View Full Version : Culinary Bon Vivant - Tier One Cuisine / Gear

01-20-2015, 05:53 PM
Just sat down to a perfectly seared rare/mid-rare dry aged delmonico (hung in my basement for around 30 days) shining with a red wine demi glase over kale and veggies. In my left hand: a well mixed Old Fashioned with home made marachino cherries (http://www.warriortalk.com/showthread.php?120369-DIY-Maraschino-Cherries-Bring-your-Manhattans-amp-Old-Fashioneds-up-a-notch). On my right: my Sig P229 & Benchmade Stryker, left where I'd geared down when I got home. Good tunes on the stereo. "How friggin bon vivant is this?", I asked aloud.

The three F's of the Bon Vivant Tripod are, to me, Fighting, Food, and uhhh... well... you can figure out the rest. The first leg gets plenty of attention here, the second is the subject of this thread, and the third is your bidness, not mine.

My modus operandi for many years has been to find people smarter / better than me at whatever it is that I am interested in, figure out how they do what they do, why they do it that way, and then learn how to do it myself. Thus, I came here for the Fighting part of the tripod. That same methodology has been applied to Food, though, and I figure that I might be in a position to give back a bit to this community by sharing what I've been paying in years of sweat & cash (and a little bit of blood) to learn.

While I am not a professional chef--and I wouldn't be surprised to find one here--I do have what my friends refer to as, 'a special relationship with meat'. Yes, tribe, that is a slow one over home plate, high and outside, just the way you like it.

So, let's begin.

01-20-2015, 06:25 PM
Well played sir, well played.

01-20-2015, 06:31 PM
I'm not gonna say anything about the guy that lasts 30 days ;). I gotta sleep sometime

01-20-2015, 06:37 PM
Tier One Cookware

The case for good gear is easy to make to anyone who has tried to achieve excellence and been held back by cheap / poor tools. The following are a must-have-list of kitchen essentials. Min-qual. Don't have a kitchen without them.

There is a clear theme with the following items: materials matter more than name. We aren't buying a name, we are buying a result. A knife/pan/pot etc. that is well built using the right kinds of material is what we want, regardless of whose name is on it. There are so many good types of steel being made today, that it is hard to go wrong. The same rules that apply to buying your EDC knives can apply here: get something with a good carbon content which will hold an edge.

Kitchen Knives

Chef's Knife - Something between 8"-12", with a full tang, a thick spine, and a non-absorbent handle.

Boning Knife - These should be at least 6" long, have a steep swoop at the tip, and flex well enough that they will give when run hard against a bone.

Paring Knife - 2"-4", with much the same traits as a chef's knife. These can be had extremely cheaply, and can be considered expendable.

Off-set Serrated Utility Knife / High Quality Bread Knife - Get something with quality, scalloped serrations, and a thick spine.

Brands to Consider
Dexter Russell (http://knives.dexter1818.com/) - these are high quality, commercial grade knives, and what you find in many restaurant kitchens (ie the places where they are given hard use and their performance limits are found). They are available with NSF non-absorbent handles, all have thick spines, and will keep a reasonable edge as long as you treat them well. These will accomplish 90% or more of the tasks you ask them to do. You can find examples of these around $30-40.

Wusthof (http://www.wusthof.com/usa/index.jsp)- Easily one of the finest makers coming or going. These are expensive, but are worth every penny. If you are going to splurge on just one knife, make it a Wusthof Chef's or Santoku. With proper care, these will cut like a laser for years and years. With patience, or a good source, a chef's knife can be had for under $100.

Shun (http://shun.kaiusaltd.com/knives)- The Japanese have a long, colorful, and proud history with working steel. If you were ever looking for a way to upgrade a Wusthof, these might be it. Again, choose a common use knife, 8"-12", with a generous curve for dicing, as it will be in your hand the most. Expect to pay at least three digits worth.

Kanetsune (http://www.kanetsune.com/)- Approaching swordcraft quality, these are some of the finest knives made. They hail from Seki, home to one of the largest museums of swords in the world, and also host of one of the few remaining katana forges still working tamahagane steel. These knives are even available from a familiar place (http://www.onesourcetactical.com/cutlery.aspx)... Pricing per the site.

Sabatier (http://www.sabatier-shop.com/)- An old French maker, these knives slide under the radar. For the price, you get perhaps the most knife of any of these listed. I have several, and they are my favorites hanging on my knife rack. The French do food better than just about anyone, and their gear is top knotch.

JA Henckels (http://www.j-a-henckels.com/en-US)- Swimming in the same waters as Wusthof, JA Henckels offers another incredible price::performance ratio as a kind of Off-Broadway brand. This isn't to say that the they are a compromise: the best bread knife I've ever used was one of theirs. These can show up at Tuesday Morning for $40. Buy them.

There are plenty of other makers that turn out excellent knives. Chances are that whoever makes your EDC knife also makes Chef's knives. Why not get a matching set?

John Chambers
01-20-2015, 06:38 PM
If you have a Bon Vivant that lasts longer than four hours...

01-20-2015, 06:40 PM
If you have a Bon Vivant that lasts longer than four hours...

Call Guinness. Btw if you want to give that barw a new home now that you got the prettier sister......

01-20-2015, 07:35 PM
Pots & Pans

An excellent pan has:

the right materials
in large quantity
uniform construction of the pan
a riveted handle of solid material

A crappy pan looks like... ANYTHING YOU SEE AT TARGET etc. Again, we are buying a result, not someone's name. Bobby Flay can go Flay himself.

The Right Materials
Copper. Iron. Steel. Aluminium.

In that order.

The main characteristic we are looking for in a pan material is thermal conductivity and specific heat capacity. Thermal conductivity is how quickly it conducts heat, which in the case of cooking means how quickly it achieves the temperature you are applying to it on your stovetop. The heat capacity is how much energy it takes to raise the material to temperature. Between the two, you get an idea of how responsive a given pan is to the temperature you are setting it at.

Here is the thermal conductivity of many common metals (http://www.engineersedge.com/properties_of_metals.htm). Note the four materials listed above. Copper tips the scales WAY ahead of everyone, twenty five times higher than steel. Copper has 20% lower heat capacity. Taken together, a copper pan will achieve working temperature 30-40 times faster than a steel pan, depending on overall thickness. This is good.

In Large Quantity

As with women, thick is good.

The thicker a pan is, the more evenly it heats. Quantity is important here, because of specific heat. The more material, the longer it takes for the material to adapt to change, and the more evenly the temperature gradient across the material thickness. This means that the part against the flame (you use gas, right? or wood, right?!) and the part against your food have sufficient distance between them as to not scorch your meal.

Uniform Construction

Many cheap makers will provide very thick bottoms to their pans, laminated to the side walls. These are easy to spot: the pan 'sits' on a baseplate of a different kind of material, often very heavy. This sucks. The bottom of the pan will perform very differently than the sides. The pan will de-laminate if exposed to high heat (my father has cored the aluminium out of many a cheap pan by forgetting his coffee water on the stove). The pan won't be as responsive to temperature as something of more uniform construction.

This is a harder case to make outside of experience. Look into your own: how much of a joy is it to cook with a solid dutch oven or cast-iron? These cook so nicely because they are consistently constructed.

Riveted Handle

The classic pot or pan has well riveted handles. These are bomb proof. I've inherited so many pots & pans from grandparents, friends, etc. over the years, and inevitably the main point of failure is the handle. They come loose, they wobble, and sometimes just fall right off. Don't bother.

A real pan has heavy steel or cast iron rivets, two or three, and a handle made of solid steel or cast iron, often with a groove down the center for lightness and increased surface area for cooling.

What You Need

These should all be of stout construction, heavy, and thick enough to make you think "I wonder how many overhand blows till we get to the center of the bad guy's skull?" If you wouldn't consider beating a man to death with them, you shouldn't consider cooking for your family with them, either.

Cast Iron - Everyone should own at least one cast iron. Ten inches is sort of the minimum: anything less struggles to hold more than two or so slices of bacon, and what Warrior Talk member would consider that sufficient?

Bonus points for things extra large or extra small, but honestly, you just need one at 10-12".

Stainless Steel Frypan - The place where stainless really shines is high temperature searing. You can get these guys incredibly hot, much faster than a cast iron, and have more control over them. Further, you can deglaze them better, and can also cook tomatoes in them without problems. Cooking acidic foods in cast iron will strip the natural curing that occurs over time, pulling the oils out. This is much less of an issue for stainless.

Get one, again 10-12", nice and thick, with a good, riveted handle.

Saute Pan - These are, in point of fact, different than a fry pan. Saute means 'to hop' in French, and as compared to the sloped sides of the fry pan, a saute pan has taller, fully vertical walls. This is the same shape as the classic cast iron pan. These need lids, and generally should be stainless steel. You will saute and brown things in these, and then put them in the oven to finish.

Sauce Pans - These run the gamut from small to large, tall to shallow, and everything in between. You will want a small one (~4" in diameter, ~4" deep) and a largish one (~8-10" in diameter, ~6" deep). The small one will be used to make sauces and caramels and meringues, oh my. The larger will be used to saute small batches of goodies, steam veggies, etc.

Dutch Oven - Your grandma had it right. These little babies can cook for two to four people, and turn out nearly any meal imaginable. Cast iron, preferably enameled. A classic, round, 5 quart is a good start. Larger dutch ovens are sometimes a hindrance, as they don't cook well unless full. Ovaline dutch ovens are great to have for roasting chickens and other cuts of meat like a pork shoulder.

Non-stick fry - I keep one, and only one, non-stick pan in the house. There are certain dishes for which a non-stick is essential. Making an omelette is suddenly very easy with a good non-stick pan. As is a good curry. Never use metallic utensils in your non-stick pan, and only ever gently wash them. Hell, I sometimes just simmer some water in mine, then wipe them dry before hanging them back up.

What to Consider Buying

All-Clad (http://www.all-clad.com/) - These guys make the nicest stainless steel pans I have ever used. They are expensive as all hell, but worth every penny. You can find them at Marshalls, TJ Maxx Homegoods, and Tuesday Morning for much, much less. Sometimes you can find a good deal online, too. The main thing with these guys is the incredible consistency of the cooking surface: there are no hot spots. Finally, as if there needed to be more, their finishes are top notch and come clean with as little as boiling a bit of water in them and a wipe down with a sponge.

The D5 series are perhaps the finest stainless pans on the market. Their copper-core line is the only exception I can think of when it comes to laminated construction. My main stainless fry is a copper-core all clad, and it is a thing of beauty.

Tramontina (http://www.tramontina-usa.com/TriPly%20Clad%20-%20Product%20Info.html) - A Brazilian company, Tramontina makes one of the nicer lines of tri-ply stainless cookware on the market. For the money, these are hard to beat. The fit & finish are excellent. Honestly, it is hard to tell them apart from All-Clad when they are on the stove.

Calphalon - They are cheaper than other options, but retain a lot of the functionality. Can't say I love them, but I'd prefer them to just about anything else you can find easily or cheaply.

Le Creuset (http://www.lecreuset.com/) - This French company makes, hands down, the nicest dutch ovens out there. There are other options, but I haven't seen one that cooks as evenly, or whose enamel holds up as long, as a Le Creuset. That said, we are after a strong enamel with a consistent finish that doesn't stick to food, and thick, consistent cast iron. If you find that, buy it.


Copper gets its own heading. This is the Cadillac of cookware. Simply put, if you see copper in someone's kitchen, they either spent a lot of coin to look like they have taste, or they have good taste. These are heirloom pieces, and have price tags to suit. Think of these like beautiful, Tier One women. They are hard to find, and often are expensive, but once you taste the difference, there is no going back.

Copper Clad vs Solid Copper vs Copper Core - People often see the copper color and lose their shit, thinking that the pan clearly must be something special. It probably isn't. Most pans are copper plated, to the tune of micro millimeters. There is just enough there to give your unit a twitch at first glance, but nothing that matters. A copper core can be helpful, but it isn't the same as solid. Solid copper is the holy grail.

Thickness - Not all copper pans are created equally. A United States Treasury five cent nickel is just under 2mm thick. A penny is approximately 1mm thick. Pull one of these out when you are looking at copper cookware, and hold it up to the edge. If it is approximately the same, or thicker than, the nickel, it is 2mm, perhaps 3mm, and is Good To Go. Don't bother with 1mm - they are decorations only, not serious culinary ware.

Lining - Copper isn't healthy to have against food. The Cu ions are very reactive, and will form nasty compounds with a lot of the things we like to eat. A lining is important. There is one, and only one, serious lining for solid copper pans: tin.

Tin and Copper are old bedfellows. The two taken together create bronze, and are responsible for the earliest forms of spears and swords which set off man's earliest age of organized warfare. What is important here is that the two form an amalgam, an alloy, which will never de-laminate. They form a solid piece. And, if you refer to the tables reference earlier, Tin and Copper have almost identical heat properties, meaning that you make no performance sacrifices when you line with tin. Lining with steel has applications, sure, but the whole point of using materials like copper is to have different properties than steel, so why mess that up?

What to Buy

There are two big names in copper cookware, and a few smaller guys. The same rules apply here as with other cookware: thick, heavy, riveted, with cast iron handles. This is where you will sink a lot of coin. It is worth it, trust me.

Mauviel (http://www.mauvielusa.com/Mauviel-Cookware.html) - Based out of Normandy, France, these guys make some of the finest gear around. Fit & finish would blow your mind.

Ruffoni (http://www.ruffoni.net/ruffoni2/eng/index.asp) - Rome. Italy. The Italians can be relied on to do a few things, one of which is to add a little art to whatever they touch. Ruffoni has peerless lines, and is incredibly well made.

Baumalu (http://www.gourmet-web.com/BAUMALU-copper-cookware) - Remember how I kept writing that we are buying a result, not a name? These are the result. I don't even know if they have their own website, honestly. What they are: 2mm+ of solid copper, hand tinned lining, cast iron handles with big, fat rivets. They are stamped, and their edges need a bit of love with a file and/or steel wool, but that doesn't impact their behavior on the stove. I've found individual pans at Homegoods for as little as $40, compared to the $300+ of other copper pans, with no real difference in materials.

01-20-2015, 07:58 PM
One note benne on copper pans:

They often ship with a varnish on them to seal the copper against oxidation. This preserves their shiny, eye-catching finish. This varnish will bake onto the metal if you bring them to temperature before removing it. Use acetone, or preferably, boil them in baking soda for 10-20 minutes to remove the varnish.

01-20-2015, 09:13 PM
Glad to learn that I own good pans and knives! Interesting thread, thank you!

01-20-2015, 09:36 PM
JA Henckels, Calphalon and a 12" Lodge iron skillet (w/ lid)... I'm even more bon vivant that I thought!

01-21-2015, 12:00 PM
Great post! Very helpful to someone who wants good stuff but isn't an expert. Thanks!

Custom II
01-23-2015, 12:41 PM
Looks like I'm gonna need to upgrade my T FAL cookware. Lol...

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

01-23-2015, 09:26 PM
If you wouldn't consider bashing a guy's head in with it, it isn't suited to feed your family. I'm stealing this!

I tend to be cast iron man from way back.

01-24-2015, 10:43 AM
care to divulge any secrets to aging your own meat? any books that would cover it in detail? Mostly interested in your temperature control, if it's a fridge or cellar or what.

I hang my own wild game but only for a few days as I butcher a couple of hours each night. Open the garage door at night and close it during the day, around the bullet wounds can get a little green depending on temps.

01-24-2015, 11:46 AM
care to divulge any secrets to aging your own meat? any books that would cover it in detail? Mostly interested in your temperature control, if it's a fridge or cellar or what.

I hang my own wild game but only for a few days as I butcher a couple of hours each night. Open the garage door at night and close it during the day, around the bullet wounds can get a little green depending on temps.

Started a new thread about this, as there's quite a bit to tell.

01-26-2015, 07:02 PM
Great thread, thanks

Sent from the TACC OPS Center

01-30-2015, 08:45 PM
Looks like I'm gonna need to upgrade my T FAL cookware. Lol...

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Honestly, T-Fal makes a decent non-stick. But, as stated above, I keep only one non-stick pan around. There's only a few things that I make with it, namely omelettes & curries, and that's just about it. These things wear out far more rapidly than sturdier cookware made of more durable materials, the market is so saturated with 'adequate' makers, and the usage profile so slim that I don't really stress too much about these. I just treat them as disposable: used until worn out & flaking, then replaced.

The main point isn't that non-stick is useless, but that it's high performance / high return tasks are limited, and there are many, better options for most things.

After simmering some water in them, a little bit of Bon Ami (http://www.bonami.com/index.php/products/powder_cleanser/) or Barkeeper's Friend (http://www.barkeepersfriend.com/) on Stainless Steel or Tin (your copper pans are tin lined, right? You have copper pans, RIGHT?!), and you'll be amazed how quickly they clean up.

02-03-2015, 09:56 PM
Excellent thread so far, a few bits to add, primarily about knife care:

- Sharpen your knives! While I use Shun and Takeda, even cheap knives are worth sharpening. I was stunned at how nice my girlfriend's $15 santoku cut after I ran it through the Lansky. Sure it won't hold an edge as well as good steel, but it makes a radical difference.

- A "sharpening steel" is often misused, it is to be used on the edge of a soft knife that has folded over rather than worn down or broken off, and never on a hard steel Japanese knife! Bang one all over a $300 Takeda like they do on TV and you will chip the hell out of it.

- A good cutting board, I prefer wood. I'm not sure why glass cutting boards even exist. Hard materials are hell on delicate edges, as are bones.

- The trend seems to be people switching from German steel (thicker, heavier, softer) to Japanese steel (thinner, lighter, harder). That's not to say German steel is bad in any way, but it's worth considering before you invest in it. It's similar to the choice between a hatchet and machete.

- Don't buy too many knives! (Or pans, beware of the large sets of both). You're probably only going to use 3-4 of them no matter how many you have, you're better off with 3 $300 knives than 9 $100 knives.

- A good range, which can be the most crucial piece and also horrendously expensive. It is frustrating to have one that burns rice on it's lowest setting and can't put out enough heat on it's highest setting (my stove). You can preheat a heavy cast iron pan all you want, but when you throw 4 lbs of meat in it you won't get a good sear on the second side after it soaks all the heat up and the burner can't keep up. It is equally frustrating to have one with such a wide range that isn't useful and makes it overly sensitive (girlfriend's stove). It starts to burn something on setting 8, bump it down to setting 7 and it stops cooking almost completely.

- Finally, good ingredients/seasonings! If you are just learning how to cook I'd almost advise doing nothing other than choosing any meat and any vegetable and cooking each with quality olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. It is hard to screw up, will taste excellent, and will let you learn how to grill/sauté/bake/steam them properly.

palm farmer
02-06-2015, 08:12 PM
Green Egg.