Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tools of the Trade - Kitchen Equipment

As much as we focus on the taste and visual splendors of our foods, we sometimes take it as a given what tools we rely on to make our meals happen. Mark Bittman's article in yesterday's New York Times reminds me of two I wrote for my other cooking blog for the absolute novice cook (which is currently on back burner due to my sense of impending burn-out in maintaining two blogs). An absurb exercise, I know, but I if had to pick five essential tools to function in my kitchen (not counting major appliances), I would have to choose:

1. Chef's knife with a sharp edge
2. 4-quart sauce pan
3. 10-inch frying pan
4. A long-handled pancake turner
5. Large mixing bowl (I would use # 4 to stir ingredients)

Of course, there are so many more things we all depend on and take for granted, but if I was ever stranded on a desert island, I think I could get by on these...but then, I would have much more pressing issues, like finding potable water, lighting a fire and foraging for food. Not having a frying pan would be the least of my troubles.

What would YOU choose as your five essential survival tools?


  1. chef's knife, cutting board, mortar and pestle, a carbon steel wok (the shape is also good for mixing and it doesn't need to be washed, only wiped), a ladle for cooking.

  2. I love the idea of a kitchen survival pack. Okay:

    Japanese chef's knife; a stone mortar and pestle; pressure cooker (the vegetarian's best friend); long-handled wooden spoon; and my very large, lidded saute pan.

    May I have just one more? The huge wooden chopping board that is in fact a salvaged wine barrel lid. It's dyed a lovely shade of claret underneath from it's previous life.

    Susan, have you read Patience Gray's book 'Honey from a Weed'? She traipsed around the Meditteranean with just such a kit in tow - it makes for wonderful reading.

  3. Bee - The wok is an excellent idea for multi-tasking. I'm ditching the sauce and fry pans in favor of one. Strange, I am now clueless to decide on that fifth item. Already I am thinking less is more.

    Lucy - Of course you can have one more. This is "Fantasy Island" we're being marooned on. : ) Your barrel lid cutting board sounds like it has great character, a fellow out of a Dickens novel.

    No, I haven't read Gray's book, but it's now on my Amazon Wishlist. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. My five essentials would be:

    Chef's knife
    Mortar & Pestle
    Cutting board

  5. Definitely chopping board, little sabatier knife that I use to do everything from chopping parsley stems to hacking at chickens (dead ones), microplaner, medium mixing bowl and wooden spoon(s). I could interchange one of the above for a mini whisk as well. Or oven gloves. get the idea.

  6. I think that I would have a larger sauce pan (6 quarts at least, so I could make pasta) and might consider tongs over the spatula, although its definetely a toss-up (ha ha).

    Ira B.

  7. Cynthia - I'm intrigued by the Karahi. I'm wondering if it's got its own unique features outside of the familiar Asian-style wok.

    Freya & Paul - How could I forget the Microplane? No scuffed fingertips.

    Welcome, Ira. The idea of going without pasta is rather dismal, isn't it?

  8. 1. chef's knife
    2. wok (glad I'm late, I wouldn't have thought of that on my own)
    3. bamboo spatula (would double for spoon mixing)
    4. chopping board
    5. spur of the moment lux item ??

  9. Welcome, Tanna. So far we can all agree on a knife. I like my lux items, too, but I definitely use the beaten up, old gear most often.

  10. 1) A dutch oven
    2) A flat bottomed wooden spoon
    3) A chef's knife
    4) A large fork
    5) A mixing bowl

    I think I could live quite comfortably with those five.

  11. You've got a good argument for the Dutch oven, Christina. It can pretty much do the work of all the cookware combined.

  12. Santoku knife, cutting board, wooden spoon or spatula, 11-inch vollrath chef's pan (a cross between a saute and a wok, with a flat bottom and nonstick surface), and an 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven.

  13. I just checked out the Vollrath, Lydia. Nice pan - stable and sturdy.

  14. I'd probably agree with all of these save for the pancake turner, I'd probably swap it for a set of tongs or scissors. As someone trying to run a minimalist kitchen, its nice to know how different cooks value different utensils. Yet, again and again, the Chef's knife trumps all others.

    Thanks for sharing,