All About Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is made of a mixture of metals.  Steel provides the base, chromium is added for stain-resistance and toughness, and nickel is sometimes mixed in to add shine.

Stainless steel was discovered, or created, in 1913 when Harry Brearley, an English metallurgist was attempting to find a metal to improve rifle barrels. Instead, he accidentally discovered that upon addition of chromium to low-carbon steel, the alloy (the mix of metals) became stain resistant. Today stainless steel has developed into a more complicated mix of metals, often containing nickel, titanium, and other elements which may enhance the corrosion resistance of the stainless steel. Stainless steel’s properties make it convenient for many uses in commercial and home kitchens, but it must be maintained and cared for in order to last.

Uses

Stainless steel is used for pots, pans, chafers, utensils, and even sinks. The metal is mostly appreciated for its durability and stain-resistance. Stainless steel pots and pans tend to be heavy-bottomed, retaining and transferring heat efficiently. Utensils made with stainless steel go beyond the typical flatware, and include professional chef knives, and provide a clear advantage over alternative materials due to their toughness and stain-resistance. In addition to being stain-resistant and relatively wear-resistant, stainless steel products are typically easy to clean.
When choosing stainless steel products for your purposes, you should take note of the numbers which are used to describe the composition of the metal. The typical numbers include 18/10, 18/8, 18/0. The first number represents the percentage of chromium metal in the metal mixture, while the second number indicates the percentage of nickel in the mixture. Most of the remaining composition, not indicated in the numbers, is steel. Chromium adds toughness and stain resistance to the stainless steel, while nickel, which is not always added to the mixture, presents a non-corrosive and stain resistance element that adds shine to the stainless steel. Chafers, for example, tend to contain some nickel, yielding an aesthetic product fit for buffet presentation. The composition of the stainless steel will determine the purposes which it is best for. However, the many mixtures that exist have led to the use of stainless steel in a wide range of kitchen items.

Maintenance

Why is stainless steel stainless? The chromium which Harry Brearley added to the steel, back in the day, can combine with oxygen at the surface of the stainless steel item to form a thin layer which protects the surface of the metal. Because this layer is what gives the metal its stain resistance, and oxygen is important to the development of this protective layer, in areas with low oxygen or low air circulation, stainless steel products may wear down relatively quickly. High concentrations of salt or acids, as found in some of the heavy duty commercial kitchen cleaning products, can also damage stainless steel, and should therefore be avoided when cleaning and handling stainless steel items. Dirt and deposit on stainless steel can have a similar effect over time.

Cleaning

Almost all stainless steel items can be cleaned with soap and warm water to get rid of any deposits. However, some types of dirt and wear are harder to remove and may require some more complex cleaning strategies:

Hard water deposits can be removed by soaking the stainless steel item in a mixture of one part vinegar, to three parts water.
Organic solvents such as alcohol and acetone can be a fix for grease and oil stains.

Rust stains can be removed by soaking the stainless steel in 10% nitric acid in water for up about 30 to 60 minutes.

Minor scratches can be fixed with impregnated nylon pads, while deeper scratches can be fixed with iron-free abrasives.

It is very important to use gloves when employing any of the solutions mentioned above, besides the typical soap and water cleaning and the vinegar solution for hard water deposits. The chemicals mentioned above can be abrasive and dangerous to skin. When using any chemical, don’t forget to read the instructions and warnings carefully. Some of the chemicals listed above may require the use of safety goggles as well as gloves. After using the preliminary fixes mentioned above, the stainless steel item should be rinsed thoroughly with water and washed very well with soap and water.

Aside from the environmental conditions and cleanliness required to maintain stainless steel, the metal is very durable. Therefore, stainless steel kitchen tools can last indefinitely, theoretically, giving them a huge advantage over kitchen tools made of most other materials. Though stainless steel products can be relatively expensive, their durability and easy maintenance often make them a smart investment which pays off in the long run.

More Than Just Panini: 6 unusual ways to use your Panini press

With Panini sandwiches’ texture and look, it’s no wonder they are wildly popular in the United States.Imagine taking a bite out of a smoking hot, crisp, perfectly grilled Panini oozing with all kinds of cheeses. Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, America thinks so too. Paninis have become one of the choice sandwiches in the past 15 years, and seem to boast promising income potential for venues around the country. But Panini makers can be expensive and bulky, which may deter some venues from purchasing them. However, once they realize the full scope of uses for which Panini presses can be employed, they may be convinced of the worthiness of the appliance. Here are six unconventional ingredients which can be prepared with a panini press.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are the top vegetable crop in the United States. They are an integral part of our diets, making up French fries, hash browns, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and more. They can be boiled, baked, fried, roasted, grilled, microwaved….or prepared in a Panini press. Hash browns can be browned to perfection in a Panini maker, while being pressed into a uniform shape for even cooking. Smashed, grilled potatoes become a no-brainer when made in this machine as well.

2. Chicken

Customers usually expect grilled chicken to be served adorned with those beautiful grill marks. However, it can be hard to get those marks on both sides of the chicken without overcooking it, when using a regular grill. Panini makers can solve the problem by quickly and efficiently getting the chicken marked while cooking it evenly from both sides, allowing better control of the doneness without worrying about the grill marks. This benefit goes beyond chicken: meat, fish, and tofu can be conveniently “grilled” this way as well.

3. Fruits and Vegetables

Grilled vegetables make for delicious pizza toppings, sides, sandwich fillers, and salads. Though most restaurant kitchens have a grill top or grill pan which can be used for preparing grilled veggies, Panini presses can speed up the process by blasting the vegetables with heat from both sides. Smoked goose breast or bacon wrapped around asparagus can be grilled deliciously using a Panini press.
Fruits can also be grilled in a Panini maker. Nectarines, peaches, apples, grapes, pineapple, and pears are just some of the fruits that can transform a dessert or a salad when grilled. Herbs and spices can be added as well, creating a one-step easy preparation.

Flatbreads

Though Panini makers are usually used to toast already made bread, they can also be used to cook bread dough. Flatbread prepared in a Panini press can be used as a base for focaccia, pizza, and garlic bread. It can be topped with salads or meat, soaking up the flavor and adding a unique component to the dish. Flatbreads can make up appetizers, main courses, or bread baskets to offer with salads or at the beginning of a meal. The weight from the Panini press will ensure the flatness of the dough during cooking, by preventing it from rising. If the dough is sweet, a dessert or breakfast similar to waffles or homemade ice cream cones can be made.

5. Polenta

Polenta can be served soft or hard. Soft polenta is the polenta as it is right out of the pot, but if allowed to cool, it hardens to the point where it can be sliced and grilled. Soft polenta can be delicious with grilled corn mixed in, and as you probably guessed, corn kernels can be grilled in a Panini maker. Hard polenta can be grilled in a Panini maker to get a crisp outer texture and, of course, grill marks. Thin layers of hard polenta can even be layered with cheeses, and vegetables before grilling to create an unusual polenta appetizer or main course.

6. Cheese

Panini presses offer a simple way to make cheese crisps. Choose the cheese or mixture of cheeses, and just place them on the press. Herbs and spices can be added as well, giving an interesting look and varied color to the crisps. The wavy shape can form the cheese crisps into an impressive garnish. Halloumi cheese can also be grilled on the press for use in salads and sandwiches. Grilled halloumi has an aesthetic golden crust, and gets a soft, but slightly chewy texture on the inside.

As you may have been convinced, Panini presses are a versatile tool for both commercial and home kitchens. Especially in small spaces, multipurpose appliances are extremely convenient. Aside from creating the extremely popular Panini sandwiches, Panini presses can make it easy to prepare a wide assortment of other foods as well, making it a key tool for the kitchen.

Parchment Paper Vs. Wax Paper

Wax paper can be used for preparing truffles and chocolate designs, preventing the need to worry about the paper sticking to the finished product.Every cook has felt the dismay of realizing that those roasted vegetables are in no way going to make it off that tray in one piece. You should have put more oil on the pan, or on the vegetables, or both. How are you going to cover it up so the plating doesn’t come out looking sloppy? You don’t have a choice, the order must go out, so you plate it as well as you can and try to cover up the imperfections.
And so the next time you attempt the seemingly simple feat of roasting some vegetables, you douse them vegetables in oil, and the tray too, just for good measure, and end with a finished product that, though beautiful and in one piece, tastes more like oil than the main ingredients. And so next time, you should try using parchment paper.

Parchment paper and wax paper are undeniably useful tools in any kitchen, commercial or home. Though, yes, you can manage without them, the sheer influence they will have in improving the kitchen experience makes them worth the investment. Yes, see it as an investment: less oil used, less time spent scraping off the burnt remnants off the pan, and better food presentation. Though in the end, you may break even in terms of financial aspects of the investment, the saved frustration will be greatly appreciated. Cooks make wide use of parchment and wax papers during food preparation, but in order to make the most of these tools financially, as well as guarantee a safer experience in the kitchen, the differences between them must be understood.

Parchment Paper

What it is: Parchment paper, also known as baking paper, is usually a cellulose-based or silicone-lined paper. It is often used as a disposable, non-stick surface, mostly for baking and roasting. By lining a cookie sheet or roasting pan with this paper, the pan will require minimal washing afterwards, since the parchment paper is both grease resistant and moisture resistant. Parchment paper can be found in rolls, sheets, or precut to fit pans of different sizes and shapes.

Pros: Parchment paper can have various useful applications in the kitchen. The non-stick surface facilitates moving the foods from the cooking surface to the dish on which it will be served, without ruining its appearance, while the grease and moisture resistant characteristics minimize the cleanup which must be done in between baking subsequent batches.

Cons: Using parchment paper on roasting pans generates an extra expense. Parchment paper is more expensive than wax paper.

When to Use: Parchment paper is convenient to use when cooking any ingredient in the oven since it is heat resistant. Besides being used to line pans when roasting and baking, it can be folded around fish and vegetable dishes for cooking “en papillote.”

Wax Paper

What it is: Wax paper is, as may be deduced by its name, paper covered with a thin layer of wax. Wax paper is similar to parchment paper in that it is moisture proof and nonstick. However, it is not heat resistant, limiting its potential applications in the kitchen.

Pros: Wax paper is less expensive than parchment paper, making it ideal for use when heat is not required.

Cons: Wax paper should not be used in the oven! It is not resistant to heat, and can be a fire hazard if used in the oven. Additionally, the melting of the wax in high heat conditions can give the food an undesired taste.

When to Use: Since wax paper is less expensive than parchment paper, it should be used for food preparations which don’t require the paper to be placed in the oven. It can be used as a base for decorating cakes and cookies and as a surface for cooling truffles and chocolate decorations in the fridge. Folding parchment paper into a small, cone-like structure, filling it with a sauce such as chocolate sauce, and cutting off the end of the tip, creates a tool for writing on a cake, decorating plates, and garnishing pastries.

The Bottom Line

Parchment paper and wax paper can both be useful in any kitchen, especially commercial kitchens. However, they aren’t absolutely necessary. If a kitchen plans to purchase only one type of paper, they should choose parchment paper since it can be used for a wider range of applications. When both are available, wax paper should be used for “cold” preparation of foods, while parchment paper should be used in the oven. By balancing the use of these two types of cooking papers, businesses can reach the safest and most cost effective solution.

How to Select the Best Pans

A grill pan offers a quick way to get those beautiful “sear” lines on foods.“Pan” is a general name for cookware most often used to prepare foods on the stovetop. Pan-cooked food is a restaurant’s dream, since it’s usually quick to cook and easy to observe, lowering the chances of ending up with a burnt product. Almost every type of cuisine uses a pan-like cooking method- from laffas cooked on taboons in Middle-Eastern cuisine to French crêpes. As cookware has become more sophisticates, the types of pans available have increased. This article provides a short summary of important factors to consider when selecting types of pans that will serve restaurants and caterers.

The Type of Pan

Frying pans are the most commonly used pans. They come in many different materials from cast-iron to Teflon-coated. Each material lends itself to the preparation of different types of foods. While heavy cast-iron pans are great for preparing and heating stews and some types of pasta dishes, non-stick pans are best for delicate dishes such as omelets and fish. Plain old frying pans can be a great alternative to a wok for stir-frying vegetables, chicken, beef, and other ingredients.

A grill pan is a great alternative to having a full-out grill, giving foods those fantastic, sought-after lines. However, they will usually give the food less of a smoky taste when compared to a real grill, which can sometimes be an advantage, but a disadvantage at other times. Grill pans can be used to grill everything from steaks and Portobello mushrooms to gnocchi and cheeses. The heavier the grill pan, the more effective it will be at giving the foods char-grilled lines. (…Read More…)

A Short Guide to Bakeware

Ramekins are bakeware items that can be used to prepare soufflés and coddled eggs, among other dishes.Bakeware is a necessity for venues offering homemade baked goods such as breads, muffins, pies, and cakes. Such venues can use their bakeware for preparing and serving both baked goods and other foods. Even venues not focusing on baked products can make use of various types of bakeware in order to serve foods in unusual ways. Below are some ideas for how to make the most of various bakeware items.

Cookie Sheets

Cookie sheets are similar to baking pans, but very flat. The flat surface allows oven heat to efficiently reach all sides of the food and offers an easy to work with platform for bakers and chefs to craft dishes containing multiple components. As hinted by their name, cookie sheets are ideal for preparing cookies, but are the best option for French macarons and jelly rolls cakes as well. They can also be used for preparing both sweet and savory tuiles and crackers.

Muffin Tins

Muffin tins are typically the bakeware of choice for muffins and small bread rolls, but can also be used to prepare cinnamon buns, mini tostada-style appetizers, frittatas, small quiches and tarts, mini lasagnas, and perfectly shaped, baked, potato fritters. Miniature dishes and dishes presented in a creative ways are all the rage in event catering as well as sit-down restaurants. Since muffin tins are perfect for this purpose, they can be a great, versatile multipurpose piece of bakeware for a commercial kitchen. (…Read More…)

Types of Cookware Materials – Buying Guide

Porcelain cookware can be used to finish off dishes and serve them aesthetically immediately afterwards.

In the 1700s, some Europeans believed that tomatoes were poisonous, due to fatalities associated with eating them. However, it was later discovered that the problem was not with the tomatoes, but rather the cookware used to cook and serve them: pewter. The high acidity of the tomatoes caused lead from the pewter to leach into the food, causing poisoning. Though the cookware of today is generally recognized as safe, the incidence that occurred in the 1700s highlights the importance of cooking foods with the right cookware. The types of materials available for cookware make it hard to choose which to buy and which to forgo. By having a variety of cookware, made from different materials, food businesses can make themselves as comfortable as possible. Materials can be selected based on the purpose they will serve as well as the budget of the venue.

Aluminum

Aluminum is typically one of the cheapest options for cookware. Though it is relatively versatile and lightweight, aluminum can react with acidic foods, leading to a metallic taste and aluminum consumption. Studies have shown that consuming aluminum may be dangerous to health, hinting that cooking with aluminum should be done with caution (acidic ingredients should not be cooked using aluminum cookware). Anodized aluminum is less reactive due to having undergone treatment, making it a better, but more expensive option when compared to regular aluminum cookware.

Cast-Iron

Cast-iron is often a top choice for stovetop cooking, since it distributes heat efficiently and is relatively heavy duty. Egg dishes such as Israeli shakshuka and stews can be started on the stove in a cast-iron pan and finished in the oven. (…Read More…)

The Dos and Don’ts of Caring for Chafers

Proper care for chafers and chafing dishesChafing dishes, also known as chafers, are an important tool for buffets. They make it easy for food businesses to offer customers large amounts of food for taking at their own leisure, with a minimal number of employees constantly dealing with serving the food, and without sacrificing on temperature. Caterers and hotel buffets may be the biggest users of chafers, but even restaurants and college dining services offering catering for special events may choose to use chafers for convenience. Whereas service counters in venues with permanent buffet stations have a more permanent and usually less fancy feel, chafers can be set up in any location to give the buffet service a higher-class feel. Though well-maintained chafers can give events a classy vibe, without proper care chafers can be irreversibly damaged. Since appearance is one of the most defining factors in diners’ perceptions of events, having attractive chafers can help create good reputation for the food preparation services by making the event feel classy and clean.

The Dos of Caring for Chafers

Do purchase good quality chafers, which will generally look better and last longer than cheap alternatives. Good quality chafers are made with materials which require minimal maintenance, or can be aesthetically rejuvenated with simple maintenance, and are resilient to rough use over time. The quality of a chafer is not based solely on the type of material, rather also the quality of the material. Even stainless steel chafers come in different qualities. Therefore, before purchasing chafing dishes, it is recommended that businesses read reviews about the product to ensure satisfaction.

Do make sure your chafer has water in the water-bath section at all times. Lack of water can lead to burnt food and ruined chafers. To estimate the water level quickly, lift the pan and listen for a boil or sizzle, which are both signs that the water level is too low. This recommendation applies to bain marie style chafers. If an induction chafer is being used, cooks should occasionally check to make sure the temperature is not set too high in order to prevent food from getting burned.
Do stir food when it is in the chafer to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and/or getting burnt. (…Read More…)

Three Steps to Buying the Best Wok

Choosing the best wok for you

Buying a wok is overwhelming because of the huge range of options. By having a clear idea of the purpose it will serve, businesses can choose the best wok in three simple steps.

1. Choose the Material

Stainless Steel– Stainless steel gets very hot, but the heat transfer takes a relatively long time.

Cast Iron– similarly to stainless, steel, cast iron gets extremely hot, but also takes a long time to heat up. The metal is considered reactive, which can give acidic foods a metallic taste. Cast iron woks also tend to be heavy, making it hard to toss around the contents of the pan.

Carbon Steel– Carbon steel woks are relatively lightweight, distribute heat evenly, and are non-stick, making them (usually) the best option for sautéing.

All in all, since stainless steel and cast iron woks tend to take longer to heat up and distribute heat less evenly, they are less ideal for busy service in restaurants compared to carbon steel woks. Having lightweight woks makes quickly sautéing and tossing ingredients easy for chefs, since they won’t get tired out very quickly and will be able to make sure that the pan contents get cooked evenly.

 (…Read More…)