How To: Set Yourself Up in the Kitchen, Part One: Tools
With food shows on the rise, more and more people are getting into cooking. A great idea if you ask me. It leads to healthier choices, wholesome food and a big favor for your monthly budget no matter where you are in your walk of life. So how does one wend into the realm of sauteéing, blanching, boiling, frying, searing and other ings? It begins with the right tools.
Most people think that they have to buy every tool down the aisle and figure out later how to use them—wrong. Start with the bare necessities—which we will be covering. Other people are under the impression that they have to buy the most expensive tools; if your budget permits it, go right ahead, but they key is to look at quality. Think about these items will build your cooking foundation so they should last you a long time. While everyone wishes they could outfit their entire kitchen in Williams Sonoma (cha-ching) a great alternative are restaurant supply stores. The look may be very industrial (look at it as “contemporary”) but these items are heavy duty, prepared to handle wear and tear. I like Norfolk Restaurant Equipment on Granby Street, Norfolk.(757-216-2555). It is open to the public, and the prices are very reasonable.
So here are the bare necessities:
ONE BAKING SHEET PAN which has multiple functions—it’s not just for baking. 15 inches is a standard size that will take you from roasting vegetables; to meatloaf; to chocolate chip cookies.
ONE CHEF’S KNIFE is all you really need for your chopping and slicing and dicing and mincing. Go for something that feels comfortable—look at weight and how it fits in your hand. This is one of those products where you truly get what you pay for, but by keeping its blade sharp it will last forever. Don’t be surprised to invest $60 to $90 on a good quality knife. If you’re looking at the $10 K-Mart brand it will slice for the first few times then probably will slice your finger off because you’re pressing down on that tomato way too hard.
A CUTTING BOARD: Plastic is generally the easiest to maintain—the better quality plastic boards are dishwasher safe. If you opt for wooden boards it is not recommended to throw them into the dishwasher because they splinter.
A SET OF MIXING BOWLS: One large and one small will do the trick. For instance one for your salad and one for your homemade dressing—once you go homemade you’ll never go back. Also, do you ever notice that when baking you always need to mix your wet ingredients separately from your dry ingredients?
ONE WOODEN SPOON, ONE SPATULA, A SET OF TONGS. These three amigos will take you through pretty much everything.
MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS FOR WET AND DRY INGREDIENTS. The material that they are made of is not really important because it has an instantaneous purpose, which is to measure. However, cover the half teaspoon to the one cup range.
ONE SAUCE PAN, multiple possibilities. It is great for reheating leftovers (avoid nuking), of course sauces, and blanching vegetables, not to mention fulfilling that craving for ramen noodles.
ONE SAUTÉ PAN will really take you a long way. I recommend finding a pan that can be used in the oven. Many recipes call for finishing off your meat in the oven, so it’s really nice to have that versatility.
ONE STOCK POT is all you really need. It will take you from pasta to perhaps venturing to make your own stock.