Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Equipment Is Necessary

Over the years I have found that one can drop quite a bundle on cooking gear.  There are some absolute essentials - good cookware and knives.  And although it is good to get the best of the best, the "best" might not be the most expensive.  And there are lots and lots of "nice-but-one-could-make-due-without" stuff out there.

One of my favorite cooking periodicals is "Cook's Illustrated" - they produce the PBS show "America's Test Kitchen".  Besides explaining the recipe development, testing and science behind many recipes, they also test food, appliances, and gadgets.  I saved big bucks on knives after reading about their kitchen knife tests.  Over the last 30+ years of maintaining our kitchen I have had several really expensive knives.  On the recommendation of  "Cook's Illustrated" I bought several Forschner Fibrox knives and love them - especially the price (and, no, I am not getting any type of kick-back to drop the product name).

The loml (love of my life) spent several years maintaining his own apartment while working in another state.  He flew home to our bungalow on Friday and left early every Monday.  During his weekday "bachelorhood" cooking for himself he discovered the small "George Forman" grill.  After he raved to me about it I got one for myself.  It is so convenient for a meal for one (and occasionally for two).  Grilled chicken thighs and pork chops are so quickly cooked and the appliance is way easy to clean.  An added benefit, the dog loves the drippings on her dry chow.  The loml even grills his weekend bacon a la Forman!

Chefs on the cooking shows and in magazines generally dis the garlic press.  I can understand why you might want thin slices of garlic if you are frying it in oil for a garnish.  But when you are adding garlic for a sauce I do not understand why taking the time to finely mince the garlic with a knife is so much better than putting said garlic through a garlic press.  I find that the garlic press not only saves time, I have yet to cut myself with one!  Again, over the years I have used a lot of garlic presses. The best, to date, is the "Suzi".  I hate to tell you, dear reader, that I got the tip from the Reverend Jeff Smith (Unitarian, I believe) who, years ago, had a popular PBS cooking show before going the way of a number of Catholic Priests.

A Mandolin (not the instrument, the cutting device) should be found in every kitchen.  I have not found the need to get one of the fancy expensive ones even for the snob appeal.  There is a wonderful plastic model (I cannot find the manufacturer's name on mine) that is inexpensive but does a wonderful job of slicing and "julienne-ing" everything.  However, you must be warned - watch your fingers.  I have sliced off a number of fingernails and a few layers of fingertips thinking that I could do one last pass without using the handy holder...  I have finally learned to use the spiked holder even before I think I might need it!

And while we are on the subject of slicing and dicing, let's talk about grating.  My one true-love grater was rather expensive and was purchased from Williams Sonoma (I do love wandering around that store but am often aghast at their prices)  It is a sturdy box (yes, it is square shaped, much better than the triangular versions).  I have had my one sturdy grater while I have watched my mother go through numerous flimsy, cheap graters.  My box grater triumphs over the currently "in" rasp-style graters in that it has four different sides with four different sized graters.  When grating, one size does not fit all (same with panty hose!)

Vegetable peeler - I bought my favorite from Williams Sonoma for (I think) $10.00 - way beyond the price of a cheap-o veggie peeler from the grocery store.  And it is well worth the price.  I don't know about you, but I really have a difficult time with almost every vegetable peeler - it seems that I naturally peel backwards, or whatever.  I don't want to have to think about peeling vegetables so the W.S. peeler, no matter what the cost, is worth it!.

And finally the "workaholic" of all appliances - the food processor.  The loml gifted me my food processor when they first came on the market (too many years ago to count).  Although the machine base is yellow with age and shows hair-line cracks, it is still going strong.  Fortunately for me the loml purchased a food processor with the strongest of strong motors.  Over the years I have worn out, broken or lost all of the "alternative" slicer and dicer blades and find that the basic "grind and mix" blade does it all.  It is the strong motor that keeps this workhorse going strong.  The company that made my food processor no longer produces one with a motor as strong as the one I have.  I guess they want customers to replace their food processors more often.

We have a number of additional gadgets and appliances that we use such as blenders, ice cream maker, melon scoops, cherry seed pitter, and ice cream scoops. Some are more useful than others.  However, I am not as attached to any of them as those that I have discussed.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Meg,
    I still have the box grater my mother got when she married my dad...still works great! A mandolin is indispensible, though I got a hefty stainless steel one on deep discount. I agree with your comment re Williams Sonoma - a great browsing store. I try not to be seduced by the gadgets. Looking forward to cooking together soon in Germany???