Q. Whenever I measure sticky ingredients like molasses or honey for a recipe, I can't get it all off the measuring spoon. Is there an easy way to make sure I'm measuring these accurately?
A. If your recipes call for a tablespoon of oil or butter and a tablespoon of honey, try measuring the oil first. The honey should then slide right off the oily measuring spoon.
Spraying the measuring spoon with non-stick cooking spray will also provide an easy release for such sticky ingredients. The same trick works when you use your measuring cup for larger amounts. If you use non-stick cooking spray, you'll add only a tiny amount of fat, and it shouldn't affect the final dish.
Q. I am getting married next year and would like to register for pots and pans, but I don't know what I'll need. What pots and pans should no cook do without?
A. The answer to this can vary according to whom you ask and how you cook, but most sources agree that a couple of skillets, two saucepans, a Dutch oven, and a soup pot -- all with lids -- will see you through about any culinary exercise.
We would recommend at least two skillets: one 10- or 12-inch skillet (with lid) plus a small omelet pan. Because eggs tend to stick to the cooking surface, we'd recommend a non-stick omelet pan. However, whether the larger skillet should be a non-stick variety depends on how much you prize easy cleanup.
Some cooks report that some non-stick pans don't brown food as well as regular pans; as a result, you don't get the tasty browned bits that make for flavorful gravies and sauces. Plus, most non-stick pans must be treated with more care. You shouldn't use metal utensils with them because the metal tends to scratch the non-stick surface, leaving it nonstick no longer.
On the other hand, cast iron skillets, long hailed for their even heat conduction, also require special care; they must be seasoned before using, then washed, dried, and oiled after every use.
For saucepans, select heavy 2- and 3-quart sizes. Again, non-stick is up to you, but make sure they are as heavy as you can comfortably handle. The heavier the pan, the more evenly it will conduct heat.
A Dutch oven is a large pot or kettle with a tight-fitting lid, used to braise meats or simmer stews and other dishes that need long simmer time. These can and should be very heavy. Enamel-covered cast iron varieties are a good investment; they'll hold in heat and cook evenly, and you'll be able to hand them down to your grandchildren. Buy one at least large enough to hold a whole chicken, or a large pot roast or lamb shank.
Soup pots are taller than Dutch ovens and come in many sizes. Heavy aluminum or stainless steel are preferred, but the size should reflect what seems reasonable for your use.