Kitchen Tools


Now that we have talked about a stove, pans and knives, it’s time to get to less expensive items.

I have taken pictures of some of the cooking equipment I own — only items that that I think will help you as you forge ahead (oops a knife reference).

You will see from the pictures that my collection is eclectic and really used.

I will caption the pictures with brief explanations of the use and importance of an object where I feel it may be helpful.

I will try to keep the pictures of the objects left to right from your point of view.

And I will try to keep the categories logical —– A real challenge for me!

Items with an asterisk * are optional.

Things that open or pry can opener.

1) Can opener — should be sturdy and feel solid in your hand. Don’t buy electric.

2) A jar lid opener. Some people have superhuman hand strength, I do not. And taping the lid against the countertop rarely works.

3) An old fashioned Church key. Julia Child once demonstrated how to open oysters with one of these. Too bad it was after I got stitches and a tetanus shot.

Things that peel or scrapescrape

1) A vegetable peeler. They come in all shapes and sizes. Buy one with a good grip so you can tackle tough skins.

2) A lemon zester. Sounds precious, but you will discover that the zest of a lemon, a lime orange or grapefruit can add so much flavor to an otherwise humble dish.

3) Rubber or plastic spatulas for scraping the inside of a can, getting icing from the sides of a blender,etc.

*4) You may consider a cheese slicer. Nice to have but not essential. When you are ready to throw a dinner party it is nice to have one of these on the cutting board next to the wedge of Asiago.

Things that crush, grind or squeeze 008.

1) A garlic press used to be all the rage back in the olden days. Now chefs seem to ignore or mock them. Garlic presses are cheap and you never know when something might need a boost of that healing bulb.

2) A citrus juicer. More than a margarita essential. Sometimes you just want to squeeze fresh lemon over a salad without needing to pick out the seeds that drop when you try the celebrity chef’s  squeeze a half a lemon  in your hand trick.

3) A potato masher. This is useful beyond making spuds. Crushing fresh tomatoes for pasta is a great use for this tool.

*4) A spice/coffee grinder. This is not essential, but it can come in handy when you are making something like a spice rub for barbequing meat.

Things that measuremeasure

1) measuring spoons. I prefer plastic.

2) measuring cups. I like the sets that allow you to work in increments. The old glass measuring cup with red lines and calibrations doesn’t work for me. Also you can dip these measuring cups into flour, sugar etc. rather than remove the bag and spoon the contents into a cup — end the flour dusted countertops!  They are also great in making moulds of rice. stuffing  etc. as you will see

3) A meat thermometer — when you use these put it in a glass with ice cubes so it starts at the lowest temperature. I have an instant meat thermometer which is not pictured.

4) An oven thermometer — make sure the dial is visible so you don’t have to stick your coiffed head in the oven to read it.

* 4) a scale for weighing small ( usually dry) amounts. This is easier than holding a cup of sugar in your hand and hopping on the bathroom scale.

Things that mix and blend 016 (2).

1) The best kitchen gift I have ever received was given to me by a dear friend Cary Raymond who happens to be an excellent cook with great Penache.  He gave me a Braun hand mixer/slicer which I use several times a week for multiple tasks. This mixer has undergone a radical transformation since the early days.  Too many attachments in my opinion. The original is genius!  You can pulverise hot food right in the pot on the stove — instant apple sauce!

2) Wire whisks. Get a a few sizes.

3) Besides scraping an icing bowl rubber spatulas are a more gentle way of mixing or that artful technique called “folding” that is key to making a souflee — something I rarely do because it is way too precious.

4) An electric hand mixer with adjustable speeds.

5) An good electric blender with 6 or more cups capacity. Why so big? When you blend or puree etc. the liquid needs room to expand. You don’t want liquid oozing out the top do you? NEVER BLEND HOT LIQUIDS OR HOT ANYTHING.

I use blenders more than my food processor* or the gigantic professional Kitchen Aid mixer* that remains stashed in the recesses of my cabinet. This professional mixer is one of the heaviest pieces of cooking equipment ever created. It also takes up a lot of space on a kitchen counter where you will find it unless the cook is a body builder. I guess if I were a master baker, I would not be so down on this thing.

Things that stir and scoop spoons.

1) Wooden spoons — These in the picture are 30 years old. There is something old world about stirring pasta sauce with a wooden spoon.

2) A few ladles of different sizes. Don’t go for the monster size as it will be difficult to store and you can always double or triple up with another ladle.

3) A long handle slotted spoon allows you to select a morsel from something like a stew without taking the liquid. Then you can let the morsel cool and taste it.  Slotted spoons also lessen the resistance of whatever is in the pot, making stirring easier — solid spoons are like paddles (is that a helpful image?)

4)  A short handle beefy spoon for scooping hot things like mashed potatoes into a bowl.

*5)  An actual ice cream scoop.  Really makes getting frozen sorbet out of a container much easier on your delicate wrtist.

Things that strain and drain colander.

1) A metal colander that is large enough to drain (NOT RINSE) a pound of pasta and carry it back to the stove where it is usually combined over heat with sauce. More of this in recipies and techniques.  Plastic colanders tend to wobble so don’t buy them.

2) A colander with a long handle for draining hot vegetables etc.   Why a smaller colander with a handle?  If you are transporting boiling hot potatoes back to their pan for mashing, you will hit the target with this colander. Using a large colander almost guarantees potatoes etc spilling on to the stove etc.

3) A long handle tool with a round flat web on the end. It is called a spider strainer. I would not buy the Asian version with the wooden handle because  for a little more you can get a metal one.  I use this strainer to remove pasta like ziti from the pot and transfer it directly to the sauce.  Not great for spaghetti — lololol — but the first item in the “grip” category is.

4) Strainers — The large one is for extracting juice from things like hot apples while the skins remain behind. It can also be used for sifting flour or sugar making it super fine. The smaller on is a tea strainer.

Things that grip and flip 026.

1) Long handle tongs.  Long handles allow you to stay clear of splattering oil etc. When you want to transfer spaghetti directly from the boiling water to a sauce pan you will avoid getting burned by scaling steam or water. I will talk about this in the technique in the pasta section. You may also get shorter tongs. They come in handy for tossing salad etc. The wooden ones pictured are a Shaker invention.

2) I prefer metal spatulas. These are different from the mixing silicone spatulas mentioned before.  Those are for scraping and stirring:  these are for flipping.  I have more than most people because I am not a great flipper and need all the help I can get. Never ask me to make eggs over easy!!! The multitude of spatulas in the picture attests to my flipping insecurity.

3) A nutcracker — most useful for that lobster splurge. There are better, more powerful ones but I don’t own one.

An Odd Assortment of Helpful Tools 027.

1) A vegetable steamer which fits inside a saute pan or dutch oven.

2) A rotary cheese grater with multiple grating barrels. This one is from Kitchen Aid.  It works very well and it is very reasonable! You may bring this to the table to grate cheese over pasta.  You really don’e need the one that waiters carry arround in a restaurant.

3) A funnel.  The one pictured has a removable screen that removes bits of food when you use it. I advise your finding this one.

4) A baster which can be used beyond the tradition Turkey squirt.

5) A sturdy meat fork. I replaced a long handle one with something more manageable and closer to the surface of the object to be carved.

6) A pastry brush. This one is plastic with a narrow and wide brushs that fit into the handle.

7)  My beloved scissors!! They are not poultry shears. They are cheap and easily replaced office scissors. Great for snipping herbs into a dish. Great when you notice that there is a big piece of meat or vegetable in the pot that needs some reduction in size. Don’t remove it snip it.