Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bits and Pieces, Halloween '10

Today I'm going to put up the first of my bits and pieces series. These will be an ongoing series of little things I've noticed that help make things a little easier in the kitchen. Kinda like the 'tips and tricks' section in various craft magazines.

Cleaning out burnt on crap.

This is something that really eluded me for years. Some recipes, statistically speaking, are just going to burn a bunch of crap on the bottom of the pan, like this morning's hash browns. I know, some more experienced chefs would probably tell me to stir more, or do something else that's more intelligent, to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

This wouldn't be a problem I suppose if I was using industrial pots and pans in a kitchen with an industrial dishwasher, and a steam cleaner. But I'm using nice stuff, and I don't want to blast the crap out of it. I like having a smooth surface that's less likely to stick. (the irony) But still, I used to have to spend hours with abrasive cleaners, metal instruments, or whatever else, because I also wanted that nice smooth surface to be clean.

Most kids learn that hot water helps. What I've learned is that making hot water helps more. Adding water, and boiling it in the dirty pan does a lot to loosen up the worst of the burnt on crud. While it's boiling, use a spatula to help things along. Use the same kind of spatula you'd normally use... don't succumb to using metal, in the hopes that it'll do a better scraping job... it might scrape the crud out, but it'll also scrape up the pan. And not scraping up the pan was the point of using the water trick in the first place.


Spudges and Sponges: a dirty topic.

Sponges are not exactly rocket science. They're more like biology. And maybe a little bit of psychology, too.

Things get dirty all over the kitchen, not just in the sink. In theory, I guess clean is clean, and any sponge will clean anything if you use enough soap and hot water. But it still feels dirty to use the same sponge for everything from the floor to the stove to the dishes. Separate sponges seemed like the answer. But it seemed a little counter-intuitive to use a new, clean sponge as a dedicated floor sponge.

At some point, I had a room-mate who taught me to micro-wave my sponges. I thought he was nuts, but his logic was sound. 20 seconds in a microwave will get the sponge very, very hot. I haven't used a thermometer to measure how hot, but for sure, the sponges I pull out of the nuke-o-mat are too hot to touch for long. And that's hot enough to kill off most of the bacteria.

I understand the science. And in theory, it's great. But this is the psychology part... I know on an intellectual level that I have probably made that sponge safe to use. But I still see a dirty sponge, and I'm not really sure that I like the idea of using that sponge on my dishes.

 It's not really a nice shiny sponge anymore. Instead, I consider it to be a dirty spudge. But as long as the germs have been killed off, it's still good enough to use on the floor and for the grunt work on the stove-top. And I cut off one corner so that I can see its degraded status.

...And then I throw it back in the sink anyway.


Recipe Holding

One more reason why it's good to have a work island right next to the fridge: I can use magnets to hold magazine recipes. That way they're out of the way, they won't get stained or destroyed, and I can still refer to them while I'm making a mess on the work surface.


Happy Halloween, y'all.

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