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Initializing the Kitchen : Kitchen Equipment (part 8) - Standard Kitchen Equipment

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2. Standard Kitchen Equipment

There is a balance between having the right tool for the right job and having too much stuff on hand. When looking at a potential kitchen tool, consider if you can do the task it’s intended for with a tool you already have, and whether the new gizmo is a multitasker capable of solving more than one problem.

2.1. Storage containers

While you can use consumer-grade plastic containers, the commercial-grade polycarbonate containers used in the restaurant industry are great: they’re rugged enough to last a lifetime, can handle hot liquids, and are designed for holding the larger quantities you’ll be handling for group cooking. Search online for Cambro’s CamSquare containers.

Ubiquitous in commercial kitchens, CamSquare containers are affordable, practically indestructible, and add a certain geek flair. You can flip the lid over and use it as an impromptu cutting board as well.

2.2. Strainers

Look for a strainer that has a metal mesh and a handle long enough to span your sink. Avoid strainers that have plastic parts; plastic isn’t as strong or heat resistant and will eventually break. In addition to the normal application of straining cooked foods like pasta or washing berries, a metal strainer can double as a splatter guard when inverted above a frying pan. Depending on the types of food you are cooking, you might find a spider—a specialized spoon with a wide shallow mesh bowl and a long handle—helpful for scooping out items from pots of boiling water.


Note:

When straining out pasta from boiling water, pour away from yourself to avoid steam burns.


You can use a strainer as a splatter guard while pan-frying items such as salmon. Make sure your strainer is wire mesh and has no plastic parts.

2.3. Mixers & co.

For baking, a handheld mixer or stand mixer is pretty much indispensable. Sure, you can use a whisk or a spoon, but when it comes to creaming together butter and sugar, you’ll get better results with an electric mixer that can whip microscopic air bubbles into the mix. Besides a mixer, there are a few other electric devices that are worth their counter space.

Immersion blender. Skip the normal blender and go for an immersion blender. Sometimes called a stick blender, the blade part of the blender is mounted on a handle and immersed into a container that holds whatever it is you want to blend. When making soup, for example, instead of transferring the soup from pot to blender for puréeing, you take the immersion blender and run it directly in the pot. Quicker to use, easier to wash.

Food processor. While not an essential, there are times when a food processor makes quick work of otherwise laborious tasks—for example, making pesto or slicing 10 pounds of onions or pulsing pie dough to incorporate flour and butter. They’re expensive, though, and take up space. You might opt for a mandolin, instead, which can also be used to quickly make large piles of julienned (matchstick-cut) veggies.


Note:

Sad but true: the julienned strips you see in restaurants aren’t lovingly cut by hand.


Rice cooker with slow-cook mode. I’m in love with my rice cooker. Actually, that’s not true; I’m in love with the slow-cook mode of my rice cooker, and you should be, too. Some chemical processes in cooking require a long period of time at a relatively specific temperatures. This is why you should make room for a rice cooker with a slow-cook mode: you can safely leave it on overnight, or even for a few days, without worrying about either the utility bill or the house burning down (something that you shouldn’t do with almost any other source of heat in the kitchen). This handy appliance makes an entire class of dishes (braised short ribs, duck confit, beef stew) trivially easy. You could just get a slow cooker, but a rice cooker with slow-cook mode will also come in handy for those occasions when you actually want to make rice.

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