I rang in 2010 in a Theraflu haze with a box of Kleenex, sick as a dog.

The one thing that made me feel a bit better? A steaming, salutary bowl of chicken udon soup brought to my apartment in Brooklyn via a culinary courier (aka delivery man) within 30 minutes. All I had to do was shuffle to my door, hand over the cash, and then dig in. The one thing that made me feel a bit worse? Shoving the assorted takeout bags and containers accompanying my medicinal meal in the trash.

You see, like many New Yorkers, I spend a hefty chunk of change on food delivery. I rotate between Thai, Middle Eastern, and the killer Cobb salad from my neighborhood diner. Yes, I do cook at home but not nearly enough considering that there’s a fabulous grocery store, Fairway, down the street and more than a couple of farmers markets at my disposal. And here’s the thing: my new year’s resolution is to kick the delivery habit so I can curb the immense amount of takeout packaging I generate on a weekly basis. 

Acquiring good, fresh food is not an issue nor is finding culinary guidance — I can turn to my coblogger Robin’s sage advice or a stack of underutilized cookbooks — but it does help to have the right cooking paraphernalia at home. I do have the basic gear scattered about my kitchen but to resist perusing my stack of menus and ordering delivery, I need a cooking tool that really excites and inspires me. To get me through my year-of-less-takeout I’m looking towards a single, stainless steel saucepan to help me out. 
This single sauté pan that I speak of isn’t an ordinary saucepan. It’s part of eco-friendly cookware line 360 and I’m hoping it will be my best buddy in the kitchen as I wean myself off takeout in 2010. Along with helping me prepare more meals at home and, in turn, lessen the amount of takeout container waste that I trash, the saucepan will also, hopefully, help me save money on energy bills. 

Say what? 360 Cookware — a range of skillets, stock pots, saucepans, and sauté pans — harnesses “Vapor Technology” that cooks food speedily and at lower temps. In fact, 360 Cookware boasts energy reduction of 200 to 600 percent; by cooking one meal a day with 360 gear instead of normal cookware, I can save up to $7 a week. And when using 360, adding water, grease, or oil isn’t necessary. Vapor Technology releases natural moisture in food, allowing it to truly “stew in its own juices.” This makes grub more nutritious and tasty (not to mention water-sensible). What’s more, 360 is made in Wisconsin in an eco-friendly factory that runs on Green-e certified wind power. 

It sounds almost too good to be true ... a line of cookware manufactured domestically in an environmentally sound manner that saves both energy and water when used and makes food more nutritious. So how'd my saucepan perform?

As advertised, using the saucepan correctly takes a bit of finesse the first time around. 360 Cookware comes with guidance, including an instructional DVD that I watched beforehand to grasp how exactly to create a so-called “vapor seal.”

When preparing a chicken breast seasoned with cumin, minced garlic, salt, and pepper, I don’t think I got the vapor seal thing down pat although I had fun spinning the lid, as instructed, to certify that "the vapors" were at work. I had to repeatedly add water and the cook time was somewhat lengthy and at the near-highest heat. Also, the domed lid shouldn't be removed to ensure optimum vapor cooking but I peeked in several times to make sure things were working in there. And after all was said and done, I had scorched the heck out of the poor pan.

How'd my chicken taste despite the beginners’ difficultly using the pan and not really saving energy or water my first go around? Absolutely delectable; not at all tough and super flavorful … a darn good piece of meat that truly tasted like it had “stewed in its own juices.” 

That said, I love a challenge — especially a challenge resulting in deliciousness — and I’m looking forward to mastering my vapor cooking technique with different foods (I hear it works wonders with broccoli) and not flooding my garbage can with takeout containers in 2010. My chicken was that good that I think I'll be able to resist my stack of delivery menus for a whileDo you use 360 Cookware? Any pointers for this enthusiastic but clumsy vapor cooking newbie?

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