stuff that just works!
© 2011 by KV5R — Rev. Jan. 31, 2011.
This article is just a collection of tips, tools, and utensils that I’ve found to be useful and inexpensive over the years. None of these items are expensive professional tools, but they are better than the “cheapo” stuff, and will serve the average amateur cook well and last a long time. I’ve also included a few non-kitchen tips.
I suppose I learned kitchen-stuff from my mom, and she from hers, and it took me a long time to realize that there are many things that our ancestors didn’t use that are now very useful kitchen accessories. For example, here are some things my mom never used in the kitchen:
- Scissors — I keep a pair of stainless steel scissors hanging on a tack right by the sink and use them several times a day. There’s no need to have a fight with every plastic bag!
- Scrubber sponge — the kind they sell at at auto-parts stores with a nylon mesh on the outside. Those have become hard to find, so I now use the O-Celo foam scrubber sponges. I’ll never use a floppy, sloppy, stinky wash-rag again!
- Plastic dish brush — get one with stiff plastic bristles; great for cleaning things with holes, like perforated pans.
- Stick blender — I keep mine right behind the sink (with the cord attached above it so it can’t fall in). Why whisk an egg for three minutes when you can power-blast it in three seconds? They also turn an all-day soap-mixing job into two minutes.
- 10 inch serrated bread knife with offset handle — it’s the only knife I use in the kitchen.
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) cutting board — easier on your knives than wood, and doesn’t absorb bacteria.
- Digital baker's scale — once you get used to it, cooking by weight is so much better than by measure.
- 8-qt stainless mixing bowl — get one with high sides, not the wok-shaped ones.
- Plastic bowl scraper — they flex and fit the curvature of the bowl, so you get everything out in 5 seconds.
- Bench scraper — get a big one, like 5 by 7 inches. Not only for bench scraping, but everything from soap cutting to transferring chopped foods to the pot. I donno how I ever lived without it.
- Dial thermometer — small, light, cheap, and unlike the glass ones, unbreakable. Make it a habit to test the temperature of water that’s going into dough, and the interior temperature of breads and meats. Very handy.
These are some of the things I’ve learned to do to reduce kitchen effort and clean-up to almost nothing:
- Make meals in large flour tortillas — Hot or cold, you can eat almost any meal rolled up in a tortilla, with a paper towel wrapped around the end. Nothing to wash afterward!
- Cook, re-heat, and eat in the same dish, whenever possible.
- Always be cleaning while cooking, so that by the time you eat there is nothing left to clean or put away. Then eat. Then put all the left-overs in one pan and pop it in the fridge. Finish it off later, then wash the pan or better, use non-stick and just wipe it out with a paper towel.
- There is usually no need to transfer foods to various containers for cooking, serving, and storing. Unless it’s a formal dinner party.
- Keep a spoon and fork in a cup of water on the corner of the sink. Change the water daily. Eliminates washing flatware.
- Never fill a sink with soapy water to wash dishes. That nasty habit persists from the days before running water. Wash and rinse each one under running water. Never use soap unless the dish has oil, grease, or raw meat on it. Most dishes do not need soap, and should not be mixed with those that do.
- When bringing water to a boil, always put a lid on it! It will boil much faster, with much less energy. An open boiling pot is a refrigeration process. Get pots and pans with glass lids.
- Keep utensils and spices that you use every day out on the counter. Eliminates a lot of drawer and cabinet action.
- Buy a 25-pack of car-wash terry-cloths ($10) and keep two or three in the kitchen, one clean and one not so clean. Rotate them out to the hamper as needed. Never move about the kitchen with wet hands! Keep a terry in reach at all times.
- If you fry, get a splatter screen. These fine, round screens lay across a skillet, let the water escape, but keep in the oil splatter.
- Keep looking for ways to break with traditions and habits and make your kitchen activities more efficient.