Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The 5 tools in my kitchen that I'm most grateful for

This beauty has saved my ass more times than I can count.
Over the years, people have told me a bunch of times that they like my cooking, and I have usually answered that it's largely because I have good tools and high standards. The high standards you're on your own with, but I am going to go over some things in my kitchen that are tremendously helpful to have.

Some of these things are so old that I have no idea where I got them. When I can find them, I'll include links for easy purchase, in case you want to get anything. Full disclosure: purchases specifically through the Amazon links send a portion of the purchase back to me, so it helps me keep this blog up. So thanks in advance if that's the way you decide to go.

And now for the fun part: here are the goods!

The food processor

You may have met my food processor when I posted my Nut Wellington recipe on the blog.
I actually got this as a gift, and thank goodness I did. Case in point: there are three main secrets to making excellent hummus:

1. Taste, taste, taste
2. Leave it nice and thick
3. Use a food processor

You just can't get it to purée as nicely without one, period. And with the amount of hummus I eat, I really do use the heck out of this poor thing. It's also amazing for making nut butters (I've been known to throw a quart of coconut into this baby, walk away for 20 minutes, and come back to decadent, smooth coconut butter).

Mine (which has never given me grief and I highly recommend) is the Cuisinart 12-cup. I can vouch that it's worth every penny, but it is higher-end, so there may be more affordable options that are not as sturdy/built to last. (Use this baby for 30 seconds and you realize that it's built to last.) The only one I can personally vouch for is this one.

The ice cube tray

This is coconut butter that I molded with the giant ice cube tray into perfect portions!
You're probably scratching your head right now, and I can see why. An ice cube tray? Really?

I sometimes forget what I did before I bought my giant ice cube tray from Tovolo (also available in pink). I'm not kidding you; I use this for more things than I ever imagined I would. It makes about 1/2-cup portions. This is an essential for vegans. It's the perfect size for a stick of homemade vegan butter. It's the perfect size to freeze two flax gel eggs for pulling out of the freezer when I need them (which is awesome, because that stuff is a pain in the backside to portion out and I make it in huge quantities at a time). It's the perfect size to portion out nut butters before chilling them to get them hardened. It's hilarious how much I depend on this thing. (If you want to hear me swear, just wait for the moment that it's already in the freezer with something in it, and I need it now for something else...)

Retail value: about $12.00. Actual value: priceless.

The spatula

My silicone friend hard at work.
A good rubber (actually usually silicone) spatula is something that's always hard to find in my kitchen, because it's always dirty. Like, actually always. The day that I reach into the drawer and it's actually there, it goes down in history. It's because a good rubber spatula is perfect for a ton of things: mixing, getting the last bit of batter out of a bowl, coercing chocolate into melting in a double boiler (or the microwave, for that matter), scraping down your food processor or blender, and the list goes on. (Just be careful when using them with blades--my food processor recently added a little extra character to my spatula, if you know what I mean.) There is no other utensil in my kitchen that I use as much, period.

There are two camps: detachable blade versus non-detachable. Each has its pros and cons, of course. I opt for the detachable blade for cleanliness reasons, because whether you can detach the blade or not, food will get between the handle and blade. You might as well be able to remove the blade and clean thoroughly. But the downside is that you want to make sure that it doesn't come off in your dough all the time, so try to find one that's both detachable and attaches back on really firmly, if you're going to go that route.

I got my current spatula years ago from my mother, and I have no idea where she got it, but I've also recently gotten the Wilton set, which is pretty affordable and works super well, if you're on the market for a spatula.

The wooden spoon

My favourite wooden spoon often appears in posts.
You need a good wooden spoon in your kitchen, period. By "good" I mean a few things.

First, you want one that's good and sturdy, because wooden spoons are supposed to be the things you call on when flimsy little metal serving spoons aren't cutting it. They should have a nice, wide, flat spoon blade so that they move around a lot of stuff at once. And they should be comfy--don't buy one of those unfinished, splintery ones, or you'll be picking wood slivers out of your skin for the rest of your days.

Mine is nothing super expensive. I seem to remember that I bought it at a bargain store or something, probably at least 5 years ago now. But it fits the bill, and I've been so grateful for it that you've seen it make a million and a half appearances on this blog. Old Faithful, that's what I ought to call it.

I'm not 100% sure, but this bamboo spoon looks like a perfect replica of mine, and so it might be a good place to start if you're stuck.

The pan

This is the beauty that has gotten me through countless recipes in the past few years.
Hilariously, the best skillet I have was actually something that came into my possession accidentally. The power of a good pan is tremendous. There are very few things that I'll shell out as much for as a good skillet, because it's one of those things that can be a disaster. It can be a pan that everything sticks to and it's impossible to clean. It can be a pan that over or under-heats and cooks your food really unevenly. It can be a pan that is way too small to fit a decent amount of food in, so you're cooking your meal in one-portion-sized units for a dinner party of 8.

My favourite pan takes care of all of these things. The bottom is a high-quality stainless that doesn't really stick to anything, so I don't have to worry about whether or not it's true that Teflon can poison you (because who the hell knows at this point?). It also cleans like a dream, for the exact same reason. It also distributes the heat really evenly, so I end up with pancakes that look like this, for example. It also has a diameter of 12" and is about 3" deep, meaning I can cook a good 6-8 servings of stir-fry in it at once and save myself a big headache.

My own pan is probably not made anymore (it's about a decade old), but Cuisinart makes a big, awesome, stainless skillet that I've heard really good things about. Check it out if you're on the market for a good skillet.


And there you have it, folks. What are the things that are essential for you? What products would you wholeheartedly recommend for avid cooks? Let us know in the comments!

3 comments:

  1. For me, it would be a small+medium non-stick pan, a small+large pot, a small+large metal bowl, a cutting board, three knives (chef, pairing, bread), a cookie sheet with a silicone sheet. Nice to have includes a wooden spoon, a spatula, an immersion blender, muffin tin, doughnut tin, oven-top waffle iron, a springform pan, a cake pan, a bread pan.

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    1. I feel stood up in the best way possible. You obviously know what you're talking about, because the whole time I read your comment, I was like, "Yeah, and that, too...oh, and that...and yeah...all of that..." haha

      We need to cook together one of these days. I feel like it would be epic. <3

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    2. ^ Hahaha, I definitely meant "shown up" (not stood up)!

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