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What are knives made of?

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What are knives made of?

The blade of a knife can be made from materials such as high carbon steel, stainless steel, high carbon stainless steel, titanium, ceramic and plastic.

Chef Knife by Jamie Oliver (Retail Price: $54.40)

High carbon steel

One of the oldest materials used for producing knives, carbon steel blades are tough, can be very sharp and retain their sharp edge well. However, carbon steel is brittle which means that it can easily break under pressure. It is also susceptible to discolouration when exposed to acidic elements like citrus fruits and tomatoes. Discolouration and rusting can be minimised by coating the knife with flavour-free vegetable oil before storage. To maintain its performance, a light polish using fine grit steel wool or sandpaper from time to time will be sufficient.

Stainless steel

This alloy of iron is made up of chromium, nickel and carbon. The ratio of chromium and nickel generally defines the quality of the stainless steel. The most common ratio would be 18% chromium and 10% nickel. Chromium contributes to rust resistance and shine while nickel gives it toughness. The edge created under factory conditions may be very sharp but it might be difficult to maintain and restore in a domestic kitchen.

High carbon stainless steel

The optimum combination of the best qualities from stainless steel and carbon steel. This blade has the toughness of carbon steel and the additional chromium makes it resistant to rusting and discolouration. Although slightly harder to sharpen compared to carbon steel, high carbon stainless steel are commonly used in high-quality kitchen knives.

Ceramic

This is the sturdiest material available for knife manufacture and holds a superb edge for the longest time. Zirconium oxide, a component used in ceramic, is second only to diamonds when it comes to sturdiness. However, it is also brittle and thus vulnerable to chipping and breaking. As such, it is more suited for slicing tasks rather than chopping.  Given that the edge of the ceramic blade is thinner than the edge of a steel one, cutting through items will be much easier. Once the blades have dulled, they must be sharpened by a professional using a diamond sharpener.

Plastic

The main purpose of using plastic blades is to prevent discolouration of vegetables and other ingredients from the blade of a knife. Usually serrated and not very sharp, some use of force is required when slicing.

Types of knives

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Types of knives

As everyone knows, knives are integral to any kitchen. Having the right knife set will make a big difference in your culinary adventure. Different types of knives are designed for different functions.  By using the right one, you will find cooking easier and more enjoyable!

These are four commonly used knives found in the kitchen:

Chef’s Knife

Arguably the most important piece in the set as it acts as a ‘food processor’- slicing, dicing, and mincing practically everything you need. Most chef knives range from 12 – 25 cm on the blade.  The ideal chef knife should be as big as you are comfortable with, keeping in mind that a longer knife provides more cutting space. Try out the knife by making a few cutting motions to check that it feels balanced in your hand and the handle is comfortable to hold.

Chef Knife by Jamie Oliver (Retail Price: $84.90)

Paring Knife

A small knife that is suitable for skinning vegetables and fruits, trimming fats from pieces of meat and other delicate tasks. If you find this knife too short for your comfort, replace it with a longer utility knife.

BestCut Straight Edge Paring Knife by Giesser (Retail Price: $62.60

Utility Knife

A knife that is typically bigger than a paring knife but smaller than a chef’s knife. It measures at approximately 12 – 15 cm on the blade and can be used for carving, slicing, de-boning and filleting. As suggested by its name, it is considered by most to be the all-purpose knife.

PREMIUM Forged Utility Knife by Atlantic Chef (Retail Price:$40.10)

Serrated Knife

The distinct jagged edge of this knife is meant for cutting food with hard exteriors and soft interiors, which include bread, roast meat and soft fruits like tomatoes.  We typically apply the slicing motion when using the serrated knife as it tends to grab and cut the surface easily.

EFFICIENT Serrated Slicing Knife by Atlantic Chef (Retail Price: $22.10)

Tips and Tricks to Buying Cookware

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Tips and Tricks to Buying Cookware

Buying a brand new range of cookware can be a daunting task with so many options available.  To ease the conundrum, consider your cooking needs, level of cooking and how much are you willing to spend. It can be tempting to simply purchase a complete cookware set since it will include everything a kitchen would need. Unless you are a professional, owning a couple of basic pots and pans will suffice for most recipes. Your money is better spent on fewer quality wares that are durable.

1. Basic cookware to get you started

Skillet: A medium size skillet (approx. 10 inches) can be use for sautéing and stir-frying meat and vegetables.

Saucepan: A heavy bottomed 1.5L saucepan will be ideal for making sauces, steaming vegetables and cooking small quantities of pasta or potatoes. This is one of the most versatile cookware in the kitchen as it can handle both solid and liquid recipes.

Stock pot: Depending on the number of servings, stock pots generally range from 6L to 10L. You can make a larger batch of soup, pasta or even cook an entire lobster.

2. Things to consider when choosing your cookware

Heat conductivity: In terms of cookware, heat conductivity refers to the ability of the cookware to heat the food fast and evenly.

Durability: Stainless steel is a good example for durability as is can maintain its original state for a long period without much maintenance.

Reactivity: Some material reacts with certain foods. Aluminium, for example, reacts with acidic ingredients meaning that the food can absorb a small amount of metal. This is an important factor to note.

Price: The amount you are willing to pay will most likely determine the kind of cookware that is purchased. Always buy the best that you can afford.

Maintenance: Some materials have higher maintenance than others. Copper and cast iron usually require more work to be done compared to stainless steel. Individuals should think about the time they are willing to spend on maintaining their cookware.

3. Comparing different cookware materials

Aluminium
Despite being an excellent heat conductor, aluminium can get scratched and dents easily. It is usually treated through a process known as anodization. This process places a layer of aluminium oxide onto the surface making it scratch-resistant as well as ensuring that it does not react with foods. Aluminium cookware is often finished with a non-stick coating to ensure food remains unburned. Also, most aluminium cookware is relatively cheap in the market.

Heat source: All heat sources except induction, otherwise stated.

Copper
Cooper cookware is commonly used among professionals as it is an excellent heat conductor which means better temperature control when cooking. A heavy gauge copper pan will respond almost instantly to the heat source as it is switched on or off. With such great conductivity, you can cook with low heat. Copper is sometimes found wedged in between stainless steel to minimise its reactivity effect. The downside would be that copper needs to be regularly polished to maintain its surface and usually commands a premium price.

Heat source: Gas, radiant, solid plate and solid fuel hobs.

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a durable material that is generally easy to cook with and easy to clean. Most stainless steel cookware is made from 18/10 stainless steel – that is 18% chrome to prevent rusting and 10% nickel to prevent tarnishing.  However, stainless steel is a poor heat conductor. Most stainless steel cookware has a layer of highly conductive metal at the bottom and some lined throughout the cooking vessel for better heat distribution.

Heat source: Gas, electric and solid fuel hobs and some specifically for induction.

Cast Iron
Cast iron is an extremely durable material with good heat retention. This metal is so efficient that these pans only need a low to medium heat.  Never heat a pan that is completely empty.  Avoid sudden changes of temperature such as putting cold or warm water into an empty hot pan, or by placing a hot pot on a cold surface. Like copper, cast iron cookware needs constant maintenance. This is generally done by lining a layer of oil on the cooking surface after cleaning the cookware and heating it over small heat until a wisp of smoke can be observed.

Heat source: All kinds

Dummies’ guide to Cooking Tools

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Dummies’ guide to Cooking Tools

Cooking utensils are simply tools needed for food preparation and cooking. There are many different types of cooking tools and the right ones will help you in your cooking. Stock up on the essential items first before investing in other specialty tools.

Here are 4 tips to help you get started on your kitchen needs.

1. Define your purposes
Consider how much time you spend in the kitchen in order to decide the variety of kitchen utensils to have. For those who occasionally whip up a meal at home, getting the basic tools will suffice. For cooking enthusiasts, investing in specific utensils will save you precious time and lets you focus on cooking a great meal.  You need not invest in a set and picking a few quality utensils will be more rewarding.

2. Pick the items that are versatile
For starters, choose tools that are always used in most of your recipes. Here is a list of kitchen utensils that can be used in any cooking.

Ladle
Get at least one with a mouth about 3-4″ wide for serving soups, or moving hot liquids like spaghetti sauce from pot to pot or to a serving bowl without pouring, spilling, and scalding. If possible, get one with the hook so that you can hook the ladle on the pot while cooking.
Ladle by Jamie Oliver
Ladle by Jamie Oliver (Retail Price: $29.90)

Long handled spoon and fork
The spoon is used for stirring sauces or soups while the fork is used for stirring pastas or noodles.
GOURMET SERIES Nylon Spoon by Epicurean
GOURMET SERIES Nylon Spoon by Epicurean (Retail Price: S$15.90)

Spatula
Good for stir-frying, flipping pancakes on the griddle, and scooping from deep containers. The most important function will be to keep the heat away from you when you are cooking.
Slotted Spatula by Jamie Oliver
Slotted Spatula by Jamie Oliver (Retail Price: $28.90)

Measuring cups and spoons
Helps to get precise proportions of ingredients. One point to note is that dry and wet measuring cups are different. Most measuring cups and spoons come in a set.
Measuring Spoons by Jamie Oliver
Measuring Spoons by Jamie Oliver (Retail Price: $16.90)

Grater
A flat surface which comes with different cutting surfaces ranging from fine to coarse. Instead of slicing with a knife, you can just slice it with the grater and obtain more consistent results.
Artisan Series Extra Coarse Grater by Microplane
Artisan Series Extra Coarse Grater by Microplane (Retail Price: $29.90)

Peeler
A safer and faster alternative to peeling with a knife. Peel apples and carrots in no time.
All-Purpose 3-in-1 Peeler with Blade Storage Kit by Jamie Oliver
All-Purpose 3-in-1 Peeler with Blade Storage Kit by Jamie Oliver (Retail Price: $32.90)

Kitchen scissors

Differs from the usual scissors as it has a longer blade and one side of the blade is serrated which can cut through meat or fish. Usually made of stainless steel which prevents rust and requires low maintenance.
Herb Scissors by Westmark
Herb Scissors by Westmark (Retail Price: $16.90)

Chopping board
It is important to have at least two chopping boards, one for meat and the other for vegetables and fruits. This prevents germs from spreading. A sturdy, non-slip board will benefit you tremendously.
NON-SLIP SERIES Wood Fibre Cutting Board by Epicurean
NON-SLIP SERIES Wood Fibre Cutting Board by Epicurean (Retail Price: $43.90-$77.90)

3. Materials of utensils
Most utensils are made from wood, stainless steel, silicone, aluminium or Teflon. Choose the material which can complement your cookware and other kitchen equipment. Ensure that the material selected will not scratch your pots and pans. The most common mistake is to use utensils made of metal on non-stick surfaces which can damage the surface.  Also, ensure that wooden utensils are sanded smooth and nothing can splinter into the food.

4. Special features
There are many specialty kitchen utensils which you can purchase if cooking is your passion. Kitchen thermometers can be used to check the doneness of the meat while zesters can be used for making garnishes. A aortar and pestle is handy for grinding fresh and dried herbs or making your own paste.

5. Storage for utensils
Having a tall vase or container beside the stove would be an ideal spot for storing your kitchen utensils. Otherwise, put them where it is within reach and ensure the chosen spot is not damp to avoid mould and breeding germs.

Pizza Tools 101

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Pizza Tools 101

Nothing beats a baked pizza fresh out of the oven. With the right equipment, your homemade pizzas can look and taste like it came out from an Italian bistro! Amazingly, investing in a few essential pizza tools will exponentially enhance the results of your pizza.

Here are 4 commonly asked questions to help you become a professional pizza baker.

1. Pizza Stone VS Pizza Pan?

To avoid having a soggy crust, it is highly recommended to use a pizza stone. The pizza stone absorbs the moisture from the dough and distributes the heat evenly throughout the pizza, resulting in a crispy crust. However, you would need to preheat the pizza stone for an hour before putting the pizza on it.

Pizza Stone with Base by Ibili (Retail Price: $44.90)

A pizza pan, on the other hand, is commonly seen with a perforated base, which allows heat to be in direct contact with the pizza, resulting in a crispy golden brown crust. This pan does not need preheating which makes it more convenient.

Aluminium Non-Stick Round Perforated Pizza Tray by de Buyer (Retail Price: $28.90)

2. Stand mixer or kneading by hand?
Kneading by hand is the traditional approach where you repeatedly fold and press to create gluten with an equal distribution throughout the dough. Those who want to have a better feel for the texture of the dough would appreciate this method. While current technology is able to replace manual kneading, it is impossible to completely mimic the manual kneading action. However, this approach is more time-consuming and tiring on the hands and wrist.

A stand mixer is a good alternative to manual kneading as it is slower than a food processor which means that we can still observe the development of the dough and it will not break down the gluten strands. Convenience is one its main strengths: You can preheat the oven, prepare other ingredients while letting the mixer knead the dough. The only downside for this machine is that the gluten strands created by the mixer follows the spiral pattern of the dough hook instead of random patterns which can only be created by manual kneading.

3. What type of peel will match your kitchen?
A pizza peel is a large flat paddle with a long handle used for transferring the uncooked and cooked pizza in and out of the oven. This will only be essential if you prefer baking your pizza on a pizza stone.

Shape
Generally, there are two kinds of shape for pizza peels, square and round. The square shaped peels would be better for home kitchens as they match the shape of our conventional ovens. Round ones are more suited for restaurants using large ovens with small openings.

Material
Wood has the advantage of preventing the dough from sticking onto the peel which minimises damage to the precooked pizza. However, wooden pizza peels tend to be thicker which makes it harder to slip it under the pizza when taking it out of the oven. Maintaining it can be a hassle as you have to ensure the peel is dry before storing to prevent warping. Mineral oil has to be regularly used as polish for the peel to prevent it from absorbing odours and stains.

Metal peels are easy to clean and long lasting. The thin blade also allows easier handling of the pizza. However, metal peels tend to have the dough stick onto its surface, but this can be overcome by dusting it with flour beforehand.
Another important thing to note is the length of the handle. Ensure that the handle is long enough to reach to the end of your oven.

4. What other equipments can enhance the pizza making experience?
Rolling pin
A rolling pin is a must if you do not intend to stretch or toss the pizza dough. Choose a rolling pin that fits nicely in your hands and is easy to maneuver to ensure perfect flat dough.
Rolling/French Pin by Epicurean
Rolling/French Pin by Epicurean (Retail Price: $78.38)

Pizza Cutter
It is easier to slice up a pizza using a pizza cutter. We recommend getting a cutter with a large wheel (approx. 4 to 6 inches) so that you can cut the deepest areas with ease. A large handle is a plus point towards easier application.

Choosing and Buying Food Processor

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Choosing and Buying Food Processor

Having a food processor in the kitchen is like having a personal helper. This capable countertop appliance can do almost anything: chopping, slicing, grating, grinding and for certain advanced models, it can even cook your meal!

Here are some common food processors found in the kitchen:

Grinder: A food processor that grinds various food items like spices, nuts, grains and coffee. The shape of the blade is designed to pulverize all items into fine powdered form and there are different blades which creates fine and coarse grinding.

Juicer: A special type of food processor that extracts juices from fruits and vegetables. What sets juicers apart from similar appliances is that it separates the juice from the solid residue, giving filtered and delicious juice.

Mixer: A basic processor, mixers are meant for mixing numerous food items for a particular recipe. They can chop, slice and shred depending on how you need your ingredients prepared. The other add-on blades provided are for dough kneading and cutting soft items like tomatoes and ripe fruits.

Chopper: This machine primarily does cutting and chopping for vegetables, nuts and spices. A chopper allows you to have nicely-chopped ingredients instead of paste.

Blender: Works best with liquids and therefore its main functions are emulsifying, liquefying and pureeing. [See our “Guide to buying blenders “for more information].

All-in-one processor: As the name suggests, this machine can do practically all of the operations described above.  Such processors usually come complete with bowls, spatulas, blades and covers for extra convenience.

A few points to take note when selecting a food processor:

Capacity: Most processors range from 2 to 14 cups in capacity. In most kitchens, it will be useful to have two food processors, a small one for grinding or pureeing baby food (usually in small amounts) and a bigger one for chopping and slicing bigger portions. Commercial-grade processors usually have a capacity of up to 20 cups to cater to bigger volumes needed in professional food preparation.  Usually the stated capacity on product brochures or advertisements does not include liquid capacity. A 7-cup capacity can hold about 4 – 5 cups of liquid.

Power: A high-powered motor rating might look impressive as you get the impression that this reflects how easily the processor can process the food within a fraction of a minute. However, what really counts is how efficient the power gets transferred to the blade. If only 75% of the power is transmitted, the rating is of little value. For a peace of mind, choose a well-known brand which usually offers substantial power with strong couplings to give it maximum efficiency.

Speed: Most processors have at least one speed and a pulse function. More advanced features could include up to 4-speed variation controls which can take on heavy duty tasks. Pulse function is useful for a food processor as it allows you to instantly power up the machine and switch it off for tasks like mixing dough.

Cleaning and maintenance: For easy maintenance and convenience, check if your processors are dishwasher-safe. Sometimes, food might get stuck in the small crevices on top of the small slicer disc which will cause a stench after a few days. To be on the safe side, check reviews on the product’s functions and ease of maintenance before purchasing it.

Over the years, home appliances, like other electronics, have also benefitted from improvements in technology. Cuisinart’s Hot & Cold blender and HotmixPro are two technological marvels that can create magic in the kitchen.

Cuisinart Hot & Cold Blender

Ever imagined a blender that can make soup with a touch of a button? Cuisinart’s Hot & Cold blender not just performs standard blending tasks with aplomb; it can cook soup from start to finish in 20 minutes! What makes this blender unique is its non-stick heater plate which doubles up as a sauté pan.

With a 1000W motor, this powerful blender with stainless steel blades can make perfect dips, purees, dressings, porridge, cocktails and crushed ice. So, making soups, sauces or icy cold smoothies can be done without you breaking a sweat. Enjoy the convenience of using only one machine that can chop, cook, and blend without the need for other appliances or having to do it manually. You can even add ingredients into the blender anytime during the cooking process and not worry that the results will not be impeccable. A recipe booklet is included with purchase.

Retail Price: $552

HotmixPro Gastro

The HotmixPro Gastro is a commercial-grade, innovative and multi-functional thermo blender designed to operate both as a mixer for blending and as a cutter for chopping. It can chop, puree, grate, grind, mill, mince, knead, liquidise, blend, mix, stir, emulsify, and cook any type of food. The temperature ranges from 25 to 190 degrees while still being able to mix at variable speeds. There is a special pulse function, allowing operation in intermittent mode at 10 different preset speeds. This marvel comes with a 1500W motor capable of speeds up to 12500rpm and has the additional function of 50 preset recipes, and a memory space which can save up to 300 recipes. A USB port allows you to connect to a PC to download recipes. There is also an interactive LCD screen that shows the user all functions like the ingredients and qualities for all recipes. For commercial use, the HotmixPro ensures consistent results even with different staff members attending to it.

Retail Price: $4085