If my first article on dog training didn’t clue you in, I’m not one to write red pill critiques of modern society or takedowns of post 3rd wave feminism. I’m “basic.” I live my life trying to squeeze the most fun out of it. Consequently, I have a bunch of hobbies and one of my favorites is cooking. It’s a great hobby for those who like entertaining. It’s practical and you get to eat healthy and delicious food.
All men should know how to cook. Long gone are the days of Suzie Homemaker having a roast with all the fixings waiting for her man when he gets home from the office. For those of us who don’t have nightly meals prepared by a traditional Russian dime-piece, we have to fend for ourselves every now and then.
Speaking of dime-pieces, let’s not forget that a delicious meal is and will always be a great panty access tool. Girls and delicious food—what more does a man need in life?
Hopefully this and future articles will help bring your cooking to a new level. To get started, the following are three items that I consider essential to a truly masculine cook.
1. Dutch Oven
The Dutch oven is by far my favorite cooking accessory. Life does not get better than sitting around a campfire after a long day of fishing or hiking with the aroma of slow cooked meat and vegetables wafting under your nose.
A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight fitting lid. Traditionally, they are made of cast iron, but can be made of other materials like ceramic. You can even find light-weight aluminum models for backpacking. For over-the-fire cooking, you will need cast iron. They are thick, sturdy, and the iron retains heat well. Aluminum gets too hot too fast and unless you are hyper-vigilant, you will burn your food. Dutch ovens come in different sizes which allow for stacked cooking of multiple dishes.
Dutch ovens are highly versatile instruments capable of cooking like a stovetop or, like its namesake, baking and roasting like an oven. Their lids are typically concave on the underside, allowing you to use it on coals as a griddle. Additionally, their large size allows you to cook for a group of people and make you the hit of the campground.
Lodge is the most prominent producer of Dutch ovens and the industry standard. Go to any Dutch oven cooking competition and everybody will be cooking with a stack of Lodges. An 8-quart size, which is a whole lot of oven, costs $80 on Amazon. If you just want to make try recipes at home in your oven consider shelling out for a ceramic Le Creuset oven.
I was lucky enough to get a custom cast MACA before they went out of business. MACA was a Utah-based foundry that began casting furnace linings. Recognizing the similarities in shape to Dutch ovens, they added feet the linings and began making Dutch ovens. MACAs are thicker than Lodges so heat slower and retain heat longer, therefore reducing burning. If you can find one on eBay or craigslist, they are well worth the investment.
The sky is the limit when it comes to recipes. One of my favorites is a simple and delicious roast. Place the oven over hot coals and sear a piece of seasoned meat, add your favorite vegetables, put the lid on and move the coals (either store bought or from the fire) to a 1/3 underneath-2/3 on the lid combination. A can of cream of mushroom soup added halfway through cooking mixes with the drippings to produce a creamy gravy.
After a hard night of drinking whiskey and singing campfire songs, a simple breakfast casserole is sure to make you the most popular man at camp. Cook your favorite breakfast meat over direct heat (I like a mixture of diced bacon and kielbasa). Add onions, peppers and whatever other vegetables you have lying around and cook until tender. Add diced bread, shredded cheese and enough beaten egg to coat. Don’t forget seasoning. Switch the coals to the 1/3 under-2/3 over combination until cooked through.
2. Cast Iron Pan
The key to cast iron is seasoning the metal correctly (and keeping it seasoned). If you are using a new pan or Dutch oven, scrub the factory applied protective wax off with soapy water, dry and coat with a thin layer of oil. I like avocado oil due to its high smoke point, but generic canola oil will work too.
Place upside down in a 450-500 degree oven with foil underneath to catch any drips and bake for 30 minutes. Now that your iron is seasoned, try to wash it with just hot water and a cloth. Use mild soap (not detergent) if you really mess it up. The more fatty foods you cook in it, the more it will get seasoned. Try to avoid acidic foods like tomatoes when breaking in a new pan. If it starts looking dry, rusty, or beat up, re-season as above.
3. Meat Grinder
Is there a more quintessential American food than the hamburger? I love them. Call me old fashioned, but I like my burger to come from a single animal. I am also not a fan of eating pink slime ammonia or picking up a case of Mad Cow Disease. The solution to these problems is to grind your own meat.
As there is almost always some cut of meat on sale below the price of prepackaged ground beef, it is also a price-conscious meal. Grinding your own meat gives you burgers that taste like beef, not freezer-burned fat scraps. If you are being health conscious, go pick up a turkey breast for $2 less a pound than that pack of Jennie-O with unknown origins and make homemade turkey burgers. Also, if you ever plan on hunting, a meat grinder is essential for processing game.
I never had luck with specialized electric grinders. My recommendations are either an old school hand-grinder or a Kitchenaid tilt head mixer and grinder attachment. Hand-grinders are cheap, durable, compact, and have that certain old school appeal. I have found that my arm can crank harder than a compact electric motor as well. A new grinder runs about $30 new at kitchen stores and supermarkets.
The downsides are a sore arm and the singular purpose. Due to the slow speed, after a few pounds of meat, hand-grinders often get fat wrapped around the blade and have to be cleaned before continuing. Putting cubed meat in the freezer for half an hour before grinding helps reduce this.
On the other hand, I have yet to find a piece of meat my Kitchenaid and grinder attachment can’t handle. It’s a beast with rpms that just spits out ground meat. I can put five pounds of fatty chuck through it without any build up around the blade. There is also a stuffing and extruding attachment available for sausage making.
The downside is the expense, about $300 for the mixer and $50 for the grinder attachment. However, Kitchenaid makes quality machines that will last you many years. They also have the advantage of versatility of being a standing mixer. If you are grinding your own meat, you might as well pick up a dough hook and make your own whole wheat and flax meal buns while you are at it, right?
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