18. Introducing Panhunter

Also known as The Plate Chooser

Two issues ago I made the offer to put the excessive research I do to optimize my own kitchen equipment purchases into optimizing yours. The TPC legal department told me I wasn’t allowed to call it Kitchen Aid, so the search was on for another name. A long list with unfortunate entries like Grate Expectations, Gear Abbey, and Optimize Prime got whittled down to a shortlist with some strong contenders including Go Go Gadget, Trivet Pursuit, and Wild Use Chase. But, as you have already seen, the name that rose to the top was Panhunter1.

With the name of this new feature chosen, all that was left to do was wait for many inquiries to roll in.

Which they didn’t.

Until recently, when I got a message on Instagram from Matej Novak, a former colleague and fellow copywriter that read:

Oh, I definitely have things that I would recommend!

The Nonstick Frying Pan

The thing about nonstick pans is that the nonstick coating won’t last forever and at that point the pan is useless and has to go. I expect to keep my non-nonstick pans for the rest of my life, so I don’t mind making an investment in them. But spending something like $265 for a Le Creuset nonstick pan and then having to toss it 10 years2 later? Not for me.

Our current nonstick frying pan is a Browne Foodservice 12”. I think I paid about $35 for it at the (now-closed) Toronto location of my beloved Wholesale Club. Restaurant supply and foodservice stores are great places to pick up good quality smallwares like steel prep bowls3 and workhorse sheet pans (see above) that cost much less than the consumer brand names you’d find at a home kitchen store. If there isn’t a store like that near you, pick up the one that feels the most solid4 at a discounter like Winners or HomeSense (or TJ Maxx in the US) (or TK Maxx in the UK). If there’s no point in spending a lot of money on a nonstick pan, there’s also no point in paying full price either.

The 9”x12” Cutting Board

If the cutting board were for me, it would be wood. I like the way it feels under the knife and I like the look. But this isn’t about me. I completely understand the desire to simply stick the board in the dishwasher and be done with it, especially if I had two young kids to look after, which Matej does. So that means plastic.

Going around to the sites I most often check for recommendations, one answer kept coming up again and again and again: the Oxo Good Grips Everyday Cutting Board. And I mean everywhere I looked. Wirecutter. Serious Eats. Epicurious. Good Housekeeping. Oxo makes a range of different sizes and sells them in sets as well as individually. The 9”x13” is closest to what Matej is looking for and will only set you back $21. At that price, I’d be tempted to buy a second so I could keep them in a rotation.

And that’s how Panhunter is played. If this has reminded you that you’re having trouble deciding on a new purchase for the kitchen (or the part of the outdoors where cooking happens), reach out! If you’re received this as a newsletter, just reply. Or send me a message via The Plate Cleaner on Instagram. (What do you mean you’re not following The Plate Cleaner on Instagram?) Or mike [at] takasaki.ca.

What I’m consuming…

  • Garlic-Growing Tips I decided that next year I would convert at least part of the garden into a Pickle Garden. I’ll grow dill, garlic, peppers, and bush cucumbers that should give me a better-timed yield than the usual vine cucumbers. Hopefully this means I will be less reliant on supermarkets having pickling cucumbers and mine will be pickled right at their peak. Garlic needs to go in the ground now, so I’ve been devouring instructions about how to do it right.

  • Videos of Humpback Whales Being Awesome They put themselves between orcas and the seals and smaller whales they prey on! Hakai Magazine calls them “the ocean’s bouncers.” One researcher even saw a humpback flip over and put a seal on its chest to keep it out of harm’s way.

  • Jugs & Cans: A Reaping This Saturday, while visiting parents in Burlington, I also plan to stop by the terrific writer (among other things) Ivy Knight’s exhibition at the Art Gallery of Burlington. The gallery describes it like this:

    “This exhibition is a collection of over 150 empty vessels; jugs, cans, bottles, and boxes, collected from women in food across Canada and the United States. In gathering the containers Ivy collects the stories and struggles of the cooks, bakers, food writers, restaurateurs, and servers who opened, emptied, and used them. She then lovingly enrobes them in crocheted vestments to hold the donor’s voiced realities in a brightly coloured, protective shield of craft.”

    Can’t wait.

What’s on the menu…

  • Old standbys Doing this week’s meal planning, I was more stuck than I usually am, so very stuck. Pizza in the Ooni before it’s too nasty outside. I had a craving for nachos as well, so that went on the plan. But with two cheese-and-meat-heavy entries, I needed some things that were a little lighter. Enter the recipe list I shared in an earlier issue, compiling the dishes I’ve turned to the most during the pandemic. I hadn’t turned to any of them in a while, but that’s changing this week. Moong Dal Tadka! Spiced Indian Cabbage! Ricotta Gnocchi with Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce! One-Skillet Cod and Kale (I’m using the last of the yard chard instead) with Garlic and Ginger! Done and done.

  • Cheetos, probably. Did anyone else put off buying Halloween candy until right before Halloween? Did anyone else discover the Halloween candy shelves at your local supermarket are picked pretty clean? I arrived at Fiesta Farms to discover the only things left were assorted Tootsie treats, molasses kisses5, and a 45-pack of Cheetos puffs. I grabbed the Cheetos and a few bags of Tootsie things and then I did some panic buying and added a few full-size bars. Every year I plan to give full-size bars to the kids who live next door and every year I fail to recognize them in their costumes. I also, for some reason, bought a three-pack of Ferrero Rocher, thinking one kid would score. Then I thought the better of it and had them as an afternoon snack.

    I have no idea what the traffic is going to be like this year. I expect it will be high, but this neighbourhood has always been hard to predict and we usually get stuck with leftovers. Too bad it’s not the crunchy Cheetos instead.


Don’t be all client-y and say, “People will think you’ll only help them find pans!” You’re all smarter than that.


Le Creuset says it’s “toughened nonstick.” I say, “OK, maybe 11.”


Buy multiples of the same size bowls. Nesting mixing bowls, especially glass ones, are the worst.


Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential: “A proper sauté pan should cause serious head injury if brought down hard against someone else’s skull. If you have any doubts about which will dent, the victim’s head or your pan, then throw that pan right in the trash.” Did I ever mention I got to interview him? You can read it here. (This is why it’s good to read the footnotes.)


You might as well just hand out eggs.