Category Archives: Kitchen Gadgets

My Love Affair with Parchment Paper

I can’t imagine a day in the kitchen without parchment paper

Here’s more than you probably want to know about how parchment paper is made from Wikipedia:

Modern parchment paper is made by running sheets of paper pulp through a bath of sulfuric acid (a method similar to how tracing paper is made) or sometimes zinc chloride. This process partially dissolves or gelatinizes the paper, a process which is reversed by washing the chemicals off followed by drying. This treatment forms a sulfurized cross-linked material with high density, stability, and heat resistance, and low surface energy—thereby imparting good non-stick or release properties. The treated paper has an appearance similar to that of traditional parchment.

Mostly I use the parchment that comes in rolls, tearing off pieces to fit into and up the sides of rimmed sheet pans. Sometimes I use the rolled paper to line cookie sheets, but I also keep a box of the pre-cut paper on hand for such things as biscuits or cookies. I use a paper cutter to cut smaller pieces to set between layers of roasted vegetables, like tomatoes or peppers, to store in freezer containers, and I have even used squares of parchment to line muffin cups, where it does a much better job than those purchased paper liners.

I use it in the prep stage, to line pans that I’m carrying out to the grill, especially those carrying foods to be drizzled with olive oil, and to line pastry crusts for blind baking:

I use it for roasting vegetables and meats:

I use it like a funnel to pour foods, like after I’ve toasted the oats and coconut for my muesli:

And, of course, I use it for the typical things you would bake—cookies, muffins, biscuits—and even such things as breaded veggies and pastries, like empanadas:


Organizing Your Grilling Stuff

Especially when you have to run back and forth to the kitchen to tend to things on the stove—note to self: move the patio door—you can help yourself by having all your grilling items available and organized. I used to keep most of the stuff in the little room that leads to the patio, but, darn, those patio sliding doors are heavy and annoying to open and close 25 times during one meal prep.

So, two years ago, I bought a folding prep table, and then re-purposed a big 25 gallon Rubbermaid® Roughneck™ storage box to hold the charcoal. I don’t just throw a bag of charcoal in the box or store a large bag in it, though. When I get a new bag, I divvy it up in 50-briquette paper bags, enough for a typical quick grilling of burgers and veggies. If I need something for long cooking, like a charcoal snake for a whole chicken or ribs, I can use two bags. For anything in between, I keep one bag to steal from. That means I seldom have to deal with those heavy charcoal bags, and I always know how far one bag will go. I get about 6-7 bags of 50 briquettes from a 15 lb bag, and I usually divide two of those bags at one time. I think a lot of people waste coals by just pouring from the bag. Fifty to 60 briquettes is a typical amount to put in the chimney I use to start the fires—I keep the cooled chimney in the box, too.

Tip: Wear plastic gloves when filling the bags of charcoal 😉

That helped some, but didn’t help with all the cooking tools, heavy cast-iron or oversized pans, and cleaning supplies. So this year, I splurged on a Keter storage/prep station with a nice stainless steel top. It was easy to put together, as most  of the sturdy resin pieces just snap together, and it holds everything I need.

I still wish the kitchen were closer to the patio, though.


Altering My Fingerprints the Hard Way

Just yesterday, I was reviewing lots of cut-resistant gloves to use with my new mandoline, because I really dislike the food holder that came with it. It doesn’t hold much of anything steadily, and it wastes a good 1/2″ of any vegetable. I used to have a pair of cut resistant gloves for fishing, but I don’t know where they are, and I would not be able to vouch for their cleanliness, anyway.

IMG_5694A couple of weeks ago, I shaved off a tiny piece of knuckle skin that is just about healed, but today I took a nice chunk of thumb skin off trying to slice carrots, even though I was trying to be careful. You have to use a little force and speed to cut through a carrot, and that’s where I wasn’t careful enough. Unfortunately, it’s also the finger I use to unlock my iPhone, so I had to add another fingerprint to use until I can get this bandage off. Even then, I might have to update this print.

I had a fancy French mandoline years ago, so long that I don’t remember the brand, but it languished in the cupboard so it made the rounds between my daughters, but I think they were afraid of it. I don’t know where it is now, but I have had the itch to use one again, so I bought something at a much more reasonable price, the OXO Chef’s Mandoline Slicer. It works pretty well, but probably better after I get those gloves.

Here’s a screenshot of the mandoline from their website (mine’s in the dishwasher) that gives a good view of the bulky food holder:


Well, I’m off to look at those gloves again and decide on one. In the meantime, I’ll just go back to the chef’s knife.


New Gadget, Same Pulled Pork

I had a nice Cuisinart slow cooker for a long time, but the removable crock got a hairline crack, and eventually it leaked badly into the cooker. I don’t use a slow cooker very often, especially now that I’m retired and can cook as much as I want, so replacing it hasn’t been a priority. Then there’s the grill, which can act like a slow cooker itself. More about that later. I looked at reviews and also considered my wallet when deciding on the Hamilton Beach® Stay or Go.™ At under $60, and even less with a coupon, it has a number of features for the price that make it desirable: (1) the lid clamps down, so there’s no bubbling steam around the edges to gather and drip; (2) it’s programmable, so I can pick a time and know that it will shut off if I’m out longer than expected; (3) it has a probe that you can insert into a large piece of meat to register the temperature and prevent overcooked meat, a common complaint about slow cookers.

I’m christening the new gadget today with our favorite pulled pork recipe, made specifically for a slow cooker, although I have made it in the oven and on the grill: Chowhound‘s “Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.” The best part of the recipe is the dry rub, which I only slightly modify and have used on country style spare ribs, and even liquefied into a wet barbecue sauce. I’ve referred to Chowhound‘s recipe at least four times on this blog:

I find it to be a versatile rub that I have varied only slightly, until settling on my favorite variation that adds smoked paprika and increases the cumin and cinnamon.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Chowhound‘s “Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.

Place in the bottom of a slow cooker, a bed of 3 large thick sliced onions and 4 large slivered garlic cloves.

Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth.

Remove the plastic netting from a boneless pork shoulder (3-5 lbs) and rub all over with the following dry rub (use a large bowl, so you don’t lose any rub):

  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place the pork roast on top of the onion bed, close the slow cooker and set to low. Cook for about 8 hours, without peeking.

Pull the meat apart with forks and stir into the onions and juices. Serve on buns with coleslaw. You just won’t believe how moist and flavorful this pulled pork is until you try it.