The Seattle Food Geek's Tips for Being a Kitchen Chemist

• A French press does more than brew coffee. It also makes a fantastic strainer for sauces and stocks, though I'd recommend keeping your coffee press and your stock press separate. • The toaster oven is your friend. For baking or roasting smaller amounts of food, it heats faster, cooks more quickly, and uses less energy than your oven. Look for models with a convection fan for evener cooking. • Use syringes to dispense sauces. Ketchup and mustard have it easy—they're already in squeeze bottles. But what about sour cream? Or better yet, what about that roasted-red-pepper sauce you want to plate like a pro? Syringes are cheap, easy to handle, and let you play Picasso with your plating. • Hang a clothesline for clump-free pasta. The worst part about hand-making beautiful, long noodles is when they get stuck together and end up in a ball. String a cotton clothesline across your kitchen and you'll have plenty of space for your fettuccine to hang out before dinner. • The baking aisle has the best chemicals. If you want to experiment with textures and preparations, but don't feel like dropping big bucks on molecular-gastronomy chemicals, poke around the baking aisle at your grocery store. There are gelatins, leaveners, additives, stabilizers, condensed fats, oils, and extracts galore. • Use cast-iron pans as pizza stones. The world's best pizzas are baked in wood-fired ovens. These reach upwards of 900°F, and their thick ceramic floors retain heat well, giving your pizza a perfectly crisp crust. Preheat a cast-iron griddle or large skillet on the stove until it is rocket-hot. Then transfer it to the oven and bake your pizza directly on top. • Clean used cooking fats with coffee filters. If treated properly, cooking fats such as duck fat or vegetable oil can be reused five or six times. However, it's important to remove all particles from the fat before storing. Let the fat cool, then strain it with a paper coffee filter. Don't reuse fat that has been heated beyond its smoke point, and don't cook with fat that smells rancid. • Use a stand mixer and dry ice for instant sorbets. You don't need an ice-cream maker or a lot of time to make a delicious sorbet. Add 1 lb. of dry ice, broken into 1 chunks, to the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment installed. Mix on high, and pour in your sorbet base. When the fog clears, you'll have a delicious, creamy, and carbonated sorbet! • Build a better campfire with a mattress inflator. Getting a campfire hot enough for cooking takes time and skill, unless you have a portable electric air pump. Once you've got flames, point your pump at the fire from 3 to 4 feet away, then move in closer. You'll have a roaring blaze ready for high-heat cooking in no time. • Use your potato ricer as a general-purpose press. A potato ricer is a cheap kitchen tool for extruding potatoes—the holes in the ricer's metal die break up chains of gluten, making your tots nice and fluffy. However, it's also useful for pressing fruit juices, extruding pasta dough into spaghetti, or crushing garlic.

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