The Offset Spatula is the Tool Every Cook Needs

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The small offset spatula is one of those kitchen tools—like a cake tester, bench scraper, or fish spatula—that you may consider unnecessary. But use it once and you’ll love it forever. After you’ve shelled out the $5 for the 4.5-inch workhorse, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t bought one years ago, especially considering that you probably spend that amount on various caffeinated beverages every day.

The mini offset is well-known for creating dramatic whirls of frosting on cakes and cupcakes (and don’t even get me started on the wonders it can work on whipped cream), but it’s also the ideal tool for swooping hummus, smearing butter, jam, and cream cheese, and prying muffins out of their tin. Gentler than a butter knife and with a thin, flexible blade that’s a dream to maneuver, the mini offset has none of the sharp edges that threaten to scuff up a delicate crumb. Its bluntness makes it ideal for running along the sides of a pan quickly and smoothly, a sensation that’s as close to the thrill of driving a sports car through the Italian hills as I’m going to get.

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I bought my own small offset spatula a few years ago, when I was working in a test kitchen where we only had one. (This was madness.) The recipe developers and food stylists would practically fight for it, running to be the first one to the office in the morning so that they could grab it, hold it hostage in their apron pocket, and be the only person who could make beautiful swooshes that day. When I realized I couldn’t bake (or cook!) without it, I got my own. I received my second as a holiday gift when I was working as a pastry cook at a restaurant: The head pastry chef gave each cook an engraved offset so that we’d never be without one (and so that no one could get away with pilfering). We used them to spread cake batter into all of the corners of a pan, to smooth brownies before they went in the oven, and to butter brioche.

At home, I use it as a flipper, turning small pieces of pan-frying tofu and wedges of roast squash, and a forklift, transporting delicate cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack. (And that means I have yet to purchase a cookie spatula which, I’d argue, is much less useful.)

Now I have a roster of small offsets so that I can keep one by my side when I’m food styling and a few in my home kitchen for whenever the time comes (and it always comes).

Yesterday, I used one to pry the top off a small can of paint. Screwdriver? Who needs one!

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The Reverse-Sear Chuck Steak Is the Biggest, Cheapest, and Most Foolproof Steak You’ll Ever Cook

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Basically editor Amiel Stanek spends all day every day trying to help readers get dinner on the table as quick and efficiently as possible. So when he gets to cook at home, he likes to slow things down and be a little…extra. Welcome to Not So Fast, a column about what he’s cooking.

You know what I love? Steak. And you know what else I love? Cooking a big, thick steak for a bunch of my friends, not spending that much money on it, and doing it in such a way that practically guarantees that it turns out a perfect wall-to-wall medium-rare—all without sweating and stressing over the stove. Cool, right?

But, Amiel, you might be thinking to yourself, Steak is expensive! Like, payday-on-my-birthday expensive! And I get hives just thinking about trying to get that internal temperature to sweet perfection!

Well, friend, that’s because you’ve never met the reverse-sear chuck steak. But I’m going to introduce you.

This miracle of a non-recipe relies on two foundational ideas. The first is that, contrary to popular belief, anything can be a steak if you cook it like one. While the cuts of beef in the butcher’s case that are actually labeled “STEAK” tend to be pretty expensive, there are plenty of others that, while traditionally used for braising or slow-roasting, are actually delicious when cooked to a juicy medium-rare and sliced thinly. In this case, we’re talking about chuck roast, a big, honkin‘ chunk of meat that’s usually long-simmered for pot roast. Chuck roasts usually clock in at around two and a half pounds, which is more than enough to feed six hungry people. While it definitely has more chew than, say, filet mignon, it more than makes up for in affordability and beefy flavor.

The second is that the conventional approach to cooking a thick steak (blasting it with high heat to form a beautifully-burnished crust, and then reducing the heat to allow the internal temp to come up more gradually) is tricky, inefficient, and pretty intimidating for all but the most seasoned cooks—and that a practically foolproof alternative exists. That method is called the “reverse-sear,” and while I certainly didn’t invent it, I am pretty obsessed with it. As you may have guessed, it involves flipping the usual method on its head.

You start by cooking a big piece of meat very gently in a low oven until the entire thing is almost at your desired internal temperature, and then searing it in a screaming-hot pan just before serving to get the external browning you’re after. The best part? You can do stage one well before any of your guests show up and then, come showtime, disappear into the kitchen, move on to stage two, and emerge five minutes later with a giant platter of perfectly cooked meat. It isn’t the fastest way to cook a steak—you’re going to want at least a two hour runway before dinner time for a piece of meat this large—but it is prooooobably the best. Here’s how it’s done.

First things first: There are a few tools that are non-negotiable here. A sheet pan. A wire rack of some sort that fits into said sheet pan, which keeps air circulating around the whole steak. A decent instant-read thermometer.

Take your 2½-lb. chuck roast out of the fridge and unwrap it. Look at that Big Boy! Handsome Boy! So beefy and bold and streaked with fat! Using a meat mallet or an empty bottle of wine, give it a few good thwacks so that it loosens up a bit and is a nice, even two inches thick. Now, give Handsome Boy a literal shower of kosher salt—each and every side, way more than seems reasonable or humane. (It’s a big piece of meat and can take it!) Preheat the oven to 225°F, place the meat on a wire rack set into a sheet pan, and let it sit out at room temperature for a half hour to an hour. [Room-temperature meat will always cook more evenly than fridge-cold.(https://www.bonappetit.com/story/room-temperature-meat-tempering))

reverse sear steak

Photo by Chelsie Craig

Handsome Boy! Beautiful Boy!

When you’re ready to cook, use paper towels to dry the meat off as thoroughly as humanly possible. Pop the whole steak-rack-pan situation into the oven. Keep the steak in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads between 115°F and 120°F. This actually takes quite a bit of time—usually about an hour and 10 minutes total for me—but I start checking every 10-15 minutes after the first 45 or so. It’ll look preeeetty weird, kinda grey and funky and maybe not that appetizing, but this is just stage one! Once you’ve reached the desired temperature, you can let the steak kick it at room temperature for up to two hours before moving on to stage two—and that’s plenty of time to take a shower, prep the other dishes that you’re serving, whatever. (But you can also sear it as soon as it comes out of the oven if you want!)

Once it’s go time, put a big skillet (cast-iron is ideal) on the stove, crank the heat, and really let that thing get crazy hot. The cool thing about this method is that the exterior of your steak has lost a lot of moisture during stage one, jump starting the browning process; you’ll get the deeply caramelized color you’re after in as little as a minute per side. Drizzle a bit of neutral oil over the steak, and rub it all over so that it’s coated. (Less oil in the pan, less smoke in your kitchen.) Transfer the steak to that now-hot pan, and sear it on each side for about one minute, or until all sides are crusty and gorgeous. (You could also toss a knob of butter and some herbs in at this point and do a quick bastey-baste, but that’s totally optional.) When it’s finished, transfer the steak to a cutting board, because it’s slicing time!

reverse sear steak 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig

That’s the stuff: Wall-to-wall rosy pink, with as little grey as possible.

Another wild thing about this method? You don’t even need to rest the steak before cutting into it—how cool is that?? Grab a sharp knife and slice the meat as thinly as possible, discarding any big chewy chunks of fat or gristle (there will be some). Unlike some other steak-steaks, the chuck roast is comprised of a few different muscles, so you may need to change your knife angle as you go, and don’t be afraid to get handsy with it. Pile all of that rosy-red meat on a big platter, hit it with some flaky salt, some freshly cracked pepper, and maybe a drizzle of grassy olive oil if you’re feeling fancy.

And there you have it folks: the reverse-seared chuck steak in all its glory. Go forth and eat more steak.

Once you’ve got the reverse-sear bug, check this recipe out:

reverse-sear-rib-eye-roast-with-fennel-and-rosemary

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Oh, I Work at a Food Magazine Now? Guess It’s Time to Learn to Cook

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In case we’re meeting for the first time here, let me start with a confession: I work at a food magazine, yet I am a terrible cook.

Why? Not sure. Perhaps it’s because my greatest childhood food memories are tied to branded shortcuts: Pillsbury Funfetti cupcakes slathered with Duncan Hines frosting straight from the tub; pre-cut broccoli baked beneath a bubbling blanket of Sargento shredded cheddar; the indubitably excellent mouthfeel of dinosaur-shaped Perdue chicken nuggets sidled up next to Nickelodeon-orange piles of Kraft mac and cheese that my brothers squeezed honey into for a gourmet twist. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid of failure. Perhaps it’s because I am very lazy. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed eating very much. I just never got into the cooking part.

But since I started working at Bon Appétit back in April, a large part of my job became: getting into the cooking part. Or at least not having a panic attack every time I’m asked to cook through a recipe. And thus, I have dedicated the last eight months to learning my way around a kitchen, that room I’ve always had in my house but mostly used for storing alcohol and making salads from a bag. Recipe by recipe, food fail by food fail, unfollowed piece of Test Kitchen advice by unfollowed piece of Test Kitchen advice, I have grown. And now, as I prepare to enter 2019, I know one thing for sure: I’m no longer afraid of cooking. No, I’m not a master yet—not even really at the level of first-kid-to-get-kicked-off-MasterChef Junior. But I’m learning, and actually…kind of…enjoying it! So here, to round out the year, a look back at some of the biggest kitchen lessons I’ve picked up so far. And with them, a vow: In 2019, I will officially stop calling myself a terrible cook.

1. Always be salting. I grew up in the ’90s, when salt was the devil and margarine was something people actually paid money for—instead of throwing it into a dumpster where it belongs. Which means I always had this scary little voice in the back of my head screaming “NOOOOO” when my hands reached for the shaker (funny enough, these were the same hands that often shoveled entire not-individual-sized bags of Goldfish into my mouth in one sitting). But as I cooked through recipe after recipe, I realized that salting properly means going about 75 percent beyond your comfort zone, and building as you go. At no moment did this lesson become clearer than when I was making Basically’s Spaghetti Pomodoro, which instructed me to make my pasta-boiling water AS SALTY AS THE DAMN OCEAN. Surely that’s insane?? thought I. But I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, reached for the Morton canister, and poured. And you know what? It was the tastiest pasta I’ve ever made.

2. Read the whole recipe BEFORE you start cooking. File this one under lessons learned the hard way. The hard way being me going home starving at 7 p.m. to make a stew that ended up requiring not just about three hours of cook time but an additional 12 hours of chill time before it was actually ready to consume. I would have known this had I spent the literal two minutes it would have taken to read through the instructions before I flounced off to the grocery store to buy my chicken. But I did not. It was a disaster, and the next day on office Slack no one even felt sorry for me. “READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH BEFORE YOU COOK, CADIGAN. RULE NUMBER ONE.” Oh.

3. Don’t use crappy equipment. For more years than I care to admit, I cooked my scrambled eggs in a scratched-up mini frying pan I’m pretty sure my ex-roommate purchased at the Dollar Store in 2010. My eggs never cooked right—and often had a kind of weird chemical-y aftertaste that I still fear has shortened my life by several years. But it’s not that I was bad at cooking eggs—it was that I was desperately in need of a new pan. Once I upgraded (my colleagues recommended this tried-and-true yet not-that-expensive Zwilling non-stick), everything changed. Now my eggs are fluffy and my heart soars free. The lesson? You don’t need to go out and blow all your money on top-of-the-line everything. But flimsy knives and too-small cutting boards are a form of masochism neither you nor I should abide, and this entire list of kitchen essentials costs less than $250.

4. Browning butter makes it better. As anyone who knows me knows, I love butter. Like, a lot. I slather it onto breads with a thickness most reserve for cheese (butter is better than cheese; fight me) and bury half a stick inside my mashed potatoes so I can tap into it later and watch it flow out like lava. Butter makes everything better. But until I made Chris Morocco’s famous Snickerdoodle Party Cookies, I’d never embarked on the adventure that is browning butter. The first time you try it, it may seem like something bad has happened, like maybe your Dollar Store pan is decomposing into itself and shedding poisonous faux metal bits into your melted butter pool, but no, those are the milk solids (milk solids! Look at me now!), and when browned on the stove they suddenly taste like your wildest, smokiest, nuttiest, fattiest dreams.

5. Cook to the indicator, not the time. One of the crappy equipment issues I can’t solve is the crappiness of my oven, because it is not technically my oven but my landlord’s and I cannot afford to buy one of my own. Which means the fact that the thing lies to me every day is beyond my control. “Four hundred degrees!” she says, and we both know it’s not true, because I was told to cook that chicken at 400 degrees for 35 minutes and it’s been 51 minutes and the thing will definitely poison us all if I take it out now. And therein lies this very important lesson: When you’re cooking, DO NOT rely on the cook time the recipe gives you. Instead, use the helpful indicators it provides right afterwards: “until golden,” “until the meat is almost falling off the bone,” “until the rice begins to crisp.” The indicators are your friends, even when your lying sack of shit oven is not.

6. Lock your cats in the bathroom while you cook. Otherwise, they will lick all the chicken and you’ll admit you ate it anyway and people will destroy you on Twitter. But like, at least I salted it.

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The Five Sauces Every Home Cook Should Know

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Behind every good culinary tradition is a great sauce: simple in theory, but so precise, they often require patience and practice to master. While French chef Marie-Antoine Carême is recognized as the first to identify four sauces as the foundation of culinary basics, it was French chef Auguste Escoffier who added hollandaise, to what became known as the “five mother sauces” when he published them in recipe form in his Le Guide Culinaire in 1903.

It’s no surprise that some of the world’s top chefs, like Thomas Keller, Hugh Acheson, and Paul Kahan all use sturdy, reliable All-Clad pots and pans in the kitchen. The brand’s reputation for even heating, durability, and craftsmanship make them an obvious choice, especially when a delicate roux is at hand. With gorgeous All-Clad sauce pans and sauciers at the ready, learn how to make the five most essential sauces in the culinary game, and impress all your friends at your next dinner party.

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Hollandaise

This creamy yellow sauce appears to be quite simple–its only ingredients are egg yolks, lemon juice, water, salt, and butter. In reality, however, it’s a process to master, as the key lies in the timing and the whisking. If it was up to Thomas Keller (take it away, Tom!), he’d prefer to make his hollandaise straight out of a saucier. We recommend the c4 Copper 2.5 Quart Saucier. The eggs can be whisked into a condensed surface area, allowing for a nice emulsion. Once you’ve perfected your hollandaise, serve it with everything from eggs to asparagus to artichokes.

Espagnole

This brown sauce is often paired with meat dishes like roast lamb or as the base of a beef bourguignon. A rich, flavorful espagnole starts with browned mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onions), brown beef or veal stock, and fond (deglazed brown bits) from beef bones. From there, tomato purée or paste is added, and the whole sauce is thickened with a dark brown roux. A sturdy 3-quart pan like the c4 Copper 3-Quart Sauce Pan is optimal for consistent, even heating.

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Béchamel

While all the mother sauces have a distinct decadence about them, béchamel may very well be the most mouthwatering of the group. You know it as the sauce that takes your macaroni up a notch, or as the secret weapon in your latest lasagna. And like the other four, this creamy white sauce has basic ingredients: butter, flour, milk, salt, and pepper (though we add Parmesan, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg to ours for a flavorful twist). Craft the sauce in a medium to large saucepan, like the 2-Quart Stainless Saucier which with its wide mouth and curved sides, allow for good mobility while whisking and adding ingredients.

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Velouté

While velouté is a flavorful sauce in its own right, often served over poached or steamed fish or chicken, it’s also often used as a building block to gravies and other mixtures like bisque or pot pie. It starts with a white roux, and is then mixed with a light stock from fish, chicken, or veal, making it an easy addition to rich-in-flavor recipes. Use the c4 Copper 2-Quart Sauce Pan to make a large batch and keep on hand, so the next time you need to whip up a comfy, cozy chicken pot pie, you’ve already done half the work.

All-Clad - Mother Sauces Native Article

Sauce Tomate

You don’t have to stroll the aisle at your local grocery store to know that there are about a million iterations of tomato sauce. Traditionally, however, tomatoes would be simmered with onions and garlic, and cooked down until thickened to one’s liking, or with a roux. The classic French version, sauce tomate, is also flavored with pork and aromatic vegetables. Because of its versatility, we say skip the small saucepan and whip up a big batch with the Stainless 5.5-Qt Dutch Oven. You can freeze what you don’t immediately eat—and voila! Old World meets New in a matter of minutes.

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How to Cook with Sweet Potatoes

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Orange: Chances are when you think of sweet potatoes, you think of these. Use them for everything from marshmallow-topped casseroles to curries to oven fries.

Japanese: These white-fleshed sweet potatoes have reddish-purple skins and a chestnut-like flavor. Steam or bake whole to prevent them from drying out.

Purple: Purple inside and out, these spuds sport dense flesh that’s full of antioxidants. Roast, sauté, or fry them rather than boil to preserve their pretty color.

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These Spicy Tofu Crumbles Changed the Way I Cook Tofu

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I feel more passionately about these spicy tofu crumbles than I do about almost any other soy-based food, which is saying a lot considering how highly I’ve endorsed Soy Curls, tempeh, and tofu scrambles.

Are you dangerously obsessed with tofu, too?

These crumbles are just simply… better than all that. With just the right balance of crispiness and spongy-squishiness (and I mean this in the best possible sense), plus a fiery, salty sauce, it’s the most versatile, protein-heavy side/condiment/snack in my repertoire. I’ve made it almost every month for the past two years. And I would eat them a lot more—say, alongside every single meal if I had the opportunity.

Of course it helps that the method is so easy to execute. See, in a pre-Spicy Tofu Crumbles world, I would pan-fry tofu by cutting it up first, then tend to each delicate cube in the pan with an eagle eye. I used baby tongs, a fork, or even a wee offset spatula (permission to roll your eyes granted) to flip every cube from side to side… to side, to side, making sure no piece was left pale. It was a precious and ridiculous process that consumed too much of my precious and ridiculous time. This recipe offers sweet relief! By cooking the tofu in large, thick slabs, you only have a handful of pieces to turn just once.

The Noodle Bowl

Peden + Munk

Forget the noodles: The spicy tofu crumbles are the star of this ramen noodle bowl with escarole.

Once the slabs are on the browner side of golden brown, you’ll let them cool and then tear them up with your fingers. You can also use the dullest knife in your kitchen to achieve the same goal: craggy, uneven tofu crumbles with plenty of crevasses to catch and absorb all of the spicy sauce.

That sauce is made, very conveniently, from ingredients you probably already have: soy sauce, mirin, Sriracha or gochujang, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil. There are also a couple of fresh ingredients—thinly sliced Fresno chile and grated fresh ginger—both of which I’ve left out in times of need (I’ve also swapped out the Fresno for a jalapeño and a Serrano and have not been worse for the wear).

If you don’t pop all of these little tofu crumblettes into your mouth before they get to the table, you’ll find tons of ways to use them: with soft scrambled eggs in breakfast tacos, piled atop a bowl of sesame noodles, bobbing on kimchi and vegetable soup, perched on steaming white rice with stir-fried shrimp. I put them in burritos, on kale salads, and under my pillow, where I hope the tooth fairy will replace them with even more tofu crumbles. Because while they last five days in the fridge (a meal prep miracle!), I always go through a batch before that time comes.

Get the recipe:

spicy-tofu-crumbles

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Entrepreneurs cook up edible pot products despite legalization delay

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Yannick Craigwell doesn’t need to guess how large the Canadian appetite will be for edible pot once it’s legal. He already knows — it’s huge.

The Vancouver entrepreneur whips up marijuana-infused cookies, brownies and fudge that he sells online through his company Treats and Treats.

« Once it becomes legal, I think the only thing that’s going to change is you’re going to get the people who were raised to think … ‘Weed is bad, it’s the devil’s lettuce,’ and they’re going to be open to trying, » he said.

« It’s not really anything to be afraid of, but we are stigmatized by the laws that we have on the books. »

Businesses across Canada are cooking up weed-laced goodies to prepare for their legalization next year. Companies are betting on a big market and hope to avoid some of the pitfalls seen in U.S. jurisdictions when edibles were legalized.

The only legal marijuana on Oct. 17 will be fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds. The federal government has promised to develop regulations to support the sale of edibles and concentrates within a year and will launch consultations later in 2018 and 2019.

In the meantime, despite them not yet being legal for recreational use, edibles producers already shipping products to Canadian addresses appear to be trying to achieve a legal grey area. Detailed terms and conditions on the Treat and Treats website, for instance, require that the buyer agree they have solicited the product from the company, and that they know the purchase without a prescription is illegal in Canada. 

In this Sept. 26, 2014, file photo, smaller-dose pot-infused brownies are divided and packaged at The Growing Kitchen in Boulder, Colo. When the pot treats became legal in the state in 2014, there were practically no restrictions. That year Colorado’s poison control centre received 87 marijuana exposure calls about children that year, nearly doubling the previous year’s total. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Canada’s cautious approach stands in contrast with Colorado, which had practically no restrictions when pot treats hit stores in 2014. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center received 87 marijuana exposure calls about children that year, nearly doubling the previous year’s total, though no children died.

The statistic grabbed headlines and pushed the state to introduce regulations in 2015. Edibles must now be contained in child-resistant packages, stamped with a universal symbol and divided into servings of 10 or fewer milligrams of THC, pot’s psychoactive ingredient. They also can’t be shaped like animals, fruit or people.

Health Canada considering standardized labels

The dangers of edibles hit close to home last week when a young child on Vancouver Island ate pot-infused gummy bears. She was rushed to hospital in medical distress, RCMP said, but was expected to fully recover.

Health Canada is considering requiring a standardized cannabis symbol on labels and banning product forms, ingredients and flavouring agents that appeal to kids, said spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau. Previously introduced regulations already require marijuana to be in child-resistant packaging.

The effects of edibles take longer to be experienced and last longer than those caused by smoking cannabis, she said, putting users at risk of overconsumption. And since edibles can look like normal food, there’s a risk that children and pets will accidentally eat them, she added.

Colorado updated regulations to require marijuana products, like this one held by a caregiver in this April 18, 2014, file photo, to have bolder labels highlighting the level of THC. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)

« These two issues point to the need to control the amount of THC in edibles, as well as the need for measures to ensure that edibles are appropriately packaged and labelled. »

It’s illegal for anyone other than a licensed producer to sell medical pot, but Craigwell said he operates in the « grey. » He requires online buyers to agree to terms and conditions that state they need cannabis for medical reasons and he also sells his edibles in dispensaries in Vancouver, where police have chosen not to crack down.

A standard dose of THC in Colorado is 10 mg, but Craigwell’s goodies range from 90 mg to 175 mg. He said he’s open to the government mandating a lower dose, but it should consider what customers want.

« All you’re doing is risking them going into the black market, » he said. « My business model won’t succeed if I don’t have customers. »

Craigwell advised first-timers to eat a small piece and wait to feel the effects.

« Start off with a quarter. Work your way up to a half, and then a whole. »

Poised to take a big bite of the legal cannabis market

Experts predict edibles will eat up a major chunk of the market once legal. Six out of 10 likely pot consumers will choose edibles, according to a Deloitte survey of 1,500 Canadians.

The format has less stigma than smoking, said Deloitte partner Jennifer Lee.

« We found that it was really a product category — baked goods, chocolate, candy, beverages, honey, (ice pops) — that is much more accessible, » she said.

Some companies are banking on alcohol-free cannabis beverages rising to the top of the pack.

The Coca-Cola Company has reportedly been in talks with Aurora Cannabis Inc. about beverages containing a non-psychoactive pot component. Molson Coors Canada teamed up with HEXO Corp. to sell marijuana-infused drinks, while Constellation Brands Inc., which makes Corona beer, invested $5 billion in Canopy Growth Corp.

At five o’clock, do you want to meet for a gummy bear or a glass of wine?– Bruce Linton, Canopy CEO

Bruce Linton, Canopy’s CEO, noted it’s already common to socialize over a beverage.

« At five o’clock, do you want to meet for a gummy bear or a glass of wine? » he asked.

Canopy has developed calorie-free drinks that deliver a high within seven to 12 minutes, rather than the usual delayed onset of an edible, Linton added.

Province Brands CEO Dooma Wendschuh said his company has also created a way to speed up the onset of a high from its beers brewed from the cannabis plant.

But Wendschuh said developing a product prior to its legalization has its challenges. He can’t currently taste-test the beers in this country.

« It’s been absurd, » he said. « In Canada, we can make this product … but no one’s allowed to drink it. »

With files from CBC News.

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These Tiny Sheet Pans Made Me a Better, Faster Cook

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One thing I wish someone had told me when I started cooking in a restaurant kitchen is that you only spend about 50 percent of your time actually cooking. The other 50 percent is mostly spent fighting with other cooks over, more or less, everything: Who gets the best burner. Who gets the good squeeze bottles (and who gets the ones that are permanently stained mystery orange). And, most critically, who gets to use the ovens.

Restaurant ovens are particularly coveted real estate, because there are almost always fewer ovens than there are cooks who need to use them. I very quickly learned to a) set up my cutting board every day at the work station closest to the ovens, and b) keep a stack of quarter-sheet pans near me at all times. At about 9½ x 13” quarter-sheet pans are the little sibling of the sheet pans you probably already use at home to roast potatoes and bake cookies, and they were my secret weapon tool for maximizing kitchen efficiency. The second another cook would take out their giant trays of roast chicken/carrots/walnuts/whatever, there I was ready to claim that newly free rack with three or four tiny baking sheets of sesame seeds, croutons-to-be, and nuts that could all cook at once.

And while I haven’t touched my fancy restaurant tweezers once since I stopped cooking professionally (there’s something very tragic about using tweezers to plate a meal I’m eating alone in my pajamas), quarter-sheet pans remain one of the top five most useful tools in my home kitchen. I’m constantly reaching for mine to toast a few handfuls of walnuts for a salad, bake a couple of sweet potatoes, broil shrimp, or heat up leftover pizza—tasks that don’t merit a half-sheet pan, which is only twice as big but ten times more annoying to handle. And since several quarter-sheets can fit in the oven together comfortably, I can roast garlic, make crispy Brussels sprouts, and bake fish fillets for dinner all at the same time like some sort of kitchen ninja.

Need more proof that quarter-sheet pans are the hardest-working tools in the kitchen? I use them as a dish for breading crispy cutlets; as a makeshift cover for my one saucepan without a lid; for transporting tongs, oil, salt, pepper, and dish towels to the grill; and (my personal favorite) as counter garbage pail for scraps and trash. This mini pan‘s greatest advantage, however, comes after cooking: It slides right into the bottom of my sink for easy cleaning and reusing. I’m no longer fighting with anyone for oven space, but the line cook in me is still all about that maximum efficiency life.

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