21 August 2011

my most loved kitchen equipment

In recent months I've been on a slow but steady trek to upgrade my kitchen tools. As I get older, I want more high quality stuff that I can keep with me for I hope the rest of my life... Also, I've learned a LOT about kitchen tools recently because I have been working at a part time job at a large kitchen place**... and I'm taking advantage of that discount :-)  To give you an idea of how much stuff I've bought in attempts to "upgrade" my kitchen, I feel like I've put my entire paycheck back into them! Granted I have bought gifts for people, and I've bought some decorating food (i.e. sprinkles) for my cookies/cupcakes, but the bulk of what I've bought is equipment/tools. 

Can I tell you a secret? Some of the things I've bought I still haven't taken out of the box, lol. Don't get me wrong, I'll use them... but not all the tools are as essential as I thought they'd be (I'm looking at you, gorgeous and reportedly awesome All Clad 4qt covered saute pan). What's essential, you ask? Well, what a great time for me to discuss the tools I use the most! These are things that I use regularly, and I suspect you would too. These are things you'll want to be high quality so they last long and stand up to the use. These are things that I'd suggest for a registry if you were making one, or the things I'd recommend to give as gifts to friends starting out (or looking to upgrade). 

The things I use almost daily: 
~ 8" or 10" nonstick pan* -- perfect for eggs (I love eggs) or bacon or one piece of fish or a single serving of shrimp
~ 7" santoku* (or a similar sized chefs knife would do) -- I can cut almost everything with this
~ 3" paring knife* -- because sometimes a santoku is too much knife for slicing strawberries or other small fruit/veggies
~ medium and large saucepans -- for making hard boiled eggs or a serving of pasta
~ locking tongs -- I use it to flip bacon, but also to grab things off high shelves!

Tools that work for cooking and baking:
~ set of nested glass mixing bowls -- used to hold prepped food, tons of popcorn, and sometimes even as serving bowls for chips
~ silicone spatulas -- great for scrambling eggs or folding dry ingredients into wet
~ wooden spoons -- they won't scratch my stuff, they're sturdy, and don't retain heat so if you're stirring a simmering soup you're not going to burn your hand grabbing the handle
~ a microplane -- for shredding parmesan or zesting citrus (and I do both quite often!)
~ fine mesh strainer -- draining, rinsing, or sifting
~ bamboo cutting boards with a well to catch juice
~ loaf pan, an 8x8 glass baking dish, and a 9x13 glass baking dish 

Baking equipment I use the most:
~ my mom's hand me down Kitchenaid mixer -- no clue how old it is, but it's powerful, reliable, sturdy, and all around awesome
~ half sheet pans -- I have at LEAST 4, probably more, and whenever I bake cookies I use 3 sheets at any given time - 1 in the oven, 1 sitting out cooling with the cookies on them, and 1 cooling without cookies on them so that I have a cool pan for the next set of dough
~ parchment paper -- cookies come off the sheet WAY easier using this, and also essential for making fish en papillote
~ 1", 1.5", or 2" diameter dishers/cookie scoops -- if you haven't noticed, I make cookies a lot, and I like them to be the same size
~ thick oven mitts -- getting burned does not feel good at all
~  2 sets each of measuring cups and spoons -- I hate to wash stuff out and dry it while making one recipe, it's just faster to have 2 sets
~ 2 sets of regular and 1 set of jumbo muffin tins

Daily items that make life in the kitchen easier:
~ nylon scouring pads -- they're cheap, colorful, and are great for scrubbing without scratching
~ absorbent kitchen towels -- they can double as pot holders or trivets

Things that I'm glad I have when I need them, but don't use often:
~ meat thermometer
~ candy thermometer
~ 6qt enameled cast iron dutch oven (mine's a Staub, though Le Creuset is probably more common)
~ bundt pan, pie plate
~ kitchen scale (absolutely essential when I make macarons)
~ food processor, blender
~ straight rolling pin

So there you have it -- a relatively short list (compared to the # of items you CAN buy for a kitchen... really, who needs a banana slicer?) of my most used and loved kitchen tools. What are the things you can't live without?



* One other thing I've learned regarding your pots/pans and knives -- go to the store and hold them. They have different balances and weights. You want what feels comfortable in YOUR hands. What you feel comfortable with you'll use most. Plus it's fun to play in kitchen stores!

** It's not important where since I have no intention of getting into any sort of mess where they call me into the office one day to "discuss" something I said on the blog about them. Not that I'd ever say anything negative about them, but I just don't want to get into it, so I'm officially saying that what I write is in no way a representation of the company. Except this: I genuinely enjoy being there for the time I am there, and I'm amazed at the knowledge I've picked up since working there. It's a fantastic mental break from my normal gig behind a desk because I get to spend x amount of time talking to people about one thing I really am passionate about: food and food accessories. 

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