February 3, 2016
A hodge-podge of kitchen pans
America chose to stay in the kitchen in 2015. Cookware shipments to retailers were up almost 7 percent over 2014 while bakeware was up almost 16 percent. While some retailers probably increased their inventory levels, they generally don’t order from producers without parallel consumer sales. The conclusion is that consumers bought more cookware and bakeware during the just-past year. What accounts for this increase? A few thoughts:
- Lower energy costs. Prices for gasoline and other energy products such as natural gas plummeted during 2015. More disposable income means more money in consumers pockets and a better chance that it will be spent.
- Nervousness about food safety. The continued trials of restaurants reporting everything from outbreaks of e. coli to noravirus infections has to make an impression on consumers. While it doesn’t mean that consumers stop going out to eat completely there may be new-found reluctance to depend on someone else to produce healthy food to eat. The more cooking at home, the greater the sales of cookware and bakeware.
- Continued interest in ethnic cuisines and increased willingness to try something new. We know that one of the drivers of cookware and bakeware sales are cooks wanting to try something new and buying a pan to cook the recipe in. The Internet allows easy access to all sorts of exotic recipes for curious cooks.
- General economic conditions were favorable. While there is a lot of talk about the stagnant middle class, it is also true that the U.S. is at or near full employment. Having most people who want a job having one drives cookware and and all consumer sales.
- A stronger housing and remodeling market. Long known as another driver of sales, new house sales and sales of existing homes strengthened in many markets in 2015. Remodeling was also up as well. These factors help increase cookware sales.
- A stronger dollar. Much cookware is manufactured overseas and imported into the U.S. A stronger dollars makes imports cheaper. Very few price increases were noted at the retail level. In fact, the money/value proposition for cookware continues its upward trend. Consumers are getting better quality cookware for less money now than at any time in the past due to increased productivity of cookware producers.
March 2, 2015
The CMA supports the NSF Home Production Certification program and urges manufacturers and retailers to support it as well. The following is an interesting article about why consumers should care about certified cookware.
With so many different products out on the market today, how do you know which product is the best choice to buy? Made in America. Outperforms the leading brand. Can be used on all cooking surfaces. More energy efficient. Green Product. Faster Cooktime. These are only a few of the millions of claims cookware products make daily. With all these claims out in the market, how do we know which claims are true? The easiest way to differentiate which product will meet your expectations is to see if it has a 3rd party seal of approval or a certification mark. Third party certification programs will provide you with added reassurance that someone other than the manufacturer has deemed this product “acceptable”. While this can mean many different things to many different people, a certification seal from a reputable independent certification body, like NSF International, identifies that a product meets acceptable standards for quality and performance. It also gives you reassurance that someone other than the manufacturer is validating their claims.
Most consumers only have a limited idea of what a reputable 3rd party certification is. 3rd party certification, such as NSF International’s Home Product Certification, tests products as they would be used at home. The products are tested for performance and safety. In addition to product testing, the production facilities also undergo initial and unannounced annual audits to ensure that they are producing products to the original certified specifications. It is comforting to know that there is a watchdog making sure we receive quality products, especially with so many products being imported from all over the world.
In an age where consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements of special claims, seeing a certification mark on a product identifies that the manufacturer is willing to go the extra mile to support the quality of their products. When trying to decide between the endless options on display shelves, most consumers like the idea of a third party verifying that the product is as good as it claims to be. Knowing that the products you are buying has another set of eyes behind the scenes, makes the purchasing decision easier. So the next time you need to decide which product to buy, look for the one with a certification mark!
March 13, 2014
For the world of cookware and bakeware, the new year brings trade shows. These shows, which date from the middle ages, bring together buyers and sellers and suppliers to the housewares industry. Vendors erect booths (as they are called in the U.S.) or stands (the European designation) and spend several days in hopes of enticing retail buyers to place an order for products. A lot of hard work and thought go into a productive show, whether one is a buyer or a seller. In today’s Internet savvy world, it would seem like a waste of time and money to continue such ancient ways of doing business. Yet even in the electronic industry, trade shows still have their place. All the Skyping, webhosted conference calls and similar electronic communications can’t replace the good old face to face meeting.
In February, one of the largest shows debuts in Frankfurt Germany. Ambiente has vendors for everything found in the home except large electric appliances. Similarly the International Housewares Association’s March show in Chicago brings some 75,000 folks to the Windy City for a four day show held at the massive McCormick Convention Center along Lake Michigan. Many consumers wonder what these shows are like, since typically they are not open to the public, but only what is termed “the trade.” Here are three things which might surprise you:
1. Everything you see at a trade show doesn’t end up in retail stores. Many producers prototype products, show them at the show and see if there’s any interest by retailers. Many “great” ideas don’t get picked up by retailers and die a quick death. When you see some of these samples you wonder, “What were they thinking?”
2. Very few actual orders are finalized at a trade show. These days programs are either already in place by the time the show opens or they are concluded following the show. That’s where modern communications has enabled faster agreements compared with a generation ago…or in some cases slower time frames. Retailers can wait ’til later in the year and gamble they will have a better handle on consumer demand before placing orders with producers. But, if you wait too late you run the risk of not being able to get the product in time. Retailers often play a gambling game. And they have lost in the past!
3. Working or attending a trade show is not a bed of roses. Those who don’t attend or work in a trade show imagine parties, lavish dinners, entertainment of customers and other exotica. The truth is after standing in a trade show booth on a concrete floor (even if it is covered with a thin carpet) for nine or ten hours, most people are ready for a quick dinner and an early bedtime. Larger retailers are governed by codes of ethics which make it difficult for them to be influenced by “wining and dining.”
October 3, 2013
A consumer recently wrote regarding the preparation of foods using the sous -vide method. Literally French for “without air”, sous-vide is a method of cooking foods at lower than normal temperatures in water for lengthy periods of time using plastic pouches from which most or all the air has been removed. Essentially the even heating of the water bath is transmitted to the food allowing it to retain juices and flavor that could be lost in cooking at higher temperatures.
Sous-vide requires a precisely controlled temperature water bath which surrounds the vacuum packed food. There are two ways to accomplish this. Stand alone sous-vide water baths typically have a water tank, a heating element which is controlled by a thermostat and often a basket to aid in lowering and raising the food pouches from the water. The other method is the use of an immersion heater, often times with a pump on it to circulate the water and produce a even water temperature, again, thermostatically controlled. The immersion heater is typically clamped to a conventional stock pot or deep Dutch oven.
Beef cooked in the sous-vide method. Done on the outside, tender in the middle.
Sous-vide cooking has been around in fine restaurants for a long time and are just now making its way onto the consumer market. A simple water bath unit for occasional use can be had for under $200 and a simple immersion heater is available online for just over $200. We’ve had both in the kitchen for workouts recently. Some points:
- It takes time and effort to use. You have to thaw the food, if frozen, place in a pouch and extract air. This can be simply or difficult depending on the shape of the food, the size of the bag, the type of vacuum unit used, etc.
- For cuts of meat, searing may still be required in order not to serve a rather “under done” looking plate to your family or guests. For time challenged cooks, this is yet another step.
- It requires planning. Forget the thirty minute meal. Many recipes required four to six hours to get done. The larger the food portion within the bag, the longer it takes to cook it.
- The quality of inexpensive sous-vide products can be dicey. At the lower end, there appears to be the assumption that the product won’t be used every day.
A number of years ago, a friend showed us a technique for making omelets by putting the eggs in a Zip-Lock bag and placing the omelet into boiling water. Sous-vide is a modern version of this technique. While it is a perfectly acceptable way to prepare food and can make tough cuts of meat quite tender, it is still a time consuming process suited more to the person who cooks for a hobby as opposed to the time-challenged cook.
February 20, 2013
Ah, the web. Source of so much knowledge and so much miss-information. Herewith we bring to you things to NOT believe when you read them on the web, no matter how authoritative they may seem:
- PTFE or Teflon has been “phased out”, “banned” or “unavailable” after such and such a date. Wrong wrong wrong…. PTFE is the active food release ingredient in many nonstick coatings, including Teflon, a registered trademark of Du Pont. Self-identified environmental columnists/bloggers confuse PTFE with PFOA. They are two different things. Yes, the EPA has reached an agreement with nonstick producers to eliminate the chemical PFOA in their processes for making PTFE and as of today, it is completely removed from all traditional nonstick coatings made by reputable firms. But PTFE is still around, and so is Teflon and it will be, despite the so-called experts columns.
- Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, there are still “experts” that proclaim that aluminum ingestion causes this awful disease. There are also people who believe we live on a flat planet. There’s never been any truth to this canard, which dates back 50 years. Interestingly, in the 1920’s aluminum supposedly caused stomach cancer. Truth is, almost 100 percent of aluminum cookware today is coated with nonstick coatings anyway, which means raw aluminum never touches the food in the first place. And most of these claims come from shyster salespeople trying to sell you on our next myth….
- There is cookware that will produce “health”. Hotshot cookware salesmen and saleswomen make money claiming their cookware is somehow “healthy” or doesn’t poison your food, or will produce extra vitamins in one’s diet. Notice they are usually selling a product which does this and whatever you have home doesn’t. There are reasons to buy high priced cookware, one of which is the typical lifetime warranty (which is for “real”), but the health claims are bogus.
- This cookware is friendly to the environment. The energy consumed by making all the cookware in the world in the year has less impact almost any other thing: flying, driving, using electricity, etc. etc. Cookware claims about being somehow “Green” are usually based on faulty science. Many things affect the environment, but cookware’s manufacture is so tiny as to be inconsequential.
- “X” = Cookware/Bakeware is the best: “Best” by who’s standard. Chef’s sell their names for money. Endorsements are a dime a dozen. There’s no one “best cookware” out there. The best is what suits your budget, cooking lifestyle, and your comfort level. Don’t feel guilty about your cookware or your bakeware. If you like it and it works for you, enjoy it!!
November 20, 2012
Originally authored in 2009, the below advice is still relevant today. Our best wishes to you for a great holiday.
Thanksgiving always opens up with numerous calls and emails from folks fretting about their cookware and their cooking. Having the family table enlarged during the holidays is key stresser for many cooks. Will there be enough food to go around? Will this strange recipe that I cook only once every year work out? Will the turkey be done?
Our advice is to relax. (And I remind myself of that when I start feeling the pressure grow). Start far enough ahead that you won’t have to have everything be done at exactly the same moment. A turkey benefits by resting for 30 minutes under a foil tent before carving. There’s no law that says that sweet potato casserole can’t be cooked three days ahead, stored in the fridge, and then warmed up on a holiday morning.
I always run a sink full of hot soapy water and try to wash up as I cook. That way it isn’t a mound of pans and pots to clean up at the conclusion of the meal. Thanksgiving, I loaded the food processor parts, pots and pans into the dishwasher and did a mid-morning load. Made the time after our meal much calmer.
We also set the table about two days before the holiday, which gave us plenty of time to repair the hole that mysteriously appeared on the good linen tablecloth between last Christmas and this Thanksgiving.