Having done a fair amount of camping from backpack to canoe to drive-up sites, you learn that if you have heat you can cook. Open flame, coals, propane stove, it all can make food for the crew. Having also spent years in commercial kitchens, you realize how well, and quickly, you can cook with specialized tools.
Most of us don’t have room for all the gleaming stainless-steel devices that make up a commercial kitchen. Or the square footage to accommodate it all, not to mention a strong hood vent for the smoke, or a crew of people to help clean it up at the end of a cooking shift. You get the idea; it is not really feasible. We want to go over what works, is feasible, realistic, and won’t drain your bank account.
Deep fryers are amazing, and they cook excellent food. They are also messy and a pain to clean. Ideally, the area you drop the food in to cook only represents half, or less, of the available oil. Like an iceberg, there is a lot under the surface. That is what allows a cook to cycle multiple batches through the fryer and maintain temperature, and why it takes 35 pounds, about 5 gallons, of oil, or more, to fill it.
Similarly, have you ever wondered how fast-food places, say a coffee chain, can get piping hot sandwiches out so quickly? They use hybrid convection microwave ovens, costing thousands, that heat from the inside and out to give you results in 60 seconds or less. Do not lose hope, there are easy and very affordable ways to get similar results at home, many of which will appear in our recipes on Notakeout.com.
These little guys are amazing! Word was they are the best for re-heating pizza. True, they are. But a device just for that is hard to justify. Fortunately, they do a lot more. They work as an exceptional way to cook a hot dog or sausage, or roasted Brussel sprouts, or cooking up the multitude of ready to cook frozen items available in the grocer.
We want you to enjoy a multitude of foods that you can make fresh in an air fryer which will cost you between $100-150. Here is our listing of choices we are familiar with. We have exceptional recipes for wings, home cut fries, and more.
It is very easy to get great crispy textures and well coked food in a pan or skillet with less than one half an inch of oil. Many of us consider pan fried chicken the real southern style fried chicken. Deep fried chicken is great, make no mistake, but with a more delicately browned exterior, pan fried chicken is equal to, or even a better way to go.
You can still get the crispy pieces you need to make a killer chicken sandwich, as we described here with a few different variations. Pork chops, potato pancakes of all kinds, and more can easily come out of a well-oiled skillet.
Electric Skillet Tabletop Cooking
At five years old I could barely see all the way up over the counter. But I doggedly learned to make French toast for my brother, sister, and I, before mom got up on Sunday morning. The tool of choice was the electric skillet. With a thermostatic control these devices fill a great niche for all kinds of cooking and quasi-baking.
One of their other main assets is size. Typically, they provide an evenly heated surface that is larger than most stovetop cookware. Pancakes to pork chops become much easier if you are cooking for a group. These units won’t get up to a good searing temperature, but you can sure brown well in them. Homestyle pan fried chicken is a great example with temperature-controlled browning on the bottom and baking like thoroughness with the lid on.
Simple steady and effective technology, a hot box that cooks the food you put in it. That pretty much sums up oven cooking. It’s almost a question of what can’t you cook in an oven. A simple, exceptional, baked potato tops the chart, or the other dozen ways to get tasty potato dishes cooked.
Roasting meats to vegetable, or baking bread to cake, you will never run out of tings you can cook with a standard oven. Sure, a convection setting is nice, especially for bread crusts and browning foods, but not necessary, we’ll help you get great results without being fancy.
Flames and cooktops
In an open kitchen you may see cooks slapping pans on the sauté side with flames and fire and smoke lighting up food being tossed in the air and back in the pan. That works, a gas burner on high and pans constantly in motion is a fun gig. Also messy, and takes a fair amount of practice, and very specific prep work. Remember we talked about the fancy fast sandwich ovens; the sauté station offers a different side to that.
First off, you only open the flame all the way if you will be almost constant hands on to keep the food moving and not getting scorched. Second, all the veggies and most meats are cut small and thin to cook up quickly. Third, fluids are introduced at strategic times to either slow the process or speed the process as needed.
On top of the stove
You will still use the stovetop, a lot to be honest, just in a different fashion most the time. Right out of the gate, you have time. Not forever, we know, but you certainly don’t have to go pan to plate in 7 minutes or less, then do it again 30 times in a row with each new order. You can, and should, be patient. About the only time you go over a medium at heat at home is to bring liquid to a boil. Patience and mid-level heat will win the day for caramelized onions as in this Animal Style Burger. Simmering temps work for cooking pasta in it’s sauce like in our spaghetti recipe. Patience yields great results in our versatile Taco Meat preparation.
Equipment-wise you will want a few basics. A skillet with rounded sides, a straight sided skillet, a couple pot sizes with lids, preferably a good-sized pasta pot. A flat pan with low sides, or a griddle, is good to have for everything from warming buns to making a killer grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla. That’s the basics, six or seven pieces that will allow you to cook almost everything. This is where we’ve assembled some stovetop stuff to consider.
Bowls and cutting boards
You can get a decent set of nesting stainless steel bowls, preferably with some kind of rubberized bottom area, for not a huge amount of money. Here are a couple of our picks to consider. You will also want at least a few glass bowls. A microwave is a great tool used correctly, and glass is the best vehicle for cooking in.
Having a few cutting boards around is invaluable. A couple sizes, at least one with a juice groove around it is helpful. Wood boards are great, but they aren’t dishwasher safe. Handwashing is fine, but the sterilization of a dishwasher, especially if you cut chicken today and veggies tomorrow, is the way to go. So, we like the plastic boards, one of the few times you will affordably get the same equipment we used in the restaurant, here’s a couple choices. These boards are also very gentle on your knives.
Since we brough it up, you always need to have a couple knives around. Number one is a chef’s blade, so named because it is very versatile with a basic shape to cut most anything. Number two is a paring knife. Cutting small things requires a small knife. Those two can get you through a whole lot of prep work. A serrated knife for bread and delicate items like tomatoes is nice, and a long straight bladed slicer can be worth having. Here’s a link to our buyer’s guide section on knives.
Pro tip: Sharp knives are much safer than a dull knife.
It is true. Try cutting a tater or an onion and having it roll around because your knife isn’t sharp enough. That’s dangerous. Cooks will usually take a steel (that round metal rod with a handle) to touch up their knives before use. It works, if you know how. Some of us, who shall remain nameless, me, never got good with a steel. I use a titanium drag sharpener, see one here, to touch up my knives before every use. After two years I took my most often used chef’s blade to the knife guy. He gave it back with no charge, it had stayed so sharp he didn’t feel he could get the edge better. However, this is an economical sharpening device that puts incredible edges on a blade quite easily, so that you can stay safe.