View Full Version : Paging Inspector Gadget...please advise!
12-25-2007, 06:16 PM
Over the past couple of months I have really gotten interested in cooking. I can’t believe I am going to admit this… but I actually enjoy it and have discovered (much to my amazement) that I can make some pretty good stuff.
Now I am hungrily (bad pun intended!) perusing my cooking magazines and checking out books from the library to learn more. Of course, with any new hobby, there are the requisite ‘tools’. My kitchen is currently not very well-stocked with gadgets and tools.
If you were to start up a decent “cooking is my hobby” kitchen, what few tools or gadgets would you want to be sure you included and why? Given the amount of money I might save by not eating out as often, there may be some extra dough (ouch!) available to get a few new toys!
12-25-2007, 06:22 PM
Here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=435312) is one thread that should be helpful.
12-25-2007, 06:30 PM
Check out the magazine Cook's Illustrated or their companion PBS show, America's Test Kitchen. They have great reviews of kitchen gear, not to mention recipes.
For knives - one chef's knife, one paring knife, one serrated knife for bread.
Stranger On A Train
12-25-2007, 08:05 PM
My kitchen is currently not very well-stocked with gadgets and tools.
If you were to start up a decent “cooking is my hobby” kitchen, what few tools or gadgets would you want to be sure you included and why? Given the amount of money I might save by not eating out as often, there may be some extra dough (ouch!) available to get a few new toys!Most kitchen gadgets are designed to sell kitchen gadgets to enthusiastic but inexpert cooks; in a real commercial kitchen, where stuff has to be done quickly, correctly, and with a minimum of finicky, hard to clean equipment, most of the kitchen gadgets you find at Sur La Table wouldn't survive fifteen mintues, and you're better off learning to cook without such crutches. Many are entirely dispensable, or at least can be worked around with some ingenuity, using only the basic cooking implements. One gadget that finds extensive use once you have it is a food mill (http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-Food-Mill/dp/B000I0MGKE) with different size disks; this can be used for easily straining sauces and ricing or pureeing fruits and vegetables; for many things, it's indispensible, and a lot easier to set up and clean than a food processor.
If you do a lot of baking, a torte pan with a removable bottom is very useful for tortes and cheesecake.
Good knives are definitely a good thing to have, but there's no reason to go crazy with them; you only need a few basics (paring knife, 5-6" utility/boning knife, 8-10" chef's knife, bread knife) to do all but some specialty work, and they don't need to be top of the line Henkels or Wusthof; just a good, reasonable quality high carbon stainless steel with a plain (unserrated) edge except for the bread knife. There are a number of decent, reasonably priced small sets, or you can piece together a usable set of high quality knives by picking the few necessities rather than buying a block set.
I find that parchment paper, a pepper mill, and a squeeze bottle of olive oil are the handiest disposable/consumable articles in my kitchen. And although I haven't been doing as much cooking as I'd like, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (http://www.amazon.com/Food-Cooking-Science-Lore-Kitchen/dp/0684800012/ref=ed_oe_h) is fascinating and at least as useful as Julia Child's adored Larousse Gastronomique (http://www.amazon.com/Larousse-Gastronomique-Prosper-Montagne/dp/0609609718/).
12-25-2007, 08:52 PM
A paring knife
A short santoku or a chef's knife (I don't use a chef's knife except for splitting squash)
A small cutting board and a large cutting board
Good measuring spoons
Good measuring cups (stainless steel, 1/4 c., 1 c.)
A handful of small stainless steel and ceramic prep bowls
A cast iron 10" frying pan
A good spatula
A pyrex baking dish
A couple of wooden or bamboo mixing spoons
A 2-qt. saucepan with lid
A ladle with a shallow spout
A steamer insert
A microplane grater
Mortar and pestle
A wire rack that fits in your baking pan
A Le Crueset Dutch oven
A rolling pin if you want to bake
A cookie sheet
A good can opender (Oxo is easy)
My partner says a garlic press. I use a hand mixer but a person might want an electric. A small scale that switches between grams and ounces and can be set to account for tare weight if you're using fussy recipes.
I'm a very good cook and make most use of a paring knife, a small cutting board, a frying pan, a bamboo spoon, and a mortar and pestle. I use these just about every day.
12-26-2007, 10:01 AM
Thanks for the link and the list of items!!
I would like to stock the kitchen with truly useful stuff, not neccessarily with things that are frivilous gadgets, per se. The hope is to go with quality over quantity.
This should get me started. Now, over to the link....
12-26-2007, 10:20 AM
Alton Brown has a book all about this, which I really like. It's written in an easy, conversational style, where he explores the pluses and minuses of various items and names names, and model numbers. But he also talks about WHY he likes what he likes, and what to look for if the model he mentions is no longer available, or not in your area. I always like knowing the why, as well as the what.
Plus, of course, he's famous for his "no multitaskers!" stance. Which, while not strictly as true as he likes to play it, does mean that you're less likely to clutter up your kitchen with stuff you don't need if you heed his advice to build your kitchen. Unlike, say, me, who already had a kitchen full of useless stuff and is now adding useful stuff. It's hard to throw out stuff you don't use! Better to not buy it in the first place.
Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen (http://www.amazon.com/Alton-Browns-Gear-Your-Kitchen/dp/1584792965/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1198685788&sr=8-2)
12-26-2007, 10:32 AM
This (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09mini.html?ei=5090) is an article from the New York Times on how to equip a kitchen for about $200. The writer does most of the shopping at a restaurant supply store, where he gets things like a plastic-handled chef's knife for ten bucks.
12-26-2007, 07:52 PM
Thanks for the additional responses. I will be going to the library tomorrow to see if they have a copy of Alton's book, and the NY Times article was perfect.
I love to use my favourite things, so I have a colander and a pot. Woo hoo. Go me. I am on my way to a well-stocked kitchen. :D
The idea of shopping at a restaurant supply store is a great one! I was worried that I could not afford much as I have only ever been to fancy culinary shops and overpaid for gifts for friends in the past. But, they were happy, and I was ignorant, but no more, Dopers!
Thanks for enlightening me and helping to fight kitchen ignorance.
Tonight's menu: Hot and Sour soup and Vietnamese rice paper rolls. Mmmmm....
If you are going to have knives, you need a way to sharpen them. I like a Lansky (http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10151&catalogId=10001&langId=-1&partNumber=41168&hvarTarget=search&cmCat=SearchResults) style sharpener.
Remember, sharp knife good, dull knife bad.
12-26-2007, 09:22 PM
Remember, sharp knife good, dull knife bad.
Yes, well, in my case, sharp knife bad (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=337583), dull knife bad.
I barely cook, but the three things I love most in my kitchen, in descending order of greatness, are my mezzaluna, my silicone spatula, and my rotary cheese grater.
Stranger On A Train
12-26-2007, 09:48 PM
My partner says a garlic press.A garlic press is Jack's diarrheatic sphincter. It does detestable things that no right-minded cook--nor one in the throws of a major psychotic episode--should visit upon a harmless, innocent clove of garlic. Learn to thinly slice, chop and dice, or smash on the flat of a chef's knife rather than subject garlic to such an ignominious end.
12-27-2007, 12:34 AM
A garlic press is Jack's diarrheatic sphincter. It does detestable things that no right-minded cook--nor one in the throws of a major psychotic episode--should visit upon a harmless, innocent clove of garlic. Learn to thinly slice, chop and dice, or smash on the flat of a chef's knife rather than subject garlic to such an ignominious end.
12-27-2007, 10:13 AM
I recently got a lemon/lime squeezer. (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku7662000/index.cfm?pkey=cctlfvgi) My husband got it, but not at Williams-Sonoma - only about $7-10 at Target or similar.
12-27-2007, 11:23 AM
A garlic press is Jack's diarrheatic sphincter.
Julia Child thought they were awesome.
Stranger On A Train
12-27-2007, 11:40 AM
Julia Child thought they were awesome.Yes, but based on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child was also very keen on shellfish in beef aspic dishes, clam juice, and frozen spinach, all of which are considered pretty abhominable by modern cooks. I think pureed garlic goes into the same bag. Save the garlic press for ricing really small potatoes, and shave or chop your garlic manually.
12-27-2007, 01:06 PM
That raises another issue -- really bad idea kitchen gadgets. You may recall that Julia Child was at one time obsessed with teaching an American audience how to make authentic French bread at home. She was thrilled when she discovered the trick -- bake the bread on a tile found at a home supply store. It turned the regular American home oven into the right kind of oven to make French bread.
After the cookbook came out, she was at a dinner party, seated next to a doctor doing pioneering work on mesothelioma and asbestosis... which is when she learned that there may be a problem with her recipe. The tile she recommended? Asbestos.
Needless to say, later editions of the cookbook changed the recommendation.
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