(The past few blog posts have had, what has developed into, a theme. First I posted a blog about (band) school lunches, then I posted a blog about pantry items; today, I will post a blog about practical kitchen equipment.
Good equipment is worth the investment. "Good" equipment can and will make your experiences in the kitchen, safer, more comfortable, fun and easier. I always say, "Let the equipment help you." Words to live and cook by!
Lets begin where we should, with the basics:
1. A good Chef's knife, sharpening tools and a honing tool. (I have Chef knives ranging in size from 5-inches up to just over 7-inches.) Do your research on knives and go and try them for yourself. Only you know what you will be comfortable using. Check the girth of the handle to your hand. Check the length of the blade (maybe you like a 6-inch or 8-inch blade) and investigate where it is made and by whom. Some brands may no longer be made in the country you think.
2. A good paring knife
3. A good serrated knife and carving knife
4. A cheap peeler (those cheapie, .99 jobbies work the best I find)
5. Cutting boards (I go for the flexible type and the wooden ones with a large cutting surface and a place for juices to drain out) *When the flexible ones wear out, do not throw them out, cut them up and use them for other things! You could even us them in the garden!)
6. A bench knife and eventually a rolling bin
7. Parchment paper, foils, wraps, bags and resealable bags in a variety of sizes and types (Dah, I know...)
8. Sheet pans, rimmed and airbake in a variety of sizes
9. Bowls, lots of bowls in a variety of types of sizes (Snap bowls up at yard sales whenever possible.)
10. Spoons, whisks, spatulas, tongs, etc., in a variety of shapes and sizes and materials
11. Measuring equipment
12. Kitchen scale (look for these beauties at yard sales for cheap. Try to purchase one with a large, flat measuring surface that allows you to both reach and read the measuring gauge and that measures in a variety of measurements. Even if you cannot find one at a yard sale, they are not too expensive and worth the well money. Buy one and be done.
13. Hand-held electric mixer you take good card of, meaning you hand wash the beaters OR remove them from the dishwasher immediately to prevent rusting and yes, they will rust.
14. Good towels and potholders in a variety of sizes (No promises the towels and/or potholders lasting your lifetime - think cuts, burns, nicks, etc. Oh wait, those are MY towels and potholders! I feel terrible because my mother makes me charming potholders all the time and I ruin them... all the time!)
15. Good pots and pans, the best you can afford in a variety of materials and take care of them! Have an assortment of frying pans in many sizes, have a great soup pot, a grill pan, etc. I hang my pots from a rack at the end of my counter to save cabinet space and my husband, Russell, built me a sliding drawer to contain the lids. I hang the pots by size and type which helps keep the rack tidy-looking and me organized. (I still have pots from when we first got married AND some from my grandmother and mother I use and love.)
*NOTE: You can sometimes get lucky and find good pots at yard sales so keep an eye skinned. I purchased our daughter her set of "college pots" from a yard sale and they have served her (and her equipment-abusing roommates) well. I paid $10 for a complete and big set. How can you miss?
16. Culinary thermometers (Meat and NOT glass candy thermometers that can be attached to a pot, digital if possible) The inexpensive Instant Read-type is great for measuring doneness of meats and even for baking and takes the guess work out of cooking and puts the safety in. Go on-line and look up a current "doneness chart" as a reference. Some of the ServSafe guidelines have changed recently.
Ok, I said I would stay "basic." There are of course countless other items in my kitchen from juicers (I prefer the cheapie one that strains too) to a Japanese mandolin and a classic mandolin, an inexpensive manual pasta maker (about $30.00), meat mallet/pounder, a ricer, a couple of stand mixers in a standard size and a 7-quart big boy, a toaster oven, a coffee pot, casserole dishes in every imaginable size and drawers full of odds and ends I find at, you guessed it, yard sales...
Please post your suggestions for equipment additions and together we can assemble a dream list for a Practical Kitchen!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor