06 JANUARY 2012
In the post Christmas haze it’s the perfect time to take stock of your kitchen and perhaps have a bit of a declutter; you may have found that in the midst of the cooking madness you spent far too long rooting around in draws and watching things overcook, catch or burn. So – a little guide then on the essential bits of kit to have in your kitchen. Perhaps you got a few of these for Christmas?
Professional kitchens have pair after pair of metal headed tongs. The plastic ones may protect your non-stick but they just don’t grip things properly. Oxo in their Good Grips range have a great pair which are ideal for all your cooking needs. And besides – if you cook with a modicum of care you’ll struggle to scratch the bottom of a non-stick pan with a pair of metal tongs.
The backbone of your kitchen, a good knife, well-looked after, will last forever. It’s the one piece of kit that is really worth spending the money on – upwards of probably £75-£100 at least. You’ll love it, cherish it, look after it and above all, really enjoy working with it. Whatever you do – don’t ever put it in the dishwasher. The abrasive salts knacker the blade. The Japanese Knife Company are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to choosing a knife – and they’ll also re-sharpen it for you for the cost of postage if you buy from them. Alternatively, Wusthof make a range that are robust, strong and good all-rounders.
We’ve tried all manner of pans – the likes of All Clad are strikingly beautiful, de Buyer look the part, are heavy based and beautiful packaged in an effortless French way, but the ultimate pan has to be a standard chef’s pan – what is generally known as a ‘black iron’ pan. Over time, oiled after each use, these build up a patina that becomes non-stick. And they’re handsome enough to go straight onto your table. With their metal handle they are also oven-friendly. They do require some looking after but the reward is worth the effort. You’ll find these in every professional kitchen.
The ultimate grater, nothing zests as well as these. We get fed up of lumps of fruit zest in a pud or cake – they’re not very nice to eat. A Microplane will get them as fine as you like. These shouldn’t really be dish-washed either – it’s best for keeping them sharp. They are available in a range of sizes and will grate anything from a lump of parmesan to nutmeg.
A decent metal whisk is irreplaceable in the kitchen – if you’re making any kind of sauce, just about, particularly one that requires an emulsification, you’ll need a whisk. You simply won’t be able to do it with a spoon. And have you ever tried whipping cream without one? Good luck with that…Metal whisks are preferable to non-stick plastic ones – they never seem to cut through the liquid quite well enough.
You’ll never strain off a sauce properly without a sieve – and when draining vegetables you’ll always end up throwing some down the sink and not getting all the water out of the ones in the pan – and nobody wants vegetable water with their roast dinner (although it goes a long way when you are making gravy). A good sieve is also useful for puds, including dusting with icing sugar, or make seedless fruit coulis.
You make a cake in your food mixer. You try and scoop it all out with a spoon. You’re left with hundreds of annoying little gorgeous lines of cake mix that try as you might you just can’t get out. Enter spatula, stage left, scooping up cake batter left, right and centre, leaving you with no wastage and a clean as a whistle mixer. The only down side is that you don’t get to eat the left-over mix. So maybe cross that one off your list…In truth though, particularly when you are making custard or similar, a spatula is the perfect tool for the job as it will stop any catching and lump-forming on the bottom.
You’ll perhaps need a few of these – one for oil and sugar, one with a probe for checking the internal temperature of meat and another to leave in your oven. Domestic ovens are often out by as much as 30-40 degrees which can make the difference between a perfectly done, juicy roast chicken to a leathery, pappy wasted bird. A must for the domestic god/goddess.
Solid chopping board
A decent size board is a must; wood is actually a healthier material for a chopping board, even though one would think the opposite. Wood is naturally anti-bacterial. Your board should be even, flat, without grooves or nicks; you should be able to fit your longest knife diagonally within the board. Durham Boards have a lovely selection that you can have personalised.