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Culinary Tools for Every Kitchen

We all have a set of basic kitchen tools such as a ladle, whisk, spatula, peeler, pasta spoon, slotted spoon, regular spoon, potato masher, and other choice tools.

In this article, I'm going to focus on a few extra kitchen tools to help take a recipe from start to finish.

When Preparing Meals:

One of the keys to good and safe cooking is called “mise en place” which means to prepare all dish ingredients in advance. Everything should be measured, chopped, diced, or sliced according to recipe instructions before you begin cooking. These tools listed below will only aid you in ‘mise en place’.

These are the Tools:

Baster - Basters are used to lift the fat and liquids from the bottom of a roasting pan and then pour that liquid over the meat, keeping the meat moist, adding more flavor, and creating a glaze as it cooks. A large spoon can do the same, but basters hold more liquid, distribute the juices more evenly, and are easier to use.

Basting Brush - Look for a brush that can do double duty; meaning that can be used at the grill or on the pastry board. Great for spreading on sauces, butters, etc onto your meats or breads and pastries.

Box Grater - This grater is different from your regular flat grater. It can handle a variety of foods, from cinnamon to chocolate, cheese to vegetables. It usually has four sides for various grating textures and is very easy to use.

Cheesecloth – An important kitchen tool and a versatile kitchen helper; a natural cotton cloth that won't fall apart when wet and will not flavor the food it touches. Cheesecloth has many uses including straining liquids, forming packets for herbs and spices (‘Bouquet Garni’) and lining molds (‘Coeur a la Crème’).

Colander - Useful for draining pasta, and rinsing and siphoning water from fruits and vegetables.

Fry Basket (Metal) – This basket is very handy for when you want to lift out small items from a deep fryer. It fits neatly inside a deep sauce pan and has a long, open handle that stays cool. Also makes it easier when you want to drain chicken wings, fritters, or doughnuts, or anything else that you deep fry. Put the items into the basket, lower the basket into the fry oil and then lift out once your food items are cooked.

Garlic Press – A quick and easy tool that presses a clove of garlic in place of fine chopping.

Marble Mortar & Pestle – A great tool that helps you release the most flavor from herbs and spices. Perfect for grinding herbs, spices and nuts into pastes or powders. The marble is a sturdy base and provides the right amount of weight for best results. Use it to make spice rubs, crush seeds (such as coriander or mustard) etc.

Meat Tenderizer - To tenderize or flatten cuts of meat or poultry.

Meat Thermometer - This easy-to-read, usually large-faced-dial Meat Thermometer takes the guesswork out of roasting meat and poultry. Usually has an approximately 4.5-inch stem.

Metal Tongs – Provide you with great control while turning over food items during cooking, or anything else. Makes for safer and easier handling of foods.

Pinch Bowls – These are small bowls that hold a pinch or more of your herbs and seasonings. They're extremely handy as you prepare your dishes for cooking or baking. Fill them with salt, pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, and any other ingredient you might need, and place them on your countertop for easy access. Helps aid you in your 'mise en place'.

Skimmer – Great for sweeping away the fat from stocks and soups. Also good for straining vegetables from water, etc.

Scraper – Ideal tool for those who make their own pasta, or pastry, bread and pizza dough. Use it for cutting, cleaning and scraping the dough.

Wooden & Plastic Utensils versus Metal Utensils:

Wood and plastic are known to be the most common material for a cooking utensil. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are usually more comfortable to use. They are less abusive to the foods during the cooking time but they are poor heat conductors. Make sure you buy sturdy wooden utensils. If the wood is too soft, it will splinter and soak up anything and everything.

Metal Utensils can be somewhat abusive to the foods you are cooking with as they usually have a sharper edge. They can also be somewhat destructive to a non-stick pot or pan over time. But they are great heat conductors and are fine to use with metal pots and pans.

My suggestion is to have a variety of the above-mentioned utensils. Try them out and decide what you're more comfortable with when cooking. For a while, I used only wooden spoons because I didn't know anything else. I've since tried, and purchased, metal utensils and I love them! But I do use both equally. I've stayed away from plastic because I don't see the need for it.

Cutting Boards:

Once again we are faced with options for our kitchen tools. Cutting boards come in a few different materials; Wood or Plastic.

For wooden boards, make sure you look for a hard wood such as Maple (the best), Cherry, or Birch (all slow-growing trees which means their wood has a tighter grain). Hard woods like these also won't absorb much odor and aren't as prone to warping or cracking.

Plastic boards are also great to use. You'll want to find one that is non-porous, stain-resistant, and dishwasher-safe. This type of board won't chip, crack or warp; and it doesn't dull knives. Be sure to get one that is made of a high-density, anti-bacterial polyethylene.

Washing Instructions:

Wooden Board: Wash under hot water with anti-bacterial soap. Dry with a towel. Do not put a wooden board into the dishwasher as this can cause the board to crack.

Plastic Board: Clean in the dishwasher or wash under hot water with anti-bacterial soap. Towel or drip dry.

Copyright 2001 Krista Barrett. Krista Barrett has been writing for the past 15 years. Her writing has been printed in newsletters, ezines, and websites, as well as printed as far as Wales, UK. She is the Managing Editor of a writers resource site called Writers

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