquid detergent, a pass with hot water and liquid detergent, then the dryer, then stacking gives me a new supply. Curiously somehow even soy sauce washes out nicely.

This is my system, too. Mine came from Costco but probably the same thing - terry-cloth. I keep a stack of clean ones under the sink and a small wastebasket for the soiled ones. At day's end the soiled ones migrate to the laundry room and I refill the clean stack. When they finally bite the dust they become rags in hubby's workshop.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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A red egg shaped stone with a plastic cover you put in the pot with eggs. When the stone changes from red to black from the edge to the center the eggs are hard cooked. Works perfectly everytime, although you have to stand and watch it the last minute to be sure to take it off the heat when the color reaches the center, otherwise it overcooks. Ten cents at a yard sale. I thinks that's the only thing I've ever bought at a yard sale.

slowday

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I have a very wide taping knife from home Depot that I bought for .79 about four years ago. Perfect for Handling masses of bread dough, transferring chopped veggies and lifting delicate fish filets. Also my monster mortar and pestle from the oriental grocery, $10.00 and indestructible.


If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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My expensive German cook's knife is now catching dust because I did what every Chinese cook in this town does - got my butt down to Chan Chi Kee Cutlery and bought one of their own brand knives for US$10.  Ok, it looks like something from the last century (and the design probably is), and it's carbon steel, but it works great, holds a razor edge, and it's less than 1/10th the price of your Global.  Newly arrived Western chefs in this town all wonder why the guys on the line in their kitchen are all using these weird cheap knives.... but they all eventually see the light, pack up their expensive knives and convert. 

http://www.chanchikee.com

Edited to add: the knife I'm talking about is the one on the top right in the first picture on the web page, the smallest wood handle one.  It's about 8" long.  Those are knifes, not cleavers - don't get fooled by the shape.

I have one of those and love it, but it's begun to chip on the edge. It's the carbon blade that makes it great. I've been trying to find one locally, but they've all "upgraded" to stainless, not sharp blades. Does anyone know of a local source? or do I really have to order one from Hong Kong!


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I think serrated knives are the best deal in the world of cutlery. No matter what brand you buy, or how cheap it is, itll still work just as good as german knife 4-8x more expensive.

Oh, and the bowery in NYC chinatown is the best place for baragins in the known universe. I bought 10 large saucing spoons at a restaurant supply store for 15$ that are identical to the Lespinasse/grey kunz spoons that they sell at JB Prince for 7 bucks a pop.

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10" Chefwear fry pan from Target. ~$18, nicely heavy, copper-encased aluminum bottom, stainless steel. Retains heat really well. One of my favorite pans, along with the 2 other nonstick frypans I got from work that were going to be thrown out.

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$12 Steamer from OSH - use it practically every night.

$12 extra burner from Chinese market - great for when I'm cooking for a big crowd and need an extra burner or when I want to keep something warm on a buffet. It runs on a butane canister. Same thing sells at Sur La Table for, I think, around $70 bucks.

Big plug for vintage Dansk casserole dishes, but NOT from Ebay. My recommendation - church rummage sales! They run about $5 to $10 at those sales, they go from freezer to oven to table, come in great colors and are oh so retro chic! I get a ton of use out of these.


Stephanie Kay

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Anything that lasts forever.

Cast iron skillets and pots, especially when the dumb salesgirl at Macy's doesn't charge you for the glass lids, thinking they're included in the price.

Chicago Metallic Commercial bakeware.

Graduated Pyrex mixing bowls. I have a set of blue, yellow and red. Paid about fifteen for them. Saw them at Mood Indigo recently for $100.

Anything you inherit.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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:raz: My all time favorite "el cheapo" has to be the hammered aluminum dutch oven that I inherited from my mom. It's Club brand-marked, about 1/8" thick, and for some reason is non-reactive with tomatoes! Makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world.

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I buy some cheap things that I consider semi-disposable - pizza pans, because they suffer a lot of dings and bumps.

I found some inexpensive knives at Smart & Final that are pretty good, especially the long serrated slicer that I use for a bread knife. It workes better than just about anything else I have used, especially on artisan breads with thick crust.

I buy a lot of utility bowls of various sizes at the Corning outlet, plus baking dishes, casserole, gratin bakers.

I buy the Cambro storage containers at Smart & Final. They are non-reactive, airtight, and range from one quart to 26 quart. I store everything in them and also use them for brining turkeys, pork roasts, for processing pickles, saurkraut.

Thre are some things on which I will not penny-pinch. I have things that I have been using constantly for 35-40 years and are still in perfect condition. They were expensive when newly purchased but have proved to be economical in the long run.

By the way, on earlier posts there was some discussion of a crumb sweeper.

Those used to be know as a "Silent Butler" ............


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Sigh. Remember pressed caviar?

By the way, on earlier posts there was some discussion of a crumb sweeper.

Those used to be know as a "Silent Butler"

Beg to differ. The Silent Butler would be useful for crumbs, now you mention it, but it couldn't do any sweeping. Back where I come from a Silent Butler is a clamshell-opening affair used for the emptying of ashtrays: in one hand you hold the SB by its handle and use leverage on the knob to flip open the top with your thumb; with the other you dump the ashtray's contents into it. Quaint, now - but we still have a couple of them lying around, and I think I'll start using them for crumbs if I ever go back to giving elegant dinner parties.

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Hey, talk of cheap and inexpensive kitchen equipment. Lot's of great gadgets out there for not a lot of $$$$. But think about this. Invest the money in quality equipment and you don't have to go back and replace it all the time with the inexpensive stuff. Sure, I have my fair share of inexpensive gadgets, both at home and work. But it's hard to beat the 25 year old Wusthof Chef's knife that I recieved as an apprentice. Still going strong and at $75 original cost, that's about $3 a year. Inexpensive stuff has a place, how many of you have a Ginsu somewhere in the drawer or toolbox? It slices, dices, cuts nails, frozen food, bricks and aluminum cans. Still the best tomato knife I have ever had. don't forget though that the spendy stuff works well too. Cheers

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I am in a lather for a mandoline. I may rethink the pricey one.

I bought one of the composite mandolines from Chefs Catalogue -- Usually $100, but now on sale for $39.99 -- and I am pleased as punch.

Help! I've been lusting after a mandoline but unwilling to spend the money. I've looked at the cheaper equivalents, but they look as unergonomic as the cheapo I bought at a garage sale for $3 and soon donated to the next rummage sale. The composite mandoline in the Chef's Catalog photo link may have better blades, but looks as risky or frustrating to operate. So here's my question to those of you who have these machines: do you actually use that food pusher thing? It looks to me as though one is supposed to be pushing down and sideways at the same time on the food in question, everything will be wobbling, and soon one would be using the hand instead of the pusher to grip the food and hold it straight. Looks like an invitation to sliced fingers. The only slicer I've seen that looks as though the pusher would work properly is the top-of-the-line Bron with the food cage that slides back and forth on a carriage that has a pusher hinged to it.

I'd like to know from the experienced users whether I've got the picture wrong. Does the pusher work better than I think? Do you ignore it and use fish scaling gloves? Or do you just grin and bear the occasional lost fingertip? Surely I'm not the only kitchen klutz who has to worry about these issues...


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I am in a lather for a mandoline. I may rethink the pricey one.

I bought one of the composite mandolines from Chefs Catalogue -- Usually $100, but now on sale for $39.99 -- and I am pleased as punch.

Help! I've been lusting after a mandoline but unwilling to spend the money. I've looked at the cheaper equivalents, but they look as unergonomic as the cheapo I bought at a garage sale for $3 and soon donated to the next rummage sale. The composite mandoline in the Chef's Catalog photo link may have better blades, but looks as risky or frustrating to operate. So here's my question to those of you who have these machines: do you actually use that food pusher thing? It looks to me as though one is supposed to be pushing down and sideways at the same time on the food in question, everything will be wobbling, and soon one would be using the hand instead of the pusher to grip the food and hold it straight. Looks like an invitation to sliced fingers. The only slicer I've seen that looks as though the pusher would work properly is the top-of-the-line Bron with the food cage that slides back and forth on a carriage that has a pusher hinged to it.

I'd like to know from the experienced users whether I've got the picture wrong. Does the pusher work better than I think? Do you ignore it and use fish scaling gloves? Or do you just grin and bear the occasional lost fingertip? Surely I'm not the only kitchen klutz who has to worry about these issues...

Mandolines are always fraught with risk!

I'll admit that I don't use the safety piece. I get better results when I do not. No one I know actually uses theirs -- I've only seen them used by chefs on television who are, I imagine, trying to limit liability! I worry about sliced fingers, sure. I'd be stupid if I didn't. But knowing that I could receive a very nasty cut is enough to make me slow down near the end of a potato or a cucumber! I recently did 5 gallons of thai cucumber salad, and I didn't spill any blood.

I have the Chefs Catalog composite mandoline, and I find it to be very sturdy and very stable. Nothin wobbles (except possibly my belly).


Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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Amen to the Victorinox knives! Twenty years ago I bought my glass lemon reamer bowl thingy at a yard sale for 15 cents and my wooden reamer for a nickel.(I make a lot of lemonade!)


Every new food you try adds a year to your life.Therefore,I am immortal ;=)

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My two best buys ever are my ginger grater...a little ceramic thing from China town about $4 and an apple corer. I core everything with is and it is wonderful. I have even used it for making tubes of fruit for a dessert, with a coulis and mint ina little lincoln log shape

The ginger grater is fast, easy to claen, in the dishwasher and you never have to peel the ginger, always a bonus for me because I forget to do it earlier in the prep.

Deborah

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