Friday, December 14, 2012

The Top Cooking Tools of 2012

What was popular in 2012 on (plus a year-end contest!)

It’s the season to look back on the year past. In our case, that means looking back at some of the most popular cooking tools of 2012. There are many perennial favorites on here (like spice jars and the Avo-holder), but there are some cool new products that we added this year that have absolutely blown up. Most of this year’s top products combine irreverent design with functionality – so these products are not just beautiful, but also useful. In no particular order:

Charles Viancin: It’s not hard to see why these simple, beautifully designed products are so popular. They basically eliminate the need for 1) plastic wrap, 2) plastic storage containers, and 3) cleaning up after a big meal. Just plop a pretty sunflower, banana leaf, or hibiscus down on your bowl or casserole dish and it’s sealed and ready for the refrigerator. The silicone material is eco-friendly (it’s just melted sand), flexible, reusable, and heat resistant. You can even get one to seal your coffee mug to keep your drink hot!

Charles Viancin Sunflower lid

The Fissler Vitaquick Series: These are hands down the best pressure cookers in the world. Added to in June, these pans didn’t blow up until a review in Cook’s Illustrated last month (I can’t say what they said in the review, but you should go pick up the most recent issue to find out). We’ve seen a 400% increase in the sale of these in recent weeks.

Fissler Vitaquick pressure pan system

HotSpot Honeycomb potholders: Another perennial favorite, but these really blew up in 2012. As soon as these interesting little things came in, we would sell out. It’s no wonder – like the Charles Viancin lids, these silicone potholders are fun to hold, heat resistant, and double as a trivet. Good design plus function! 

Lamson & Goodnow Hotspot honeycomb holder

DiCuonzo Orecchiette Farina Arsa Pasta: This “burnt flour” pasta was featured in an Italian cooking magazine – and rightly so. The little orecchiette shapes look like pieces of scrumptious dark chocolate and have a slightly smoky flavor, like no other pasta you’ve tasted. The farina arsa is the perfect choice for a special dinner at home. 

Farina Arsa pasta - or, "burnt flour"

Whiskey Stones: This product has it all. Bespoke little cubes of Vermont quarry stone that keep your beverage cold (it doesn’t have to be whiskey) without watering it down. They look good, they feel good, they’re extremely useful, and they’re made in the USA. Unfortunately, supplies are limited and we may not be able to get more for a long time, so hurry if you want some. 

Whiskey stones: only 5 left as of this posting!

Tramontina cookware: Another recent addition to, Tramontina offers beautiful, high-quality nonstick cookware (and some stainless steel) at an entry-level price. I especially like the cooking system (pictured), which allows you to bake (as in, brownies and bread) right on the stovetop. So, the same pan you use for a pot roast can you can use for dessert! 

Tramontina cookware system

Marna home goods: Do you see that little piggy steamer lid? Do you need more evidence to love it?

Marna Piggy Steamer lid

Other perennial favorites: Norpro spice jars; the Evriholder Avo Saver; the Original Brown Sugar Bear; Tovolo Ice Sphere Molds; Kai Pure Komachi Knife Block Set; Norpro Easy Carrot Holder. 

Bonus Year-End Contest: Post in the comments the best cooking tool you bought (or inherited, or got for free, or whatever) in 2012 and why. We’ll pick 4 comments at random and you’ll get a Charles Viancin product (we’ll let you choose, but we have trivets, a cutting board, and a sunflower lid). No purchase necessary to enter; must be 18 or older; contest ends Dec. 21, 2012.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stocking Stuffers For Your Home Chef

Whether you're 5 or 55, there's nothing better than finding a stocking full of goodies hanging from the hearth on Christmas morning. And as a gift giver, you have a ton of fun options to stuff in there. Here are some cool ideas for little things that will brighten Christmas morning (and maybe your taste buds and stomach later on!).

Kai Komachi Knives. Inexpensive and vibrant, perfect for someone looking to start a home cooking hobby. Buy them here.
Bonajuto gourmet chocolate bars in flavors like white pepper, salt, and raspberry. Need we say more? Buy them here

The Goodbye Detergent spaghetti scrubber - a reusable dish scrubber that cleans everything from cast iron to glass without scratching. Buy them here.
Uncle Woody's gourmet popcorn. Literally the best popcorn in the world. Smothered in all-natural, organic cheese and natural flavors like truffle, caramel, butterscotch and more. It's the perfect snack for Christmas morning. Buy them here.
Graters and zesters not only fit perfectly in a stocking, but they're they perfect gadget for a home chef. Take your cooking to the next level by adding the zest of fruits and vegetables. Buy them here.

Check out more stocking stuffer suggestions here, where you're guaranteed to find the perfect little gift for your home chef's stocking!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bacon Shaving Cream? It's Gotta Be J&D's

BaconPop, one of J&D's more edible products
On my way into work this morning, I heard on the local news station a little story about a company in Seattle that’s started making bacon-scented shaving cream. 

Before the newscaster said the company’s name, I knew it could only be J&D’s. 

J&D’s – named after the founders, Justin and Dave – have been making interesting bacon products like Bacon Salt, Baconnaise, and BaconPop here in Seattle for years. They also happen to be our neighbors. I have fond memories their full-size bacon coffin, or that time they proudly showed us their most XXX-rated product, edible bacon-flavored personal lubricant. 

So, I guess bacon shaving cream was inevitable. After all, bacon shaving cream, “is what Vikings would have used this to mow down their impenetrable forest of man-beard,” says the J&D’s website. 

J and D know how to have fun, and they know how to meld bacon with anything – obviously. 

Not game to shave with bacon? Well, then you really should look into their more edible products. Items like bacon malt salt and Baconnaise are quite delightful.  They’re also safe for vegetarians – there’s no actual bacon involved – and Kosher. 

Whether you’re shopping for a gag gift or just something to sweeten up the life of a porcine-loving friend, invest in some J&D’s. Check out their full line at Chef Tools here.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Celebrate Small Business Saturday

Just like most all small businesses, was built on a foundation of sweat, hard work, and late nights. What began as painfully small operation over a decade ago had grown into a successful small business that’s delivered cooking tools to thousands of people across the 50 states and Canada.

And we have no one to thank but you. 

November 24 is Small Business Saturday, a day that we take particular pride in because we’re a small business. We celebrate the effort and chutzpah it takes to building something on your own.  Sure, we sell products by big companies, but we also celebrate the little guy – because, at heart, that’s who we are. 

Take for instance Bag Adapter Kit. This company was started outside San Diego by a veteran cake decorator and dedicated mother who was tired of throwing away pastry bags that were cut to fit only one size pastry tip. So, Michelle Hageman created a simple device that fits in any pastry bag, allowing multiple uses with any size pastry tip. Not to mention, Hageman donates a portion of proceeds to the Autism Speaks foundation. 

The Bag Adapter Kit is the kind of product we seek out. From Bella Cupcake Couture to Raw Materials Design, has a history of marketing products made by small businesses. So on this Small Business Saturday – just one day after many of us have partaken in the Black Friday shopping binge at big retailers – consider supporting a small business. Below you’ll find a list of some small businesses whose products we sell. Who knows, you might find one that’s in your own backyard.

Bella Cupcake Couture – Newcastle, Washington
USA Pans – Crescent, Pennsylvania
Stone Buhr Flour – Reardan, Washington
Bag Adapter Kit – San Marcos, California
Magic Line Bakeware – Gardena, California
Lucks Cake Decorating – Tacoma, Washington
J&D’s Bacon Products – Seattle, Washington
Range Kleen – Lima, Ohio
LamsonSharp cutlery – Shelburne Fall, Massachusetts
Raw Materials Design linens – Seattle, Washington
Architec housewares – Delray Beach, Florida
Zeroll cooking tools – Ft. Pierce, Florida
Ateco – Glenn Cove, New York
Seattle Popcorn Company – Seattle, Washington
Beater Blade – New Duncansville, Pennsylvania
Aerobie AeroPresse – Palo Alto, California
Ritrovo Italian Importers – Burien, Washington
India Tree spices – Seattle, Washington

Monday, November 12, 2012

5 Reasons to Buy a Roasting Pan

RSVP Hercules Roasting Pan Set
My grandmother used to cook our Thanksgiving turkey in a disposable tinfoil “pan” bought in a 5-pack for $2 at the local grocery store. The turkey cooked in this pan for 4 or more hours getting nice and dry while a grease and gristle pooled around it. The result was a bird with dry breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, and an backside soaked with grease and gristle. 

My family ate it and loved it, but it doesn’t have to be this way for everyone. 

Today’s roasting pans run the gamut from basic to fancy, but all generally do the same job: they cook turkey well. Here are 5 reasons you need to buy a turkey roasting pan now for this Thanksgiving:

  • Air circulation. This is the secret to any perfectly browned, perfectly cooked turkey. A roasting pan allows convection air to circulate in and around every nook and cranny of your turkey. It cooks quickly, evenly, and your bird gets a perfect all-over tan. 

  • Fat. Turkey is pretty lean. In fact, it’s one of the lowest fat (saturated and other) meats out there. But if your turkey is sitting in a pit of grease, you’ll be adding on unnecessary and unhealthy calories to your meal. With a roasting pan, the grease grips off and away from the turkey into the pan. Save those greasy calories for your famous turkey gravy. 

  • Basting. If you’re an anti-brine kind of person, you’ll probably be doing a lot of basting. And, just like reason No. 1, you may not want your turkey just sitting in your basting sauce. A roasting pan keeps your turkey up and away from that murky bath. 

  • Versatility. A roasting pan isn’t just for thanksgiving. It’s for, well, roasting. That could be lasagna, a rack of lamb, potatoes, pork ribs – anything. It’s the perfect vessel for even cooking any meal. Not only that, you can hop your roasting pan up on the range and use the drippings to make roux or gravy.

  • Easy clean up. When you’re done with that turkey or that slab of oven-baked macaroni and cheese, your roasting pan cleans up with the touch of a sponge. If not nonstick, most modern roasting pans are anodized, making them a breeze to clean up. No more roasted-on grease, cheese, or whatever. 

Ditch those disposable tinfoil pans and treat you and your family to a high quality roasting pan for Thanksgiving. We recommend the RSVP Hercules Roasting & Lasagna Pan (includes rack). Shop all our roasting pans and racks here: