Kitchen Magicians: Every tool you need to be a master chef

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The kitchen is not unlike the bedroom, you can’t get good results unless you’ve got the proper equipment. And while Mother Nature and genetics are responsible for the equipment you need in the bedroom, what’s necessary to make you into a kitchen magician is easily attainable at any home goods store. Below is a baker’s dozen of essential tools that every chef needs, followed by a few gadgets that will make your life easier (hey, maybe it isn’t that different than the bedroom after all!)

  • A chef’s knife is the most essential tool for a cook. It’s ideal for chopping produce and herbs, as well as slicing and dicing meat. The back-side of the knife can be used to pound out cutlets, while the side can be used to smash garlic. A paring knife is helpful for smaller jobs such as deboning a chicken or carving fruit. Although not essential for beginning cooks, a serrated bread knife is also useful for slicing delicate items, such as angel food cake. Spend the money for quality knives where the metal of the knife continues up through the wooden handle. It is essential to keep your knives sharp. Always hand wash and dry all knives and either buy a honing steel and learn to use it, or take your knives to be professionally sharpened on a regular basis.

  • A large, heavy-duty cutting board, with a reservoir to collect liquid, is wonderful for prep work and cutting roasts. I sanitize mine after each use with a bleach wipe, and then wipe it again with a damp paper towel. I also buy inexpensive plastic cutting boards and dispose of them after a few uses. The knife marks in plastic boards are breeding grounds for bacteria. Rinse in boiling water between uses.

  • Kitchen shears are not only great when you need to mince herbs or chop canned tomatoes; they’re also great for trimming fat from meat and skin from poultry. You can also use the shears to slice pizza like a champ, just coat the blades with a little oil and you’ll make perfect slices in seconds.

  • Get a clear measuring cup with (2 cup capacity with smaller divisions marked on the side) for liquids and nesting measuring cups (usually ¼ to 1 cup) for dry ingredients. Similarly get a set of nested measuring spoons (usually 1 tablespoon down to ¼ teaspoon).

  • A stainless-steel box grater offers a variety of shredding sizes for anything from cheese, to carrots, to chocolate. If you want to get fancy you can also get a micro-plane for fine grating and a stainless steel mandoline for making quick work of slicing tomatoes or making French fries.

  • A large metal colander is essential for draining pasta or vegetables and works well for rinsing salad greens and shellfish, draining pasta and salad greens, separating fruit juice or pulp from seeds and can be used to strain soups and sauces.

  • An instant-read thermometer to check meat, and poultry to be sure they’re cooked to the correct temperature.

In addition to the tools above, all kitchens should have the following utensils; ladle, vegetable peeler, metal spatula, rubber or Silicone spatula, a sturdy slotted spoon with a stainless-steel handle, pasta spoon, small, medium and large whisks (metal or nylon), and stainless-steel locking tongs with rubber tips.

If you like to bake cookies, invest in a pair of Silpat baking pan liners. No need to grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper. The sheets rinse off easily, are dishwasher safe and roll up for easy storage. If you like to make soups and sauces, invest in an immersion blender. A KitchenAid stand mixer is a workhorse. The standard model comes with a variety of attachments from whisks and paddle mixers to a hook for kneading bread. Attachments include meat grinders and sausage-making implements. A food processor and/or mixer are useful for chopping, grinding and pureeing. A number of companies offer one base with blender and food processor attachments.

Any of the above would be welcome gifts to foodies, or to newlyweds setting up a new kitchen.


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