ITâ€™S IN THE CUPBOARD
Electric Rice Cooker â€“ Only if you 1) have the storage space, 2) make a lot of rice several times aÂ week at least, and 3) just cannot be bothered keeping an eye on it the rice then yes, it probably does make senseÂ for you to own a rice cooker.Â Invest in a durable one of good-quality.Â Some have non-stick surfaces or inserts and some double as a vegetable steamer.Â This purchase will probably guarantee consistent results, and will keep the rice hot if dinner is put on hold.Â Allows you to focus on the more complex â€“ and interesting â€“ things to cook.Â Can also be used for cooking grains like quinoa & couscous.
Microwave Oven â€“ Certainly not essential for cooking, but useful for warming milk which can curdle and burn easily, and melting small quantities of chocolate or butter.Â On the other hand, learning to use the stove for these tasks is what truly develops the abilities of a cook.Â A double boiler can do these things and more.Â Not having a microwave will free up valuable counter space and help you focus on using conventional appliances & equipment you probably already have (range, toaster oven, double boiler, egg poacher).T
Set of Pots with tight-fitting lids, including 3 sizes of saucepan, small & large skillet & a large soup pot (Dutch oven).Â Stainless steel is the best value (highest quality for lowest cost). Nothing wrong with acquiring one lidded pot at a time.
Broiler Pan – The two-partÂ pan that comes with an oven or range, used for broiling.Â Bottom can be used when a shallow pan is called for.Â Perfect for roasting chicken or a roast, crisping kale or cooking in a salt crust.
Double Boiler â€“ Essential for making delicate sauces with egg yolks (like hollandaise) & for melting chocolate. I prefer the glass type as you can see the water level and keep an eye on the sauce through the pot and lid. Just donâ€™t forget the little wire for the burner. Get a small, 1-quart size for starters. A double boiler can be jerry-rigged by using a small saucepan held over a larger saucepan of boiling water, but then youâ€™ve lost the use of one hand, and risk burns from the boiling water. Money is well spent on a double boiler.Â Also valuable for cooling food after cooking, although a small saucepan or bowl set into a larger saucepan works well for this.
Egg Poacher – Stove-top model, with three to six cups. Good for, not only poaching eggs, but heating small amounts (chocolate, butter, leftovers). Good substitute for a microwave oven. Also doubles as a lidded frying pan.
Melita Coffee Holder and Filter - Plastic, cone-shaped holder for paper filter (smallest size #2) , placed over a cup.Â Used to make coffee by pouring boiling water through coffee grounds. For quickly making small amounts of coffee for recipes like chocolate
mousse. Also useful for quickly transforming American yogurt into Greek-style yogurt.
Shaker – Useful for blending thickening agents (flour, cornstarch) or powdered ingredients (cocoa, sugar) before adding them to other parts of a preparation.Â Tupperware makes a good, air-tight shaker than you can burp the air out; salad dressing companies periodically offer promotional shakers.Â Absent a proper shaker, use any plastic, air-tight container.Â A bartender’s shaker works just as well!
ITâ€™S IN THE DRAWER
Bottle Opener – An old-fashioned bottle opener (or church key, as it used to be known) will get you into beer w/non-twist-off caps as well as tinned things, like old-fashioned Irish oatmeal. Useful for any job requiring prying, and I’m not talking about your neighbors. Sometimes comes with two tips, rounded (for bottles & tins) and pointed (for that triangular hole in non pop-top cans).
Burner Wire – A triangle or star-shaped length of wire, put between a burner and pot to slow down cooking to prevent food from scorching.Â When using glass cookware (such as a double boiler or coffee pot) us a burner wire to prevent glass from breaking.
Can Opener (manual) â€“ Please do not waste money & counter space on an electric opener unless you have difficulty with manual dexterity.Â The manual type is easy to use, inexpensive to buy & lasts a long time.Â Donâ€™t crowd your counter top or cupboard with needless appliances before youâ€™re certain of their usefulness in your kitchen.
Citrus Hand Reamer â€“ Itâ€™s the smallest, quickest way to extract juice from lemons & limes.Â Usually made of dense plastic, Iâ€™ve also seen them of wood (currently on the shelf at Williams Sonoma).
Colander â€“ Essential for rinsing produce, draining pasta & sieving stocks.Â Materials include wire mesh, plastic and metal and range in size from 1/4 cup to 2 quart.Â Basic kitchen should have 3 sizes:Â small, medium & large.
Corer – A knife with a blade curved to easily extract the core of fruit like apples, pears & pineapple. Essential in making whole baked apples or circular pineapple slices.Â The kind with a serrated edge is easier to navigate through the fruit than the tube-shaped type.
Cutting Board â€“ Essential for cutting, chopping & dicing.Â Be sure to get solid hardwood â€“ maple (less expensive) or slices of various hard woods glued tightly together (more expensive).Â This is one item that you want to spend as much money as you can afford.Â I often buy them for wedding presents, as a good, large cutting board is beautiful; something that any cook will use for a lifetime.Â Do not buy a cutting board of pine or oak (of any cutting board with the species unidentified), as these woods are not sufficiently hard for a long-lasting cutting board; they will eventually split &/or warp.
Degreasing Cup â€“ An odd-looking plastic or glass (sometimes measuring) cup with a handle, & a pour spout that originates at the bottom of the cup. Used for degreasing soups & pan juices when making gravy from fatty birds (duck, turkey). Easier than trying to skim fat in a roasting pan and quicker than waiting for soup to chill. Not essential but a time-saver in the carnivoreâ€™s-in-a-hurry kitchen.
Egg Beater (manual) â€“ No need for an electric egg beater when a simple manual design thatâ€™s been around for 300 years is quite sufficient.Â If your right hand gets tired, just turn it around & crank with your left hand.Â Simple & direct, it takes up no counter space.Â Your friends will marvel at your quaint expertise in whipping cream & egg whites.Â Be thankful Iâ€™m not suggesting using only a whisk!
Grater â€“ A metal blade & plastic holder is advantageous:Â metal grating surface for an easy cut but plastic handle & frame for easy gripping.Â If youâ€™re grating whole nutmeg, youâ€™ll also need a special one for that; itâ€™s sharper than the standard grater and has a compartment for storing the whole spice.
Jar Opener â€“ HA!Â Iâ€™ve never owned a jar opener in my life.Â If youâ€™re able-bodied and have a little elbow grease, you can save your $4.95 for something interesting.Â Simply turn an unopened jar upside down, palm the bottom with your hand and give the top it a firm rap flat against the countertop or floor.Â For narrow plastic tops with ridges, slip on a rubber glove and twist.Â If youâ€™re trying to reopen a sticky container (honey, jam, CrĂ¨me de Menthe) run the top perpendicular to a stream of hot tap water for 1/2 minute to soften.Â Smile & twist open.Â You may have to try a second time until you get the knack, but I guarantee results with these techniques, in addition to saving money & drawer space for essential tools & equipment.Â Cooking is often about invention.
Kitchen Scissors â€“ Useful for cutting packaging and grape vines.Â Should be stainless steel so they wonâ€™t rust.Â Scissors with a magnetic holder that attaches to the side of the refrigerator keeps them within reach.
Knife Holder â€“ Since knives are the most important investment in your kitchen, youâ€™ll want to store them properly, away from knocking against other implements in your kitchen drawer.Â A wooden counter top or wall-mounted knife holder keeps knife blades sharp and free of burrs.
Knife Sharpener â€“ Please do not waste money and space on an electric sharpener.Â The plain, ceramic sharpener with a small handle is quite sufficient, or a sharpening steel or diamond hone.Â Knives should be sharpened often, to align the blade & keep chopping & slicing easy.Â A sharp knife is safer to use because it is less likely to slip than a dull knife.
Knives â€“ The most costly purchase in your culinary arsenal, good knives will last a lifetime.Â Take your time checking out various models and select knives that are comfortable in your hand.Â If you doubt your commitment to caring for carbon steel knives, by all means buy stainless steel.Â Even though they wonâ€™t rust, please do not put them in the dishwasher!Â Hand wash, let them air dry on the counter then store in a knife holder.Â Here is a minimal selection of essential knives:
- Small serrated knife of stainless steel for citrus, tough skinned fruits & tomatoes.
- Large serrated stainless steel bread knife for bread, cake and cantaloupe.
- Small paring knife of carbon steel or stainless steel.
- Large chefâ€™s knife of carbon steel or stainless steel.
- Medium carving knife of carbon steel or stainless steel for carving cooked poultry & roasts.Â Blade is thinner than a chefâ€™s knife.
Measuring Cups, Dry â€“ Different measurements from liquid measuring cups.Â Made of metal or plastic, and have flat tops and straight handles.Â Set usually includes 1/8 c, 1/4 c, 1/3 c, 1/2 c, 1 c, 2 c.
Meat Thermometer – An implement inserted into thick meats to measure the internal temperature.Â A regular one is inserted prior to cooking & registers slowly.Â An instant meat thermometer is inserted after the meat is cooked & registers quickly.Â Insert into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone.
Roasting Rack – A rack on which to set a turkey or roast (leg of lamb, pork loin).Â The benefit is that the meat will be kept above the juices & fat that comes out of the meat while roasting.Â It also makes removing from the pan easier as it doesn’t stick to it.Â Rack can be flat or V-shaped.
Sifter – For sifting flour (to achieve the correct measure) or for even spreading.Â Not essential if you’re not making cakes; a small sieve can be used, or in a salt shaker for even spreading of powdered sugar or cinnamon.
Ladle – Spoon with long handle and deep bowl for serving sou, stocks & punch.
Slotted Spoon- Large spoon for removing foods from cooking liquid.
Wire Spoon – Ladle with long bamboo handle and large wire bowl, used for serving wok & removing foods from cooking liquids.
Wooden Spoon â€“ Absolutely essential for stirring foods while cooking & mixing thicker liquids like batters & eggs.Â Get several sizes for mixing in small, medium & large quantities.
Wire Lettuce Basket â€“ No need to go out & buy a salad spinner.Â They are so large; it is a shame for a gadget that does only one thing to take up that much valuable cupboard space.Â A wire lettuce basket and can be stored on its side & will take up only about 1â€ť of space between mixing bowls & the side of your cabinet.Â However, if a salad spinner is what it takes for you to dry the lettuce, then get one!Â Drying lettuce is crucial to good salad-making.Â Better to dry the greens than to not make the salad.
IT’S ON THE FRIDGE
IT’S UNDER THE SINK
Recycled Paper Cartons & Plastic Containersfrom grocery store (ice cream, milk, cream, yogurt, hummus, prepared foods) can be used for disposing of moist or runny things like cantaloupe centers, sieved foods & skimmed fat. Don’t throw them away when empty; clean and store them to use as needed.