So I really enjoyed talking about knives last week, so let’s keep going in that direction. These days it’s hard to turn the TV on after 9PM and not come across some kind of cooking infomercial. While these can be entertaining if you’re baked enough – they rarely sell anything worth your hard earned dollars. I say this but as usual, in complete contradiction – there’s actually been talk of a Slavo Salt infomercial. Mostly because those folks that do enjoy an evening toke and prolonged commercials about food are prime candidates for Slavo Salt. That’s neither here nor there though.
So I am always entertained to see all the useless crap my friends and family buy when it come to cooking tools. My cousin Stacey is a prime example – she doesn’t stop at late night infomercials but also will buy just about any remotely usefulness gadget she comes across. My favorite being her hot pink “Onion Goggles,” these are marketed to keep your eyes from watering while cutting onions. On the bright side you don’t tear up – on the downside you look like a complete numb-nuts! One pice of equipment I’ve never used but had a chef in school who swore by – the Set It & Forget It Rotisserie Oven.
For the most part I think most kitchen gadgets are crap! You can cut, chop, or slice just about anything properly with a good knife. There are a few items that I feel are essential to every kitchen – I’m just pulling these from the top of my head so I’m sure I’ll leave a few out but whatever here ya go. This is an ever growing list by the way…
A quality cutting board – there are so many boards out there right now and personally I can’t stand 90% of them. Things to think about – size matters the 12″x 12″ cutting board is fukn useless unless you’re cutting a lemon for cocktail hour! Also stay away from glass cutting boards they’re hell on your knives’ edges. I like THICK & HEAVY boards made of wood (bamboo boards are badass and look great too!) or plastic/composite. Bonus: a trick for keeping your cutting board from moving around while you’re working – place a damp towel underneath it.
Heavy Weight Pots & Pans – Look good pans are expensive – fact. However they are essential to consistency in your cooking. I like All-Clad stainless pans – they’ve got great weight and are easy to keep clean. I never use non-stick pans – I am no scientist but I know that coating is made with chemicals and I know chemical do wierd things when exposed to heat – so I just avoid that unecessary potential hazard (this allows me to indulge in other less beneficial things). Plus when the non-stick gets all scared up from your roommates using metal forks as utensils in it’s time to throw them out. Don’t buy the entire set – buy the pans you know you need and build from there – fry pan and medium sauce pot both with metal handles.
Strainers, china caps, chinoise, and cheese cloth. Metal is the name of the game here – stay away from the cheap lite stuff. Chinoise is a must – this is a cone shaped strainer w/ a long metal handle and tight steel mesh cone. This tool is essential for sauce work, keeping all of those ugly little particles out of your beautiful sauces. Buy some cheese cloth – the stuff is nearly free, takes up no space and comes in really handy. Store your cheese cloth in a Ziplock bag for sanitation purposes.
Food Processors – again size matters! If you are serious and don’t mind dropping a paycheck buy a Robo Coupe! This machine can do anything – even turn tree branches into mulch (I don’t recommend trying that but seriously Robo’s are industrial grade badasses!) Then there’s the Kitchen Aide mixer – I love these things and many people have them but rarely use them. I dig them because of the numerous attachments available from pasta rollers to sausage stuffers. And a side not the pink ones – are connected with a Breast Cancer Awareness movement, so justify your purchase that way if you need! If you get a Kitchen Aide Mixer learn to use it – these things are sweet but most owners use it as a piece of decor not equipment.
Peeler – this is pretty simple. Just buy a good sharp peeler that is comfortable to you and if you use it a lot – buy a new one every year.
Sheet pans – must have! Don’t buy the cheap or fancy sheet pans. Go to a kitchen supply store (William Sanoma doesn’t qualify) and buy a couple aluminum “half sheet pans.” These will last you your entire life and cost just a few bucks each.
Tongs – sounds simple but most are no bueno. Again, go to restaurant supply store and buy a pair of 12″ aluminum tongs. These are your new best friends – once proficient at using them you’ll learn to do nifty Billy The Kid twirling tricks that will surely impress your guests (in case your actual cooking skills don’t). I’d stay away from the 6″ shorties and those ridiculous long BBQ set ones – you can do anything you need to w/ a good pair of twelvers!
A Wine Key – the ones waiters use. I suggest these because there are a ton of wine openers out there and some are hella expensive. Just go and get a heavy duty wine key – they are less likely to break a cork and don’t take up an entire drawer for storage.
Spatulas & Spoons – Choose wisely! First spatulas, heat tempered is key – this means you can use them while cooking over heat and put a bunch of chemicals into your food (makes sense to me). When your spatulas start to crack and get worn out, buy new ones! Spoons, I think you need a big metal and a wood spoon. Simple yes, but many people don’t have this stuff.
Most of this stuff I would recommend going to a restaurant supply store to buy, generally the quality is higher and cost is less!