May 10th, 2007

A few of my favorite (kitchen) things

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“Like cookbooks, kitchen equipment is a talisman; people believe that buying the right kind will make them good cooks.” ~ Mark Bittman, New York Times, May 9

But do you need to splurge on it? That’s the question Mark Bittman of The New York Times explored yesterday. His theory: You can adequately stock a kitchen for $300. He accomplished that by shopping mostly at restaurant supply stores. Ah, restaurant supply stores. In my culinary school days in Houston, I frequented these places quite a bit. I could spend hours there. The great thing is they’re inexpensive and you can buy good quality items. Maybe they don’t come branded with celebrity chef names, and maybe they don�t look as pretty, but they do the job well. The truth is, when it comes to kitchen equipment, I think little of what I buy in addition to my basics is the result of legitimate need. So Bittman has a point.

I�ve had to cook in poorly stocked kitchens. Don’t get me wrong, mine is very humble. By poorly stocked, I mean no kitchen knife (only those serrated steak knives), no colander, only one pot … The colander I can do without. There�s always turning the pot over the sink with the lid still on. My best friend is a master at that. But what in my kitchen can�t I live without (aside from pots and pans)?

Absolutely can’t do without:

A knife. One that actually cuts. And for that, you don’t need to spend $100. Bittman paid $10. I paid $9 for an Ikea knife, which works very well. It’s light and the right size for me (the knife I have from culinary school is great, but it’s almost the size of my forearm, which doesn’t help my still-in-need-of-perfecting knife skills).

Tongs. OK, they might not be a must, or maybe they are, but they are by far one of my favorite kitchen utensils.

Colander. Even if I can do the pot trick, I need one.

Cutting board. The absolute need for this one is debatable, but cutting on a counter or plate is annoying.

Measuring cups

Can opener. Not that I care much for canned goods, but you just need this one.

Grater. I find that I use graters mainly for cheese, so I love hand graters.

Can survive without if needed, but would rather not:

Kitchen scissors. My mom uses them to cut chives to sprinkle on salads. I know a knife will do, but they’re a pretty handy tool.

Strainer. This one might seem really necessary, but I did without one for a while and survived. Keep in mind that I cook simple dishes.

Measuring spoons

– Some sort of spoon. Whether slotted or not, you need spoons.

Ladle

Spatula

There are obviously other items, aside from the pots and pans, which are nice to have or you’ll eventually need. From Bittman’s shopping list, I could forgo the mandolin, the food processor, the coffee grinder. Things I’ve done without, but really should buy from his list: a salad spinner and a loaf pan (so I don’t have to make zucchini bread into muffins.)

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4 Responses to “A few of my favorite (kitchen) things”

  1. Ahhh…since I am in the process of equipping my kitchen…this post is coming in handy…

  2. Saw that article too! There’s a restaurant supply store a block away from the hotel I ususally stay in NYC, and I have bought many cheap, useful utensils from them.

    I owned many cheap knifes that worked well, but required lots of sharpening and I’m lazy. Then I splurged for a nice 8″ chef’s. Now I inherited my wife’s Custcos, and they are great for me because I like a heavy knife. Serrated bread knife also a must.

    I think a filleting knife is essential for fish, to remove the skin.

    What you don’t need is a collection of knifes you won’t use.

    I use a mortar and pestle a lot.

    Cutting board is a must (see knife sharpening above) I like the plastic ones because they are easy to clean.

    I like cheese graters, but I also have a slicer (not the kind with the wire, the one that looks like a wood planer) which i use instead of a grater for salads. The thinnest, filmy slices of parmesan. Yum.

  3. The slicers are great. You can slice cucumbers and carrots and add those filmy slices to salads. It looks nice.

    I agree with the plastic cutting board. The wood looks nice but it’s not as convenient.

    Your comment on a filleting knife reminded me of the slicing knife I have. It is the sharpest knife I own and it came in very handy during the holidays to slice the ham I made. The hollow edge doesn’t allow the knife to stick to the meat, which makes slicing a breeze.

    I have to find a good kitchen supplies store here in Miami. Maybe a topic for a future post.

  4. Very nice selection. We are Miami Restaurant supplies and we offer a huge varierty of plates, glassware, silverware… and everything you may need for your Restaurant. Check all our product on http://www.miamirestaurantsupplies.com

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