Five Indispensable Kitchen Tools
It doesn’t matter how good a cook you are, there are certain things you need to help you to create those culinary masterpieces. Notice the title of the article is ‘5 indispensible kitchen tools,’ not ‘5 indispensible kitchen gadgets.’
The difference between the two is this – you need tools, whereas you want gadgets. Or perhaps clever advertising has convinced you of the need for a specific kitchen gadget. Here – in no particular order, as they say on the best reality shows – are five indispensible kitchen tools.
Just as you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, you can’t cook very much without cutting things up, so a good set of knives is a must in any kitchen. Buy the best you can afford, and don’t be tempted to order online to save a few dollars. Your knives should be so comfortable to use they’re almost an extension of your arm. Handle the knives before you buy, and if they don’t feel right, move on to the next set.
Store your knives in a wooden knife block or on a wall-mounted magnetic rack. If they’re rattling around a drawer with other kitchen utensils, the blades could get damaged. And don’t use your knives on marble worktops, as this will also damage the blades. Use a proper chopping board made from wood or polypropylene. Care for your knives and they’ll serve you well for many years.
Food processors are all well and good, but when it comes to smooth sauces, batters and gravies or fluffy scrambled eggs, you can’t beat a balloon whisk. (Pun intended!) Ideally, buy a set of at least three whisks of different sizes. A small whisk, which will fit into cups and small bowls is ideal for whisking up hot chocolate or small amounts of salad dressing. Use larger whisks if you’re making scrambled eggs for six, or an omelet to feed an army.
Every kitchen needs at least one grater. A grater isn’t only for cheese – although it’s very useful for that toasted cheese sandwich. There are lots of different models around, but the most useful types are those with coarse and medium grating surfaces, with an integral bowl or tray to catch the grated goodies.
The finer grater is good for grating garlic for garlic mayonnaise, and ginger for Indian and Chinese cookery. It will also double up as a zester for citrus fruits, but be careful not to incorporate any white pith, as this could impart a bitter flavour to your food.
A useful Spanish kitchen technique is to grate rather than chop tomatoes for use in soups, stews and sauces. Start from the rounded end of the tomato and use the coarse grating surface. As you work away, the skin will peel back, making a shield for your fingers and ensuring that every last bit of the tomato is used. It’s great to watch, and it helps to bring out the intense flavour of the tomato.
Okay, you could use a knife for this, but a sturdy peeler with a swivelling blade gives so much more control. You’ll be peeling all sorts of things, from delicate pears for poached pears in red wine, to thick-skinned turnips for winter soups. Choose a sturdy, rubber-handled peeler, rather than a flimsy metal model. It’s easier to handle when your hands are wet, and the extra weight gives more pressure to the blade.
A swivel blade gives you much more control, meaning less waste and a neater job. Some peelers have interchangeable blades, which are great for different peeling jobs, or creating attractive garnishes.
A non-stick, heavy-based skillet is a real kitchen essential. Whether you want to cook the perfect steak, sear a fresh salmon fillet, or cook up a great curry, a skillet is probably the most indispensible tool in the kitchen. If you had no more pans to your name, you could rustle up a wide range of meals with just a skillet.
Buy the best you can afford, and if possible, get one with a see-through lid. Then you have more cooking options available to you, as you can fry fish and different cuts of meat, or cook curries and one-pot meals without the risk of evaporation.
All cooks will have their own ideas about which are the most indispensible tools in the kitchen. However, the items mentioned above will be used on an almost daily basis, so they earn their places in the list.