Cooking Tools Archive

Sunday, August 29, 2010

how to use a kitchen scale

measuring stuff

[And ditch your measuring cups forever!] Count me among those who rejoice whenever a recipe is presented in weights. Why? Because nothing is more accurate. A cup of flour, packed different ways, can weigh anything from 4 to 7 ounces! But a 4.5 ounce cup will always be a 4.5 ounce cup. Plus, nothing uses fewer dishes. A one-bowl cake is truly a one-bowl (and one spoon) recipe, messes are minimized and cooking becomes a flow that it is not when you’re rifling around in your drawer-o-kitchen-crap for the bleeping quarter teaspoon measure. A few people have asked me lately how exactly one uses a scale to measure ingredients, and this post is for them:

It all comes down to taring or zeroing out the existing weight of what you’ve got. Place you empty bowl on your scale and “tare” or “zero out” you weight. (On most digital scales, which I think are the easiest for kitchen use, you simply hit the “On/Clear” button again. On a mechanical scale, you can turn a knob back to the zero mark; on a balance scale, you would set the pointer to the center mark, but somehow I doubt you’re using a balance scale in your kitchen, right?) Add your first ingredient, slowly, until the scale reaches the weight you need. Zero it out again. Add the next ingredient. Zero it out again. If the recipe calls for you to whisk, whip, or blow gentle kisses across the surface of your ingredients, go do that too, but when it calls for the next ingredients, re-zero out the weight of the bowl so that you can continue.

You’ll have this method down in no time. You’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried it sooner. And when the rest of the world (coughUSAcough) gets on this weighed ingredients bandwagon, you’ll wonder what you’ll do with all of the extra drawer space you once devoted to a tangle of dash-pinch-teaspoon-cup measuring implements. I’m voting for stashing chocolate.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

why do my muffins taste metallic?

Once again, it is not you but your baking powder sabotaging your awesome kitchen prowess. That slightly bitter, kinda “tinny” flavor you often experience when biting into a muffin, biscuit or scone is the result of using a baking powder in high quantities — as is needed for these quick-rise treats — with aluminum in it. Fortunately, aluminum-free brands such as Rumford or Bob’s Red Mill are easy to find, and are no more expensive. Or, you can just go rogue and make your own.

Monday, November 9, 2009

checking your thermometer’s accuracy

I can’t tell you how many times I have burnt fried chicken or overcooked a caramel and not realized that my candy/deep fry thermometer was to blame. If only I had absorbed enough sixth grade science class to remember how ridiculously easy it is to check to see if had been accurate from the get-go! Simply place your candy/deep fry thermometer in a small pot of water and crank up the heat; the temperature should read 212°F (100°C) as it begins to boil. If yours does not, you can either take into account the few degrees it may run hot or cold when you cook, or return it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

a whisk for the corners

Using a round whisk for a squared-off pot drives me crazy, especially when I find unmixed custard, pudding or sauce bits in a channel along the bottom edge. Whisks such as this or this or this or this are painless investments, and come in handy when you want a perfectly-mixed chocolate pudding, and you want it now.

Friday, August 21, 2009

why are my baked goods turning blue?

So you’ve made some fruit scones or peach cupcakes and you notice that the end product is streaked blue and green. Sound familiar? In almost every case, it’s not you, it’s your baking powder. Baking powder with aluminum in it reacts to acidic ingredients, causing this discoloration and what many people find to be a “tinny” or metallic taste. Fortunately, this is as easy to rectify as ditching your baking powder for an aluminum-free brand, such as Rumford (the brand also makes Clabber Girl baking powder, which, oddly, does contain aluminum) or Bob’s Red Mill.