February 20, 2012

Cooking Secrets - Frugal Living - Survival Homestead - Cooking at Home

A small sharp knife like a paring knife or steak knife makes preparing foods easier.  Some knives are made with a “permanently sharp” serrated edge and others come with a sharpener.  A knife must be sharp to be effective, it should easily slice a carrot.  A dull knife is dangerous, frustrating and requires much more effort to use.  A good knife will hold its sharp edge for a long time and hold its blade tight in the handle.  The blade should not easily bow or be too heavy as to become tiresome for the user. 

Cheap pots and pans are hard to cook with and difficult if not impossible to clean.  To use anything else is a waste of your time and money in the long run.  It is important to cook only with 10/18 stainless steel or cast iron pots with tight fitting lids.   Try to buy also 10/18 flatware, as these forks and spoons don’t easily bend and will, like the pots last a lifetime.  A tablespoon is the large spoon and the teaspoon is the small one.  Use only cast iron frying pans or a good stainless steel wok for frying.  Buy them used if you can find them.

A grater is very helpful in quickly cutting fruits and vegetables into small bits.  Try and find a good used stainless steel grater the new ones are cheap and bend too easily.  The tools you use should be as pleasurable as toys to use. 

Stove and oven temperatures vary from unit to unit.  For this reason, the temperatures here are only guidelines.  You only need to preheat an oven for baked goods.  Don’t
get burned from the steam or heat while taking off pot lids or the opening oven door.  Always use an oven mitt or a folded towel to protect your hand from getting burned on hot pot. 

Burning the skin is a hazard in the kitchen, from steam, hot pans or spattering fat.  Don’t leave the kitchen unattended while cooking at high temperatures.  Always turn pot and pan handles in, so they can’t get knocked off the stove.  Keep a box of baking soda by the stove to douse a fire if necessary. 

Be mindful of the temperature under the pots to ensure you don’t burn what you are cooking.  When food boils too hot it will bubble out of the pot.  If the oil spatters out of the pan the temperature is too high, turn it down.  Burning food renders it unpalatable.  If what you are cooking starts to stick and burn on the bottom take it from the heat and remove as much of the food as possible, without disturbing the burned bottom.  If, on the other hand if you have left a pot on a high temperature and smoke is coming from it, remove the pot from the burner, open the kitchen windows, don’t take off the lid and don’t eat it.  Not only can burned food ruin a meal, but burnt on food can wreck even the best pots.

On the stove top most food is cooked by adding it to a hot pan or a pot of boiling water.  After adding the food wait a minute, then turn down the burner to one quarter heat.  Covering pots and pans with lids will help food cook faster using less energy.  Don’t use a lid when cooking in a lot of oil or when frying breaded items.  A sprinkle of salt in a pot of water will help water boil faster, enhance flavors, and help vegetables retain green color when cooking. 

Funny thing about being able to boil water, efficiently, for cooking.  Once a pot is boiling, it with continue that boil even on the lowest burner setting.  Knowing this, if you add pasta to boiling salted water just removed from the burner and stir, then return to the same burner on low, the pot will not boil over.  Add eggs to cold water, heat to a boil in a covered pot then turn burner off and let the eggs gently poach in the hot water. 

Always have all ingredients cut before turning on a burner to cook.  The smaller the pieces, the faster they cook, the sooner you eat.  Cut food by pressing a sharp knife through it on a hard surface like cutting board.  Respect the damage the blade could do to your flesh, if cut you would be well advised to disinfect the cut immediately with tea tree essential oil.

Plan the next day’s meals before you go to bed.  Assess which resources are on hand for the recipes you like and your time available for preparation.  Take any meat you need out of the freezer to thaw.  Dont be afraid to partially prepare for the next meal ahead of time.  Cook
extra meat or eggs the day before to have the ingredients ready for your meal. 
Time your activities to make the most of your resources.  I bake and make soup during the winter months when doing so helps heat the house.  In the summer heat, I roast meat and vegetables in the oven late at night to use the food cold in sandwiches and salads the next day.  Scheduling the main meal at noon is most effective as it allows the cook day to best utilize the day.

You can’t just turn on a burner and eat.  Cooking is a process an ever changing ongoing activity.  You have to know how to acquire, select and store ingredients.  A necessity as well are the proper tools and the know how to   use them to ease with preparation and cleanup.  Once you know the nature of your ingredients and the tricks of your equipment, cooking is more a pleasure than a chore. Keep following this blog for all the details.


  1. I can only imagine the skill it took/takes to cook on a wood cook stove. Your hand would be the best temperature indicator by how hot it feels. My very favorite pan is my 12 inch cast iron skillet. The lid of my water canner fits perfectly when needed. My modern stove is duel fuel; it has an electric oven (better for baking bread) and a gas cook top. The oven can be used as as convection which uses less fuel for roasting and baking .. there is also a dough proofing setting (coming in handy during the cold winter months) and a dehydrating setting. If we lose power, I can still use the burners. The public schools (at least in the USA) did a great disservice to society be dropping home-ed (cooking/sewing) from its required classes. I'm reading "The White House Cookbook" from 1887 .. it is chocked full of kitchen clean up and sanitation info .. and is fun to read how such a famous kitchen prepared food without electric power. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  2. Really good comment I will check that book out, hope others do too. Peace