I love spending time in the kitchen, turning a random assortment of ingredients into something new, knowing that, through mixing, chopping, heat and time, I’ll get an end result that reflects what went into making it, but takes on a new character when consumed as a whole.
I mentioned yesterday that a fair amount of thinking, reading, assessment of inventory and planning goes into cooking something new, but cooking does, at some point, go beyond your mind. You’ll need hardware and gadgets to carry out what you’re trying to do.
Here is a list of items that I rely upon regularly in the kitchen, to save time, create flavor, or otherwise make my life easier:
- Measuring instruments. One of the first things you learned about in a home economics class back in the day was measuring ingredients. You’ll still need measuring cups and spoons, but a food scale is also a good investment. I go into more detail about why here. But you’ll use these tools for cooking and measuring out servings of the finished product to eat.
- Nonstick pan. I use this to make omelets and other forms of eggs. Just spray with cooking spray, keep your heat as high as possible, and you’ll have a good breakfast for yourself in no time!
- Stainless steel pan. I just started using this more for things other than omelets. I used to be apprehensive about using the pan because the food would stick, but (a) you can remove the food a bit more easily by using the metal utensils that come with your set of stainless steel cookware or by using an appropriate amount of oil or spray and shaking the pan on a regular basis; and (b) it’s not so bad if the food sticks, if you’re making something that will be served in a sauce or gravy, because the food stuck to the pan will impart flavor to the end result (and will most likely life off when you add the liquid ingredients anyway). Lately I’ve made blackened salmon, chili, and the jollof recipe on this page from Oldways.
- Rice cooker. Let me come clean: I never learned how to make rice on the stove. Rice, to me, is challenging to make perfectly, so I cheat, with the help of the rice cooker. The rice comes out OK every time. And I don’t just make brown or white rice in the cooker; I also do rice pilaf, and flavored rice mixes that come in a box, like red beans and rice, dirty rice, or jambalaya. I’ve also done plain rice with chopped up peppers, onions and tomatoes. Put the rice cooker to work for you in any way you can imagine, and it will come through!
- Slow cooker. This is another important convenience item that should be on your team. With a little prep time, you can toss ingredients into the slow cooker, let it do its thing during the day or night, and return to a delicious-smelling kitchen with a delicious dish waiting for you. I’ve made soups and stews in the slow cooker, but you can also use it to make a tender “rotisserie” chicken.
- Electric grill. I grill all year long, and this is how I pull it off when the weather is boasting conditions that would put a postal worker to the test. I have an open grill (that I cover with a roasting pan lid), rather than a grill with a George Forman hinged-lid design. I express my love for my grill here. I make everything on it that you’d make on an outdoor grill, from meat to veggies, but I’ve also made quesadillas on it.
- Santoku knife. I started out using a chef’s knife for chopping veggies on a cutting board, but I find the santoku knife easier to use. I can’t really articulate why I think it does a better job, but there are many articles on the Web that speak to the benefits of each kind of knife.
I also use smaller gadgets, but these are the members of the elite task force in my kitchen. Which tools and devices do you count as your generals and lieutenants? Leave a message!