Start Out the New Year With a Sharp Knife!

Grant-Crilly-How-to-Sharpen-a-Knife-ChefSteps

We’re not kidding about a sharp knife. If Grant Crilly can do this in mid-air, imagine what you’ll be able to do on your cutting board with a properly sharpened knife.

If you have a knife block full of dull blades or a drawer of random knives that aren’t quite right, make 2013 the year that you learn the fine art of knife sharpening. Keep your favorite knives sharp and functional and eliminate the clunky ones that aren’t comfortable or efficient to use. Your prep work will be easier and more pleasant.

Do You Need an Expensive Knife?

In the spirit of full disclosure, there are some amazing knives in the ChefSteps team’s collection — real jaw droppers of phenomenal beauty and craftsmanship. But when they are dull, they will be outperformed by a well sharpened, less expensive knife every time.

So why not save some money, buy a cheap knife and keep it sharp? To prove the point, we purchased an inexpensive used knife and then sharpened it. We were surprised at just how well it performed against some of our most expensive knives—at least until it lost its edge.

Why You Need a Sharp Knife

Sharp knives cut with less brute force than dull knives, causing less damage to the food. On delicate ingredients, like herbs, a dull knife will crush more of the cells surrounding the cut, which ultimately accelerates wilting and discoloration. A dull knife will slow you down. A sharp knife is safer and more predictable and will make working through your prep list easier and more pleasant. Regular sharpening will end up saving you money in the long run and wear and tear on your knives. Watch as Grant makes a case for buying your own sharpening tools.

How to Sharpen Your Knives

Although a reputable knife store will offer a sharpening service, we prefer to sharpen our own knives. It’s not that difficult and doesn’t take much time, once you learn how to do it correctly. We’ve put together step-by-step video demonstrations by Grant Crilly to show you how to get a great result.

Continue on to ChefSteps for more detailed info on sharpening, waterstones, honing and other great food prep tips and while you’re at it, jump on to our forum and join in.

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
Sign up for our free online sous vide cooking course.

 

 

Why Sous Vide Is The Best Bargain In Cooking

When home cooks first hear about sous vide, a common reaction is “that’s nice, but I’m not going to spend a bunch of money on a newfangled, expensive gadget.” I encourage everyone to be skeptical of new kitchen gear, but I think in the case of sous vide, a circulator is a fantastic bargain for the home cook. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Have you ever thought about getting a second oven for entertaining? The minimum you will spend on that is around $800 plus installation; for a nice one you can easily spend five times that much or more. An immersion circulator will only set you back between $400 and $1100 dollars depending on the model. (We have several available in our store, and purchasing directly from ChefSteps help us keep the program free-to-learn.)
  2. That second traditional oven will take up valuable space in your kitchen all of the time, while a circulator and plastic tub can easily go in your storage room or basement when not in use.
  3. The circulator opens up a whole new set of capabilities and creativity you’ve never had before. A huge variety of foods can be cooked to perfect, consistent doneness without losing flavor to the cooking medium. You can add marinades or brines right in the bag to enhance the flavor.
  4. Sous vide cooking can often be done well in advance, making both weeknight suppers and entertaining a snap. When you are ready to serve, a quick reheat and possibly a sear in a hot pan is all that is needed.
  5. Sous vide isn’t just for meat! Everything from asparagus to beans, potatoes to ice cream base are better than ever before. If you love eggs soft-boiled or poached, sous vide gives you incomparable control over the texture of the yolks.
  6. In the past, information about how to cook sous vide was difficult to come by and often geared towards restaurant chefs. The ChefSteps course makes all of the information accessible and puts it in a context that anyone can use.

You might be wondering, “but what about the vacuum sealer?” True enough, professional vacuum capabilities are awesome and open up even more possibilities for creativity and food preservation. But the essence of sous vide is accurate control of heat; you can improve your cooking dramatically using an immersion circulator and a FoodSaver-type edge-sealer or even improvised packaging in a ZipLoc bag.

There you have it. In my opinion, sous vide isn’t some space-age technique only for the gadget-obesessed, well-heeled cook. It is eminently practical, reasonably priced, and a perfect complement to your existing stove, oven and grill. Anyone who enjoys cooking will find it changes the whole game.

So what do you think? Have I convinced you? And if not, what holds you back from getting started with sous vide?

How to Make Perfect French Press Coffee

At our Town Hall Seattle lecture, we went through the steps on how to make the perfect cup of French press coffee at home. For those of you who couldn’t attend or for those of you who were there, but want to go over the steps again, here they are:

1. Use coarse, freshly ground coffee. We are enjoying Herkimer coffee at the moment.

2. Measure your ingredients. I like 70 g of coffee to 1000 g of water. Most French press pots don’t hold quite this much, for example, I can usually only get 700 g of water in mine, so I’ll use 49 g of coffee to 700 g of water.

3. Add the coffee to your French press pot, pour over just boiled water—if you want to get really nerdy, you can obsess about the temperature of the water. Make sure you saturate all of the grounds evenly.

4. Give the coffee a stir and then wait for 4 minutes.

5. The secret step—that I learned from Tim Wendelboe — is to skim the raft of finer floating grounds off the top before plunging the press after 4 minutes of steeping time.

6. Enjoy within 15 minutes. Nothing is worse, in my opinion, than stale coffee.

Note: If your coffee is a bit sour, you will want to grind it finer and if it’s a bit bitter you want to grind it more coarsely. Keep the steeping time and the brewing ratio constant.

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
Sign up for our free online sous vide cooking class and our forum.

What Did We Do with the Pig? | Sous Vide Pork Cheek with Celery Root and Pickled Apples

Sooie, Sooie, Sous Vide!

Back at the beginning of October, we asked all of you to weigh in on our “So We Have This Pig… Poll.” Votes were tallied and pork belly had a slight edge over pork jowls, but since we already have a pork belly recipe on our site, we opted to offer a Sous Vide Pork Cheek with Celery Root and Pickled Apples recipe for your enjoyment.

We’re eager to find out what you think of this dish and your experience while preparing it, so please sign up on our forum page to ask questions or offer feedback on the recipe and other culinary concerns.

Thank you,
Chris, Grant, Ryan and the rest of the ChefSteps team