For Cooking, Start With the Right Equipment

TIRED of eating all your meals out of a cardboard carton? You may be thinking: Now would be a good time to learn how to cook, or at least cook better.

One of the first steps is to invest in some culinary equipment.

Chef and cookbook author Pierre Franey is particular about equipment. In an interview he talked about basic items to start a new kitchen off right:

Good pots and pans. You don't need that many, but a cast-iron skillet is a "must." You also might want to get a Teflon-coated skillet and a saucepan, perhaps a large one if you want to make stock and boil chicken.

A roasting pan is always good to have, too.

Several knives. You need three: a good-size chef's knife, a bread slicer (with a serrated blade), and a paring knife. High-carbon stainless steel ones are good.

Whisk. It shouldn't be too big and it should be flexible.

Miscellaneous items. "Givens," such as spoons, spatulas, mixing bowls, cookie sheet, baking pans, grater, measuring cups and spoons, ladle, can opener, colander, pot holders, etc.

Food processor. "It saves so much time," says Franey, who recommends Sunbeam's Oskar Jr. The "chopper-grinder" is a cross between a blender and a food processor. The motor is very strong, he says; you can make things such as pie dough or homemade mayonnaise in "no time." A good price is $40.

Research. Just reading about food or browsing around a cooking store can inspire you. "Today you can have so many gadgets, but that also means you can have too many," says Franey - for example, a food processor that has several speeds for chopping and several different attachments that aren't necessary.

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