The Top Useful Cooking Tools and Utensils

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In this day and age we have all become so obsessed with the latest and greatest cooking gadgets. Everything and anything that can slice, dice, chop, and blend better than the rest of them. Everything from the Magic Bullet to the Ninja Blender, from the Super Grill to the Big Boss Grill, and from the Robo Stir to the Slice-o-Matic. We as consumers have seen it all! And how many of us are guilty of owning at least one of them? Forget about these fancy-shmancy things that only bring clutter to your countertop or cupboards. I am here to share with you the basic cooking utensils you need to have in your kitchen before you go out to buy these fancy gadgets that you will use once (okay...maybe a few times) and just shove in the back of your cupboards.
Strainer
This is an essential and versatile utensil to have. It easily allows you to drain pasta from the water, drain canned veggies from the juices they were canned in, strain tea leaves for your tea, and rinse your fruits and veggies. They come in different sizes, shapes and materials. Strainers called colanders, which have larger holes, are used mainly to drain larger items from liquid, such as pasta and veggies. Smaller holed strainers, such as mesh strainers, not only help to drain liquid but also serve many different purposes. You can easily separate larger elements such as chunks from tomato juice, fat out of gravy, and seeds from raspberry puree. You can also use it to sift dry ingredients when making sweets or sift powdered sugar on top of your cakes.

Spoons – Solid, Slotted and Perforated
This is a must have in your utensil drawer. Wooden spoons are so beneficial as compared to the other types of kitchen spoons. It is probably the most essential hand tool for any cook. They don't scratch non-stick pots and pans when you stir and they don't conduct heat. Make sure you choose a spoon that is made of hard wood to ensure it won't absorb the taste or smell of your dish.  Solid spoons can also be made of either stainless steel or silicone, which are great for stirring, mixing and serving. Make sure that the handle is insulated though, so you don't end up burning yourself. Slotted and perforated spoons are great for draining foods from liquid.

Thermometer
Sometimes it is hard to tell if your meat is cooked appropriately or if the sugar for your candy apples is at the right temperature. A thermometer is like your best friend – it will always tell you when it’s enough!  An instant-read thermometer works wonders as it can instantly tell you what the temperature of your meat is. However, make sure you don't cook or bake with the thermometer inside, or else it will ruin it.

Peeler
A peeler is another must-have in the kitchen. Two things that everyone wants to achieve in the kitchen: reduce food waste and reduce time spent. Imagine the amounts of food and time waste that might go into peeling a sack of potatoes. They are great at peeling apples, carrots and potatoes. Use them to cut thin slices of cheese for your appetizers or salads. Cut thin slices of potatoes to make homemade chips. So many things to use for such a small and efficient gadget!

Whisk
There are different types of whisks, ranging from balloon whisks, to flat whisks, ball whisks and even gravy whisks. Of course, you do not need to have all of these if you won't use them. But the ideal kind to have is the balloon whisk. Different than a mixer, a whisk helps you control the amount of air you add to your meringue batter or how well-combined your dry ingredients are for your cake batter. A whisk is easy to have on hand, if you ever need to beat some eggs or combine oil and water. The one I use at home is the OXO 9" stainless steel whisk.

Mixing Bowls
A good set of mixing bowls is very useful for adding your dry and wet ingredients together. It would be preferable to have mixing bowls in a variety of sizes such as small, medium and large. If you tend to make larger quantities of food, then include an extra-large size in your collection. Usually mixing bowls tend to come in a set of 3, 4 or 5 sizes. They can be plastic, glass, porcelain, wood, silicone or stainless steel. I use a glass mixing bowl with a handle, for easy gripping while stirring and whisking.

Measuring Cups and Spoons
There are two types of measuring cups: dry measuring cups or liquid measuring cups. Dry measuring cups are designed to stack within each other for easy storage and tend to come in sets of six: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup and 1 cup. They are designed to easily level off the dry ingredients at the top. Liquid measuring cups are made of clear glass or plastic, come in large cup sizes, and have a spout for easy pouring of liquid. Ensure a sturdy handle and marked labels on the side for the measurements. Measuring spoons come in a set and are used for measuring small quantities of an ingredient, such as spices and baking powder or soda. Ensure clear markings on each spoon so as to not confuse tablespoon with teaspoon.

Tongs
Having tongs in the kitchen is like having a nice extension of your fingers! Having a sturdy pair of tongs is great for turning tender or big food your have frying or baking away. They are also versatile, and can be used for flipping burgers, serving salad, mixing pasta, lifting steak and moving cookies onto a tray.

Metal Spatula
There are many things that tongs just cannot do, such as flipping those pancakes. Which is why you need a spatula. These are handy to have, since they can easily slide under your burgers to check if that side is good to flip, or use to easily transfer those delicate cookies onto a cooling tray. Look for spatulas that have a thin front edge to easily glide under food.

Cutting Board
Having a good and large enough cutting board is essential in the kitchen. You can either buy wooden or plastic cutting boards, but opt in for the wooden ones as they are more softer on your knives and won't dull them as quick as plastic cutting boards do.

Cooling Rack
Not a must, but definitely a good tool to have, a cooling rack allows your cookies and cakes to cool evenly. It also prevents from moisture build-up that tends to happen when you let your cakes cool in their pans, which produces softer and moist bottoms of cakes.The Wilton 3-tier Stackable Cooling Racks are perfect for large quantity of baked goods, or can be used separately if only making one batch of cookies.

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