How to Cook without a Non Stick Part 2

13 March 2021

Andrew Bluett-Duncan

This week I'm continuing and concluding the "two part essay" (not sure that's the correct term, but it has a nice ring to it) that Babette wrote some time ago on "Cooking Without Non Stick Coatings". But before I do, I'd like to thank you very much for all the support that you are giving us, in either reading this email and or responding to it, and in still buying from us despite the shops being closed. I'm very aware that it would be very easy to go elsewhere, not least down the Amazon route, that is now such a dominant retail force, so my sincere thanks for sticking with me and us through this very odd time. In fact, sticking with us so much that we've just had our best ever February in turnover terms.

I'll give you some figures to set the context of "best ever". As a company we'd budgeted to take £170k in February this year (although it might be said that budgeting in our current circumstances is all bit useless!), and we ended up taking £200k, which I find a quite staggering when I consider that our three shops are closed for conventional retail business and only open for Click and Collect (in the case of Reigate and Cobham) 1 day a week. To achieve these lofty figures, which wouldn't have happened without your support, everyone who was working in the Banstead shop has been seconded to the website, which we are currently running from there. We've brought in others as well from elsewhere in the business, as the need arose, to cope with the workload.

With such figures I'm occasionally tempted to think "why bother with retail shops!" Well worry not, there are a couple of very good reasons why we should maintain our shops. Firstly, my name would be mud, quite possibly with you, and if not you, then with a large proportion of the people who frequent our three shops. They would, I believe be, up in arms if we didn't reopen them, and you know this actually would include me, I'm a bricks and mortar retailer at heart. But there's also another very powerful economic reason. I'll explain.

To attract and acquire customers to the websites they need to be enticing, easy to navigate and provide lots of information about us and the products we sell. But in a very overcrowded internet space, full of many millions of other websites, how do we get to put "Art of Living" or "The Riedel Shop" (our Riedel specialist website) in front of you? Part of the mix of tools we use to "peddle our wares", are Google (and Bing) Pay Per Click (PPC)adverts. This is a very clever system of ads that appear at the top and bottom of the Google/Bing search page results. So our ads (in this example, let's take Le Creuset) will appear at the top of the page when you have done a Le Creuset search, and the ad will match as close as possible, the search criteria you put in. You then click on the ad, which goes straight through to our website and at that point we are charged anywhere between a few pence to over a £1 per click for the opportunity your presence allows us, which is usually, to sell you something.

However, if you and 50 others like you don't buy, that has just cost us £50 for no return. Fear not because over time we build up a statistical picture of buying and browsing patterns, and thus we can ensure that if an ad is not bringing the relevant people to us, we switch it off. But the clever thing about this is that Google allow us to see exactly how much we paid for you to click through to our website, and whether you actually bought from us or just looked around. And as we know this for every click, we can therefore set our bids (amounts we are prepared to pay) appropriately for products of very different value. Very simple idea, very cleverly executed and all comfortingly Orwellian...

Now as good as this PPC system is, it is a considerable expense (that is an understatement) that Bricks and Mortar shops simply don't have. And the other expense that shops don't have are delivery charges. And these two together make a whacking great hole in the gross profit that we make online, as opposed to the one achieved in a conventional shop (a reduction in excess of 50% in fact). Now, I don't know if we are typical in finding websites very expensive to run, but I suspect we are not alone and quite apart from the long term agreements that most bricks and mortar retailers sign with their landlords. To rent a shop unit for 5-10 years typically (and they are not things that you can get out of very easily!), it seems to me that with the number of factors I have just discussed, conventional retail will be pretty healthy for quite a long time yet. Thanks again for your support in whatever form it's come in.

Ok onto Babette's "take 2" on cooking without non-stick coatings.

She continues...
Sauciers and Sauté Pans
Generally start on medium/medium high temperature, with some oil and/or butter, and observe what is happening in your pan. If the food starts to stick reduce the heat. In some cases, for instance if I start a chicken pie, brown a few onions, then a bit of bacon, (if the bacon was honey cured, the sugar content might make the food stick), sweat some leeks, then add butter and flour, often this combination starts sticking. No panic, just reduce the heat, and as I add liquid to make the sauce, it will naturally deglaze the pan, and all those bits of browned food have become pearls of flavour which add taste to the whole dish.

You can also use the saucier to melt chocolate directly on the hob. Use the smallest amount of heat possible, and check with your hand that you can still touch the pan body (yes, I know, but remember that chocolate melts in our mouth, hence at body temperature). If it gets too hot to the touch, it would be too hot and will "separate" your chocolate, but on a low setting, the 7 ply of the Demeyere pans allows for the chocolate to be melted without a bain-marie.

Saucepans and Casseroles
If you have some Demeyere Atlantis saucepans, then we might have told you that you can cook in them with a minimum of water, like just a few tablespoons of water. You can do that because the base of the pans is so thick and the lids fit so well that you do not lose any of the water content of the ingredients. This means that your vegetables are even more delicious than if you had steamed them, really worth doing. To do this, put your rinsed vegetables in your saucepan, add ½ inch to 1 inch of water, put on the hob and wait for the water to boil, put the lid on and reduce the heat by half. If you see some steam escape from the pan, reduce the heat further.

Frying pans: when we have used only medium heat in a pan, the cleaning is very easy. The pans will wash well in the dishwasher, or with a sponge or scourer with washing up liquid.

But having used higher temperatures this isn't always the case. So first, deglaze the pan. On a medium heat, add liquid. Actually, with most food, I always deglaze the pan sometimes with just water, but often white wine or stock. I then use one of my small spatulas to gently help the welded bits to come unstuck, creating a JUS in the process which will either be poured on the meat or used as the base for a more elaborate sauce. The pan then looks almost clean long before it get to the washing up bowl!

If we have either burnt food or use very high temperature with oil, like when I recently fried some aubergines wedges for a Korean recipe that our youngest has just taught me, the food or the oil can appear welded to the pan. So in this case I am not trying to make something out of the deposits, but I still first clean the pan by added water and scraping most of it off. Then with stubborn oil deposits, I use the Demeyere cream cleaner with a strong scourer, I particularly like the copper cloth we stock. Do NOT use that baby on a "non-stick" pan but they work a dream on a stainless steel finish (and on steel or uncoated cast iron for that matter) If I burn food at the bottom of a saucier, saucepan or casserole/sauté then good old soaking is the thing to do. One of the beauties of Demeyere is the finish of its stainless steel (patented Silvinox), it means that even when we burn food, the pan will come back as new.

A Warning
Leaving a pan unattended on high heat is not a good thing to do. One, you create a fire risk, and in extreme cases you may distort the base or body of the pan. I have only seen this happen twice in the last 25 years. In one case, someone had left a Christmas pudding steaming in their saucepan at high temperature and left the house. On returning 3 hours later, the pan base had significantly bowed. In the other it was the same kind of scenario with a stockpot.

Marks left after cleaning
When your pans have been washed, they can sometimes have white marks, or blue marks. The white marks are a deposit of the mineral salts present in a lot of food, particularly mushrooms or meats, the blue tinge ones are a natural reaction of well-cooked starchy food on stainless steel.

Both of these situations are easily cleaned, without any elbow grease, by adding a little bit of either lemon juice or vinegar to your pan. The blue tinges disappear on contact, the white marks might need you to gently rub the lemon or vinegar with a sponge or washing up brush.

If you find all this is a bit daunting, I have just started to offer 1 to 1 cooking classes and learning how to use uncoated pans is a skill I'm happy to teach. My details are on our website under Cook School.

If by chance you didn't get last week's email then here's a link to the first bit of Babette's thoughts on Cooking without a non stick coating. 

Ok well that's it for today. I was going to talk to you about the new Le Creuset water bottles that we've just had delivered, but all the stock is in Banstead, so you wouldn't be able to click and collect from any of the shops over the weekend and it doesn't look as though the over worked web team have got them on the website yet either (oh yes we have!), so I'll leave them till next week.

I trust you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.

Kind regards


Andrew Bluett-Duncan

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