I took my first cooking class at U. of Richmond about a year ago. The first class that you are required to take is called “Tools of Trade.” It’s a three hour class with two hours of lecture. For those of you who have known me a long time, you know that my body starts to shake when I hear the word “lecture!” Sitting still for 20 minutes, let alone two hours, is literally painful for me. I don’t have ADD but I can relate to those who do.
I walked into the class ready for battle! Grande Starbucks in hand, chewing gum in my purse and an excuse if I needed to leave early! We all sat down with a 10-page packet and got started.
Do you know what happened? I LOVED IT! It was truly amazing … I was in a class that I actually got! (This wasn’t like “Operations Management”, a class I repeated THREE times in college just to get a C . Yes, embarrassing, but come on … we have all failed at something, right?) In this new cooking class, I already understood what most of the words and equations meant! And the ones I didn’t, I actually wanted to learn more about. I leaned forward, took notes and asked questions.
Through all the classes I have taken and all the cookbooks and magazines I have read, I have learned about hundreds of baking tools. I have been fortunate that most of my instructors have been really honest about which tools work and which ones weren’t worth the money. As an example, several instructors recommend using a tool to prep garlic that we already have on hand … just use the side of large knife to smash the garlic and then chop it up!
Most of the garlic presses sold in stores are $20 and really are such a pain to clean!
I was reminded of my kitchen tools a couple of weeks ago. We had put an offer on a house and would know within 24 hours if they accepted our offer. I was home alone and realized that I was going to have put MY current house on the market in mere days. So, I PANICKED and turned into Super Woman! I am normally organized and clean, but I knew that all the closets and kitchen drawers would need to be rechecked and organized!
So, after looking through all of my kitchen drawers, I’ve decided to take out my TOP TEN favorite kitchen tools and show you the ones I enjoy using most often.
Here we GO – starting from left to right.
• 10-inch Wustof knife – This was part of a set that my brother gave me for a wedding gift. I literally had never used that huge 10″ knife (it scared me) until I took a Knife Skills class. Now, I use it 95% of the time and always when smashing garlic!
• Red Tongs – I often use them instead of a spatula as they allow me to be more precise and delicate when I am turning over something small such as a scallop or shrimp. Plus, they make flipping chicken nuggets quick and easy, too.
• Kitchen Shears – They are great for cutting chicken nuggets into smaller pieces for the kids or cutting off gross fat from chicken breasts or trimming herbs. I use them when baking to trim dough around a pie crust or when I need to make the braid on the my sweet bread. Basically, I use them often instead of a knife!
• Lemon Squeezer – This one is the BEST, and I wish I had it when I planned a mojito party a few years ago. I use it for limes to … no need to buy a separate one. Another fun trick, speaking of lemons. Have you heard that lemon cleans copper? I love copper and have been lucky to have picked up a few pieces here and there. With some antique measuring cups I acquired I have tried three different types of cleaners and literally just gave up … until I had some leftover squeezed lemons. I literally dipped the fleshy side of the lemon into my salt pig and then rubbed it against the copper, rinsed and VOILA! They are beautiful!
• Thermometer – I use this tool every day. Always checking the temperature for meats to confirm they are done. I also use it when making certain chocolate mousse recipes and candy.
Turkey and Chicken – 165 degrees
Pork and Seafood – 145 degrees
• Mini Spatula – I seem to reach for the little ones more often than the larger ones. I am always trying to get the last bit of batter out of the bowl or off of the beater blade. And they are great to use when stirring scrambled eggs in a small sauté pan.
• BIG Spatula – Out of all of my large ones, this one is my favorite. It is great for big bowls as it is stiffer than most, it will really scrape well. This comes in handy when I am trying to get bread dough out of a bowl when it wants to stick to the sides!
• Red Strainer – When I first saw this strainer at Sur La Table, I thought … that looks WEIRD. It’s square. Colander’s are not square, they are round and metal, right? Not any more! This one is awesome, and because it’s square, it easily fits neatly into a cabinet and doesn’t waste space. Plus, I love that you only need one hand to carry it and the pasta slides out of one of the corners easily vs. the big DUMP from a round colander!
• Parchment paper – Makes clean up so easy when baking! For years parchment paper was expensive and sometimes hard to find. Actually, it still is, if you don’t have a Costco. Don’t confuse wax paper with parchment paper … personal experience!
• Pampered Chef glass bowls – I just love these tiny bowls. I have two different sizes and use them to measure, for storage and to set up my Mise En Place.
What’s your favorite kitchen tool? Do you have one that you couldn’t live without? Share it with me!
Get your workouts in this week … Chocolate Mousse coming up soon!