Friday, June 15, 2012

Enjoy Summer More: 7 Simple Kitchen Tools To Step Up Your Game

I'm always surprised when I go to teach a cooking lesson in someone's home, how they almost always have good pots and pans, and often decent knives, but the simple, behind-the-scenes workhorses are MIA. Sometimes it's just that there aren't enough of things like cooking tongs, but more often they just aren't there. The really weird part is that they are simple, fairly cheap items that will add speed, finesse and also safety to your everyday cooking chores. Get you out of the kitchen faster, and into that chaise on the patio with a margarita in your hand.

#1 on my list is a good, safe way to store kitchen knives so that they stay sharp, and easy to grab when needed. There are any number of good ways to keep them, but loose, jumbled in a drawer is dangerous for anyone who sticks a hand in there and and the blades will get damaged banging into each other. Never good. A knife block suits most people, one that sits on the counter or fits into a drawer with slots for your knives. If you have to toss them into the drawer, then please put them into individual sheathes to protect yourself and the blades. My own favorite ways to store knives is up on a magnetic bar, and in slots cut directly into the countertop near a wall edge. See the picture below for details. I have the same set-up on two sides of the kitchen so everyone working in there has access to what they need.

Good kitchen knife storage is a MUST!
#2 is a good pepper mill. Pre-ground black pepper has little flavor, and no self-respecting home cook would be caught dead using it. 'Nuff said. Get a good mill, or a few if you like more than one type of peppercorn at hand. The one you see on the rear left side is an old Peugeot mill from the late '70s that still works like new. Buy good quality and you'll have it a long time. Peugeot still wins hands-down for me. I actually have 4-5 and I can't ruin them.

A good pepper mill will last forever.
Multiples of these are good. Really good. #3 is tongs. You need more than one pair; one pair means that they are sitting dirty in the sink when you need to turn a steak out on the grill. Get at least two, or better yet, shop for several different styles. If you have traditional non-stick cookware, get one set with silicone tips, too to avoid scratching your pans. Having to stop cooking and wash tools is a drag at best and at worst will give food time to burn.

A girl can never have too many tools...tongs.
Batting in #4th place is opening tools: Your good kitchen knives are NOT what you use to open boxes and bags. Well, maybe they are what you use, but you'll save your blades if you keep a pair or two of good kitchen shears or scissors around for those jobs. Good for trimming fat off chicken and cutting herbs, too. Also, no banging jars on the counter--if you have granite or quartz, lemme tell you, you can make quite a mess. Get a good, easy to use jar opener. My favorite is from OXO that you see here.

Use these to open bags and jars, not your good knives.
My #5 must-have is cooking parchment. I line pans with it, cook fish in it, support dainty souffles with it and just generally love the stuff. Greener than foil, its good even just to cover your counter with it for messy jobs. Buy a big roll like this and USE it.

Best stuff on Earth, next to chocolate.
#6 is ice cube trays. I know, you have an ice maker in your fridge. So do I. These aren't for ice. These I get at the dollar store, and use to freeze things that elevate my day-to-day cooking from ho-hum to WOW! Freeze chicken, veggie or beef stock in cubes, and toss a couple of cubes into a pan to deglaze and make a quick pan sauce. Ditto for leftover wine (you know you don't finish every drop). Too much leftover fresh parsley? Chop it fine, mix with a bit of water and freeze into cubes. Voila! Fresh looking and tasting herbs for soups, stews, and even to mix into dressing at the drop of a hat.

Not for freezing water, although you could...
Bringing up the rear at #7 is one of my secret weapons: portion scoops. Makes everything in a batch the same: ice cream, sandwich fillings--two scoops of tuna salad for each sandwich--fill muffin pans, make meatballs, evenly baked cookies, melon balls. Get a few in sizes you think you'll use most. At the very least a small one for cookies, and one larger to fill muffin or cupcake pans, or to make crab cakes...

Perfect size every time, now just don't burn them!
Even adopting a few of these items will step up your game in the kitchen without spending much extra time or money, and will give you time to enjoy more of the summer out of the kitchen.

1 comment:

  1. 7 basic ones, and can hold almost each single work in your kitchen. :)