Once Again I Emerge From Darkness To Beseech Your Aid

This’ll be a short one today since I want to dive into the novel-making with verve, sass, and aplomb.

And shit, maybe even some pizazz.

I have three questions for you, and if you could help me with any of these, well, gosh, I’d be crazy appreciative. You ready? All right. Let’s do this.

1.) I love to cook, but that doesn’t make me smart in the kitchen. I don’t always use the best tools. I have some pots and pans that were given to me during, ohh, I dunno, the Prohibition Era. Or maybe they were plucked from melting glaciers — all I know is, some of these pots and pans are getting pretty damn raggedy-ass. So, they’re not going with me to the new house. I’ve actually been waiting for this opportunity to pick up some new cookware, but before I do, I’m taking recommendations. You crazy kids helped me buy a coffee-maker, so now maybe you’ll help me buy cookware. I’m leaning toward a stainless set, but maybe I don’t even want a set, maybe I want to buy individuals? I dunno. You tell me: any brands you like? Brands you don’t? Any pro-tips you got for li’l ol’ me, well, hell, I’ll take ‘em.

2.) Same thing goes for a gas grill. Only grill I had before did its job, but was so old it was growing barnacles. Obviously, the components for a gas grill are simple enough: “Fire + grill = meat,” but even still, I could use some help on brand, size, where to buy, stuff like that.

3.) Unrelated to the first two questions: hey! Terribleminds. I changed the site some months back, and I want to check in now that you’ve had a handful of weeks to get used to it. How’s it look? How’s it working for you? Comments? Questions? Compliments? Complaints? Prayer requests? Death threats? Special menu items? I know one thing I have to remember is that I need to keep my NEWS page updated. But I also suspect that nobody’s really clicking those four “?” links on the main page, which is fine as they’re largely adornments — but, maybe you could help me think of something better to put there. I dunno.

Finally, a blog-related poll!

58 comments

  • I love All-Clad pans. I can’t afford them (my dad works there and gives me rejects) but I love them. Beautiful, even-heating, durable…love ‘em.

    I know nothing of grills, or of the site before you changed it, and I have no opinion on the pictures because it’s one click on your Tweeted link wherever you put them.

  • There are some really nice cookware sets right now, and usually it’s a way to get the pieces less expensively which I’m sure you realize.

    Stainless steel. Uh huh. Go for it. If you have the funds, get those. I don’t have the funds, but that didn’t stop me from pouring over them all the past two Black Fridays online. Want. Bad.

    What I will tell you, which you probably already know, is hang onto your cast iron, and if you don’t have one, snag yourself a cast iron dutch oven too.

    Gas grills. Ours seemed nice. Nope. It’s a good brand, Brinkmann from Home Depot, but I think it might be the low end model. Get four burners at least. Get enameled cooking grates. Make sure it has a second rack with some actual surface area for cooking low and slow. Read reviews and concentrate on temperature adjustment. Blah de blah.

    This is what I would get if I had the monies.

    http://bit.ly/aSfOwV

    The only thing I don’t like about the new site is I can’t figure out how to have new posts emailed to me.

    *smooches*

    • @Julie:

      Rock. You know how much I’d love a smoker. I’d love a smoker. SMOKED MEAT.

      Anyway. Posts emailed? Or comments emailed?

      Posts emailed, I assume you could just do an RSS thing, yeah?

      I also want that “Subscribe To Comments” thing again, but that plug-in fails to work with the theme. Not sure why. Waiting to see if they do a new version or a different plugin.

      Y’know. “They.”

      — c.

  • Hey Chuck,
    Good cookware is important. Don’t buy the cheap stuff. Look for heavy bottoms with a handle that is oven-safe. Grill pans are awesome for winters when you are too cold to go outside. They have cast-iron ones or others that are good, too. Foodnetwork.com has some good choices, and maybe some tips, too. Kohl’s carries their stuff, but the FN plastic storage stuff is crap. We try to ask for one good pan, pot or knife every Christmas from the in-laws so we can slowly build up to all good stuff. You may not have that much time, but if you can’t afford good stuff all at once, just replace the essentials and keep some of the old stuff just in case. That’s my 2 cents.
    Grills: I suggest forgetting a gas grill and get a good charcoal one with a gas starter. The food tases much better and it really doesn’t take that long to heat the coals. We have a chimney starter in case the gas runs out or doesn’t work. Alton Brown will explain (again, foodnetwork.com). If you are going with charcoal, you can even get a cheaper one w/o the gas starter and it will still work just fine. No lighter fluid, please!!
    I don’t usually read your blog, but I thought I might be able to actually give some useful advise on this one. Enjoy!!
    Sammy

  • 1. You WANT, NEED, and DESERVE a good stainless set. Brand doesn’t matter so much as long as the pots and pans (but especially the pans) are hefty. The bottoms need to be so thick that you can cave skulls with them. Triple layer (with a nice bit of copper sandwiched between the steel) bottoms are ideal but unnecessary for most people. Make sure the sides are nice an deep if you like making reductions and sauces in meat juices. Always go for oven safe, and never by those flimsy hollow handles. Handles should be solid with a split near the base on the pan to help diffuse heat and lead to easy handling.

    And yes, if you have cast iron, hang on to it and take care of it. Good cookware, with a little love, should last you your adult life.

    2. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about grills. We don’t have our own and my father would sooner die than let me near his steel gas to coal to rotisserie to convection oven to smoker monstrosity he barely uses. I think the only thing that’s missing on it is the mini fridge for beer.

    3. I never saw the old site, but I like this one. Easy on the eyes with focus more on content and not miles of crap cluttering up the sidebar. I hate sidebars full of badges and other silly things that add nothing to site beyond letting you know the owner has no idea what a clean blog looks like. So all is A-OK with me.

  • 1. Stainless steel, hefty weight, cast iron, baah. Baaaah. *sheep noises*

    2. Gas is okay. I prefer cooking over wood or charcoal. There’s more robust flavor to your meat when you cook it over that stuff, and sometimes cooking over a gas grill can leave the food… well, gassy.

    3. The site is concise, easy to read and enjoyable to visit – much like your writing. So it’s cool as it is now.

  • Whatever cookware you decide to get make sure that you have at least one caserole sized pot, that’s for stove top and oven safe. For number 2 we do braai’s in SA, so no gas…wood or charcoal all the way :)

  • @Josh: Thanks!

    Re: gas grills, I’ve never noticed a gassy problem before. After all, gas ranges and ovens inside the house (which we have now) are essentially the same thing — no problems there, either. I don’t know why food would necessarily taste gassy?

    I do like charcoal and wood, but you can achieve the wood smoke easily on a gas grill (soaked chips in a foil-made bag).

    — c.

  • 1) The Bride and I received Calphalon for our wedding. I have no complaint so far, but I don’t consider myself to be anything more than an amateur or hobbyist cook. The Bride did a bit of research, though, and settled on Calphalon, so you can rely on that hearsay as much as you like.

    2) Can’t help you here. If you’re not using a Weber kettle grill, you’re not a man. ;)

    3) Your site’s design is impeccable. Modern, accessible, and tasteful. I tried all of the links on the page when I first visited, but now I tend to stick to the blog (and I usually arrive at an individual post via Twitter). Were I to design my own personal site, I would point the web designer here as a primary inspiration. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

  • @Kate:

    Good stainless set. Yes, I keep hearing this, and I’m totally on board. Any brands you recommend? Ideally, I’d love something with a lifetime warranty.

    And glad the site works for you! Thanky!

    — c.

  • @Sammy (Jennifer?):

    (I’ll hereby call you “Sammifer.”)

    I’ll probably have to get moving with some pieces now — idly wondering if I should just bite the bullet and buy a couple-few All-Clad pieces to get started.

    As for a grill: I think I’ll still aim for gas because it’s easier to do winter cooking on a gas grill outdoors. I could always buy a cheap little charcoal grill if I want that kind of flavor.

    — c.

  • For the people who are voting “no” on the poll (no harm no foul!) — if you care to share “why” the answer is a no, I’d love to hear it.

    If not, then hide! Hide in your anonymity! ;)

    — c.

  • I voted “No” for the Flickr poll because it’s already obvious how to access your photos from the Photostream. I don’t consider photography to be your main bag, baby. The budding amateur photographer in me greatly admires your photos, but I consider you a writer first. Drawing more attention to your (admittedly fab) photos would dilute the brand a bit, I think.

    Stay on target, Gold Leader. Stay on target.

    • Fair enough, Dave. Thanks! (Though I’ll note that while not my main bag, photography is definitely one of my loves.) But yes — the photostream is pretty plainly accessible over yonder sidebar.

  • 1. For you I recommend lead pots. Old, uncoated lead pots. They will conduct heat well and if you mix alcohol in them it’ll fortify it and make it stronger!

    ……..

    I’m not helpful with cookware. :/ I have the same cheap set I’ve had since I moved out and the skillet’s handle broke off and the inside of the big pot is scorched a bit from when I boiled water down and it cracked. (I had a cold, I forgot about it, meh.) :/

    2. I prefer a gas grill but only if you know how to use it. I know lots of people who don’t close the valve properly and their gas leaks out, which can be a fire hazard. Gas grills are nice for cooking quickly however as well as simply.

    3. I like the site! No complaints here though I don’t know how to get a custom avatar like other people. Mind spelling it out for little ol’ me? *puppy dog eyes*

  • The suggestions for cookware above are all good. As for expense, you should see if there’s a restaurant supply store near you. (If you’re really lucky, you might find a store that resells equipment from restaurants going out of business)

    My opinion on handles is that potholders are cheap and that it’s really convenient to have pans that can go in the oven. I like glass lids for them so that I can keep tabs on my food without letting all the steam out.

    As for the photos, I didn’t vote because my answer depends on whether you’re thinking about posting a photo page like once a week, or posting photos as you take them. I’d say yes to the former, but no to the latter: I think it would clog up your main page, making it harder to find the writing articles, and I already see your photo links from Twitter.

    • @John:

      Not photos as I take them: I take like, 100-200 photos at a time. No, I tend to post one photo-ish per day over at Flickr, and I’d just cross-post to here. A straight-up image, likely no text.

      So, maybe four or five photos a week.

      Good suggestion on a restaurant supply store.

      — c.

  • 1. As far as cookware goes, a great and inexpensive set of stainless Calphalon cookware is the way to go. The stuff is great and has a 20 year warranty. If you have even more to spend than the Calphalon costs I would go with BergHOFF. I love their stuff.

    I can only stress upon what everyone else has said about keeping any cast iron stuff. Also buy yourself a really good electric skillet. I use it all the time for a variety of reasons. Love it.

    As a bonus recommendation…go buy yourself a set of Cutco knives. Best investment my father ever made, he says. He’s had the same set for like 15 years now and every time they get dull or break he just sends it to Cutco and gets a new one back. It’s not the finest cutlery out there but it sure isn’t the worst. The lifetime warranty pays for itself.

    2. Grills are pretty much a toss up. Anything you get from Sears or Lowe’s is going to be good quality. I’ve had my Kenmore for 9 years now and it’s still kicking strong as ever. I find that grills are like cars; if you keep them well maintained they can last forever.

    3. I love the new design here. Not much more to say on that issue.

    • @Paul:

      I have one good piece of Calphalon non-stick right now and like it. Does a good job, wok-style.

      I also have a cast iron skillet, but do not yet have a Dutch oven (heh, Dutch oven). (ahem).

      Re: knives, I’m slowly collecting a set of Henckels knives. I really like their weight and feel.

      And glad the design works. Thanks, doc.

      — c.

  • Calaphon Tri-ply, if you can get them.

    1) Don’t get non-stick. If it’s sticking, pour in something wet and tasty, stir it around, pan sauce! I make omelets and crepes in my regular pans.

    2) Don’t get pans with bottoms heavier than the sides. Weird heat things happen around the corners.

    3) Don’t get thin pans; they will let the food burn in one spot and undercook a quarter-inch away.

    I picked the ones I did because they were the best price-quality point. The aluminum core transfers the heat well; the stainless steel is there for pretty and to prevent chemical reactions with the aluminum. The handles stay cool even when frying.

    That being said, I’d also get a heavy cast skillet for bacon and steak.

    • DeAnna:

      Definitely do steak in my cast iron — finish in the oven for a minute or three per side. So good. Though, a grill will certainly help move my steak-making to the outdoors. :)

      Two questions about the Calphalon Tri-Ply:

      a) What’s the warranty?

      b) Holy shit, I had a second question and now it vanished.

      I leave “b” as a record of my incompetence.

      — c.

  • 1. I have a set of Cuisinart pans and love them to pieces. That said, I go through a new cheapo nonstick frying pan every few years so I can toss ‘em in the dishwasher and not fret about scratching up the coating on an expensive pan. In my kitchen, if it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, it doesn’t ever get clean. :P

    2. I have a Weber Silver grill. Gas. It is *hooked up to the gas line from my house* so we never, never run out of fuel. I highly recommend doing this. No lugging, hauling, or storing propane tanks or bags of charcoal or wood chips or whatevs. As a result, we grill a lot more often, and year-round.

    3. Your site is v. pretty and I am jealous. I needs to get me a web designer one day.

    I haven’t voted on the photos because I’m torn; on the one hand, they’re gorgeous and deserve a wider audience, but they might also distract a bit from the writerly focus you have going here.

  • Ooooo. Yes. What they said, Cookware that goes into the oven safely is a must.

    I’ve been building a set of Henckel knives too for the same reason. They have a good weight and feel in my hand, and I find that I accidentally cut myself far less often due to that.

    I really don’t want to talk about all of the kitchen accidents I’ve had over the years, so no. Don’t ask.

  • Chuck, if you’re thinking about a Photo of the Day, isn’t that what your Tumblr is for? Tumblr can be for promoting triffles you discover on The Tubes, but why can’t it also be the venue for your own triffles?

    Don’t cross the streams, man. Don’t cross the streams. (Is today my day to apply movie quotes to all my thoughts?)

    • @Dave:

      Tumblr problems:

      It doesn’t draw traffic back here. The photos draw traffic to Flickr. My end game is that terribleminds is your one-stop shop for all things Wendig-flavored.

      It also doesn’t give me numbers. I dunno who’s looking. Flickr at least shows me my stats. So, photos would remain either contained to Flickr or Flickrized and then cross-posted here. Tumblr is great for finding the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet, but not so much for targeted bloggery.

      — c.

  • 1) I got a stainless steel cookware set for Christmas. It is awesome. People seem to think it is impossible to clean, but it is not bad at all. Even if you let something stay caked on there for a few nights, you can get it sparkly clean again. Soaking the especially crusted on stuff in vinegar helps a lot too. Anyways, we have Cuisinart Multiclad – they are reasonably priced as far as these things go and no complaints so far.

    2) This is absurdly expensive, but if you love to grill and want to never buy a grill again AND be part of some crazy cult of grill freaks – then get a Big Green Egg. http://www.biggreenegg.com/
    My husband got this when we moved in to our house last summer. I was blown away by the price. But he has friends with it and the testimonials say you never need another grill and it is the best thing ever for many varying reasons. One year later and I am a convert. The Big Green Egg smokes the shit out of a chicken and made me like ribs. He makes some damn good hot wings in it and your basics like burgers and chicken are taken to a new level. We smoked our Thanksgiving turkey in there and hot damn, that’s something else. Supposedly you can even bake cookies in it too, but I haven’t gone there. Plus, the video that comes with the grill is totally worth the purchase.

    3) Your new site is WAY easier to read on the iphone, where I tend to read it most. I no longer get that weird post reading floating space text that I use to get when reading white on black. So yay to new site!

  • All Clad released signature series cookware for Emeril, and while it’s probably a cheap knockoff, the stuff is heavy enough to make an appearance on Dexter next season starring as “blunt object”. Vicki and I got some as a wedding gift 7 years ago and it still looks new (I use it every day). It’s stainless and has the copper band in the base.

    I just got a grill from Home Depot online after Vicki researched them for a few weeks. Its brand is NexGrill and is most likely a house brand/OEM for Home Depot. It’s pretty nice, built well, not too expensive….

  • Ah, you’re trying to destroy the Gozer of unfocused Wendig-adoration by intentionally crossing the streams (even Zeddemore’s). Then stick to the Photostream, I say.

    Look, I tried to stretch that meaphor. I really did. Points for effort? No?

    I’ll get my hat.

  • My parents gave us some money for a grill as a housewarming ift four years ago. The Beloved Spouse wouldn’t discuss buying anything other than a Weber. Now it’s four years later, and I am reminded every time I fire it up how smart she is, her choice of marriage partner notwithstanding.

  • The Cuisinart cookware was an engagement gift, so it’s about 13 years old now. It’s pretty much just like new. But… they don’t seem to make the set we have anymore. We have sandwiched copper bottoms so only a decorative line of copper is visible. Heats up fast and cooks beautifully. And the handles are hollow so they don’t get overhot, which they don’t seem to do anymore.

    We put in the grill as soon as we moved in to our house, so 9 years ago or so. We take abysmal care of it, don’t cover it up on winter or foul weather, etc. We’re only just now starting to have a problem with the starter — sometimes you’ve got to click the button a couple of times before it starts up. If a grill can take that kind of abuse for that long, that’s proof of quality to me.

    …I used to edit review at ConsumerSearch.com and I do highly recommend their method, FWIW. I learned from there that the Big Green Egg is totally the tops luxe item if you want to be wayyyyyyy serious about your grilling. ^_^

  • I nearly forgot: For grills, see if you can get a cast-iron grilling surface. It needs a little more care and takes longer to heat up, but it holds the heat better and you can just toss it in your oven on the self-clean cycle if it’s really filthy. I’ve got one on mine (the brand name of which escapes me at the moment, sorry) and am thrilled with it.

    Oh, and while you’re grill shopping, grab another fire extinguisher so you don’t have to steal the kitchen one every time you grill. (For that matter, did you bring your own to the new house, or are you using the ones that were left there which are probably filled with gasoline and confetti?)

  • July 13, 2010 at 3:40 PM // Reply

    For cookware, I’ve been very happy with Paderno (http://www.paderno.com/). They’re made in Canada (not the US, but better than China). Good stainless steel, and they often have excellent on-line specials. The consumer-grade stuff isn’t as heavy as All-Clad, but unless you are planning to pave a road for tanks with them, you probably don’t need pots as heavy as All-Clad. Though, Paderno has an excellent professional line that is as good as All-Clad in my humble opinion.

  • I’ve been building my All-Clad Stainless collection since before I got married 8 years ago. I highly, highly recommend even if you have to start small and build, do yourself the favor. (For what it’s worth I’m a 20 year veteran of the food service industry; working in all different kinds of kitchens, from small restaurants to huge industrial cafeterias.) You just can’t beat a thick, heavy, stainless pan.

    I’d love to always use charcoal or even wood fired grills and smokers but convenience wins for me at home. My gas Weber suits me just fine. Its closer to the bottom of the line model but when it all comes down to it I’m just looking for a heat source, the rest is gravy.

    I’m a big fan of the site. Its clean, and efficient and pleasing to the eye. Good on you.

    • @Eric:

      And another tally for All-Clad. Okay. My concern with All-Clad is, I’ll need a cookware set now — I can’t go one at a time, and so that means it’s a very very pricey “buy-in” at that level.

      Still, it’s tempting. Thanks!

      — c.

  • Sorry, had to sleep. Your post caught me at the end of my day, as I am a slugabed in summertime.

    I have pieces of the All-Clad stainless set, the non-stick stuff, and one of the Emeril line. They do have a lifetime warranty–my brother tells me that’s why my dad can get them for me, because All-Clad won’t sell them even a wee bit messed up because of the warranty.

    The lids are not see-through. Pans and lids are oven-ready. The handles do not get hot on the stove except for the little handles on the far side of the saute pan and on the Emeril saucepot-thingy.

    If I had to buy them, rather than being brilliantly lucky and having them given to me, I would stick with my old $40-from-Walmart set and buy the All-Clad one little piece at a time as I could. Because I really, REALLY love them that much. They make me like to cook–and that is quite the feat.

    Before my All-Clad…I did not know.

    • Oh, and @KD —

      Are you in PA? All-Clad’s here in the state, right? I know they have a “seconds” sale twice a year — December and June, outlet-style, and you can get huge discounts on All-Clad cookware. The stuff is dinged up a little, but usually not very much (from what I read) — and they still offer the full lifetime warranty.

      — c.

  • Chuck,

    I see your pickle and I sympathize. The battle between need and want rages in my head constantly. I’d suggest supplementing whatever set you may land on with a piece or two of the All-Clad as workhorse pieces for every night use, but most of the sets will already include your most useful sizes. Having multiples of the same size pan sounds silly. I haven’t ever cooked with the Emeril line but I’m sure its worth looking into.

    When it all boils down to it, as long as you aren’t hoping on getting 20 years out of a $100 set from T-Fal, you’ll hardly do wrong by investing in a decent line from any of the big name companies. It’s all about maintenance. Take good care of your pans and they’ll take good care of you.

  • Cookware: Believe it or not, Ikea makes some awesome cookware. My wife and I were using my grandmother’s old Club cookware, and I’m pretty sure that she got it as a wedding gift. Obviously, we had to replace it before we killed ourselves. We picked up a set of Ikea 365+ stainless cookware and it’s been awesome. Graduated measurements are printed lightly on the inside of the saucepans, the small stockpot is very sturdy, and the frying pans are just excellent. We have to turn the stove down now because of how well these pans transmit heat. Bonus, and this is a shocker for anything that says Ikea: no assembly required. I’ve used T-Fal and Calphalon before, and I actually prefer the Ikea set. But, then again, I’m odd.

    Grill: I can’t help you very much on brands, and from my understanding, it doesn’t very much matter. If you’re wanting one of those big grills that are always featured in the background of the most fashionable California pool parties, then I have to say that Costco features some pretty good deals there. Mind you, those things are freaking expensive, and slightly cheaper than expensive is still expensive. They’re so expensive that they make me try to convert the price into terms of bags of charcoal, as in how much charcoal do I have to buy before I could have bought this?

    Terribleminds works for me. Of course, I’ve only been following for a short while.

  • All-Clad *definitely* lasts forever. I have some that’s more than 20 years old and even the shine isn’t gone. The one exception to that is that if you’re going to buy a non-stick pan, it doesn’t need to be that expensive, because as soon as the non-stick starts to peel you have to replace it. And they ALL start to peel, no matter how careful you are with them. Generally, I avoid sets, but the sets are often the cheapest way to get pieces of cookware.

    The only thing better than straight stainless is copper-core. But that’s *really* expensive. Don’t go for the cheaper stuff (like “Emerilware by All-Clad” or whatever) unless you have to. It’s not the same thing at all.

    Good luck!

    • @Laura —

      Dude, I want All-Clad so bad, I can feel it in my teeth. But it’s just so dang pricey. I think I might settle for a rung down and go with the Cuisinart now, but then over time fill in gaps and replacements with the All-Clad, maybe a piece or two a year.

      — c.

  • Loving the Le Creuset gear that a sister in law gave as a wedding present. Solid, indestructable. No that doesn’t do it justuce. It’s more like when you abuse it it gives one of those Gallic shrugs, like it didn’t notice or care.

  • I admit, I think the site has some extraneous features that’ll only appeal to the very curious newcomer, but better that the alternative—as long as updating News pages isn’t sucking the life out of you. When your novel streets, and new readers are coming by the site in droves to learn more about you, the “extraneous” features will be anything but, so what do I know, anyway? You know I love the way the site looks. You’re doing good.

    All I know about grills is that you can cook frozen pizzas and cookies on them, ’cause we did that for a year while our oven was broken. Good stuff.

  • Oh, and the newest White Wolf schedule says that Danse Macabre (pronounced “Mack-kaber”) won’t be out until later this year, if you’re updating your News page. (I’m assuming that new schedule is both accurate and news, though, so caveat whatever.)

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