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March 1999 Issue
The Mean, Dirty, Awful, Nasty Truth About Electric Skillets
by Chris Schaefer
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Perhaps you have buried it in the basement somewhere. Or maybe it's in some lower cabinet or cupboard well away from where it could be used most effectively. Or maybe you received it as a wedding gift years ago and now your son or daughter has it up at school with them. Either way, you have probably seen the dreaded and under-appreciated yet highly misunderstood Electric Skillet.

What is it? Where did it come from? What good is it anyhow?! Well, dear reader, let me unveil to you the truth behind the electric skillet.

In this article, as well as for the next few months’ worth of articles, I plan on exposing the truth and the common uses to some of our most popular and needed household electric appliances. Coffee makers, bread machines, electric griddles, hotpots -- and the list goes on. If there is a particular item you would like me to write about, I would ask that you please email here at Seasoned Cooking soon.

This month, we will delve into the mysteries behind the electric skillet. The idea for this article came from a little experience I had with Pork and Pepper Gumbo. I was watching a cooking show, absolutely enthralled and captivated behind the science of making a roux, when I decided that I would make the gumbo from the show that night for dinner. While cooking, I saw that I was primarily using my skillet to prepare the major components. As you can tell, natural progression at its best.

The electric skillet comes in various sizes, colours, and coverings. Oblong, square, perhaps circular. But the beauty of these appliances does not lie only in shape, but in their range of functionality. They are a very interesting appliance as they can be used to cook many, many different type of foods. For example, scroll down to the end of the article for the Pork and Pepper Gumbo I mentioned above.

In addition to the Pork and Pepper Gumbo, I've included a VERY special, and very traditional Gumbo form the memories of a good crazy Cajun friend of mine. He made me promise that I would spell out the recipe exactly word for word and to encourage no one to fiddle with the recipe while attempting to make it.

What to Look For When Purchasing an Electric Skillet
Let's assume that you no longer have or never have had an electric skillet. Keep these items in mind to help aid you in your purchasing decision.

  1. How large of a skillet will I need? How much counter-top space do I have to play with? Will I have room to store it?

  2. Does it have a non-stick cooking surface?

  3. Is the cover and handle functional and ergonomic?

  4. What is its shape? Is it easy to get in and out of with a spatula or spoon?

  5. How long is the cord and plug? Is the plug easy to read and use?
Many stores which sell this appliance will have a demo model or two out so you can answer the above questions more easily. West Bend skillets are a wise purchase in most cases.

How Does a Skillet Work?
Simply, food is cooked from the bottom surface of the skillet upwards and into the food mass. When the cover is employed, some convection occurs, carrying heat to other parts of the food mass.

What Can I Use a Skillet For?
Well, let's look at the components of a gumbo:

  • Roux- an oil/flour mixture.
  • Meat- searing and cooking the flavours of the met into the food mass.
  • Stew- the culmination of many components, sitting and cooking in it's own juices.
Other items: pasta, rice, burgers and other meats, sauces, cakes, and brownies. In other words, an ENTIRE meal can be prepared and cooked at different times in ONE appliance. Pretty neat, huh? Now, some recipes to try with your skillet:

 

Quick Pork and Pepper Rice Gumbo

  • 6 Pork center cut loins, fat and bones removed
  • 2 bell pepper of any colour
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 cup rice, cooked (3 - 4 servings)
  • 2 cups flour, separated
  • 1/2 cup corn oil (or any other oil), separated into tablespoons
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Cajun seasonings and spices of your choice (http://www.cajunspice.com)
Using 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil, warm up the skillet to medium-high or high temp. Lightly bread the meat with seasonings and flour. With tongs, laying the pork cuts AWAY from you, sear the meat. Allow to brown for a minute or so. Remove and set on paper towel to absorb the grease.

With the remaining flavours and oil in the skillet, add an additional tablespoon of oil and reduce heat to a medium-high. Stirring with a wooden spoon constantly, add 1 - 1 1/2 cups flour, slowly and consistently. This is the roux. For lighter flavours and heaviness, stir until a very light brown appears. For increased flavour and body, stir and darken into a chocolate colour or a deep reddish-brown. I would recommend, at this point, unless you are very familiar with making roux, do not take the mixture to anything beyond a deep reddish-brown.

Reduce heat to low and add remaining spices, cooked rice, and water if needs be. Stir slowly. Cut pork into bite-sized pieces. Add vegetables and meat into the stew. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on darkness of roux, serve with a heavily bodied wine.

 

 

Crazy Cajun's Gumbo
By Shawn Reed
  • 1/2 can tomato paste or 1 can whole tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 - 8 chicken breasts, cut to chunks
  • 1 summer sausage, chopped
  • 1 bag okra, frozen
  • 2 cans chicken stock
  • 1 bag frozen shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  1. Make the roux- mix oil and flour together in the skillet, under medium-high heat until browned to a desirable colour.
  2. Move roux to a large mixing/sauce pot and add both cans of chicken stock.
  3. Add tomatoes (paste or whole).
  4. Add onions, garlic, bell pepper.
  5. "While everything is cooking in that big gumbo pot, now is the time to put the okra to work. Throw the okra in a skillet and heat until white balls turn purple (when purple then chuck them into gumbo pot) or until ropiness is gone!"
  6. "While okra is turning purple in a secondary skillet, now is also the time to retrieve a tertiary skillet. In that tertiary skillet cook those chunky chicken pieces until they are as white as a wedding gown. Then throw them in too."
  7. Cook remaining meat products, one at a time, in said tertiary skillet.
  8. "Once everything is finally in that gumbo pot, put the cover on and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes."
  9. While gumbo is cooking, cook some rice and serve that Gumbo over it! Yeeee-haw!!

 



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