Tools you should have (but might not)
You certainly don’t need every gizmo and gadget to be a successful cook, but here are a few that really help.
35. Oven thermometer
“Just like people, every oven is different,” says Jocelyn Delk Adams, author of Grandbaby Cakes. “Some ovens heat up faster than others. Having a thermometer helps a ton with this. It can help you to adjust temperature and baking times if necessary.”
36. Kitchen scale
Use it to portion out meat for burgers, to make sure you put the same amount of batter in each muffin cup. This tool can make cooking more consistent, a key component to success.
37. Instant-read thermometer
Take the guesswork out of cooking steaks, burgers, chicken and other proteins to the right temperature.
38. Fine-meshed sieve
This low-tech item can play many roles. Rinse rice or other grains in it, use it to strain sauces or custards or sift dry ingredients with it.
39. Fish spatula
This is longer than a regular spatula, thin, flexible and slotted, designed to slip under delicate fish fillets. But it works beautifully for anything that needs flipping, like burgers and fritters. You can even use it to remove delicate cookies off a baking sheet.
Things to know about knives
This is arguably the most important tool in your arsenal, so make sure you know how to make the most of yours.
40. “Invest in a high-quality chef’s knife,”
says Meredith Abbott, manager of culinary content for Sur La Table. “Go into a store and hold one. It should feel comfortable in your grip. It will be your universal workhorse and, with proper care, will last you many years.”
41. Resist the lure of sets
Instead, buy knives individually. “You might like different brands for different knives, and you can easily add to your collection as your cooking repertoire changes and grows,” Abbott says.
42. Hold your chef’s knife properly
“Grasp the blade firmly between the pad of your thumb and the knuckle of your index finger just in front of the bolster, curling your remaining fingers around the bottom of the handle,” Abbott says. “Resist the temptation to extend your index finger along the spine of your knife, which makes the knife harder to control and fatigues your hand.”
43. Your other hand matters, too
Make sure to keep the fingers of your guide hand gently curled, allowing you to protect your fingers while holding the food you’re cutting in place.
44. Keep it simple
The knives you really need are a chef’s knife, a serrated knife for slicing, and a paring knife for smaller jobs. You can buy others if you want to and if your space and budget allow, but they aren’t essential.
45. Keep them sharp
“A sharp knife is a safe knife,” Abbott says. “Use a sharpening stone at home, or regularly take your knives in to get professionally sharpened.” Check your local department stores and kitchen supply stores to see if they sharpen knives.
46. Hone between sharpenings
“After you sharpen your knife, you need to hone it on a steel, which is a long, thin rod made of high-carbon steel,” Moulton says. “This helps to maintain the edge. And if you run your knife several times down the steel every day, it will stay sharp much longer.”
47. Clean your knives carefully and by hand
“Never leave a knife in your sink,” Abbott says. “One, it’s dangerous. Two, the sharp edge and tip can be damaged if dishes accidentally get stacked on it. Wash knives by hand and air dry.”
48. Store them smartly
“Never leave your knives loose in a drawer,” Abbott says. “A loose knife in a drawer is dangerous and the bumping around can dull or chip your blade. Use a padded drawer insert, magnetic wall strip or plastic blade protectors.”
49. Sharpen your skills
“If you’re going to take one cooking class, take a knife skills class,” Moulton says. “I think that’s one reason that people get intimidated by cooking, because of having to chop, dice and slice things.”