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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

5 Cooking Upgrades While Stuck at Home During a Pandemic



We aim to keep it real here at The Kitchen Professor. Make the best of a bad situation and take the opportunity to upgrade cooking in that kitchen just a bit. Take some of that time and try out some easy upgrades to eat like a king at home.

1. Try a New Pan, Any Pan Other Than Non-Stick (Puhlease)

I see you over there, a long time ago someone put a nice, safe, 12 inch non-stick pan in your hands and sent you on your way. You couldn’t mess it up. “Here’s a rubber spatula, too”, they said! It’s time to join the ranks of professional chefs who already know the secret. There’s no better way to get that beautiful crispy crunch or char on a gorgeous piece of meat by upgrading to these amazing pans. Trust me, it’s not that hard and cleaning these pans aren’t any more difficult than a non-stick. Try one of these out.

Stainless Steel Pan + Butter + Chicken Breast = So Good

Cuisinart 733-30H Chef's Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Helper Handle and Cover, Silver Cuisinart 733-30H Chef’s Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan

Cast Iron Skillet + Ribeye Steak = Even Better

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, 12", Red Silicone Lodge 12 inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

2. Skip the Wonder Bread and Break Out Your Bread Maker

I really wanted to make this the #1 suggestion, but hey, baby steps. This suggestion is to give your nostrils some hope for the human race, as you smell that delicious yeasty aroma of soon to be bread. You’ll need several hours (or even 24 for the no knead recipe below), but hey, we got nothing but time at home, right? Just remember the goal: the amazing smell of fresh baked bread.

I’m going to suggest my favorite bread maker, but fear not, if a bread maker isn’t in your cards, then consider baking bread in a beautiful enameled Dutch Oven pot which can be used for way more than bread. There’s a special No Knead Bread recipe that’s wildly popular for dutch ovens (in an oven) baking. I’ll link it below. Or, check out the 5 best dutch ovens for baking breads.

My Favorite Bread Maker: Oster Bread Maker at Amazon

This bread machine has been around for a long time, bakes a nice size loaf (up to 2 lbs), and doesn’t take up a huge amount of space on the counter. It’s a workhorse for me.

Oster Bread Maker | Expressbake, 2-Pound Loaf

My Recommendation for a Dutch Oven:

Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven With Stainless Steel Knob and Loop Handles, 6 Quart, Red NYTimes No Knead Bread Recipe can be found to be addicting!

3. Upgrade Your Coffee Routine

Here’s what I want you to do right now, a little MATH. Take the dollar amount you’re saving on gas for the car, daily Starbucks, and/or that reasonable lunch hour lunch, multiply by 14 days. OK do we feel justified to buy an espresso machine yet? Me neither. But you might be surprised what a few bucks will do to replace or augment that 5 year-old Mr. Coffee pot. Here are some options to consider for upgrading your daily coffee while at home. Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker, with 50 oz. Glass Carafe, Black and Stainless Steel Finish Ninja Specialty Fold-Away Frother Coffee Maker at Amazon. Ok this is what I consider halfway in between an espresso machine and a coffee maker. What I really like is this solves my chief complaint of the Keurig pod coffee machines – the pods just are too expensive for moderate coffee drinkers. The milk frother feature takes it to the next level.

Mueller French Press Coffee at Amazon. Maybe it’s time to try out the elegant way of making coffee by heating it separately and then pouring into a french press like this one. The appeal of this style of coffee making is the slow ritual.

Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine at Amazon. OK so you did the math, huh? Treat yourself.

4. Crock-Pots are for Delegating

This one is for you remote workers out there, slogging away on the laptop and hoping the kids are going to stay quiet for at least another hour. It’s somewhere around day 9 and this.aint.cute.anymore. We’re not messing around and the weakest family member might go down. Take a day off here you primary cooker you and throw the responsibility to another person. You can feel good about teaching your significant other or favorite child how to open up a bunch of cans and fire up that slow cooker. You can chuckle when they announce “I made dinner everyone!”.

I’m linking a great recipe for Chicken Taco Soup in a Slow Cooker.

Here’s two recommended Slow Cookers from Amazon that I like:

Crock-Pot Brand at Amazon, the classic of course. They’ve updated the color options and you can’t beat the price.

COSORI Slow Cooker 11-in-1 Programmable Multi-Cooker Pot 6-Quart. This slow cooker won me over with multiple temp settings and the ability to do more: rice, yogurt, steam and saute. I’m a fan of more functions when they are done right.

Here’s a list of some of the tastiest recipes for slow cookers and if you want a bigger cooker, a list of large capacity slow cookers.

5. Dessert Upgrades

OK, we finish out this list with the grand finale, which is always dessert. I’m going to throw out some ideas here, the important thing is to get out of the “Yeah sure chocolate chip cookies” zone of same old same old. For those of you in the “I don’t bake” category, I’ve included a few ideas that might peak your interest.

Nordic Ware Pineapple Upside Down Mini Cake Pan. We think you can grab a can of pineapple rings from the secret bunker area. Try this nice warm homestyle dessert that will take you back.

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker - Silver (ICE-30BCP1)

No promises, but last time I checked we had a pretty decent supply chain of dairy cows. Fire up this ice cream machine for a late night.

USA Pan Bakeware Rectangular Cake Pan, 9 x 13 inch, Nonstick at Amazon

I know I know, we made fun of non-stick pans earlier. But we are really really picky when it comes to baking pans. The slightly ribbed bottom is the key here. Upgrade your 9×13 at home and let the brownies fly. For you non-bakers, try this 4 ingredient dump cake recipe.

That’s it! Let me know in the comments below what you are going to try out during your self-quarantine / pandemic / stay at home time.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Charles H.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Rose Reinhard

Rose Reinhard is a Thai-American foodie from Chiang Mai, Thailand. She's been a creative writer since she could speak and enjoys making vegetarian/vegan dishes and reading about food science. She claims her air-fryer is the best purchase she’s ever made to date.

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