Sunday, January 23, 2011

Already have the basics?

If you read through my list and thought, I have that stuff, it might be a good idea to look around and see if you have (or need) a few more essentials. I know, this list is getting long, but like I said before, many of these things will be with you pretty close to forever. And you're here because you want to start cooking or start cooking more regularly, right? So here are some more basics, plus a few really nice to have(s)...

  • Whisk - not sure how I missed this the first time, but you'll need one or more of these to make salad dressings, gravy, maybe even make polenta.
  • Tongs - plural, as in, get more than one pair. I use these to grab pieces of meat to flip, to pull them out of a pan. Basically to do everything my fingers would do if they were coated in Teflon. The second pair is when you use the first ones to grab raw meat and don't want to use them to contaminate cooked meat.
  • Sheet pans - these are the workhorses of the kitchen and another essential. I use them for cookies, of course, but also to roast vegetables, cook smaller cuts of meat or fish, as a place to set up a bunch of prepped ingredients...the list goes on and on. I recommend the traditional kind with the rolled lip - often called a jelly-roll pan - and I get them at restaurant supply stores like Gordon Food Service. They typically cost around $9 for the standard/half-sheet size and $6 for the quarter-sheet size. Get them both - better yet, get 2 of each!

  • Colander - a must have for straining pasta, stock and even rice, if you get one with small enough holes.

  • Strainer - similar to a colander, a strainer typically has a handle instead of legs. But because of its finer mesh (aka, smaller holes), it can be used to strain liquid from many, many more things. Like what, you ask? Um, rice, pasta and lots of other things I can't remember. It's also great for sifting flour and other dry ingredients in baking - but that's another list.
  • Vegetable steamer basket - super cheap and indispensable for quickly steaming veggies on the stove top.

  • Food mill - similar in abilities to a food processor, a food mill is old school technology. It comes with 3 discs to control the coarseness and has feet to be placed on top of a bowl. I use mine to puree vegetables when I want to strain the final product at the same time.

  • Food processor - first up in the nice to have category, a food processor can do everything from mixing pesto, shredding cheese and slicing vegetables to whipping up dough for pie crust. I don't use mine every day, but it's wonderful to have it when I need it. And at 15 years old, it's still going strong.
  • Immersion blender (or regular blender) - I mostly use my immersion blender for pureeing soups. It can be done right in the stockpot, as opposed to pouring the soup into a regular blender. Goodbye hot soup burns! Of course a regular blender is great, too. You can use it to make all sorts of frozen drinks, some soups, pesto, etc. I'm just bitter because my last one broke a year ago and it doesn't look like it's getting replaced anytime soon.

  • Dutch Oven - if you're going to be making soups or stews on a weekly basis, this is a great investment to make. There are many brands available, but the king is definitely Le Creuset. I bought mine at an outlet for over half off and not a week goes by that I don't use it. I make soups, braises, curries, even the now infamous no-knead bread. Plus it looks so darn pretty and it will seriously last a lifetime.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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