Dull knives. It’s the single biggest problem in home kitchens. The. Single. Biggest. Problem. It’s the main reason cooking seems more difficult than it should be. And I’ll say this again, too. Guys and girls, the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give your lover/cook, get his/her knives professionally sharpened or buy a good sharpener. Again: Nothing says “I love you” like a really sharp knife. I get mine—I use Wusthof, btw—professionally sharpened at a wet-grind sharpening place, and OpenSky found this astonishingly effective and easy-to-use sharpening “stone,” called the DMT Sharpening Stone. (It’s not really a stone, but rather a patented diamond-dust coated perforated steel sheet on rubber; see video below.) If you have to saw on a lemon rind to get the cut started, your knife is dull. Dull knives force you to Read On »

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ABC has a regular feature called “Made in America,” which praises small businesses that make goods here. Advertisers have found that “Made in the USA” is a powerful marketing device. I myself have a feel-good response to anything made in this country. But what does it really mean? How critical is it? Steve Jobs said point-blank, and to the president, about manufacturing Apple products in China, “Those jobs are gone and they aren’t coming back.” Full stop. (Anyone interested in business and innovation, btw, should read Walter Isaacson’s riveting biography of Jobs.) New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman makes the point regularly that the way to energize the U.S. economy is not by creating legions of workers who can put a glass screen onto an iPad faster and cheaper than they can in China, but Read On »

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Was it two years ago? Three? Donna and I had people over on New Year’s Day and an old high school friend, Mac Dalton, said, “Michael, I gotta show you what I do. I make things. What do you want to make?” “This,” I said, standing at my stove, and held up a spoon I’d awkwardly bent for basting. “I can make that,” he said. And he did. Chef Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern picked it this year as one of his holiday gift ideas for Food & Wine. I love these spoons. They’re elegant just to have in your hand. We immediately started to make more useful kitchen tools. Here’s our whole catalogue, available on my site. Another thing happened. I’d partnered with OpenSky, an Internet commerce site that finds really cool products, sends Read On »

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  Kitchen tools need not be expensive to be valuable. The above Benriner mandoline is one of my most valued kitchen tools for uniform slicing, julienning, and making brunoise (a julienne turned into a dice). By far my most valuable electric device in my kitchen is the hand blender—I use Braun that seems to be unavailable, but I bought this Cuisinart version for my mom  ($47) and it works well—these devices all do the job of pureeing soups and sauces, easy whisking, quick mayonnaise, and I make vinaigrettes in the cup attachment, which will even emulsify a great Caesar dressing will pureeing the garlic. Every kitchen needs a scale, the most reliable way of measuring, especially if you’re baking (which is why more cookbooks are including, if not leading with, metric weights, as does the ground-breaking Bouchon Bakery cookbook—another Read On »

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It’s time again for my picks for the big-ticket items, those expensive appliances and pots that are game changers, but real investments. I’ve just started a relationship with Le Creuset, the company that makes the best enameled cast-iron cookware on earth. My go-to pot is the 7-quart Dutch Oven (they’re made in France and the company wants me to call them French ovens, which I find interesting since there really should no longer be a nationality attached to the thing; my preferred name for this one is “My Favorite Pot”). It’s what I bought my beloved Dad long ago; now, sadly, I have two of them. My other favorite is the braiser, the everyday pot in which you can cook just about anything. (Here’s one of the videos we did, where I use this pot Read On »

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