Friday, May 06, 2011

Kitchen Essentials - Tools

Click here for the first post in this series (Pans). I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts on my favorite kitchen items - the ones that I own and use and consider to be essentials to how I cook these days. I was not paid or asked to review any of these items. They're just things that I love, things that I've either bought with my own money or received as a gift from family members, things that I would totally buy again.


Thanks for checking out day two of my Kitchen Essentials series. Today I'm going to talk about tools.
Microplane Graters

I used to have a cheap aluminum grater. I didn't really think that paying more for a grater would yield better results because come on - it's a grater for Pete's sake! Then my mother in law sent me a Microplane. Holy Moly, folks. Stuff just glides through the blades on this thing. It has these wonderful grippy feet so it doesn't slide all over while you're using it. One side slides off so you can use it at the table to grate fresh Parmesan over your dinner, and also so you can have easier access to get the inside clean. It has a heavy plastic cover so that you don't cut yourself grabbing it out of the cupboard. I love it!

I lusted after this thing for years before my husband presented me with one for Valentine's day a few years back. I decided that if I were going to invest in a piece of equipment this big and expensive, I was going to make it count. No wimpy flip up head for me. This bad boy has the bowl lift, a 475 watt motor, and a 5.5 quart bowl.

And do you know what? I still burned out the motor on my first one making bread. Thank God for warranties and great customer service!!! Let it be a lesson to you; figure out what you think you need, then buy a bigger one.

Measuring Cups

That means seperate measuring cups for wet and dry ingredients. Yes, it matters. The glass cup (I prefer the Pyrex 2 cup model) is for liquids only. If you're measuring flour, sugar, etc in one of these, you're not getting an accurate measurement. Incidentally, a glass one cup Pyrex measuring cup is great to keep with your laundry stuff to measure bleach because it isn't affected by the chemicals.

The same goes for the dry measuring cups. These are for dry ingredients like brown sugar and cocoa powder. You just can't measure something like milk in these. Never use them to scoop ingredients though. Use a spoon to loosely fill them, then level them off with a knife. The exception to this is, of course, brown sugar. That should be packed in tightly.

The only time it doesn't matter? When you're measuring things in spoons. Those can be used for both liquid and dry ingredients.
Digital Food Scale

Of course, the most accurate way to measure flour is using a food scale. I bought this for Weight Watchers many, many years ago, but I found it to be far more useful to cook and bake. Whenever I make a new recipe that calls for flour, I look up the amount conversion here and then write it on the recipe. That way, when I go back to make it again, all I have to do is plop the bowl on the scale, zero it out, and measure my flour directly inside. No measuring cups to dirty!

Using too much flour in your baked goods is not only wasteful, but it leads to tough, dry breads and cakes.
Dough Whisk

I make a lot of no-knead bread, and this item is indispensable to me now. I don't usually like to buy what Alton Brown refers to as "unitaskers" but this thing is awesome. Any time you're mixing dry ingredients into wet ones by hand (muffins, tortilla dough, quick breads, etc) this is the thing to grab. It's sturdy and makes much easier work of the task than a wooden spoon, especially if it's a large batch.

Some folks like to call these ice cream scoops. In my world, THIS is an ice cream scoop. Dishers are not. What they are good for is perfectly portioning out cookie dough so that your cookies are uniform in size, and therefore not only look pretty, but bake evenly. They're the easy way to get just the right amount of cake batter into a cupcake liner without making a huge mess. They're the perfect vehicle to move waffle batter from the bowl to the iron so that your waffles or pancakes are even in size, and again, you won't make as huge of a drippy mess.

I mentioned these in my pan post. See those little angles cut into the corners? When you slide one of these into the baking sheet you picked up at the restaurant supply store, they fit perfectly in the pan and those corners make little notches so they're easy to lift back out again. Genius, right? I bake all of my cookies on these. They never need to be buttered, even if your recipe says so. They last for years! Buy a few for sweets and one for savory items.

Tomorrow is part three - Storage!


Blogger Samara Link said...

Another great list, Sara. Thanks again for doing this. I dig it. I haven't bought silpats yet, and until I baked with you at your house, I hadn't even thought about buying a food scale. Admittedly, the scale is low on my list of kitchen gear wants, but I'm glad to know it's virtues. Maybe it'll move up a few notches over time. :) Anyway, thanks!

3:04 PM  

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