Tag: kitchen equipment

Kitchen Essentials- Hardware

You know how some wedding registries have a bunch of kitchen gadgets ? I hope that won’t be me some day That wasn’t me when Mr. and I got married 2 years ago! Whew.  I feel that the less clutter in a kitchen, the better! It’s also more worth it to me to invest in fewer items that are of high quality, than to get more items that may not last as long.

So, I bring you…kitchen essentials as they pertain to my kitchen:

Prep:

Can opener. Although I have and like OXO’s Smooth Edge Can Opener because it prevents cuts, it sometimes takes a few revolutions to get the can open.

Colander or mesh strainer. Get a big one. I like the ones with holes spaced evenly and throughout, not just near the middle. I like large mesh strainers best, because they don’t leave water hiding in hidden grooves. You want your stuff to be DRY! After we moved this, I bought this collapsible colander to help save space, because the sink is so incredibly shallow. Wine bottle opener- unless you are crafty enough to open the bottles some other way, in as little time..Ikea has them for cheap!

Cutting boards- small and large. Large for when you are cutting up heads of romaine, and small for when you are cutting an apple! I really prefer bamboo or wood, as I don’t want to make slices of cutting board when I cut my veggies/meat !

Kitchen towels- save some trees and use these to dry clean hands and dishes. Wrap your wet spring mix/lettuce in kitchen towels and thrash the water into the sink. Look for ones that are 100% cotton..it seems hard to find super absorbent kitchen towels these days. Stainless steel bowls- Having staged in a restaurant, I find that I much prefer restaurant-style mixing bowls- large diameter, more shallow and wide-mouthed than deep. If you can find a restaurant supply store that sells them , get a bunch! They are not only great for easily mixing salads, but also are great for washing vegetables and being able to see everything well.

Squeeze bottle- I always scratched my head trying to find an oil dispenser that was easy to clean and did not dribble down after I used it. The bachelors who lived with Mr. ABC Chef before he became a mister, got it right- squeeze bottles are the answer to all oil-dispensing problems. At the restaurant I staged at (affectionately referred to as Bistrot), there was a rainbow assortment of sauces, all stored in squeeze bottles and stored in hotel pans, for easy access and visibility. Oil was also stored in giant squeeze bottles. They may not be magazine-cover worthy, but they are the best, mess-free way to dispense oil or sauce.

Sharp Objects: 

Box grater– carrots, potatoes, onions, cheese, zucchini…anything else that needs grating! A food processor with a grater attachment is a GREAT way to knock out 3 pounds of potatoes for making latkes, as we experienced this past Saturday.

Cleaver- if you do Chinese/Asian cooking and want to cut bone-in meat into several chunks / pieces (3 cup chicken 三杯鸡 or ChongQing LaZi Ji 重庆辣子鸡, anyone?) or make coarsely ground meat, get a heavy cleaver with a handle that looks durable.

Good knives *dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives*- chef/santoku, paring, and serrated. Chef’s knife for everyday use. Serrated for bread and for trimming cakes. Paring for taking pineapple/potato eyes out, and any task requiring finer motor skills 😉 The first knife I bought myself in college that served me VERY well, was a Mundial (featured in Bon Appetit once upon a time, as the best $20 knife out there at the time) .

Microplane– For hard cheeses, fresh nutmeg, lemon zest, grated ginger for getting ginger juice, and maybe even grated garlic and onion if you want! I love this. Just used it yesterday to zest a whole lemon. It is the best.

Cooking Vessels: 

Dutch oven. Soups, roasts, braises, sauces, bread…. 🙂 I love Staub. Lodge is quite good if you have budget concerns, but in my opinion, the Staub looks most sleek! I have a Staub and Lodge and I love them very much. My next purchase will be a larger capacity dutch oven..definitely a Staub 😉 I love the more squared corners for easier cleaning, and the black interior for its sleekness. The lid is also nice and heavy and provides a great seal.

Cast iron skillet-Lodge is fine, but if you can find Wagner, they make some really nice skillets with longer handles, which is great for when you need to move the skillet from point A to B. My sis and BIL got a nice set for about $20 from a flea market in Ohio! So jealous. Anyway, a cast iron skillet is good for just about anything- eggs, home fries, steak, large cookies, casseroles, upside down cakes, cornbread, etc…It will become non-stick as you use it more and more. Do not scrub vigorously with soap/scouring pad. I try to stay away from cooking tomatoes/ acidic ingredients, because I read that it will eat up the seasoning. This has yet to be methodically tested. I don’t own a microwave I now own a microwave, but I still reheat food on the cast iron, and it makes a nice crust while it’s at it. My husband likes that it gets rice ‘toasty’ on the edges. A small cast iron skillet can double as a mallet for pounding meat or chopping up nuts, and is perfect for personal-sized chocolate chip cookies or when you just want one or two eggs.

Stainless steel pan- Develops fond, which is that brown-y stuff that you get when you cook at high heat. This stuff is best when it is deglazed, or dissolved in some liquid…makes a great pan sauce for meat! Stainless steel also looks pretty in your kitchen =) I am currently an All-Clad girl (8 inch fry pan, 4 quart saute pan, 2 quart saucepan ) BUT I have been reading good things about Demeyer (more $$ though).

Stockpot- Doesn’t really matter what material, does it? It just needs to boil and/or simmer ingredients, and the makes stocks, which are mostly water, and water has a pretty high heat capacity, right? Sooo…I currently have two stockpots that I inherited- one non-stick 6 qt. (gasp! have to get rid of this because it has some scratches…) and an aluminum 8 qt. Both are fine. I use them to make pork bone stock, chicken stock, and pasta.

Wok- carbon steel! NOT non-stick material. Get the wok very hot before adding oil. Weak burners? Do small batches. Be educated by Kenji!

Cooking Utensils

Fish spatula- not just for fish! For anything delicate-ish that you need to flip. Fish, eggs, latkes, getting cookies off the sheet, and whenever you need to get your spatula underneath something thin. I don’t know what I used before I bought this….

Spoon rest– I guess this isn’t a must have, but it’s a lot classier looking than resting your spatula on a lid, plate, or in a bowl..

Tongs- When the cast iron is hot, the easiest way to transfer large quantities of food (unless you have really strong and heat resistant arms) is to use these kids! It is great for turning or moving raw meat/fish (perfect for those averse to touching raw meat/fish!). It saves some hand washing if you are trying to season both sides of your meat. Please don’t use tongs on delicate/currently-being-cooked-fish. In the (paraphrased) words of Graham Eliot from Masterchef, “Every time someone uses tongs to grab a piece of delicate fish, an angel’s wings are broken”. I own this one and love it.

Wooden or bamboo spoon/spatula- it stirs your sauces, sautees your stir fries, is kind to your stainless steel, and lasts for a long, long time! My one remaining wooden spoon is from 2006, when I got it in a pack of 3 at Superfresh (??) for a few bucks. The rest have since split from too much force, I believe from creaming non-room temp butter 😀

Electronics

Food Processor – I like KA over Cuisinart, because I noticed that the middle hole where the blade goes, was really really short on Cuisinart, which meant that the liquid fill line is much lower. I returned my Cuisinart because the milk in my dough was spilling all over the place, and I had only 1 cup or so. Talk about low liquid tolerance! I have used my food processor to make great pie crust, pizza dough, herb oils, bean dip, hummus, and to grate 3 lbs of potatoes and 2 lbs of cheese. In my opinion, it’s worth the time (to wash all the parts) and money when you are able to grate 3 pounds of potatoes in a few minutes! I would only bring out the food processor when it would be a considerable amount of time/work to use the “normal” tool- like for mincing bunches of herbs or grating potatoes.

Rice cooker. I have this one. I like it because it uses indirect heat, and the rice pot can go on the stovetop! Not only can you use this rice cooker to cook rice, but it can double as a slow cooker, too! (Thanks, puopuo) I cooked chickpeas in it yesterday- pressed the button before work, and came home to hummus-worthy chickpeas. It also functions as a microwave- you can easily steam food to reheat it, and it will not only stay warm until you are ready to eat, but doesn’t zap the moisture out as quickly as a microwave does.This is really a multi-functional tool, friends! Not just a rice cooker.

Toaster oven- The one I have is no longer available by most regular retailers, but it was the Black and Decker model TRO480BS. It heats up very quickly, has a timer option (great for setting it then going off to do something), can bake up 4-6 cookies when you only want a few,  roasts vegetables, toasts bread, and also reheats items that need to be toasty! I also have roasted nuts, seeds, and items that would otherwise require low heat and patience over the stove. I’ve also baked chicken in this thing. I love it because I can use it like I would use a normal oven without having to preheat the whole oven.

Did I miss anything? What do YOU consider an essential?

Pastry Essentials I: Hardware

For baking equipment, refer to Baking Essentials II: Software

The Bare Necessities / Budget Baking:

One or two wooden spoons– soo important for mixing by hand when you don’t feel like cleaning a stand/hand mixer.

Spatula– a firm yet flexible spatula. As in, if you try to bend it slightly, it should give a little.  Silicone is nice. I like to have a large spatula and also a small spatula. The large one I use for  scraping the last bits of batter into the pan. Tim uses the small spatula to scrape melted ice cream from the sides of the bowl into his mouth. The small spatula is also great for getting out that last bit of mustard in your jar, or getting into the nooks and crannies of your food processor or mortar and pestle.

Whisks– I have two: one small and one large. I have read that whisking is the new sifting, but I think I would still use my mini strainer to de-clump cocoa powder. If you can only get one, get a large one.

Measuring cups and spoons – this is a given, no? For durability, get measuring tools that have their amounts engraved or etched into them. The Kitchenaid cups are actually printed but the labels are still going strong. After about 6-7 years of going strong, my1-cup measuring cup handle broke, but I still love the remaining cups. I like the cup measures very much because they are wider in diameter and shallower, which makes it easier to scoop things.

Stainless steel bowls– Glass bowls are pretty, but they are heavy! I always salvage as much batter as I can, and glass bowls would make it harder to hold up while scraping the sides. I use these from Ikea quite often- for soaking beans or sticky rice, making half batches of cookies, ice cream, everything!

A Step Above: 

Sheet pans. This is all you need- forget cookie sheets! Roast a chicken or turkey by placing a cooling rack on top, then line them with Silpat or parchment paper for baking.

Mesh strainer– Something like these. I use this when it calls for sifting ingredients, instead of using a dedicated sifter. A mesh strainer is most useful if you often use ingredients that have lots of clumps, such as nut flours or and cocoa powder. For some other ingredients, a good whisking will do the job.

Specialty hardware – 9×9, and 9×13 baking pans for brownies and cakes, muffin/cupcake tins, bundt pan, tube pan for sponge/angel cakes, springform pan for cheesecakes and layered mousse cakes, a nice pie dish, tart pans, cake pans (I like Fat Daddio’s because they are thicker/heavier than the generic kind), etc etc.

Kitchen scale– I have an Escali scale, and it works really well! The battery life is very good; I got it in July 2010 and I have yet to change the battery. No need to dirty your measuring cups- just tare away and pour after each addition!

Hand and/or stand mixer– Good for when you need to whip cream or egg whites…Or, you could just get very, very strong forearms. If you can only get one, get the hand mixer. A stand mixer is not very effective for mixing small quantities together, but on the flipside, is great for making lots of dough/batter, and usually has the bread hook attachment that is great for making bread. I wish I had a stand mixer as well! Someday.. I finally caved and got a Breville Scraper Pro! I’m very happy with it, and it’s less expensive than a Kitchenaid mixer. Check it out!

Parchment paper– Macarons, cookies, food en papillote, lining cake and loaf pans, lining the plate with while you frost your cake, sticking under Chinese bao zi (steamed buns) or man tou (denser non-filled steamed buns) when you don’t have napa or other cabbage to line your bamboo steamers with.

Silpat– great for chocolate dipped fruit/pretzels/goodies, cooling chocolate curly Qs / designs that go on cupcakes/cakes, cookies, pavlovas, and…for basically anytime where you need a non-stick surface. I love my silpats. I usually am fine with whatever brand, but I’ve found silpat to be better than at least a generic silicone mat that my friend had. Give Silpats to any baker for a gift, and they will love you!!

Pastry cutter: I finally got both a food processor and a pastry cutter ! Woop woop. I use my pastry cutter to make pie dough and shortbread crusts, as well as mush up berries for muffins/pancakes.

Bench Scraper– great for sectioning off chunks of dough, and for getting pesky bits of dough off the countertop. Can also be used for light chopping on the go, because it is safer to transport than a knife. I have yet to use this for chopping and transporting veggies from the cutting board to the pan, but it can be done!

General notes: Don’t stick with non-stick in most cases. If you missed the pun, get not-non-stick when possible. One scratch, and the coating threatens to come off.

 

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