Since Man discovered fire, humanity has prized a piping hot meal. Few things are quite as comforting or whet the appetite quite as much as steaming hot food. Of course, we have come a long way since those early days of cooking over an open flame. These days, we have plenty of ways to cook hot food. Here is an inventory of some of the more interesting ways and Inside’s take on them.
For Golden Brown Goodness - Deep Frying versus Air Frying
If you are a lover of deep fried foods, the advent of the deep fryer must have been cause for cheering. There are several models and brands in the market, including those from Iona, Tefal, Delonghi, Europace, and Philips which can be found in major home appliance stores. They range between S$49.90 and S$299.
Deep fryers usually feature a food basket that can be lowered into the oil. Of course, instead of a deep fryer, you can choose to deep fry food in a pot of oil. But the deep fryer helps control the timing, heat and amount of oil more accurately, ensuring more even browning and better results.
Deep fryers can be divided into three types: deep fryers with lockable lids, those without and those with rotary fryers (the food basket rotates). The deep fryers with lockable lids are preferred because they prevent oil splatter, keep the smell in and are safer to use. On the minus side, they have more parts and are harder to clean than those without lids. The deep fryers with rotary fryers use less oil because the food is rotated in the oil and so also takes less time to heat up. But they are more expensive.
A new cousin to the deep frying appliance family is the Philips Viva Collection Airfryer HD9220 that can also be bought from major appliance stores. Depending on where you buy it, the price can be anything between S$289 and S$409. This contraption is the upgraded version of the deep fryer. Working on a patented rapid air technology, the air fryer cooks the food with a combination of hot air and a grill component and requires no more than a tablespoon of oil. Philips says it is 80 per cent healthier than food cooked using its deep fryer). As a bonus, the Philips Airfryer also roasts, grills and bakes.
On the minus side, the air fryer can only deal with dry food items. Forget beer-battered fish, tempura (Japanese battered seafood or vegetables) and goreng pisang (banana covered in batter and deep fried). The batter will simply stick to the basket. What it can manage are breaded items.
If you are a hard core deep fried food fan, go for the deep fryer with a rotary fryer. They give the best results and are slightly less unhealthy because they use less oil. If you are a reformed deep fried food fan, invest in the healthier but more limited air fryer, although the oven can do most of what it can, too.
For the Busy People - Pressure Cooking versus Slow Cooking
One-pot dishes – everything in a pot - are gifts the culinary genies have bestowed to busy people who still want hot, home-cooked meals. For stewing, braising, simmering and brewing one-pot delights, the regular pot can do the job. But there are two other kitchen appliances that can make the job much easier – the pressure cooker and the slow cooker.
The pressure cooker, which can be found in Courts and Harvey Norman, is a pot that comes with a heavy lid that seals in the cooking so no air or liquid can escape below a pre-set pressure. It costs between S$164 and S$299 depending on the brand. The pressure cooker works faster than the regular pot because it cooks the food with water vapour trapped within and water vapour transfers heat more rapidly - perfect for making stews and soups because the food will not dry out. It is also more energy efficient.
Then, there is the slow cooker, a counter-top pot that uses very low heat to cook food immersed in liquid. They are cheaper; you can get one for under S$30. The slow cooker works much like the pressure cooker except that it does so much more slowly, taking anything between eight to ten hours. Its advantage is that it can be left unattended because it uses such low heat. There is no fear of over-cooking the food either. If you don’t want to watch the pot while you cook, the slow cooker is the better kitchen partner.
No Small Fry
Apart from the pot, the pan is probably the most used cookware in the kitchen. There are many types of pans, each catering to a different cooking style and different budgets. Some can cost under S$20 and others as much as a few hundred dollars.
The Chinese regularly stir fry their food. This involves tossing the food in oil in a wok continually till the food is cooked. The wok (a tapered, round-bottom pan) is preferred because it allows only a small amount of food to be in closest contact with the heat source at any one time, preventing over-cooking. The French have a different type of frying – sauté, which is frying food cut into small pieces. This calls for a sauté pan that has a flat base; deep, straight sides and usually a lid. The regular all-purpose frying pan for frying, searing and browning also has a flat bottom but its sides are curved and shallow to facilitate easy flipping of the food.
Then, there is the double-sided pan, literally two pans made into one. This allows you to shut the double-sided pan and flip it so the food cooks well on both sides. Since the food is sealed within the pan, there are no more oily fumes or lingering smells.
Courts has the Hankook St James Double-sided pan while both Courts and Best Denki carry the Happy Call Double-sided Pan from Korea at S$89. The Hankook is heavier than the Happy Call pan (1.7 kilograms instead of 1.5). But to its credit, the Hankook, unlike the Happy Call pan, has two halves which are detachable, making cleaning easier.
While not ideal, the frying pan can double up and be used to sauté as well as stir-fry. What it cannot really do is contain the fumes and the smell quite like the double-sided pan. So if you have room for only one, then the double-sided pan gets our vote.
With so many options in kitchen appliances, the home chef of today no longer needs to despair when preparing a meal. Simply pop down to any one of the home appliances shops and stock your kitchen with these hot tools of the trade and you will be well on your way to adding a sizzle to your meals.
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