January 15 2018

Dear Mark: Desert Island Cookware, Supplement Sources, Bulk Frying Oil, B12 on Keto Vegetarian, and Streamlining the Day

By Mark Sisson

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering 5 questions from readers. First, I give my desert island cookware material—the type of pan I’d choose if I could only have one. Next, I explain whether carnosine, creatine, and taurine supplements are suitable for vegetarians. After that, I give a good option for bulk frying oil that’s safe and won’t break the bank. Fourth, I explain how you can get enough B12 on a keto vegetarian diet (and it’s not that difficult at all). And finally, I explain how a small change can have huge effects on the quality of one’s life.

Let’s go:

I’d like advice on what types of cookware are safest/most functional, if you’re only going to have one type

That’s tough.

Aluminum is out. There’s controversy over whether it leaches into the food, but I’d rather not take the chance. It’s flimsy and doesn’t retain heat very well. Hard pass.

Cast iron is fantastic. There’s nothing better for searing steaks, they retain heat incredibly well (they’ll still burn you a half hour off the heat), and if you season them well they are virtually non-stick. I have a couple cast iron pans that are so well-seasoned I can scramble eggs in them without sticking. But it took me a long time and a lot of bacon to get them to that point. They’re also heavy, which makes them poor everyday pans for some folks. There’s also the fact that cast iron leaches iron into foods, particularly acidic foods. Seasoning prevents some of this, and some people can actually benefit from extra iron, but some people need less iron. Whether it’s the perfect cookware is entirely dependent on the person’s situation.

Stainless steel is my choice. Get it hot enough and use enough fat, and it’ll give a great sear while limiting sticking. The one limitation I’ve found with stainless steel is in scrambling eggs. Fried eggs? Sure. Omelets? Definitely. But no matter what I try, scrambled eggs always end up sticking to stainless steel. (Good that I prefer fried anyway…) Maybe I’m doing something wrong, in which case I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you guys have.

Dr.RhondaPatrickFan wondered:

Are creative, carnosine, and taurine supplements derived from animals? If so, is there a company that does it humanely? I eat meat, but the supplement part for people who eat vegan or vegetarian for animal rights is interesting to me.

The vast majority of creatine, carnosine, and taurine supplements are synthetic. No animal involvement, other than the humans manufacturing them.

Brad asked:

This Thanksgiving my cousin deep fried a turkey. It was awesome! So this Christmas I borrowed my neighbor’s fryer and did one myself, followed by a deep fried pork loin (super moist). My cousin used peanut oil and my neighbor recommended canola. I ended up using peanut oil but wonder if avocado oil could be used? Also, do you know where one could purchase 3 gallons of avocado oil without taking out a second mortgage?

That’s a tough one. Avocado oil is inherently expensive to produce, since the picking, growing, and extraction processes are so involved and time-and-labor-heavy. If you’re just going for a quick deep fry project and need vast amounts of relatively stable, neutral oil, I’d recommend you use high-oleic sunflower or safflower oil. It’s not the most nutritious, being low in antioxidants, but it is high in monounsaturated fat and therefore quite resistant to heat damage.

This looks to be a solid source of high-oleic oil by the gallon.

Eileen wondered:

Will the vegetarian keto diet supply a good amount of vitamin B12? Thank you in advance!

Yes, as long as you eat eggs. Five average grocery store eggs will provide 100% of the RDI for vitamin B12. If you can throw in 7-8 eggs, you’ll have a solid B12 intake.

Dairy is another decent source of B12 that’s even more bioavailable than synthetic B12, so that’ll help you get there as well. Pasteurization reduces the B12 content of milk, so consuming raw dairy when possible (and safe) will provide even more B12.

Chad asked:

One thing I would love to know is this: not only *what* do you have in your kitchen, but also *where* is it? How have you re-arranged your kitchen to be more efficient in recent months?

For example, this weekend I moved all of my coffee supplies (coffee, electric kettle, aeropress, cacao and maca powder) from way across the kitchen to a drawer right beside the sink. Has made a daily part of my life much more streamlined.

Anyone else made any recent changes like that?

Great question. I won’t speak to the specific layout of my kitchen today, as that’s great fodder for a dedicated post and I’ll save it for that. I will speak to the general concept of small logistical changes having big effects.

Every morning, I make coffee with a French press. If I’m in a rush to get out of the house, get working, or I just wander off with the finished product and forget to clean the pot, I always regret it the next day. My day goes much more smoothly when I can start out with a clean French press that’s ready to accept coffee and water.

I get up, do basic personal hygiene, and go to the kitchen. I start boiling water, grind the coffee, transfer it to the French press, and add the water. There’s no lag. No interruption. I don’t have to think about anything and I can focus on the day ahead.

But if I go to the kitchen and have to clean out day-old coffee grounds, wash the grimy sludgy press, and then start making coffee, I feel off. There’s a huge kink in the day. It’s probably “just” placebo, but placebo has a huge effect. Don’t underestimate the effect of placebo, especially if we’re talking about something entirely psychological—how I “feel” about the trajectory of the day.

That’s it for today, folks.

I’d love to get your take on these questions. What’s your desert island cookware? What do you use for large deep frying operations? Have you made any changes to your kitchen layout—or life in general—with large streamlining effects?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!


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37 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Desert Island Cookware, Supplement Sources, Bulk Frying Oil, B12 on Keto Vegetarian, and Streamlining the Day”

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  1. Totally concur about the french press being clean. Slowly over the years I’ve adapted a self-schadenfreude thought experimnet I employ daily before leaving my home: what if I get hit by a car and die, how will my family view my last (1br) apartment status. This works for me. Ceaning hair out of the drain daily, clean sink, washed dishes, light Swiffer and vacuum, clothes in hamper, etc. Flip side is having a clean home when I return or the guest pop in

  2. Any idea when that kitchen configuration post will come up? Really interested to see if I can add any efficiencies to my kitchen

    1. Wet bar for coffee service. Two pullout trash cans (more of you have to sort recyclables). Add 2” depth to counters. 36” oven/range with wok unit.

  3. Carbon steel is another good option. It’s a little light than cast iron, but similar in many other ways. We love our carbon steel frying pan!

    1. Absolutely! We use ours daily. Lighter than cast iron, but just as good when seasoned well

  4. When will the kitchen layout article appear? Would be very happy to see if I can introduce any efficiencies in my kitchen

  5. About iron from cast-iron pans: a long time ago, I read that it”s not a bio-available form of iron,so no worries.Your link didn’t address that issue.So,what’s up? I use mine every day,forever.

    1. Those of us who have Hereditary Hemochromatosis (iron overload disease) have the superpower of iron from pretty much every food and cookware source being bio-available. If you have a family history of this genetic disorder, be very cautious about eating foods prepared in cast iron. Use steel cookware as the iron does not leech.

  6. Great questions!!! I use stainless steel for most of my cooking…most of which I have had for years. And my favorite pan of all is a teeny tiny cast iron pan that’s perfect for one or two eggs. It belonged to my grandmother and is perfectly seasoned. I don’t worry about the iron leaching from food…after my 30 plus years as a vegetarian I’m sure I can use some. The streamlining question was great too. I set up everything that I possibly can the night before…French press, my green drink, and lemon water (get lemon out of fridge, set up lemon squeezer and knife) That way there are no excuses…everything is on autopilot. And getting your day off to a healthy start in the morning typically leads to healthier choices during the day. Same thing goes for laying out cute workout clothes the night before.

  7. Hey Mark,

    Google “stainless steel water temp test”, follow the instructions and scrambled eggs in stainless steel will not stick….at all. I had trouble with SS cookware until learning this.

    1. Lodge and Le Crueset cetmsic enamel product are amazing

      1. Ceramic. For a smartphone mine is dumb on auto correct

        1. I thought the first one said “ceramic” I guess by brain was on auto correct of the “phone auto correct”……

  8. Whole Foods butter seems to be perfect for scrambled eggs in our SS skillet – no eggs left stuck to the surface. Kerrygold tends to start sticking. So we use the Whole Foods butter for scrambled eggs. Kerrygold for most other uses.

  9. Who said we can’t multitask: using cast iron in the kitchen to cook steak = Primal Blueprint rule #1 @ #3 lift (heavy things.)

  10. I do need a clean kitchen to start the day or it puts me in a bad mood–clean sink, countertops and stove, and nothing left laying out from the day before. As for desert island cookware, my choice isn’t even cookware. It would be my Zero Water pitcher for filtering our tap water. Even though our city water isn’t bad, it’s amazing how much better the filtered water tastes.

    1. I got a Zero Water pitcher about a week ago, after having no filtered water. I filled my cat’s bowl and as soon as she noticed, she drank for 3 minutes straight. Apparently she really didn’t like my tapwater! Poor girlie.

  11. One idea to make a morning breakfast easier, an egg cooker. I have the Cruisinart one, and I get omelets, soft and hardboiled eggs without having to pay attention- important for my AM’s. Plus, if I forgot to make a lunch, I can get set it and forget eggs for a salad.

  12. Bamix Swiss Stick Blender. You will NEVER use a bulky, hard to clean, regular blender ever again. No need. It saves a lot of space too. Just stick it in a glass of soapy water for 3 seconds and it’s clean and ready for the next use.

  13. DeBuyer stainless steel pans, once seasoned, will cook scrambled eggs beautifully. They’re a bit pricey, but well worth it. Many chefs swear by them!

    1. I second the DeBuyer, although mine is iron, not stainless. It’s relatively cheap (especially when you consider that it is indestructible and will last you a lifetime) and once it’s seasoned properly, you can even cook delicate fish fillets in it. A bit on the heavy side, but not as heavy as cast iron.

  14. I use cast iron for many dishes. For everything else good quality cookware.

  15. Making stainless steel pans non-stick: Heat up on the stove, like, really, really hot. Put in some oil (I prefer coconut), about a tablespoon and swirl it around till it smokes. Dump out the oil. Turn off heat, and sprinkle kosher salt in the pan, a nice layer on the bottom. Using a handful of paper towels, rub the salt around, including the sides, like you are scouring the pan. Be careful not to burn yourself. After a minute or two, dump out the salt and wipe pan clean, It is no seasoned! You’ll note that the surface seems much smoother and slicker than before.

    The key is to then use some fat in an already-heated pan. Like The Frugal Gourmet on PBS used to say, “Cold Oil, Hot Pan, Food Won’t stick.” For scrambled eggs (Mark!) or an omelet, I take a stick of butter and manually rub it all around the pan after it’s heated, to coat it well. Let it heat another moment, you want it hot enough that a water drop will ‘roll’ around. Then put in the eggs. Voila. Scrambled are a piece of cake and if you make an omelet, or fired eggs, they won’t won’t stick.

    I clean the pan just with a paper towel, not soapy water (treat it like you would a seasoned cast iron pan) and it will stay non-stick for a good while. I repeat the seasoning process every couple months, depending on use.

    1. To clarify, I don’t melt the whole stick of butter! Rather than put a pat of butter in the pan and try to coat the pan by tilting it around, I take a stick of butter and just quickly spread it all around the pan to fully coat it. Probably uses about the same amount as just a pat of butter would, but gives a more uniform coating to the pan.

  16. I have started buying an Australian made product from Solid-teknics made without seams or rivets (SOLIDTEKNICS has developed two ranges of innovative world-first cookware: AUS-ION™ wrought iron (formed low-carbon steel), and nöni™ ferritic wrought stainless cookware. All are made in Australia, all are non-toxic, healthy, sustainable, and multi-century durable.) They are an excellent product & are seasoned like cast iron but are not as heavy plus they will last forever. They are also starting to develop a stainless steel range without any seams, rivets etc. I think they are available worldwide.

  17. for stainless steel scrambled eggs: insta-season the pan right before you make the eggs. get the pan barely hot enough to make oil smoke. then spray on some oil (i use trader joes 100% olive oil spray w/ no propellant) and aggressively rub it in to the pan with a paper towel. let the pan cool for a minute, and then make scrambled eggs. it will be almost as good as cast iron. unfortunately, you have to repeat this each time.

  18. I like coconut oil for my deep fryer. Highly saturated, high smoke point, no coconut flavor – works great.

    If you buy it in bulk it is reasonably priced, about $60 for 5 gallons, which will fill my fryer 2 or 3 times. (I buy Golden Barrel coconut oil – it’s available from restaurant supply houses, or online.)

  19. I’ll never give up my Corning Ware pans. No worries about leaching harmful substances, even heating, and can go straight from fridge to hot oven without worry. That said, I use my Le Creuset for scrambled eggs but Corning Ware for everything else. The bonus with Corning Ware – you can buy pieces for not much money at thrift stores.

  20. I live in Europe where we can buy rendered tallow for deep frying in supermarkets.

    Works really well and the taste is superb!

  21. Duck eggs have 5x the B12 of a regular egg so a good solution if you don’t or can’t eat 5 hen eggs per day. Our local farm sells them at about the same price.

    1. Mmmmmmm, good to know, my “egg lady” had nice ducks that are better egg producers than her chickens. I LOVE duck eggs!!!

  22. I was thinking of buying a cookware set in stainless steel with an aluminium bottom. Now I wonder why would anyone make a pan bottom with something that don’t retain heat well.