Monday, 2 June 2008

Basic Equipment

To be comfortable while cooking, you need just a few basic bits of equipment. Lots of people get flustered in the kitchen because they just don't have the basic hardware they need and because of that, cooking becomes much more hard work and that puts them off after a while. So the message is simple: get your basic equipment right, and it will make things so much easier.The first thing to get is, yes - that's right, a knife. Not any old cheap flimsy knife but a good sturdy knife that you might feel happy to use to chop off small branches. Make sure it is not serrated or fancy-shaped with funny prongs at the end or anything like that. You just want a simple solid knife made of good steel because then you can use the same knife for chopping, cutting through small bones, slicing, etc. I recommend a 20 cm long blade but you can get a smaller 15 cm blade if you feel a little insecure at first. This is just the blade - the handle will add around 10-15 cm to the total length of the knife.

Next item to get is a frying pan. There is a great range of pans available but it's best to just
get a known brand or one with a thickish base. I would advise getting a pure stainless steel frying pan if you can, even though most pans come with a non-stick coating. The size depends a lot on the cooking ring you have - it should be a maximum of around 5 cm larger than the flame range of the cooking ring you intend to use, not more, else the heat will never cook food at the rim of the pan, or you have to stir around a lot more. Alternatively, you can also use a carbon-steel wok, but please get one with a flat bottom as that is more flexible for cooking.With the frying pan, you need a couple of saucepans, with lids. One should be largish, say around 4-6 litres or so, the other can be smaller, say 2-4 litres. Don't get those small milk pans as they are pointless for real cooking purposes. I really prefer steel pans without the non-stick surface as one should not ever burn food in a saucepan, and even if it does happen, it's really easy to clean a pan with steel wool, provided it does NOT have a non-stick surface. It may be cheaper to buy a set of stainless steel pans (including a frying pan), especially in a sale. And I don't recommend ever using aluminium pans because, well, I just don't like the idea of cooking with a metal that's associated with mental health problems.
You'll also need a couple of wooden spatulas and a pair of kitchen tongs as well. Don't get tongs with those plastic/silicon grips which are expensive and tend to slip - just get a largish sized cheap pair of tongs which are made only from steel.
Then you need a colander, to drain off the water from pasta or to wash vegetables. Get a fair sized colander as the bigger ones are more useful.

In addition, you need a small sieve. You can get a plastic or metal sieve and it doesn't need to be big - just enough to sift flour or pressed grated herbs through.Then you need a grater. Get a metal one with both large and small grating surfaces if you can, or 2 separate graters with different size holes. Just don't get a box grater as they are messy to clean on the inside - you just want simple flat graters. You can use the larger grater for cheese and the smaller one for zesting fruits or grating vegetables.

Oh, and you need some chopping boards, say around 3 or more. Get plastic ones if you can as
they can go in the dishwasher. They will be very useful for preparing and organising ingredients when you cook. Don't bother about picking pretty-looking boards as they will get rough and marked as you use them, so just pick good-sized practical boards to suit the size of your kichen.One more useful tool you will need is a meat hammer. This is very good for tenderising rougher cuts of meat and actually it makes even nice cuts of meat taste even better!
You will also need a sharpening tool for your knife. I use simple roller sharpeners from Kitchen Devil or WMF. There is nothing worse or more dangerous than a blunt knife when you are cutting meat or vegetables, so do get one, or at least get a sharpening stone.A very nice piece of equipment to have is an electric chopper, so go get one! This saves you hours of time chopping and dicing vegetables and is so much fun to use. For example, you can soak cashew nuts overnight and then puree them to make cashew nut milk. Why would you want to do this? Ah, you will just have to wait to find out!Oh, and since I try to use stainless steel cookware rather than ones with the non-stick coating, you will also need some balls of steel wool to clean them. Believe me, you will prefer this to thinking about eating bits of teflon which have scraped off the bottom of your non-stick pans (which might be carcinogenic) and I really recommend this highly.

And, that is it! With the above, you can do all the dishes which I will populate on this website over time. None of the above items are going to be expensive, especially if you hunt down the sale items. So to summarise, you will need (with estimated costs):

  1. Solid knife (15-20 cm blade) - £15
  2. Steel frying pan or flat-bottomed wok - £18
  3. Big saucepan - £15
  4. Smaller saucepan - £10
  5. Wooden spatulas - £1
  6. Kitchen tongs - £2
  7. Colander - £1
  8. Sieve - £1
  9. Dual-sized grater (or 2 graters) - £4
  10. 3 or 4 chopping boards - £8
  11. Meat hammer - £2
  12. Knife sharpener - £5
  13. Food chopper - £15
  14. Steel wool - £1
So, all in all, a total spend of less than £100 will fully equip you for life in the kitchen! And you don't need to get it all straightaway. Just watch out for any sales in department stores and buy them when you can. Some stuff can be easily bought for practically nothing at discount shops. Or you can get them off Amazon if you're too busy.


prolix said...

hey, its quite comfortable to use.. Cooking Equipment

makanakam said...