Many people think the term “stainless” really does mean that stainless steel will always look as bright and shiny as the day it was purchased. Unfortunately this is not quite the case but with the use of some simple cleaning techniques stainless steel pans can quickly be returned to their former glory!
Most good stainless steel cookware will last a lifetime and become more durable with use unlike non-stick which will degrade over time. One just has to cope with unexpected discoloration and unexplained marks. For example:
- white spots caused by salt or salts in the water
- a blue colour on the stainless steel can result from overheating
- food residues can remain on the pan
- pasta can cause browning where it becomes stuck on the bottom and traps the heat – a tip which will help to avoid this is to make sure that you do not try to put too much pasta into too small a pan – give it plenty of room to move around, add a drop of oil to the water and don’t add the pasta until the water is at a good rolling boil.
- soot marks can be present on the outside of the pan caused by gas flames coming up the side.
All these problems can be dealt with by using a stainless steel cleaner such as Fissler Proline. Alternatively you can just use vinegar or lemon juice. Simply add a small amount of whatever you are using to the marked area of the pan, rub with a soft cloth and then rinse. Do not use harsh abrasive powders or wire scrubbers as these will scratch the pan.
Spring has well and truly taken hold here in Dorset. The end of April and the start of May give us all a culinary taste of what the summer has in store for us, so get thinking seasonally and make the most of all that Britain’s fabulous local producers have on sale. We’re really looking forward to the first British asparagus of the season which will be reaching the shops any day now, and have included some delightfully easy and seasonal recipes for you to wow your friends with.
Asparagus wrapped in Pancetta with a Lemon and Garlic Dressing
The British asparagus season is very short but well worth waiting for and lasts for only about six weeks from late-April to mid-June. Of course asparagus is always available from different parts of the world all year, but if you can make a point of searching out locally grown spears in season you won’t be disappointed.
This dish is a really good starter, or could be served as a light lunch with bread.
The steel used for the blade of a knife will have a significant impact on its use and care and it is worth doing a bit of research before buying to establish exactly what you need in a knife.
The majority of knives sold in the UK nowadays are made of stainless steel. This also contains chromium which makes the knife rustproof but also makes it more difficult to sharpen. To overcome this problem stainless steel knives also include some carbon in their composition. So called ‘high carbon stainless steel knives’ are designed to give the user the best of both worlds, i.e. a rust proof knife which will not discolour but will also hold a good edge if it is regularly sharpened.
Carbon steel knives are a more traditional choice which have become less popular in recent years because they can rust and become stained. However because carbon steel is softer than stainless steel it can more easily be sharpened to a really good edge which will slice through food effortlessly. To avoid rusting, never put a carbon steel knife in the dishwasher. Wash it by hand, dry immediately, then store in a knife block or rack. Some people also like to just wipe the blade with a thin coating of oil prior to putting it away. This should not really be necessary so long as the knife is always kept clean and dry but if you do decide to use oil go for something neutral such as corn oil or canola oil. Olive oil is quite alkaline and should be avoided.
A sharp knife not only performs better than a blunt one – it is also safer because it requires less pressure when cutting and is less likely to slip or twist in your hand. There are a number of steps you can take to keep your knives in optimum condition.
Correct storage is important. The ideal is probably a knife block which can be kept out on the kitchen work surface and will keep the blades well protected. Alternatively you could choose a wall mounted magnetic knife rack. If you do this the handles should always be placed uppermost and you should be sure to position the rack well away from areas where the knives could be accidentally knocked and end up on the floor – or even in someone’s foot! Another alternative is an in-drawer knife organiser such as those made by Wusthof or Robert Welch. The main thing to avoid is just shoving your knives into a drawer to rattle around against each other and any other cutlery that you may have in there. This can be quite dangerous when searching for the knife you need and will also result in the blades deteriorating fairly rapidly. If you do need to store knives like this invest in a relatively inexpensive blade guard which will save both your fingers and the blades from damage.
To keep knife blades in optimum condition it is a good idea to get into the habit of giving them a few strokes on a sharpening steel every time you use them. The steel should always be longer than the knife blade and needs to be of a material which is harder than the blade that it is sharpening which is why some steels are coated with industrial diamonds. To use the steel hold it in your left hand and the knife in your right (or vice versa if you are left handed), then guide the blade with light pressure across the steel at an angle of about 20 degrees for a European style knife or 15 degrees for a Japanese style knife. Then repeat this holding the other side of the blade against the other side of the steel. Repeat this 6 to 8 times by which time the blade should be honed. If you are not happy using a steel you can use a pull through sharpener with crossed steel rods which replicate the correct angle of a steel
If your knife blade has lost its sharp edge altogether it will need more than maintenance work on it and for this you can use a pull through sharpener with ceramic wheels.
Finally it is important to bear in mind the chopping surface that you use when preparing food. Wooden or polyethylene boards are ideal as they have the right amount of ‘give’ in them to avoid damaging the blade. Plates, glass boards, granite work surfaces are all too hard and can quickly damage the cutting edge of the knife.