We could go out to the shops with a list as long as your arm of the bits of cooking equipment that we will need in our kitchens, but there will be many of these things already waiting in the kitchen just waiting to be used. So, hopefully there will be no need to rush out and buy masses of new pots, pans, etc. Here are some tips for kitchen equipment:
A lot of your equipment will build up over a period of time and will be decided by what food you mostly love to cook - don’t be tempted to buy gadgets that you do not really require that after being used once or twice will be pushed to the back of a cupboard and never sees the light of day again
Always pop into charity shops as you never know what you may find, like good quality saucepans, bowls etc. at a fraction of the price you would pay if they were new. Car boot sales are also ideal places to look for kitchen equipment
Useful items are empty coffee or jam jars – after they have been washed, they make great storage jars for dressings or sauces, but don’t forget to label and date them before putting them in the fridge. Empty ice cream or margarine tubs are very useful for storing the mise en place in
If you are looking for something special – don’t forget Christmas or if you have a birthday coming up!
There are no hard and fast rules on what we need in the kitchen and I am sure on many occasions with a little commonsense we can improvise at times. Information on some of most common equipment is outlined below in alphabetical order.
A handy little tool for cutting the core out of apples and other fruit
This is not really essential as a very hot grill will do the job, but a small one can be useful and great fun to use. Take care when using so as not to set fire to anything!
There is no better to start in the kitchen than with your chopping boards - you will find that you will spend as much time on your chopping board as you do on your stove top, so the chopping board is an important piece of your kitchen equipment. Some helpful tips are as follows
- Search out the very best board that you can afford – a board will last you for many years
- Look for a good heavy one that will not move around on your work surface when in use
- Give yourself plenty of space to work on – it is not very comfortable to work cramped up on tiny chopping boards that will slip and slide all over your worktop
- Look for boards that will not fall to pieces after a few dozen washes
- Keep our boards clean and free of nasty bacteria - after using our boards, scrub them well in hot soapy water and allow them to dry naturally in the air
- Always avoid any cross-contamination of food stuffs - never use a chopping board that has been used for raw chicken for any other food preparation before it has been well scrubbed. This is where having two boards come in most useful. It is a must that you keep raw and cooked food separated on your chopping boards.
- Before starting work on your board, it may be worthwhile giving both your work surfaces and board a quick but thorough spray with some anti-bacterial spray and a wipe with kitchen paper that is then thrown away
In stainless steel, these are good for straining vegetables, pasta etc. and washing salad items. A colander is a much-used piece of equipment
Food processor / liquidiser
This may be where Santa comes in in a big way! Try to buy the best that you can afford. We can manage without them, but they do make life in the kitchen much easier
Stick blenders are a great piece of kit for soups and sauces. Be careful that you get the blender well into the bowl or saucepan or you may end up with more soup on your kitchen walls than in the pan!
These come in all sizes and you can’t have enough!
A good box-shaped grater will do many functions, from grating cheese using the larger holes to grating nutmeg on the tiny holes. If you have a few spare pounds in your pocket then a microplane grater is a very useful piece of equipment and makes easy work of zesting lemons, for example
Don’t go rushing out to buy a huge set of cooks’ knives in some fancy case, for you will find that most of them you will never need to use. It is much better to spend your money on just one or two good-quality knives that, well-looked after, will last you a lifetime. Some helpful tips are as follows:
- Go for a good, strong 8”-9” cooks knife which has a deep shoulder and a small 3” knife for preparing vegetables, etc
- If at a later stage you wish to filet fish, for example, then you may find a 6” thin-bladed knife which is very flexible to be of great use. But, of course, you can get your fishmonger to do this for you and save the cost of an extra knife!
- You may want to consider a 7” serrated knife - these can often become the work horse in any kitchen, cutting everything from bread to cardboard
- Most important to go with your knives is a sharpening steel. These instruments help to keep your knife blade sharp. Once again, buy the best that you can afford, but always look for one with a good-sized guard between the steel and the handle to protect your hand when using. Click here for a video showing how to sharpen a knife
- As with the chopping boards, try to avoid any cross-contamination of harmful bacteria by always washing your knives after every use, even more so after cutting raw mea
- Never leave knives them lying in a sink of water - someone else may put their hands into the sink not knowing there is a sharp knife lurking beneath the water. This is a good rule to follow with all sharp tools in the kitchen, and very much so with glass
- Never try to catch a falling knife. If one falls off your board or slips from your hand, think about getting your feet out of the way and allow the knife to fall to the ground
- Cut and chop everything at your own pace and always concentrate on what you are doing. Please don’t try to copy the many chefs on TV with the speed in which they use their knives – they have had many years of practice!
- After use and washing and drying, store the knives in a safe place rather than just throwing them into a kitchen drawer where they may get damaged,. A small tool box from your local hardware store is ideal, one which can be locked with a small padlock to keep the knives safely away from children. A canvas wrap is another good way of storing your knives.
- Finally, always treat your knives with great respect. As with most things, use your commonsense and they will be your best friend in your kitchen
A clear see-through jug is ideal when measuring liquids
These may be useful, but you can always use normal spoons
A very useful piece of equipment, these tell you the temperature in the centre of your food
A little tool for cutting melons into ball shapes, this can also be used for potatoes and vegetables
These are great when it comes to making biscuits, brandy snaps etc. You know that nothing is going to stick. You can buy them individually or in a roll and cut to the size you require. These are well worth the expense and will last a long time if looked after
Oven bowls and dishes
Like saucepans, the size of dish will depend on the how many people you are cooking for. These dishes come in all shapes and sizes, depths and colours. Those with lids are for stews and casseroles and those without for lasagnes and puddings, etc
You will largely be dictated here by the size of the family and how many people you wish to cook for. Some useful tips are as follows:
- In general you will need 1 large saucepan, 1 medium-sized saucepan and 1 small saucepan
- It’s nice to have saucepans with a heavy base, which helps to conduct the heat more evenly
- A small to medium-sized saucepan is useful, especially for making scrambled eggs or sauces, for example
- A two- or three-tier steamer can prove useful to cook all the vegetables over one saucepan
- A good heavy-based, non-stick, 10-inch frying pan will be used for many things
- It’s also nice to have a 7-inch, non-stick omelette pan and a large 10-inch sauté pan with a lid
- A sauté pan is great for cooking curries and pasta dishes
Pastry brushes and cutters
A pastry brush is a must when brushing pastry with egg wash. An old pastry brush is also useful for greasing tins, etc.
Pastry cutters can either be plain or have a fluted edge and again are good set in stainless steel. A set of pastry cutters can not only be used for cutting rings in pastry but are also handy for using as melt rings when cooking röstis, for example
A peeler is great not just for peeling potatoes, fruit and vegetables, but also to shave off cheese shavings, for example
Piping bags and tubes
These are nice to have in a few different sizes and ideal for piping cream potato onto fish pie etc. but they are a must for decorating cold sweets. You can now buy disposable bags and I find these quite useful (they also save on the washing up!).
It is nice to have a few different sizes of piping tube and different shapes such as a star or just plain. If you get to decorate cakes, you will need a much smaller set of tubes
As well as for rolling out pastry, these can be used as a wooden mallet to crush things, e.g. peppercorns. You can always improvise and use a plain glass bottle filled with cold water!
These really are a must in the modern kitchen. Modern digital scales are very accurate and give you the weight in grams and ounces
These are not essential as we have sharp knives, but they are handy for cutting strips of bacon or snipping herbs
Large sieves are good for straining or passing soups and sauces through. Stainless steel sieves are good, although you can get plastic and nylon sieves. It is also handy to have a small tea strainer for dusting, e.g. icing sugar
They are a must in every professional kitchen and are ideal for decorating a plate
A two- or three-tier steamer can prove useful to cook all the vegetables over one saucepan
A small timer can come in handy so you don’t forget what is cooking in the oven or on the hob, although many modern ovens now have built-in timers
Tongs are handy for turning food over in the frying pan or roasting trays and are great for handling cooked pasta such as spaghetti
These are metal stands for hot pans to stand on when leaving the hob or oven and save you spoiling your worksurface. Again, look for stainless steel and be wary of trivets that have been painted as the heat from the pans may cause the paint to melt and stick to the base of the pan
You will need perhaps 1 large balloon-type whisk, which will make short work of whisking egg whites, and 1 small one for making dressings, for example. A handheld electric whisk is worth its weight in gold for making cakes or sponges
This is another pan you are likely to use a lot. Woks don’t have to be used just for Chinese food; they can also be used as a steamer and make a great deep-fat fryer
Can we have enough of these? Have a few different size ones in a pot by the cooker