In this edition of Dear TMH I address concerns over nonstick cookware and provide a reader-requested report on my Mad Men party. Want me to test out a recipe or a cleaning tactic you’ve heard about? I’ll do that, too. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a note in the comments.
My glass baking dish bit the dust recently and I went to Target for a replacement. I was just about to buy a metal nonstick pan when I had second thoughts. Wasn’t using nonstick cookware possibly dangerous?
The short answer is no, especially when it comes to baking. Good Housekeeping has a fantastic article about nonstick cookware safety, and DuPont, the maker of Teflon, is refreshingly candid answering questions about the safety of its coating.
Here’s what you need to know: Nonstick cookware is perfectly safe to use as long as the pans don’t reach temperatures higher than 500 degrees F for a prolonged period of time. You’ll never be using baking pans at that temperature. Pans on the stove can reach temperatures higher than 500 degrees pretty quickly, especially thin pans under high heat. (Good Housekeeping tested different pans under different cooking scenarios.) That’s why thicker pans are best and it’s important to never leave an empty pan over a flame. Oil begins to smoke somewhere between 350 and 450 degrees (depending on the type), so that keeps you out of the danger zone.
How did the rest of the Mad Men party buffet go? A hit, I hope? I am sure your readers would like a full report; I know I would.
I held off on writing more about the party because I imagined people were tired of hearing about it. If there are requests, I’m happy to indulge.
The party was a tremendous success in every aspect. I did a lot of planning beforehand, and cooked about half the food the day before, so getting ready the day of the party wasn’t so stressful.
The most challenging dish we served was the oysters Rockefeller. I didn’t want to shuck dozens of oysters during the party, so I had them pre-shucked at the fish market. Of course, once they were opened they had to be cooked and served promptly.
The pineapple-glazed ham was fantastic, and probably my favorite dish of the night. I’ll be using that recipe for any ham I bake in the future. The hardest part was actually buying the ham in the first place. Grocery stores don’t usually carry ham during non-holiday times, and I drove around to six different stores looking for one to buy.
The pineapple-upside down cake was also a big hit. I put it out on the counter near the end of the party and people were hacking off pieces. It was gone in about 15 minutes.
I was also apprehensive about mixing up batches of old fashioneds and martinis to make my bartending job easier, but that worked well, too.
I think the keys to a good party are to be ambitious, yet reasonable, and to have a good plan of attack. My wife and I eliminated some labor-intensive dishes (like meatballs) that weren’t mandatory to make our cooking jobs easier. Then we had our day scheduled down to the minute and we worked hard to stick to the plan.