You posed your pressing kitchen questions and we found the expert to answer. Read on for foodie wisdom from Shai Mandel, owner of Toronto children’s cooking school Rooks to Cooks.
Non-stick material (commonly a synthetic resin referred to as Teflon) is not necessarily harmful when scratched, but it does have the potential flake off and be ingested. It’s not going to make you instantly sick, but it’s definitely something you to watch out for.
The biggest way to avoid scratches in your Teflon kitchenware is to use plastic or rubber utensils (instead of metal); getting into this habit should stop any scratching from occurring in the first place. You should also be wary of burning Teflon cookware. If you burn your pan, the coating will flake off or crack a lot more easily.
My suggestion is always a good quality Japanese steel knife with a Japanese handle—I personally love santuko knives. We use santuko-style knives with all of our students. Japanese steel stays sharp for longer, which is what you should look for when purchasing a knife. I would recommend everyone have one chef knife between eight and 10 inches in diameter, and one utility knife around four to five inches in diameter on hand at all times. Buying a knife is like finding a wand in Harry Potter: The knife picks you, you don’t pick the knife. Know what you need the knife for, and then go into a high-end knife store to get a feel for each option. Whatever feels best is the choice for you.
Broth is flavoured, seasoned liquid traditionally made by slow-simmering bones and meat. Stock, while also made with bones and meat, is left unseasoned. Bouillon is dehydrated broth. (You have to be careful when purchasing bouillon because they’re often packed with salt and preservatives since it’s a dried product with a very long shelf life.) I always recommend making your own stocks instead (it’s so easy!) and leaving the seasoning to the very end of the product. This means you’ll season your sauce or soup once you’ve simmered long enough to develop the desired flavour.
Ricers do a great job of milling potatoes to a small, consistent size without over-mixing them. When you over-mix potatoes, they get gummy, sticky and glossy. You want your potatoes to be fluffy and matte. Traditional mashers are very ineffective when actually breaking down the potatoes. It takes forever, and the potatoes are never uniform in size.
Chef Shai Mandel has 8-plus years of culinary experience under her apron. She’s also a trained teacher, and combines her passion for teaching with her love of food at her child- and youthcentred cooking school Rooks to Cooks, opened in 2016.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Spring/Summer 2018