Kitchen EssentialsMy love affair with cooking and entertaining has been going strong for well over 15 years. In this time, I have bought tons of ‘toys’ from so many sources and have spent so much money on all sorts of things from the functional to the most useless piece of plastic that promise to make my life easier.
Thankfully, I am so much wiser now and I realize that creating and churning out delicious meals and having fun in the kitchen can be achieved with some essentials at your fingertips. I think that every kitchen should have these as a foundation and you can give in to your inner product junkie after your cupboards are stocked with these:
Knives: For budding chefs that enroll at a culinary institute, it’s a huge day when you get your KNIVES. This is usually on the first day in your kitchen whites and is a full set of every kind of knife you can think of usually in a rollup bag. The idea is that each chef gets to know his knives and they become his – arched to fit his hands and all that. Well – exciting yes – but every chef worth his salt throws that first set away after a few months since they are usually low quality crap. The lesson here is to be able to use different knives for different purposes and build knife skills.For the home cook, we usually have a knife block with different knives in there. No matter what display option you use, ensure that you have the following in your arsenal:
· Chef’s knife – which is an all purpose wedge shaped knife that can be used to slice, dice, chop, mince and everything else you can think of· Serrated bread knife – use like a saw to cut through bread and cakes
· Paring knife – for peeling and coring
· Scissors – for opening packages, snipping herbs and all sorts of odd jobs
Cutting Boards: to prevent cross contamination, I recommend different colored plastic boards. These are cheap and cheerful and I feel no guilt throwing them away every few months. While there are wooden chopping boards, I am not a fan.
Cookware: Get the best you can afford. I can’t stress this enough. Whether you buy a set or separates, please pay attention to the materials of the pans. Good quality non-stick pans are readily available at decent prices these days and are perfect for the home cook. I also recommend heavy stainless steel pans and enameled cast iron pans (these are very heavy) where one can afford these. I recommend the following necessities:· Saucepans: large and medium sized pans have tall straight sides with tight fitting lids and work well for soups, stews, rice etc. An ideal large saucepan should have a volume capacity of between 3-4 quarts and a medium saucepan should have a volume capacity of about 2 quarts. A small saucepan with a volume capacity of 1 – 1.5 quarts are excellent for small tasks like melting butter.
· Pot: or a vessel as I like to call the ones I have. Huge 6-8 quart volume capacity pot for cooking pasta, boiling down pepper mixtures, making stock and stews etc
· Skillet: I recommend owning 2 types. One with a non stick surface and sloped sides which allows you to cook with less fat and a straight sides one with a lid also called a sauté pan for braising and pan frying
· Griddle pan: a lot of my weekend breakfasts of pancakes, bacon, eggs are made on my trusty griddle pan. I also recommend a grill pan for getting those grill marks and grill effects on my stove top
· Wok: perfect for stir fries and fried rice
Bake-ware: I do a lot of baking and roasting in my oven which is a much healthier way to cook meats and seafood. Not every home cook is a baker but I also happen to be one soooo – here are my necessities:· Baking pans – aluminum non stick versions are perfect and can be used for very high temperature baking. There are so many design and size options so just choose what works for you
· Baking dishes – I own quite a few glass versions for baking.
Other essentials:· Blender – for everything from pepper mixes to smoothies. I have 2 – for sweet and savory use. Nothing sucks more than oniony pineapple/orange smoothie
· Hand mixer/food processor – there are mini versions of these on sale now that do not take up a lot of counter space. Time saving for whisking up egg whites - or chopping and mincing combinations of aromatics (processor)
· Measuring cups and spoons – especially useful for following recipes
· Can opener
· Wooden/plastic spoons – better for non stick cooking surfaces
· Box grater – preferably with 2 sizes of slits – for grating okro, carrots etc
· Hand held grater – I use these when I want to just grate foods right into mixtures or pots
· Colander – for draining foods such as pasta and to hold food while rinsing
· Fine mesh sieve – for sifting super fine foods like flour, elubo etc
· Rolling pin – I use this a lot as I work with dough very often. Useful for smashing meat to tenderize
And now - the kitchen adventures can begin.........