The Education of a Home Cook: This Week’s Tips


Artwork by award-winning, Wisconsin artist, Jamie Heiden; used with permission.

It doesn’t take much to convince me that farmers work hard.  Within the past ten months or so I’ve toured a family owned and operated dairy farm where a couple hundred cows need to be milked every day.  Every day means every day — through a snow storm, below zero-face-stinging-toe-numbing-arctic temperatures, a tornado advisory; even on Christmas.  The health and happiness of these cows are given top priority by the farmers who are determined to take care of the land without the use of pesticides and bring us (home cooks and our families) good milk, cheese and ice cream.

More recently, I had the opportunity to interview a Master Butcher as part of an article I’m writing for a local women’s magazine.  We talked mostly about what it means to run a small farm: the back-breaking work, the long hours; but also about the genuine concern and respect these farmers have for the animals they choose (at great financial cost to them) to raise in a humane way.  The result is a flavorful cut of meat, the origins of which the consumer knows.

Hard work reaps fine rewards.  Whether on the farm or in your kitchen, sometimes taking that extra step, having to wash that extra pot, will lead us to good food that we’ve created with our own hands.  There are, however, ways to make our lives in the kitchen easier.

Which leads me to the first home cook tip of the week: let’s get a good digital thermometer so we know exactly when that delicious grass-fed cut of meat is cooked to absolute perfection!  As luck would have it, in this month’s issue of Cook’s Country magazine (a publication of the America’s Test Kitchen), digital thermometers were rated and I have the Top model as well as the Best Buy for you respectively:

Thermoworks ChefAlarm Model – TX1100 at $59 and Polder Classic Digital Thermometer/Timer Model – THM-362-86RM at $24.99  These thermometers are hands-free. Perfect for making candy and fresh buttercream frosting as well!

And, because I am continuing to have great luck with Marcella Hazan’s recipes from her cookbook: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, I need to share my latest lesson learned and last tip for this post: When you’ve grilled your T-Bone steak to your liking, (and while it’s still on the grill) rub a crushed clove of garlic on the bone.  This will give your steak a gentle taste of garlic and an amazing aroma will fill the air.  Then once you’ve moved your steak onto a plate, drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil.  Do not put olive oil on your steak before grilling as “the scorched oil imparts a taste of tallow to the meat…”  — Marcella Hazan, from her recipe “La Fiorentina –Grilled T-Bone Steak, Florentine Style.

And always, sit back, relax and enjoy a good meal with great company.


2 thoughts on “The Education of a Home Cook: This Week’s Tips

  1. These are great tips, thank you! I usually put olive oil on the steak before cooking, now I won’t!! And I do need a thermometer, someone (who will remain unnamed, but let’s just say it isn’t me) who grills in our house has a tendency to wander off, look at the birds, the plants, someone to talk to, and we end up with waaaay overcooked food. I need a thermometer which has a wristband attachment that gives gentle electric shocks as a reminder that you are in fact, grilling. My ever-so-sweet and tender gentle reminders yelled from the kitchen window aren’t seeming to do the trick. 🙂


    • You are welcome! No one should have to suffer like that! I, on the other hand, tend to under cook things, but no more I tell you! I just bought my first digital in-oven thermometer — the Polder Best Buy and feel free already (to look at the birds, talk with the neighbors)!


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