Last year, Fagor sent members of the press a package of new products that were created in cooperation with Chef Michelle Bernstein of Miami, Florida.
A Miami native of Jewish and Latin descent, Michelle Bernstein has impressed diners and critics alike with her culinary creations and her vibrant personality. Bernstein, who is a James Beard Award winner (Best Chef South 2007) and author of Cuisine a Latina (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2008), says “My food is luxurious but approachable.”
They sent a 4-qt enamel coated cast iron deep fry pan and a set of three knives. Both the cookware and knife lines have been so successful that Fagor is expanding both lines for 2012 (see the detailed article I wrote about this). After receiving the Michelle Bernstein products, I used them over many weeks in the normal course of meal preparation to see how they performed. I don’t think I would have purchased a cast iron chicken/deep fry pan for myself so I was intrigued.
Fagor Michelle Bernstein 4-Quart Chicken Fryer with Lid
Like the other enameled cast iron pieces in the series, this fryer has a multi-coated exterior for strength and chip resistance. While enamel coatings are not non-stick, they will provide a good, easy to clean cooking surface. The fryer comes with a lid and recipe booklet that provides ways to use the pan.
I made fried chicken a couple of times, French Fried potatoes, and a few slow cooked braise style recipes, the latter of which included long slow cooking sessions in the oven. I also made several pasta sauces and the 4-qt size provided plenty of space for both pasta and sauce. In essence, this so called chicken fryer can be used as a traditional sauté pan.
Yes, it is heavy – it is made from cast iron – but I didn’t find this a deterrent to regular use.
Even after preparing fried chicken and slow cooked stews, the pan cleaned up very easily, although one time it required a little bit of a soak.
Will this pan last multiple generations like Staub or Le Creuset are known to do? It is hard to say given its recent introduction to the market, but it should give you many, many years of faithful use and service.
Michelle Bernstein Cutlery 3-Piece Prep Set
The 3-Piece Prep Set they included in my package was part of the original Michelle Bernstein knife offering. As I mentioned in the previous Fagor post, the set is expanding with more choices this year. The knives are made with resin coated high carbon stainless steel; the resin coating is intended to provide added durability and a surface that resists stains and corrosion. The handles are designed with an ergonomic non-slip grip to provide better control of the knife while in use.
The set includes a 4.5-inch Santoku, 5.5-inch Serrated Utility, and 3.5-inch Paring knife. Each knife comes in a protective sheath to keep the blade from being dulled or damaged during storage and maintain their sharpness longer.
I used these knives in various cutting, slicing and dicing tasks around the kitchen. They performed well with various vegetables, save for larger, firmer ones like winter squash. The smaller size didn’t lend this line to heavier chopping work.
Were these the sharpest knives I have ever used? No. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many people who would find these knives quite useful. I think these Michelle Bernstein knives would be a good starter set, or for the person who is an infrequent knife user. Possibly the best person for these knives would be someone who has smaller hands or is intimidated by large, heavy knives.
The knives can be sharpened using any typical Western angle sharpening device and while they won’t last as long as more expensive forged blades, they can be quite serviceable for many years.