Blog post – the haves and have-nots of kitchen equipment
I received a birthday gift of a bean slicer from my dear friend Carol recently. It’s a bit of a private joke as whenever she comes for dinner I make her slice the runner beans, because she does it so much better than I can! It’s a fabulous gadget; I can’t think why I didn’t get one years ago!
It won’t surprise you that I have quite a fondness for kitchen equipment but, like anyone I also have gadgets and widgets which seemed like a great idea at the time, that I never use. So a quick look through the kitchen cupboards gave me the chance to work out which equipment is a must-have for the enthusiastic cook and which ones are the turkeys of the widget world.
- A stand-mixer – I have had a Kitchen-Aid mixer for the last 5 years and I don’t know what I would do without it, a lot less baking that’s for sure! I have three attachments, a paddle for cakes, a whisk for meringues and cream and a dough hook for bread. Unless you have patience and big arm muscles, you will struggle to get a meringue mixed to perfectly snowy-white stiff peaks. I use mine mainly for making bread dough, because it’s just so easy and the results are pretty much guaranteed. So in terms of time savings and results I think a good mixer is essential.
- A mini-chopper – I use this all the time to make fresh garlic and ginger pastes, or to chop fresh herbs, chillies or onions. You can also make up fresh chutneys or dipping sauces as well as small amounts of batter for pakoras or pancakes. They are really invaluable, take up very little space and I think every kitchen should have one!
- Fine grater – I have a small collection of these but you only really need one. I swear by Microplane graters, because they are so sharp and they don’t rip or bruise the ingredient you are grating, rather they cut them into fine shreds. These are wonderful for adding citrus zest into recipes but work equally well with ginger, garlic or chillies. These graters are different because they are manufactured using acid to etch out the blades rather than with a cutting tool, so you end up with a totally clean edge. This sharpness means you use minimal effort to get a great result.
- Mandoline slicer – These cost less than you think, and will give even thin slices of vegetables which will make everyone think you’ve had a crash course in knife skills. They can be dangerous if you don’t use them properly because they’re so sharp but just remember a) always lay them flat on the work surface – don’t try and hold them up, that’s when they slip and take the top of your finger with them, and b) always use the guard if you are using smaller pieces of food – it’s okay to throw away the last bit of onion, rather than a trip to A&E in a fetching blue bandage!
- Knife sharpener – so many homes have blunt knives which are more likely to cause a cut finger than a sharp one. Not everyone can use a steel effectively, and there are many other types which you can buy inexpensively. I use an AnySharp for my day-to-day knives which sucks onto the work surface and sharpens the blades in just three swipes.
- Citrus reamer – I use citrus in so many of my recipes, and a reamer will help to you to get every last drop of juice out of the fruit. Mine also has a handy guard to catch any pips, useful if you don’t have huge paws like Jamie Oliver to squeeze lemons with!
- Meat thermometer – one of my favourite buys, cheap but so useful. No more guessing when roasted joints, chicken or sausages are cooked – just read the dial on the thermometer, serve and eat.
I realise not everyone will agree with my choices, but these are the things I couldn’t live without in my kitchen. Of course if readers have any other gadgets they can recommend, I’m sure I can find a corner in a cupboard for something new.
And the turkeys…
Bread maker – I’m convinced that every loaf I ever made in mine tasted exactly the same, no matter what ingredients went in. And I really don’t like bread with a hole in it – so off to the charity shop it went… Nothing you can’t do in your conventional oven.
A full size food processor – I so rarely use mine and it takes up so much space! Just the thought of resultant washing up usually is enough to put me off getting it out.
Silicone bakeware – can’t stand it, it’s too wobbly and I have dropped more muffins than I have successfully baked! Nothing wrong with metal cake tins and baking parchment in my book.
The garlic peeler – why? It takes seconds to bash a clove of garlic and slip it out of its skin.
The strawberry huller – yes, really! Nothing you can’t do with a paring knife