Monday, May 31, 2010

Equipment essentials (non- electrical)

Have you ever stayed in a self-catering holiday flat or cottage? They don’t supply an awful lot in the kitchen, and it’s amazing how little equipment you can manage with. The extra fancy electrical stuff is nice to have and use but you can actually make do with far less and still cook healthy meals.

I couldn’t live without my wonderful knives, though I could probably dispense with quite a few of them. Mainly, I use a large butcher’s knife – even for de-hulling and cutting strawberries and filleting fish. And I like a small serrated blade for slicing tomatoes. If your knives have plastic or wooden handles attached, make sure to give the joint a good scrub when you wash them. Never put your kitchen knives in the dishwasher, it blunts them very quickly.

I have quite a collection of wooden spoons, but I seldom use them – stainless steel spoons are best for cooking. Wooden spoons are porous, so they absorb colour and flavour and never come entirely clean. And you have to remember which one to use for curry and which is safe for custard. A metal spoon is best because it washes completely clean and doesn’t get contaminated. Don’t leave it standing in the saucepan, though, or you will burn your fingers. I use my slotted spoon, large ladle, masher and fish slice all the time. And my steel whisk.

I don’t think you need more than three saucepans – preferably stainless steel, and ‘waterless’ if your budget can stretch to them; one small, one medium and one large. They are nice and easy to clean. Aluminium pans are not a healthy option. Then of course you need a large frying pan, with a lid. Mine is a non-stick, coated variety, but I trade it in about every eighteen months or so, because the coating does wear.

Wooden chopping boards are scary! Like wooden spoons, they retain smells and flavours – and if you have cut raw meat on them, then they will be full of bacteria too. No amount of scrubbing is going to get them properly clean. I use glass boards, or those inexpensive thin plastic bendy boards. The plastic boards need replacing quite often because they get scratched and cut allowing bacteria to build up.

Next week, I’ll be talking about essential electrical equipment. What do you really need?


Roberto said...

Hi Sphinx - I agree with you about wooden spoons. They are not very good to use in the kitchen, but are essential for raising kids. A whack with the spoon does wonders!
As for your constant worry about bacteria on boards etc, a good washing is all I've ever done in 30-odd years of preparing and cooking meals, and NEVER got sick, or made anyone sick. I think people can go a little overboard with household cleanliness.
In fact, I believe it is a contributing factor for a lot of sickness in this modern day. Too healthy. You've got to have certain 'bugs'. Some people use disinfectant to wash their hands every time! No way, José, not for me. But, that's my opinion.

Sphinx said...

Bob, you're quite right - my mother always used wooden chopping boards and spoons, and we grew up to be healthy kids and adults with no alergies or alarming illnesses! I've also been feeding family and friends for over thirty years, without any bacterial repercussions, and I haven't always been obsessive about cleanliness! Truth to tell, I'm not all that obsessive now, but I do try.