Having a fully equipped kitchen is one of the first steps to successful cooking and baking. Having the right tools is essential, whether you are a seasoned chef or new to the kitchen. Knowing what to do with each tool is even more important.
Spatulas and Wooden Utensils
A spatula features a flat blade for turning foods, while the rounded bowls of wooden spoons are good for scooping and stirring. Spatulas are used for cooking, stirring and folding ingredients into batters. Spatulas, which can also be made of metal and wood, are used to move hot foods, such as in turning an egg or removing cookies from the baking tray. Heat-proof spatulas are handy for use with non-stick pans. Unlike metal utensils, wooden ones -- like spoons -- do not lower the temperature when they are used to stir simmering or boiling foods.
Whisks, which come in many sizes, are used to mix batters, sauces and gravies to ensure that there are no lumps. They are made with wire loops that are affixed to a handle. You might use one for a simple mixing job that doesn't justify bringing out the hand mixer. A small one comes in handy when a recipe calls for one beaten egg. Puddings, dessert mixes and cream pie fillings made with packaged mixes are quickly mixed with a medium-size whisk.
Various pastry tools are essential for novice and expert bakers. A pastry blender features several curved blades and a handle on the top. It makes quick work of cutting butter or solid shortening into flour to make a pie crust. A rolling pin is essential for rolling out dough for biscuits, cookies and pies. The pastry scraper, which is a flat metal blade with an attached handle, is used to move dough around a board or knead dough for dinner rolls. Pastry brushes are used to brush egg or sugar glazes on baked goods. Many cooks like to use a pastry cloth rather a pastry board. Pastry cloths, which are made of canvas and can be purchased at kitchenware shops, keep dough from sticking without a baker having to add more flour.
A set of knives of many types and sizes are indispensable in a kitchen. A small paring knife is needed for peeling apples, potatoes or other fruits and vegetables. It's also used to trim or cut pastry dough. Kitchen scissors can be used to cut dried fruits and snip herbs. An 8- to 10-inch chef's knife chops vegetables and chocolate. A serrated-edge knife at least 10 inches long is used for slicing breads and cake. Knives with a thin blade, such as a fillet or boning knife, are used to remove bones from fish and other meats. A 10- to 12- inch long thin blade carving knife is used for slicing hams, roasts and other meats.
Other tools handy in the kitchen are a sifter and a set of strainers. The sifter is for sprinkling icing sugar on top of desserts or sifting flour for cakes. Use strainers for separating fruits, pasta and vegetables from liquids, and to mash berries for jelly or seedless jam. A set or two of measuring cups and spoons are needed for accuracy in adding ingredients. Having two sets allows you to have one for dry ingredients and another for liquids. A candy and a meat thermometer will ensure that foods are cooked to the correct temperature.