Food is our life and it gives us a lot of happiness. There are essential tools to make every preparation faster and easier.
The first and most basic is the knife. We think that one knife is enough to do the entire job. Honestly, I used to believe to that too until I took culinary classes at Enderun. There are actually a lot of knives from the chef's knife, bread knife, boning knife, to the fillet knife, turning knife and more. For home-based cooks I would suggest that you have at least a chef's knife, a cleaver and a bread knife. The chef's knife's job is to do the basic cuts for you, such as to brunoise, julienne, and mince. For big chunks of meat with bones the cleaver is the right tool. You don't want to break your chef's knife especially if it is expensive. The pairing knife is like the assistant of the chef's knife. It can do the same job but for smaller pieces of ingredients. Bread knives are not only for bread but can also cut fish bones faster and safer. If you want to save on cash, you would definitely want to own a boning and fillet knife to portion your beef, pork, poultry and fish. It may be more convenient to buy meat cleaned and boned but it is better and cheaper to portion it yourself. For safety reasons, don't use a knife to open cans. For that you need a good can opener, of course!
Next is the salad spinner. It is very important to wash your greens if you don't want to shock yourself seeing something moving beneath those leaves. It is also important to dry them so that your dressing will be compact with flavors and not mixed with any amount of water. A salad spinner would not only give you clean and fresh greens but it can also help dry meat. Searing dry meat will give you less splash thus fewer burns on your arm or hands.
I had my internship in France and was living in a dorm for 4 months. There was only a microwave, a small burner and a fridge. It made me realize that a strainer was also very important. It helps you with cooking what every Filipino loves, rice! For the French however, the strainer is their best friend because it helps them cook their favorite pasta. It is also helpful for blanching any kind of vegetables by getting it off the boiling water and cold water. Plus making smooth and creamy soup is also the job of a strainer.
A mandolin is also very effective and can make preparation a lot easier. It can help give you those nice thin slices when making your potato gratin or vegetable lasagna. But beware; I admit it's a little addicting to use the mandolin so be careful not to slice your skin! Use it properly and it can give you perfect slices of julienne for your dish. If you want to use a peeler to peel those vegetables first, however, leave some of the skin like in zucchinis because they are rich in fiber!
For citrus lovers like me, make sure to have a zester for your cake, soups and sauces. But be careful not to include the white part because it is bitter.
A thermometer is the key to a perfect steak, pork and most especially a very moist chicken breast. I am no expert so I need one in my kitchen but if you can differentiate a rare to medium to medium rare and to well done just by poking it then I guess you won't need a thermometer anymore. But in pastry, this is essential especially in making candies or sugar artworks.
Because detox juices are "in" nowadays I suggest to get a blender. It's better to blend fruits and vegetables than to juice them to get more of their nutrients. A blender is also best for making sauces like your homemade pesto or tomato sauce. It can also help to make you a warm creamy soup during the rainy season.
"Detox" also means rejecting any kind of dirt. So a skimmer is another handy tool in your kitchen. You need it to remove those "bubbles" or dirt when boiling your meat. We usually skip this step but this is actually very important especially when you are making clear soup or stock.
If you are starting a pastry business, the most important tool you need are bowls to prepare the ingredients. You may be tempted to use take-out boxes which take up lesser space, but believe me, bowls serve a lot of other purposes too like helping you make a dome shaped ice cream dessert!
In baking, you will also need parchment paper or a silpat if you want to re-use it (and help save the earth!) These prevent your baked products from sticking to the tray. You would also need a whisk to mix. Mixing with a fork wouldn't be enough to allow air in especially in whipping egg whites or cream (even though it may develop your muscles and give you a nice afternoon workout!) A rubber spatula is also another tool to fold light mixtures to heavy mixtures like whipped cream to an egg yolk mixture. If you are particular or simply a perfectionist, get yourself an offset spatula to make sure that your mixture is perfectly flat on the mold. If not, just tap it hard on the table.
A collection of different sizes of trays and pans would also be handy, especially if you get a customized order for a birthday or wedding cake. A food processor is also useful not only in the hot kitchen but also in pastry especially in grounding nuts to make the mixture finer. You also need a ruler to make sure that pastry products are cut evenly with less wastage. To make instant decors, different kinds of cutters will also be helpful.
Desserts are also never complete without an oven, refrigerator and freezer plus cooling racks. Making pastry is usually for patient people because it requires a lot of waiting time so if you are not that type of person who is fond of waiting, get a timer and go and watch your favorite TV series while waiting!
Finally, remember to use cling wrap and a marker to make sure that all your stocks are well stored, labeled and checked.
Katrina Cua, who prefers to be called Kats, loves food, specifically pastries. But guess what, she hates chocolates and prefers lemons and strawberries more. Kats owns the website and food blog Katshappyfood where she writes about local and international food adventures along with culinary arts at home. Kats loves happiness because she believes that you always have a choice to be happy.
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