Home Cooking/Kitchen Live On Less Money Download Free Images The Adventures of Sputnik VonWiskars

Reclaiming The Kitchen






The Proper Tools

An easy way to tell if someone cooks or not, is to take a peek inside of their kitchens and see what kind of equipment you find. Contrary to what the gadget sellers may tell you, it's not necessary to have a pile of expensive crazy contraptions to make your kitchen experience more enjoyable. In fact, the best tools are often the most simple ones. Here are the four essentials.



A pan, by definition is something used to cook on the stovetop. They come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of different features, but they all have handles and they are not designed to go in the oven. What makes a pan a pan, (as opposed to a pot) is that it usually is wider than it is deep, and it is used to prepare food by either frying, sautéing or simmering.


The most important feature of a pan is that it have a thick, heavy bottom. The reason is that when you cook food in a pan, your food is in direct contact with the bottom of the pan. When your pan has a thick bottom the stove heats the pan and the pan heats the food. When you try to cook in a pan with a thin bottom, the heat from the burner goes straight through the pan to the food. You end up with hot and cool spots across the bottom of the pan. This means that the food doesn't cook evenly and is more apt to burn. 



A pot, as opposed to a pan, generally is taller than it is wide, and it's generally used to cook things with lots of liquid. Because of this, the thickness of the bottom is generally less crucial. In fact, a thin bottomed pot can be an asset if you're boiling lots of water for pasta or something, because the water will heat faster if the heat from the burner is transferred more quickly to the water rather than having to heat up the pot first.



Knives come in all shapes and sizes, but the main distinction is serrated and non-serrated. Generally speaking non-serrated knives must be kept very sharp, and are designed to be used with a straight downward cutting action. These types of knives work well for cutting things that are fairly firm and non-"squish-able" (in other words, don't try to cut bread or ripe tomatoes with a non-serrated knife!) Serrated knives, on the other hand, are designed to be used with a "sawing action". The serrated edge works much like the teeth on a saw. Usually, the softer the item is that you're trying to cut, the more deeply serrated you want the knife to be. So bread knives and tomato knives generally have big scalloped serrations, while all-purpose knives generally have smaller serrations.


Another distinction amongst knives is the width of the blade. Knives with wide blades are useful for cutting straight (like chopping vegetables) while think bladed knives are good for paring apples or cutting anything where you need to make curves or have more control. With all the choices and specialties out there, it's pretty easy to end up with an entire kitchen full of knives. You're better off with just a few... and they don't need to be expensive. One thing that is important, however, is that they be comfortable in your hand.


Cutting Boards

If you want to do any meaningful food preparation, a decent cutting board is a necessity. You can find good cutting boards made out of either wood or plastic. They also make glass cutting boards, but they tend to make a horrible "fingernails on chalkboard" sound when the knife hits the board, and because the glass has very little "give" the knife can slip if you hit the board at an angle. Wooden boards give a great cutting surface, but they can be difficult to clean since they can't go in the dishwasher. If you use a wooden board, choose one made from a hardwood like oak or cherry, as opposed to something soft like pine.


If you cut raw meat, fish, or anything bacteria-laden, you need to clean the cutting board with soap, or even bleach, and you need to scrub it with a brush to make sure you get into all of the little crevices. Some people have separate cutting boards used only for onions and garlic, since these things can leave odors and even a taste that's hard to get out of the cutting board.


Another important aspect of cutting boards is size. It may seem like a great big cutting board is ideal because it gives you lots of room to work with, but they can be a real pain to try to clean. Aim for something with enough room to work, but still small enough to fit in the sink or diswasher.


Copyright 2006 Mercantilium.com. For questions, comments or site problems please contact webmaster@mercantilium.com