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12″ Stainless Steel Skillet August 20, 2011

Posted by marksun in fry pan, saute, tools.
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Often I realize how little  I know about cooking.  I am amazed by what I just learned by googling “frying pan.”

Today I replaced my years old used and abused TFAL non-stick skillet with a 12″ Kenmore stainless steel skillet from Sears.   This is a fairly heavy skillet, perfectly flat and thick on the bottom.  I always thought that non-stick teflon pans were easier to use, required less oil,  and clean up easier.   The problem I had with the teflon pan was that over time the coating breaks down.   I actually have a large (14″) stainless steel (ss) pan but never learned how to use it correctly.  Mainly,  I never learned  to control the heat and problem of food sticking to the bottom of the pan until now, particularly in the case of frying and sauteing.

(some time later) I am getting the hang of it and I really like cooking with this pan.  To prevent sticking, the technique is to heat the pan first and get it hot, then add oil.  The pan is at the right temperature when a drop of water falling on the pan forms little balls that skitter around – that’s Moms pancake griddle test.  Now add the oil, taking into account that different oils break down and smoke at different temperatures.  The experts say you want to add the food at the point the oil starts to smoke.  OK maybe that’s the point at which oil starts to break down and too hot but close to that point.  When you add food, the temperature is going to drop immediately.

One of the first tests the skillet got was to cook a salmon filet.  I heated the pan as described above,  added oil, and placed the filet in, half expecting it to bond like crazy glue to the bottom of the pan.  It sizzled and started to cook – you can see the filet cook as it changes color from red to pink – … time to turn it, and, the skin did not stick.  Yes!

Another thing about this kind of skillet is that after cooking the fish and removing it, nicely seared and intact from the pan, there remains a brown residue sticking to the bottom of the hot pan.  Add some wine or other liquid and this residue releases in the liquid forming an intensely flavored sauce called a fond.  The fond is a really nice by-product of cooking with a stainless steel skillet.

Cleanup? Easy.



New Stove: Kenmore 92402 June 18, 2011

Posted by marksun in tools.

the new stove

We got a new  Kenmore 92402 stove from Sears.   This is a freestanding, flat glass-top stove going for about $630.  Pricewise, I put it in the lower mid-range.  Initially after a couple of meals and a batch of biscuits, the stove seems to do what stoves do.  The stove doesn’t have many wow factors, save one, which I’ll get to in a minute.  No convection oven, no turbo mode fast boiler element.  The electronic features are basic and functional.  I like the clock timer.  The oven light works great.

As far as cooking, I’d have to cook more to report on this stove’s performance.   After two days, so far so good.   Biscuits came out fine.

Adjustments:  It’s an adjustment from the old coil-top design to the ceramic-glass top.  The heat is different, not necessarily better or worse.   The main adjustment from a coil top to this flat glass-top is  residual heat.    The glass/ceramic retains a lot of heat and releases it slowly after the stove is turned off.  That’s a property of this design.

The main issue has to do with the oven and the fact that use of the oven causes the stove chassis to get hot.    The stovetop front rim gets hot with the oven on, and the entire dashboard panel including the panel top gets hot.   I used to put stuff on the dashboard top – that is a bad idea with this stove and since electronics abhor the heat, may affect the longevity of the electronics  housed in it.  The bigger issue is that the stovetop front rim gets hot (127 to 145+ deg) which brings us to  the wow factor, as in “WOW! that’s hot!”.

Venting.   Normally I don’t focus on venting in stoves, but that is probably one of the issues with this stove. The oven is vented by the space between the back of the stove-top and the rear dashboard causing the rear of the stove to heat up.  The top of the oven door itself has vents to release heat from the interior of the double wall of the oven door. While this contributes heat to front rim through convection, I don’t think it is the main source of heat. Rather, heat is conducted directly by metal to metal contact of  the  oven interior to the  stovetop rim. This seems to be due to the stoves construction. The Google hits on “kenmore oven door gets hot” indicates that this is an issue with Kenmore stoves and their OEM, Frigidaire.  A quick search shows similar complaints for Kenmore 9745, 9747, 9517, 9661[01245].

Can I live with this?  Sure-  I can and do live with all kinds of dangerous stuff around the house, but   D, alarmed, called Sears to complain.   The sales person called right back, concerned  that the unit may be faulty. A technician will be here next Saturday to determine if the stove is faulty.  (I don’t think so) ..

Flash to the present.  Tech came today- … as expected this is how new stoves are – the tech pointed to the place in the manual that the stove gets hot.  He says all the stoves get hot, and it is due to the modern construction of stoves that leave little space for insulating the oven from everything else.  He also said that price does not improve the situation, it’s the design.

Out of five stars possible, the stove gets four.  It’s not a bad stove and but for this flaw, it would be fine, one point off for the modern trend away from niceties like insulation and heavier construction we say back in the day.

Postscript – 3 months later.
Initially we were a bit put-off by the heat from the oven heating up the metal parts of the stove-top.   I don’t know for sure but I think the construction and insulation on my old stove (purchased at least 15 years ago, maybe 20) was just better and it did not conduct heat from the oven compartment like the newer designs do.   After using the stove, I no longer worry about the heat from the oven.

As for the venting at the rear dashboard and loss of that space to store salt, sugar, what have you, I constructed a wooden shelf over the dashboard.

The flat top stove seems to heat a bit slower than the coil top but the heat is more even, and the flatness works well with straight-edge flat modern pots and pans.

Which brings me to another thing … pots and pans have to complement the stove and with the “upgrade” to a flat stove top, I am going to upgrade the cookware too.   My oldest pressure cooker (the one that belonged to my dad) for example, is not perfectly flat on the bottom – it’s rounded.  It won’t work well on this stove.  I’ll have to replace it, probably next time I’m ono for lau-lau.

Ya just gotta adjust!

Oven temperature, my temp gun and meat thermometer March 28, 2010

Posted by marksun in tools.
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I have a temp gun (Raytek MiniTemp), formerly used to measure the head temperature of RC car engines which sometimes gets casual cooking use.  Using it I find that the oven dial is about 50 to 70 degrees low.   The infra-red (IR) instrument measures surface temperature, not the air temperature.  In this case I figure the temperature of carbon covered  surfaces in my oven  is probably close to the air temperature.  Ideally you’d have some media in the oven – maybe a black ceramic disk – for sure not shiny metal anyway, whose emissivity matches the temp gun and you’d temp that.

aimlessly pointing the temp gun for the photo but should go for the back wall of the oven ... we're 21 degrees below the 325 we're supposed to be roasting at

Also verified that the meat thermometer is reasonably accurate indicator for the roast… 145 is a medium well done roast – a little too well done for me and my lamb roast.  I use it for turkey but there you never try for a rare.

Fun to find a new use for the temp gun.