7/26/11

The Art of Housewifery: Kitchen Gadgets Part 1


The Art of Housewifery:  Kitchen Gadgets Part 1



In today’s post we’re going to be discussing kitchen appliances and gadgets.  I’ll be sharing what you should look for when selecting each item, along with how to care for certain products.  I had intended to do this all in one post, however this turned out longer than expected!  I didn’t want you guys to fall asleep.  So this post is about knives, pots and pans, and baking dishes and pans.  Next week with be more kitchen gadgets, countertop and cooking appliances.


Knives-
I don’t know about you but I use a knife almost anytime I’m in the kitchen.  I don’t have a dishwasher, so I was my dishes and put them in a dish dryer.  My knives seldom actually get put into their container because I’m always using them!

What knives are most useful for everyday cooking?

There are four knives that are going to be the most useful to you while you’re cooking.  You’ll want a Chef’s/Cook’s knife, bread knife, paring knife, and utility knife.  A Chef’s/Cook’s knife is a knife that is used for most tasks in a kitchen.  Such as slicing, dicing, and mincing.  A bread knife is serrated and makes slicing French or Italian bread so easy you’ll think your slicing butter!  Paring knives are used to peel and cut fruits and vegetables.  Lastly, a utility knife is used for slicing sandwiches, or other soft foods like cheese.

Do I have to have those 4 knives?

Definitely no!  How many knives you have isn’t going to change how well you cook, but it may help you cook more efficiently or quickly.  Out of those four knives I would suggest definitely having a chef’s/cook’s knife and a bread knife.  You can easily replace a paring knife with a good veggie peeler, and the utility knife can easily be substituted with the Chef/cook’s knife.

How do I know what type of knife I should buy?

You want a knife that feels balanced and comfortable in your hand.  A good choice is a high-carbon stainless steel blade in which the blade runs through the handle completely and is riveted in place.

Why high-carbon stainless steel?

High-carbon stainless steel is a softer metal, which makes sharpening the knife yourself much easier!

How should I be taking care of my knives?
One of the biggest things is to always cut on a cutting board.  If you don’t cut on a cutting board you are hurting your blades more.  You want to wash them in hot soapy water right after using, and then rinse and either air dry or wipe dry.  NEVER let knives just soak in water.  If you notice your knifes are cutting as well, you can get a knife sharpener at any store.  I have a counter top one and all I have to do is pull my knives blade through the hole and voila!  Sharp and ready to use!


Pots and Pans-

Pots and pans can be a confusing thing to figure out.  If you’re like me you have a lovely and maybe crazy assortment of pots and pans.  If your kitchen cupboards are empty, or if you just have on pan, the following information may help you figure out exactly what you need.

Does it matter what my pots and pans are made out of?

Definitely!  Out of all the different material types aluminum and copper pans are the best because they are great heat conductors.  However, all copper pans are immensely expensive and tarnish easily, and aluminum pans can react with certain foods.

Ok, so what type of pans should I be looking for?

The best option is going to be a heavy stainless steel pan with a copper bottom, or a pan that has aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel.

What types of pans do you use?

To be honest, I don’t know.  I am pretty sure the majority of the pots and pans I use most frequently are all stainless steel, but I don’t know for sure.  I do have one pot that is aluminum with a copper bottom and I do love that particular pan!

What specific pans are must haves for my kitchen?

The most recommended pans are the double boiler, Dutch oven, saucepans, skillets, and vegetable steamers.  A double boiler is a two panned pot.  There is a bottom pot that would hold simmering water, and the other pot slightly sits into the bottom pot.  You would use this to melt chocolate.  A Dutch oven is a heavy pot made of cast iron.  These can be plan cast iron or enameled.  You would use a Dutch oven for soups, stews and braising meats.  Saucepans are pans that are usually anywhere from 1 ½ -3 quarts ins ize and are used for making sauces, or warming up green beans.  Skillets are low-sided pans that are also called frying-pans.  A vegetable steamer can be collapsible or an insert and they hold your food above the water level in a pan to have the veggies steamed not boiled!

Are all of these truly needed?

Nope, not for me at least!  I made it quite a while without a Dutch oven, and although it is awesome to have you can make it without one.  ((On a side note I wanted one badly, but they were all at least 60-70 dollars even at walmart, my husband bought my enameled Dutch oven at our Aldi’s for me at Christmas and only paid 20 dollars!!!))  Saucepans are very handy, as are skillets.  I always make my own double boiler by putting a oven-safe bowl on top of a pot.  As for a vegetable steamer, well, it’s not something I use often, but I do believe you could use your colander if it was small enough.

I have a cast iron skillet, how do I care for it?

Many people don’t know that a regular, non-enameled cast iron skillet should never, ever go into a dishwasher.  This will cause your cast iron to rust!  You want to wash it and heat it on the stove until dry.  Additionally non-enameled cast iron skillets need to be seasoned.  This means you wash and dry your pan, brush shortening or cooking oil over the inside of the pan, and then heat it in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  Cool and wipe out your skillet and it’ll be ready to go!  This is something you have to do periodically with your skillet.

What about other pans I’ve seen?

There are tons of pans on the market, common ones include, griddles, grill pans, omelet pans, and woks.  These pans can be handy, but aren’t necessities.  Out of this list I only have a grill pan which comes in handy for grilling without the work of grilling.


Baking Pans and Dishes-

Traditionally the difference between a baking pan and baking dish is that a baking pan is made of metal and a baking dish is made of glass.

Honestly, what’s the difference? Does it matter which I use and when?

Yes, it does matter!  Metal baking pans should be used when you want something nicely browned, and you can also use these for broiling.  Glass baking dishes should NEVER be used for broiling because the high heat can cause the glass to shatter.  Also it’s best to use glass baking dishes for things made with eggs, or with acidic ingredients as metal baking pans can react with these foods and cause foods to discolor.

What if I want to make an angel food cake, what type of pan should I use then?

Great question!  You would use a tube pan, which is a specialty pan.  Along with tube pans there are also fluted tube pans, which are a tube pan with flutes, spring form pans which are for cheesecakes and tart pans which come with a removable bottom for easy removal.  Out of all of these I would say tube pans and spring form pans are the pans you would most likely use.

Uh, what's a spring form pan?

A spring form pan is a pan where the bottom is separate from the pan sides.  A clamp holds the two together and opens to allow the sides to be pulled away from desserts like cheesecakes.

When it comes to baking dishes, what sizes do I need?

It does kind of matter.  If you have a lasagna recipe that calls for a 9x13 inch pan, obviously a 9x9 won’t work.  However if you have a brownie recipe that calls for a 9x9 you could use a 9x13 I would just check on it more often as it would be spread thinner and would get done quicker.  My standard pans are 9x13 and 9x9.  I seldom use any other size.

What other types of baking dishes or pans are there?

The other types you may run across are cookie sheets, covered casseroles, custard cups, loaf pans, muffin pans, pie plate or pan, pizza pan, roasting pan, or soufflé dish.  Out of all of these the most used are going to be cookie sheets, custard cups, loaf pans, muffin pans, pie plates and roasting pan.  One of each of these is plenty, although it is easier with doubles.  When it comes to loaf pans, you can also use small metal coffee cans that have been washed well, and you can reuse aluminum pie pans you get when you buy a pie!

Hope you guys enjoyed this installment, check back next week to learn more!  In addition, if you have any questions in regards to this post just let me know and I’ll answer you as soon as possible!


4 comments:

Heather @ Catfish Kisses said...

Hi Monica!
I am so enjoying this series! :) My fiance & I used the gift card to go to lunch after church Sunday. It was a much needed treat! Thank you SO much again!!

I gave you an award on my blog today!

Blessings,
Heather

Whitney said...

Wow, great information! This is such a nice summary of how to stock your kitchen for newlyweds. I remember doing the wedding registries and being completely overwhelmed with what truly was or wasn't needed. I would have to add a Boning knife to your list as a necessity. My husband and I typically buy whole chickens or large cuts of beef or pork and cut it ourselves to stock the freezer (saves A LOT of money!). A good boning knife will allow you to cut up the meat with ease. I can totally relate to the cast iron part. My husband comes from a long line of cast iron users. We have a [heavy!] drawer full of skillets, grill/griddle plates, and dutch oven. I'm still getting used to the care needed for cast iron. (I even keep a guide handy. haha). Cast iron is excellent in it's heat distribution, but much more work in caring for it. It will, however, last forever. Looking forward to your next section of this series! Thanks!
-Whitney @
www.revivinghomemaking.blogspot.com

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Debra Worth said...

I use my chefs knife ALL THE TIME. I have the Pampered Chef one and get it professionally sharpened, but hone it at home. It's a pretty big upfront cost but boy is that knife nice!