Every Kitchen Needs One!
As an avid home cook, as well as a cooking teacher and caterer, you’d think I’d have gadgets overflowing in my kitchen. The truth is, when I packed up to move a couple of years ago, I actually gave away boxes full of rarely used tools, pans and gadgets. Too many products on the market today only serve one function, and I prefer tools that work well for many jobs. I also prefer less clutter in the kitchen so I can easily find things. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things I just couldn’t live without in my kitchen.
Tart pan with a removable bottom
Whether you consider yourself a baker or not, tarts are easy to make in both sweet and savory (think quiche) versions. But the secret to a beautiful tart is using the right pan—one with a removable bottom so that you can lift the tart out to reveal a perfectly shaped crust.
Also called a stick blender, these small, handheld tools allow you to puree hot soups and sauces directly in the pot, eliminating the need to transfer to a blender. They also come with attachments to whip cream, chop nuts and more. Think of it as a combo blender and food processor in a hand-held and portable tool.
Once you discover the ultra fine zest the Microplane brand of tools produce, you’ll ditch every other grater or zester in your kitchen. I use the smaller blade for zesting citrus, mincing garlic, shaving chocolate and grating whole nutmeg. The larger Microplane is perfect for grating cheese.
The most important consideration when purchasing a quality knife is to find one that feels comfortable in your hand. If you have small hands like I do, you’ll want a smaller handle. Some handles are shaped to offer more control with the knife. There’s no need for a huge collection of knives—with a chef’s knife, a small paring knife and a serrated knife, you can handle just about any job in the kitchen. Do make sure you purchase a knife sharpener to keep your knives in the best condition; you’ll find them easier and safer to use if you keep them sharp.
The floral and geometric designs on most china patterns often compete with the visual display of the food you’ll serve on them. For the most flexibility, start collecting everyday white dishes instead. Begin with the basics—dinner plates, salad/dessert plates, and soup bowls—and then branch out from there. I’ve added square and rectangular appetizer plates, a variety of serving platters, mugs and custard dishes to my collection. If your budget allows, opt for 12 or more of each item so that you’re covered for a large party.
For the best cooking experience, opt for sturdy stainless-steel cookware. While you might think cooking will be easier with nonstick, it just isn’t the case. Stainless allows you to get the proper sear and caramelization on your foods, and cleans up easily, while nonstick surfaces tend to flake and stick over time. A few basics are all you need—with a large sauté pan, a large soup/pasta pot, and a medium saucepan, you can cook almost anything and add specialty pieces and other sizes to your cookware collection over time.
How frustrating it is to spend upward of $75 on the perfect roast for your holiday meal only to find you’ve overcooked it and dried it out! There is only one way to ensure that meat is cooked to the right temperature, and that’s by using a meat thermometer. Instant-read digital thermometers are inexpensive and can be found in most grocery stores. Make sure you test it occasionally and calibrate it per the instructions on the package to ensure it’s accurate. And remember that most are not oven-safe, but are meant to be inserted for a quick reading then removed.
Certain recipes just work best with a scale—like my flaky tart crust recipe below. Look for one that switches between the familiar ounces and pounds to metric equivalents, so you can take advantage of the huge library of recipes available online, many published in countries that use the metric system.
Roasted Pepper Tart
This Roasted Pepper Tart recipe makes use of three of the kitchen items discussed above: a kitchen scale to ensure the right proportion of ingredients to produce a flaky crust, a tart pan with a removable bottom to deliver a beautifully baked tart, and a Microplane grater to grate fresh nutmeg.
About the author: Michele Morris leads cooking dinner parties and teaches private and group cooking classes for both kids and adults. For more great recipes, cooking tips, and resources, visit her website cookingwithmichele.com.
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