Finding the Best Train Set for a 2 Year Old

If you are looking for that special train set for your favorite 2 year old look no further.

For some strange reason, kids love trains.  I know mine do!  At the age of 2, you have a couple of important things to think about when buying the best rain set for your 2 year old.

First of all, is the type of track.  Trust me, your train collection will only grow from here, so it is important to make sure you pick one or two types of tracks and standardize them now.

The most popular is a wooden train track that is interoperable with many types of brands if you play your cards right.

If you do now, you’ll be able to play with many many different types of trains for years to come, and have them all work together.

The second is what other toys your two year old is showing an interest in.

Finding the Best Train Set for a Two Year Old

Let’s look at some of my favorite train sets for two year olds, and why I like each of them.

Best Train Set for 2 Year Old Best Train Set for 2 Year Old With Bridge Best Plastic Train Set for 2 Year Old Best Deluxe Plastic Train Set for 2 Year Old Best Cost Effective Train Set for 2 Year Old
Manufacturer Brio Brio Lego Duplo Lego Duplo ToysOpoly
Material Wood Wood Plastic Plastic Wood and Plastic
More Information

 

Now, let’s look at our options.  They really break down to my two favorites: Brio and Lego Duplo.  Then, I also found another wooden option that is fantastic.

Brio Train Sets for Two Year Olds

The wooden train set area is jam packed with contenders, but Brio is hands down the best.  The construction is solid wood and stands up to even the roughest toddlers.

The sets you buy now can be interconnected with other sets for bigger kids as your child gets older, in fact, they can be connected with most major wooden railway sets.

If you are a stickler for the age on the box, Brio is hands down the way to go for your 2 year old.  In fact, they have wooden train sets for ages 18 months and up.

Brio WORLDD Classic Figure 8 Set – Best Train Set for Any 2 Year Old!

This recommendation was my child’s first train set when they were two.  I can’t tell you how many hours we spent playing with this single set, which has now grown.

The track is very easy to assemble for two year olds.  There is a center piece, and all other pieces are curved and completely identical.

There is no wrong way to put this one together, so if your toddler is easily frustrated that is something to consider.

We were hooked by this one!

BRIO World Classic Deluxe Railway Set – The Best Set With Bridgets for Your Two Year Old

This Brio WORLD Classic Deluxe set is another set specifically for ages two and up. It also comes with some neat raised track that are like bridges.

The only down side to this fantastic set is that the track is a bit more difficult to assemble than the figure 8.

The raised bridge track is also more susceptible to distraction if your two year old is rather rambunctious.  Just something to consider.

Once you get started with Brio trains you will simply keep going.  Welcome to the world of Brio!

Lego Duplo Train Sets for Two Year Olds

The two year old age range can be a tough one for toys.  They are too big for baby toys, but too little for some of the advanced stuff.  Besides Brio, Lego Duplo caters to this age.

These Lego Duplo sets are all recommended for ages two and up.  While it is important to keep in mind what kind of train track you are getting started with, the Lego Duplo System is worth it if your child loves legos.

It is important to note that Legos are made of plastic.  Some people prefer not to use plastic toys, in which case Brio is hands down your best option.

LEGO DUPLO Steam Train – Best Plastic Train Set for 2 Year Old

This Lego Duplo steam train is a great starter set for any child.  It features a remote control, and even more Duplos an be added to the train and its car.

The Lego Duplo tracks are very easy to assemble, and are very durable.  They stay connected well even with the toughest of toddlers.

 

Best Deluxe Train Set for 2 Year Old, LEGO DUPLO Cargo Train

 This Lego Duplo Cargo Train Set is INSATE at 119 pieces.  It has everything your toddler has to get going with their new train set.

Not only does it have a train, but it also has a crane and a boat – it covers everything your toddler could ever want to do.

Plus you can add more Duplos for even more fun!

You can never go wrong with Lego Duplo!

Best Cost Effective Train Set for 2 Year Old

If you are new to the world of trains, you may have a little bit of sticker shock.  These things are not cheap, especially at the 2 year old age point.

Many train sets say ages three and up, not two, which like I said, leaves us in a bit of limbo.  Either you go up on the age a bit, or keep looking around.

 This option by ToysOpoly specifically calls out ages two years and up in its product description, making it a rarity in the wooden train space.

Plus, it is more cost effect than the Brio train AND it will work with the Brio track!

As your child gets older you will most likely see yourself mixing and matching wooden train tracks.

This brings me to my next point.

Why I Didn’t Recommend Thomas and Friends Sets

I have a love hate relationship with Thomas and Friends sets.  First of all, they changed to a proprietary wooden track a few years ago.  Thomas and Friends Wood is the current generation, and it does not work with Brio and other wooden systems without plastic adapters I am forever losing.

This is different than Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway, which is compatible with other wood brands like Brio.

My advice is don’t play the Thomas for tracks, unless there is a feature set your child must must have.  The adapters aren’t that great, especially on carpet.

The good news is the Thomas and Friends Wood trains themselves still work fine on other wooden tracks like Brio, so you can still get your child the characters they like.

The Thomas Sets also seem to be the most expensive, even more so than Brio which I find to be a better quality.

However, if you stumble upon any Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway in a store or at a garage sale, go ahead and pick that up!

The Best Train Set for 2 Year Olds

Two is a hard age to shop for, but you cannot go wrong with Brio or Lego Duplo options.  The options expand as your child ages, allowing you to mix and match many different wooden railway systems.

Be sure to let us know your favorite train sets for toddlers in the comments!

The Best Oil for Pancakes (and Other Pancake Tips)

When it comes to pancakes, I have learned many tips and tricks over the years. Why?  Well, we just happen to love pancakes!  I am a creature of habit, and start every morning with pancakes.  For the kids, we make them in various shapes and sizes.  Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for the best pancakes, and things I have learned over the years.

Best Oil for Pancakes

Pancake recipes do not vary too much, and even if you are using pancake mix, oil is always a critical ingredient.  People always ask what oil do you use for pancakes?

The best oil for pancakes is something that does not have a strong flavor.  While I use olive oil for nearly everything, making pancakes and baked goods is the one exception.

By far the best oil to cook pancakes is canola oil.  It does not taste like anything, and is cost effective.  Better yet, it is also allergy friendly.  I buy it by the gallon to have it on hand for pancakes and baking.

How to Stop Pancakes Sticking

Pancakes sticking to your pancake pan or griddle are a drag.  Don’t worry, I have a couple tips for preventing them from sticking.

First and foremost, make sure you are using a non stick pan or griddle.  Be sure to take a look at my favorite ones!

If you need a fix for your sticky pancakes right now, have no fear, I can help.  To stop pancakes from sticking you can do two things:

  • Wipe your pan with a very very thin layer of canola oil.
  • Make sure your pancake is fully cooked on one side before trying to flip it.

Undercooked food in general is often the culprit of things sticking to nonstick pans!

Best Temperature to Cook Pancakes

People often ask me the best temperature to cook pancakes.  Unless you have an infrared temperature sensor to check the temperature of your pan, this can be tricky.

If you want one of those awesome infrared thermometer guns, check out the Etekcity Lasergrip 774 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun.  You can run around your house scanning everything in addition to your pancake pans.

First, to see if my pancake pan is ready, I simply sprinkle a few drops of water on the pan.  You want the water to hiss and steam!

I cook pancakes on low-medium heat on a larger burner.  This gives pancakes enough time to cook thoroughly and develop that nice golden brown color.

Which brings us to our next question…

How Long to Cook Pancakes

How long to cook pancakes depends on your pan and the temperature you are cooking at.  With my stove and pan, I cook my pancakes for about three minutes a side.

You can tell your pancakes are ready to turn when the side facing up is nice and bubbly, and does not look like wet batter.

The Secret to Fluffy Pancakes

Some people really love their fluffy pancakes!  There are a couple of secrets to getting fluffy pancakes, and it means deviating from your recipe or pancake mix instructions.

Here are my favorite tips for fluffy pancakes:

  • Make sure your milk is cold.  This is especially important if you are making non-dairy pancakes with shelf stable non-dairy milk.
  • Use less milk or liquid than the recipe calls for (this will take some trial and error for you to find your perfect pancake fluffiness.
  • If you are using a home made recipe, you can also use extra flour instead of less milk.  Again, this will take trial and error.
  • Put the batter in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill it a little.

Pancakes do not fluff up if they spread out too fast.  A nice cold thick batter is your best bet for fluffy pancakes.

Best Milk for Pancakes

The best milk for pancakes is whatever you have on hand – really!  Pancakes are one of those very forgiving foods – you can swap in whatever milk you need to and they will turn out great!

Cow’s milk?  Sure.  Soy milk?  Why not.  Personally, I use coconut milk because that is what I always have on hand due to my dairy allergy.

The main tip if you are using non-dairy milk ties back to our fluffy pancake tips.  If you are using shelf stable dairy free milk for your pancakes, make sure to put it in the refrigerator the night before!  Warm milk leads to flat pancakes.

The Secret to Making Good Pancakes

The secret to making good pancakes is well, there is not one!  Like anything, practice makes perfect and making pancakes is no exception.

The more pancakes you make, the better they will be!  You will find the perfect balance of fluffiness and golden brown deliciousness as you make pancakes.  Plus, everyone has different pancake preferences.

Stay tuned for more pancake tips as I discover them!

What is Ceramic Cookware?

Cookware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be made from many different materials.  One type of cookware that has become popular in recent years is ceramic cookware.  If you find yourself wondering “What is Ceramic Cookware?” then this post is for you!

What is Ceramic Cookware?

Now, we are going to take a closer look at what ceramic cookware is by definition first, then the different types of ceramic cookware, of which there are several.

Then we will cover some tips and tricks for using ceramic cookware.

What are Ceramics?

First things first, let’s talk about what the word ceramic means.

Our friends at Wikipedia tell us:

A ceramic is a solid material comprising an inorganic compound of metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. Common examples are earthenware, porcelain, and brick.

Let me break that down for you.  Ceramic is just a fancy word for a bunch of stuff mixed together that makes a hard surface when heat is applied.  This stuff that gets mixed together is usually found someplace on Earth, it is not stuff made in a lab.

Ceramics have pretty much been around since the beginning of time.

Types of Ceramic Cookware

There are many different types of ceramic cookware out there.

  • A clay pot is a type of ceramic cookware.
  • A porcelain coated cast iron pot is still classified as ceramic cookware.
  • A pure porcelain baking dish is ceramic cookware.
  • A pot or pan with a ceramic coating on the inside is still ceramic cookware.

See?  Those are three different types of ceramic cookware.  Let’s take a closer look at each.

Clay Ceramic Cookware

Clay has been pretty much around since the dawn of time.

While clay cookware was very popular for a long time, and still is in some parts of the world, it can take a little bit of getting used to.

Special care must be taken when cooking with it, cleaning it, and storing it to ensure the clay does not crack.

Clay ceramic cookware also comes in two forms: natural and glazed.  Glazed ceramic cookware is a bit more durable than its natural counterpart.

Modern clay cookware can be expensive since it takes so much expertise to create.

Porcelain Ceramic Cookware

When it comes to porcelain ceramic cookware, there are two main types:

  • Pure porcelain ceramic cookware (think baking and casserole dishes)
  • Porcelain coated ceramic cookware (think a dutch oven)

Pure porcelain cookware is often used in an oven, or just for every day eating.

Besides baking dishes and bowls, ramekins are also a popular form of ceramic cookware.

Ramekins are great for serving things like personal soufflés, molten chocolate cakes, creme brûlée, soup, and more.

The only downside to pure porcelain cookware is how delicate it is.  If you drop it, it is going to break into pieces.

If you are lucky only a few, but if you are unlucky you may end up picking porcelain shards out of your feet for days!

Porcelain coated cookware is also very popular, especially in the form of a dutch oven.  Dutch ovens are made of a cast iron core for great heat distribution, and a porcelain coating to make cleaning and maintenance easier.

A dutch oven is a must have for any home chef.

Besides being great for things like soups, stews, and chili on the stove top, it is also great to use in the oven to braise things like briskets and short ribs.

The only downside to the porcelain enameled cast iron is once again, porcelain is delicate.

While my Le Creuset cookware has survived many drops (lucky for me!), what it will not survive is metal utensils on the inside.  The inside is coated in a beige porcelain and is prone to chipping an scraping.

Metal utensils are a big no no for this one.

Ceramic Coated Cookware – The Popular One

One of the more popular ceramic cookwares right now is ceramic coated cookware.  Think of your traditional non-stick or stainless steel pan.

In this case, the coating is made of ceramic, which is a non stick surface.

Want to learn about the difference between ceramic vs non stick cookware?  Be sure to check out our guide!

In this case, ceramic cookware is mostly referring to the inside coating of any piece of cookware.  In fact, you can purchase this type of ceramic cookware in almost any form.

As you can see in this set, there are pots and pans of every shape and size.

A benefit of ceramic cookware is that it is a non-stick surface that can be used at very high temperatures.

Believe it or not, it also makes a very nice sear on meats.

If you are researching ceramic cookware, this may be the one that you are thinking of.

Is Ceramic Cookware Good?

I personally love ceramic cookware!  While I do not have the patience to deal with clay cookware, I have a number of pieces of porcelain, porcelain coated cast iron, and ceramic coated pots and pans.

They are easy to clean, do not react to the foods you are cooking, and made of natural materials.

They are also non stick surfaces, which make them a good choice for almost any kitchen task.

Why is My Ceramic Pan Sticking?

This is a great question, and can have a number of answers based on what you are cooking and how you are cooking it.

If meat is sticking, you are probably trying to move it before the sear is complete.  I have noticed once my meat has a nice coating on the outside, it no longer sticks to the ceramic pan.

If you are cooking something fatty or with oil, your ceramic pan may begin to stick over time.  I have noticed that if I do not clean my pan properly, over time a sticky oily film begins to form.  Then it gets sticky.  I noticed this with a pancake pan over time, since there was some oil in the batter.

A good cleaning should solve many of your sticky ceramic coating issues.

Cleaning Ceramic Cookware

Cleaning your ceramic cookware is important to keep the coating from getting sticky.

Do not use things like metal brushes or Brillo pads on your ceramic cookware or you may damage it over brush.

A sponge and blue Dawn dish detergent are all you need for a squeaky clean ceramic pan.

Remember, you want the Dawn dish detergent with the animal on the front.

You can also let your pan soak with hot soapy water to make it easier to clean!  After soaking for a while, anything stuck will come right off with a sponge.

Why is Ceramic Cookware So Confusing?

It all comes down to the word ceramic, which can mean any number of things.  There are also many different types of cookwares, so there are a number of possibilities when it comes to researching ceramic cookware – and they can all be different!

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand the different types of ceramic cookware, and what they can be used for.  Now that you know what ceramic cookware is, you can make the choice that is right for your cooking needs.

 

The Best Pans for Pancakes

There is no pan I use more in my house than my pancake pan.  I eat pancakes every single morning for breakfast.  Why?  Simple.  They are delicious, easy to prepare in large batches, and easy to reheat for breakfast.

I found my perfect pancake pan through a lot of trial and error, and I learned a lot in the process.

I read article upon article about pancake pans, and you know what?  Some of the recommendations were just terrible.  When it comes to picking the right pancake pan, there are a number of things that must be considered.

First, I want to show you the different options if you are looking for the best griddle pan for pancakes, and then we will look at how to pick the best pancake pan for your specific needs.

Best Pans for Pancakes

Now, let’s take a look at the best pan for pancakes broken down five different ways.

Best Griddle Pan for Pancakes Best Copper Pan for Pancakes Best Two Burner Griddle for Pancakes Best Ceramic Pan for Pancakes Best Nonstick Pan for Pancakes
Manufacturer Gotham Steel Concord Cookware Gotham Steel GreenPan Circulon
Material Copper Copper Copper Ceramic Nonstick
More Information

 

Best Griddle Pan for Pancakes

This is my daily driver of a pancake pan.  It gets used a minimum of two times a week.

Besides being used for pancakes, I’ve also used it for steak sandwich meat, bacon, and well, just about anything else that I want to cook on a griddle like surface at home.

While the bottom is not pictured, I can tell you that it is flat with an indented metal insert – this means it will work on any type of stove, be it gas, electric, or induction.

I love this pan, however for some reason it does not have the Amazon Prime checkmark next to it, so I found another fantastic copper option as well.

However, if you do click the link, you will be taken to a prime option for checkout.  Go figure.

Best Copper Pan for Pancakes

I found another great option for a copper pan for pancakes.  This pan by Concord Cookware has 12″ sides, versus the 10.5″ sides of the Gotham Steel pan I love so much.

As we all know, every bit of real estate matters when we are making pancakes so they don’t touch!

If you are a messy pancake maker like me, that extra room will go a long way.

Something important to note is that this pan is not suited for flat cooktops – if you have gas like I do or coiled electric you will be fine – but it will not be completely flat on a glass cooktop.

Best Two Burner Griddle for Pancakes

The only thing better than a griddle pan for pancakes is a two burner griddle.  I also have this griddle and I adore it for things like bacon, steak, hamburgers, steak sandwich meat, and well, almost everything.

It also reverses to a griddle that will give you nice grill lines on food, like doing a flank steak or hot dogs indoors in the winter.

I love this thing.  I bought it because I liked the first griddle pan for pancakes I had so much.  I use it all the time.

Best Ceramic Pan for Pancakes

If you are rolling your eyes at all of my copper suggestions don’t worry, I also have more recommendations.

This is the best pan for pancakes that is made out of ceramic you can get.  While I do not have this griddle pan, I do have other GreenPans that I adore.

It has 11″ sides, which means you should have plenty of room to cook four pancakes at a time.

I was a very early ceramic/GreenPan adopter, and the best part about this pan is it I have not been able to scrape it yet, and we all know durability can be downfall of ceramic pans.

Best Nonstick Pan for Pancakes

While I do not usually cook with nonstick pans, the few I do have are made by Circulon.

Why?  Because of their unique design they are more nonstick than their counterparts, they are more durable than traditional nonstick pans, and they cook very evenly.

This is also an 11″ pan, which makes it a perfect candidate for four nice sized pancakes.

Why Copper Pancake Pans Are Great for Pancakes

As you can see, three of my recommendations are for copper pans.  I have no less than three copper pans and the copper griddle in my kitchen cabinets right now.

Copper is great because it is non stick, and does not scrape easily like many ceramics or other nonstick surfaces.

It also creates a great sear on meats, and nice golden browning on pancakes.

Why the Best Pans for Pancakes are Pancake Griddles

As you can see, all of my recommendations are for griddles that are flat with very low sides.  The low sides make it very easy to flip your pancakes, and the flat bottom keeps your pancakes in place.

I never make pancakes in traditional round pans.  They look funny because the batter slides if you try to squeeze too many pancakes in a pan and end up using the sides.

Square is the perfect shape for pancakes.  Each of these pans will get you four nice size pancakes or more smaller ones, and the large griddle will get you eight nice sized pancakes or more smaller ones.

Picking the Best Pans for Pancakes

All of the recommended pans for pancakes will make wonderful pancakes that are golden brown and well shaped.  The question comes down to which material you prefer as the coating on your pan: copper, ceramic, or non-stick.

Want to up your pancake game?  Check out the best electric griddles for pancakes here!

Because you can use a pancake pan for more than just pancakes, it is important to take into account the size of the pan as well.  Pancake pans are great for cooking things you would traditionally cook on a grill, or you would order from many diners or hamburger places.

Here is a recap of the best pans for pancakes:

Be sure to let us know about your favorite pancakes tips and tricks in the comments!

Picking the Best Utensils for Your Toddler

Teaching your toddler to use utensils can be exciting, terrifying, and challenging all at once.  When it comes to picking the best utensils for toddlers, it can difficult to choose the best ones.  I know I went through many many utensils when I was first buying them for my kids until we found the ones that worked best for us.

Now, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about how to pick the best utensils for your child.

Best Utensils for Toddlers

I have broken the best toddler utensils down into five different categories:

Best Plastic Utensils for Toddlers Best Utensils for Toddlers With Knife Best Utensils for Toddlers Without Knife Best Stainless Steel Toddler Utensils Best Utensils for Reluctant Toddlers
Manufacturer Gerber Gerber OXO Munchkin NUK
Included in Set Four Spoons, Four Forks Spoon, Fork, and Knife Two Spoons and Two Forks Spoon, Fork, and Knife Spoon and Fork
More Information

 

Now, let’s take a look at each category before we talk about how to pick the best utensils for your child.

Best Plastic Utensils for Toddlers – Gerber Fun Pack

These are hands down my absolute favorite toddler utensils.  I picked a pack up at Toys R Us back in the day (remember them?) and have never looked back.

If your toddler is on the small size, these are even a better choice, since many of the metal utensils we are going to look at are just too big for tiny toddler mouths.

Plus, they come in a large pack, so you are bound to always have some clean ones someplace!  Of course, they are dishwasher safe and BPA free.

Best Utensils for Toddlers With Knife

 If you are looking for a good toddler utensil set with a knife, this is the way to go.

I bought these, and the utensils are great, and very easy to grip for small hands.

I’m going to be honest, we did not really get anywhere with the knife, however Gerber also sells these utensils in spoon only and fork only packs, which I have loaded up on.

You can’t go wrong with these, though some people don’t particularly like the way they look.

Don’t worry, I have also found some more excellent toddler utensils.

Best Utensils for Toddlers Without Knife

Knife not for your toddler?  They don’t work well for mine yet either, so here is another excellent toddler utensils fork and spoon set.

They also look a bit nicer than some other options.

Of course OXO is known for their great kitchen gadgets, which always look good, so it is not surprise they also make great looking toddler utensils.

Best Stainless Steel Toddler Utensils

 If you are all about stainless steel, these lovely looking toddler utensils for you.

These are a full sett of a spoon, fork, and knife, so your toddler is exposed to of their utensils.

Your toddler will be excited that their utensils look just like the big people utensils!

If the plastic look is just not for you and your toddler, this is a great choice!

Best Utensils for Reluctant Toddlers

Is your toddler reluctant to try using utensils?  Even if they look like yours?

Justice League toddler utensils may be what you need to get them interested!

After all, their favorite superheroes use utensils, don’t they?

While they are pictured with male superheroes here, they also come with Wonder Woman printed on them, so there is a superhero to please every toddler!

Too bad they don’t come in adult sizes.

How to Pick the Best Utensils for Your Toddler

There are a couple things to think about when you pick the right utensils for your toddler.

  • Toddler Utensil Material

Do you prefer plastic, metal, or a combination of materials for your toddler’s utensils?

  • Which toddler utensils?

Are you looking for a spoon and fork set, which are the most common, or would you like a toddler knife too?

  • Is your toddler excited about utensils?

If so, you should be good with anything!  If not, try stainless steel utensils that look like yours, or super hero utensils.

It may take some trial and error to find the utensils your toddler likes the best!  Just because we like something, it does not mean our children will as I’m sure you all know.

Tips for Introducing Utensils to Your Toddler

Using utensils is a new skill for your toddler, so be sure to be patient on with them.  Here are some tips for helping your toddler use utensils:

  • Start by feeding them with the the utensils, versus trying to get them to do everything themselves.  Eating from a utensil is a new experience for them!
  • When you want them to give it a try on their own, show them how you put the food on the utensil for them, then hand them the utensil.
  • As they see this process repeated, your toddler will naturally want to try it themselves!  Cheer them on and praise them for their good work.

Good luck introducing your toddler to utensils!

Ceramic vs Non Stick Cookware Differences Explained

Cookware comes in all shapes, sizes, and materials, and we all have our preferences.  I own a large range of cookware, and I use different cookware for different tasks.  Today I want to talk about something that often confuses people, and that is ceramic vs non stick cookware.

Ceramic vs Non Stick Cookware – What’s the Deal?

When it comes to comparing ceramic and nonstick cookware, things get confusing.

This is because ceramic cookware is a type of nonstick cookware.  Did I just blow your mind?  Quite possibly.

Generally speaking, when someone talks about non stick cookware, they are not talking about ceramic cookware.  They are talking about Teflon.

That’s why there is so much confusion.  Let’s take a look at these two different types of cookware, and the similarities and differences between them.

Non Stick Cookware – Understanding Teflon

Teflon is a brand name of a material crated by DuPont to provide a non stick surface on pans.  The material itself is called Polytetrafluoroethylene or PFTE since it is such a mouthful to say.

The issue with this material is it begins to emit fumes when it is heated to over 350F, which isn’t hard to do when you are cooking.  If you heat it over 500F, it will loose its non stick properties.

These fumes are not the best for humans, and lethal to birds.  Be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry linked to above for a longer explanation.

Because of this, I actually do not own any Teflon non stick cookware.

Ceramic Non Stick Cookware

Ceramic non stick cookware uses a ceramic coating on the pan, versus the chemicals of Teflon.

Ceramic is a fancy word for fusing together elements by heat.  Because it is forged by heat, it can withstand ridiculous temperatures well above what you would use cooking.

Think of the tiles in your house, they are probably a type of ceramic.  The strength of the ceramic depends on how it is forged.

Ceramic also does not release any fumes or toxins when heated.

I do have some ceramic cookware that I use pretty regularly for a number of things that we will soon talk about.

Ceramic vs Non Stick Cookware Similarities

Besides both being non stick, there are some additional similarities to ceramic and nonstick cookware.

First of all, both surfaces are somewhat delicate.  While non stick Teflon will be scraped by metal utensils, ceramic can be chipped by metal utensils.  I feel like Teflon scrapes easier than ceramic chips however.

It is important to use either wood, plastic, or silicon coated utensils when cooking with ceramic or nonstick cookware.

Because ceramic is prone to chipping, you could actually chip it by placing another pot or pan on top of it in your cabinet.  It is a good idea to use something like this pot and pan protector, or simply put dishtowels between the pots and pans when stacking.

The Myth of Non Stick Cookware

I don’t know about you, but I do a ton of research when I am looking at new products to buy.  One comment I often come across in reviews when looking at ceramic vs non stick cookware is people complain the coating becomes sticky over time.

Perhaps it is just the way I cook, but I have never just expected something to not stick to a pan, even if it is non stick.

For example when I make pancakes, I always wipe the pan with a paper towel that has a bit of canola oil on it first.  I have noticed it enhances the golden brown color of the pancakes.

Like pancakes?  Be sure to check out my favorite electric griddles here!

I never just dump batter in a pan and expect it not to stick, that just isn’t the way I cook, but I hear people do it.

What to Cook in Ceramic or Non Stick Cookware

So what are some examples of things I make in ceramic or non stick cookware?

Basically things that would have a tendency to stick in a plain stainless steel pan unless I used a ton of oil.  These are things like:

  • Pancakes
  • Vegetables
  • Browning Ground Meat
  • Chicken
  • Stir Frys
  • Reheating food (reheat your pasta in a non stick pan next time, you will thank me, I swear).

All in all, stainless steel is my go to pan usually, but I don’t always want to use the oil I would need to to make sure things don’t get stuck up, which brings us to my new point.

Why do I like stainless steel?  And why am I focused on that?

The Truth About Ceramic and Non Stick Cookware

The truth about ceramic vs nonstick cookware is the coating is not nearly the important part.  Sure, I shy away from Teflon and favor ceramic, but there is so much more to it than that.

The thing you should really be worried about when you are picking ceramic cookware or non stick cookware is what is underneath the coating!

When it comes to cookware, it is all about the heat distribution, which is determined by the material the cookware is primarily made of.

This same principle also applies to grill grates, the cookware of your grill!  Be sure to check out our grill grate material guide here.

My two favorite materials are stainless steel and cast iron.  Most other people who love to cook will agree with me.

However, they can both be annoying to clean, especially cast iron.  While some may argue a properly seasoned cast iron pan will essential become non stick, not everyone cares for their cookware properly.

Stainless steel cooks like a dream, but a certain amount of fat is required so food does not stick to its surface.  This is fine for pan frying foods, and some vegetables, but not so good for things like pancakes.

Both cast iron and stainless steel can also be put into the oven – so you can make a great steak by seating it inside on a pan then cooking it the rest of the way in a hot oven (you should not do this with a Teflon pan by the way).

Both stainless steel, which can tarnish over time, and cast iron can be a pain to keep clean and maintain, which is where our favorite ceramic and non stick coatings come in.

These coatings make these pans easier to clean and maintain and get awesome heat distribution.

So when you are picking cookware, make sure it has something like stainless steel or cast iron under that coating!

Deciding on Ceramic vs Non Stick Cookware

Remember, ceramic is a type of non stick cookware.  All non stick cookware is not sticky, because it has a coating, which can become damaged.  Non stick cookware requires special care to keep it in tip top shape.

If you are not going to be cooking at high temperatures (below 350F), it does not matter which type of non stick cookware you pick.

I prefer ceramic cookware because I do not have to worry about going over a certain temperature, and can sear and brown things nicely in it.

When you decide on what coating material is best for you and your needs, be sure to pay special attention to what is underneath!  The core material of the pan is the most important part of your decision.

I hope this helped you understand the difference between ceramic and non stick cookware.  Be sure to tell me about your preferences in the comments.

Evaluating the Best Electric Griddles for Pancakes

Pancakes are one of the best breakfast foods in the world.  Besides the fact that you can put anything in them or on them, they also reheat well for later meals.

The only downside is a big batch of pancakes can take forever to cook in a regular pan.  If you are serious about pancakes like we are, it may be time to think about an electric griddle.

Electric Griddle for Pancakes and More!

The benefit of having an electric griddle for pancakes is a pure volume and time play.  It provides a much larger cooking area than a traditional pan on the stove, and also leaves stove burners free for other items like bacon, sausage, or eggs.

Of course, you can use an electric griddle for more than just pancakes!  Those sausage, bacon, and eggs we just talked about?  You can make those on an electric griddle too.  Not to mention things like hamburgers, sausage, peppers, and onions, and pretty much anything you can imagine.

Best Electric Griddles for Pancakes

We are going to take a look at the best electric griddles for pancakes and more, then talk about how you can pick the best one for your needs.

Best Ceramic Electric Griddle with Grease Tray Best Electric Griddle for Pancakes and More Best Safe Electric Griddle for Pancakes Best Electric Griddle for Pancakes Best Ceramic Electric Griddle for Pancakes
Manufacturer Hamilton Beach Presto Presto Presto Presto
Material Ceramic Nonstick Nonstick Nonstick Ceramic
Size 200 sq in 277 sq in 210 sq in 286 sq in 286 sq in
More Information

 

Best Ceramic Electric Griddle with Grease Tray

If you are looking to do more with your electric griddle than just make pancakes, this should be a serious contender.

It has a convenient drip tray that will catch the run off of things like sausage and hamburgers, and a very very slight tilt to make sure your food doesn’t sit in grease while cooking

It also has a ceramic cooktop vs a nonstick one, which is a major plus for me.

Best Electric Griddle for Pancakes and More

While we are talking about doing more with your electric griddle, here is another great contender that has the ability to drain grease.

The Hamilton Beach model we just looked at clocks in at 200 square inches, while this one features 277 square inches of cooking space.

While it has a nonstick surface, this is a great option if the previous model is just too small to suit your needs.

Best Safe Electric Griddle for Pancakes

Now that we have looked at a few electric griddles, I am sure you have noticed something they all have in common.

They get hot.  Really hot, and they have metal edges.

That means it can be easy to burn yourself the first couple times you are using it, or if you are just disaster prone like me.

The safe electric griddle has cool sides to save your arms from being burned.  A major consideration!

Best Electric Griddle for Pancakes

If you are looking for the best all around electric griddle for pancakes, this Presto 22 inch electric griddle is for you.

A nice flat surface with 286 square inches of cooking area allows you to supply endless pancakes!

Beneath the nonstick surface is cast iron and aluminum for great heat distribution to give you golden brown pancakes every time.

Best Ceramic Electric Griddle for Pancakes

 Does the model we just talk about sound great except for the nonstick surface?

I agree.  So does Presto, which is why this model exists.  It has the same large cooking area and cast iron aluminum base, but a ceramic coating instead of a nonstick one.

What’s With Presto?

As you may have noticed, most of these griddles are made by Presto.  If you have not heard of Presto before, I am sure you are not alone, however, they have been around for quite sometime (founded in 1905).  Chances are you may have owned one of their precuts at some point but probably did not realize it.

Picking the Best Electric Griddles for Pancakes

When it comes to picking the best electric griddle for yourself, you need to ask a few things:

  • Will you cook more than pancakes?
  • What kind of coating do you want?

The coating material (nonstick or ceramic) is noted in the comparison chart.  There are several options for each.

  • Are you prone to kitchen accidents?

The Presto Cool Touch griddle is the best choice for you, though the Presto Tilt ‘n Drain Griddle also has a barrier around the cooking surface if you want to make more than pancakes.

  • How much cooking area do you need?

The cooking area in square inches is noted in the comparison chart to guide you.

These considerations will help you pick the best electric griddles for pancakes, no matter what you are looking for.  Enjoy!

The Best Storage Containers for Flour

When it comes to cooking and baking, flour is always an essential ingredient.  Unfortunately most flours come in boxes and bags that make storage difficult, and can get messy when you are pouring it to measure the flour out.  Finding the best storage containers for flour can also be a difficult task.

If you use specialty flours, you may also need smaller containers to keep everything neat, organized, and easy to access.

Some containers don’t have lids that fit right, and others are a pain to open.  Glass is a great choice, unless you have small children.  There are many things to consider when picking the best storage container for flour.

Luckily, I’ve been through this process, and have some ideas for you!

Best Storage Containers for Flour

Best Storage Container for Flour Best Easy to Clean Storage Container for Flour Best Glass Containers for Flour Storage Best Canister Style Flour Storage Container Set Best Inexpensive Storage Container for Flour Set
Manufacturer OXO Rubbermaid Essos Bellemain Vtopmart
Material BPA Free Plastic BPA Free Plastic Glass BPA Free Plastic BPA Free Plastic
Size 16 Cup 16 Cup 6.5 Cup 8 Cup, 6 Cup, 3.25 Cup, 2.75 Cup 2x 3.3 Qt, 2x 1.5 Qt
More Information

Best Storage Container for Flour

This OXO container is my all around favorite for storing flour and other dry items.  This container also comes in a number of sizes, as you can see on the product page, and with stainless steel tops if the white is not for you.

These have an extremely air tight seal, making them a great choice for herbs and spices as well.

The only downside is that awesome top is a bit difficult to clean, and requires some disassembly for it to dry properly.

Best Easy to Clean Storage Container for Flour

This is another great contianer for flour that has a nice tight seal.  It also comes in a variety of sizes as you can see here, so you can find more containers to suit your storage needs.

The benefit to this one over the OXO container is that it is very simple to clean.  The top is air tight, but does not require any magic or disassembly to get it to dry properly.

Best Glass Containers for Flour Storage

Best Glass Storage Containers for Flour – View at Amazon

While all of the plastic options in this review are of course BPA free, some people just prefer glass.

This is a great choice if you don’t have to worry about small hands getting into your flour and knocking your containers over.

Like the other options, this comes in a variety of sizes so you can make all of your storage containers match.

Best Canister Style Flour Storage Container Set

If you like the looks of canisters, this four piece set is a great value and a great way to store flour and other dry goods.

The seal is of course air tight, so everything will stay fresh.

This four piece set is well coordinated to suit your baking needs, and is so reasonably priced you can buy two sets to store everything you need.

Best Inexpensive Storage Containers for Flour – Set

If you are looking for value, this six piece set from Vtopmart is your winner.

The lids are air tight and snap into place, and it also comes with labels and a marker so you don’t mix your dry ingredients up!

They are also easy to clean, and of course BPA Free.  They may not look as nice as some of the other options presented, but they get the job done.

 

Picking the Best Storage Containers for Flour

Now that we have reviewed several options, it is time to pick the best storage containers for flour.

The most important things to think about are:

  • Material
  • Price
  • How many and what types of things you want to store beyond flour

Whether you choose to buy a set now, or your containers one by one, all of the presented options are available in multiple sizes.

All in all, my favorite is the OXO Storage Container, which is also available with a stainless steel top.  I have a number of these that I use on a regular basis.

 

The Best Cooking Presents for Him

Gift giving can be tough, especially when it is someone close to you.  Are you looking for a present for that special cook in your life?  These cooking presents for him will be sure to make any guy pleased when he opens his gift.

Whether it be Christmas, Valentines Day, Father’s Day, a birthday, or just because, these gifts are sure to please all of the guys on your list.  This guide includes something in ever price range, so you will be sure to find the perfect cooking present.

Here is a list of ten different things you can buy the guy you know who loves to cook.  While I called this list cooking presents for him since these all have been tested on my husband, they can apply to anyone!

Cooking Presents for Him

Here is the ultimate list of cool, unique, and useful cooking presents for him.  There is nothing on this list he won’t use!

Cosmos Kitchen Knife Set

This defiantly falls under appropriate for anyone, but if he loves space, this is an awesome knife set to either display or use!

Is there any cooler accessory for the kitchen astronaut in your life?  Of course not!

 

 

 

YOCOYCHEF Grill Tools Set

We grill all year long, so a grill tool set is always an appropriate gift.

There are many, many grill tool sets out there, but this one is one of my favorites.  Why?  Simple.  It comes with a sleek carrying case, as well as a stand to put the utensils on.

When you are undertaking a nice long day of grilling and smoking like we usually do, you can set up the utensils on the stand outside.

Then when you are done, pack them away in the neat case.

Custom Cutting Board

What is better to put everything on after you take it off the grill than a customized cutting board?

The answer.  Nothing. This is a really nice gift that is also very practical, and will get tons of use.

 

 

Hot Sauce Kit

It can be difficult to find the perfect hot sauce.  Some are too hot, some are too mild, and some are too sweet.

This is why many people are 100% loyal to a particular brand of hot sauce.

Expand your horizons by creating your 100% customized hot sauce.  Get the spice and sweetness you like with this kit.

Guitar Utensils

This one may be a little out there, but my husband is an avid guitar player and fan.  If that special someone in your life plays guitar, likes heavy metal, or has always wanted to play the guitar, these utensils are for them!

Use them or put them on display, either way they are a super cool addition to your kitchen – and a great conversation starter!

 

Hamilton Beach Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker

 Breakfast sandwiches are great, but they are often loaded with salt and all sorts of other nasty things.

This breakfast sandwich maker is quick and easy to use, and allows you a custom breakfast on the go.

Bonus!  It makes two at once, so you can get one too!  It is a win win situation, and truly a gift that keeps on giving.

It does, however also come with as a single version which you can find on the product page.

Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun

File this one under ultra cool kitchen gadgets.  Wonder what temperature your pan is?  Now you can know with the click of a button!

While not related to cooking, it is also fun to run around the house and take the temperature of…well…everything!

 

 

Cooking Socks

 One of our favorite gifts in my house is crazy socks.

These cooking socks are the perfect gift for anyone who loves to cook, and won’t break the bank.

You can’t go wrong with these socks, because who doesn’t need a new pair of cool socks?

Be sure to browse the product page, because there are all sorts of fun sock designs in addition to cooking!

Sriracha Flavored Salt

 This is a really tasty and unique way to flavor food – Sriracha flavored salt!

This is something different, and as long as the special someone you are shopping for likes Sriracha (and who does’t?) you should be good to go.

My personal favorite use for this is on Popcorn, since putting regular Sriracha salt on it makes it all soggy and gross.

Denim Apron

I don’t know why, but some guys just don’t want to wear an apron while cooking or grilling.

This denim apron is so stylish for anyone, that no guy can reject it!

It also comes in a variety of different colored denims, so you can get the one that suits his fashion sense perfectly and will actually be worn!

 

The Best Cooking Presents for Him

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of cooking presents for the special guy in your life.  These gifts are great for any occasion, and are sure to please even the pickiest guys in the kitchen!

Finding the Best Waffle Maker with Removable Plates

You may think a waffle maker is a single use item, but the truth is it can be used for more than just traditional breakfast waffles.

Hash brows, cinnamon rolls, leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving, you name it, you can put it in a waffle maker.

The trick when you are learning how to use a waffle maker for more than just waffles is learning the proper temperature so the food will not stick to the waffle maker.

Believe me, the first time I tried to make hash browns in a waffle maker was a disaster.  I spent hours trying to clean the plates of my waffle maker, and it was never the same again.

That’s why when it was time to get a new waffle maker, I got one with removable plates.

Removable plates make your waffle maker easy to clean.  This is important for general kitchen cleanliness, but also if someone in your home has food sensitivities.

Best Waffle Maker with Removable Plates

Best Cheap Waffle Maker with Removable Plates Best Ceramic Waffle Maker with Removable Plates Best Expensive Waffle Maker with Removable Plates Best Indoor Grill with Waffle Plates Removable Waffle Plates for Best Indoor
Grill
Manufacturer Secura Hamilton Beach Cuisinart Cuisinart Cuisinart
Waffle Shape Round Round Square Square Square
More Information

 

There are two major things to be concerned with when picking the perfect waffle maker with removable plates.

First, is your budget.  Unfortunately, the feature of removable plates tends to come with a premium price tag compared to regular waffle makers.

Second is the shape of waffle you would like: round or square.

Now, let’s take a look at the best waffle makers with removable plates broken down into several categories.

Best Cheap Waffle Maker with Removable Plates

Cheap is a relative term here, since as we talked bout this feature of being able to remove plates comes with a premium price tag.

This is the best cheapest option available, and this Secura model comes with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a premium waffle maker.

The base also separates completely from the waffle maker for an even easier cleanup besides removing the plates.

Best Ceramic Waffle Maker with Removable Plates

I love everything about ceramic cookware.  I was excited to see this model by Hamilton Beach that had removable ceramic plates.

A number of years ago I switched over from teflon to ceramic for non stick, and have never looked back.

This waffle maker has great heat distribution and of course is super easy to clean.  It is not that much more expensive than the cheaper option, so if ceramic plates are important to you, it is worth the small uplift in cost.

Best Expensive Waffle Maker with Removable Plates

Can you ever go wrong with a Cuisinart appliance?  The answer is no!  This waffle maker is a great option that makes four nice sized square waffles at one time.

The only downside to this model it is a little more expensive than its round counterparts.

Square waffles add a great flare to breakfast sandwiches and ice cream sandwiches.

It also comes with pancake plates to help you make the perfect pancake every time!

Cuisinart Griddler: The Best Indoor Grill with Additional Waffle Plates

My next recommendation isn’t a waffle maker at all!  It is the Cuisinart Griddler, which is one of my all time favorite countertop appliances.

This little grill can do it all.  Meats, veggies, steaks, paninis, you name it.

it is versatile appliance I leave on the counter all the time since I use it so much.

It also comes with an option to purchase waffle plates to go along with the grill plates it comes with.

I am recommending the base model Griddler since it does everything you need it to, but there are also advanced models with digital displays and sleeker features available.

The waffle plates fit perfectly into the Griddler after you remove the grill plates.

Like our other options, the provide a super easy cleanup.

The only downside to the Griddler waffle plates is they make a slightly thinner waffle than their counterparts.

This can also be seen as a benefit if you plan on making sandwiches with the waffles.  Sometimes a two waffle sandwich can be a very heavy meal, but the Griddler waffles are a nice balance.

Picking the Best Waffle Iron with Removable Plates

While this choice may be daunting at first, be sure to think about the following things:

  • What shape waffles do you like?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you really want a single use appliance?

If you like round waffles, the Hamilton Beach option with removable ceramic plates is my favorite pick.

If you like square waffles, and are looking for some versatility, you cannot go wrong with the Cuisinart Griddler and the additional waffle plates.