My favorite type of food to cook is...?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Dude's Big 5

This week's Big 5 is a wake up call for cooks out there. Things could be so much easier and running smoothly in your kitchen if you only had the right tools. Sure your kitchen has all the very basics and true enough you can get by with the basics. BUT....why not make things easier on yourself? A few simple and usually inexpensive tools will make your cooking easier and dare I say...better? Here are my Big 5 of Things Your Kitchen Doesn't Have But Definitely Needs!

1--One Good Sharp Knife
If you don't have at least one quality knife in your kitchen then log off and go and buy one RIGHT FREAKIN' NOW! Not only will a quality knife make a difference in your cooking I can tell you from experience that a good knife makes you feel like a better cook. Your confidence will rise when you hold a well made cutting tool in your hand and prep ingredients like a pro. This is the only Big 5 item here that will cost you a bit. This is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. Most kitchens have themselves a block of knives that are knock off of good knife companies. Blocks that contain 20 knives and cost sixty bucks. Fine, keep those around for the bread slicing and steak cutting. I recommend getting a 6-8 inch chef's knife. Get something from Henckels or Wustof. (I have the Henckels Twin 4 Star II knives and think they are great) You are looking at a cost of 70 dollars or more. Make sure you get to hold and feel the knife before you buy it.

2--Mortar and Pestle
Here's a very useful little gadget for grinding up whole spices, turning garlic and herbs into a paste or making a delicious compound butter. This stoneware bowl (mortar) and handheld grinding device (pestle) come in a wide range of sizes, stone types and designs. They are as cheap or expensive as you like depending on your tastes. I have a very simple one from Stokes that cost around 10 bucks. I like this tool better than an electric spice grinder simply for its wider range of use. Try putting any wet ingredients into your electric grinder and see what happens.* I use mine frequently to pound rosemary into tiny pieces then add some whole garlic cloves and finally some butter. Whole mixture goes into mashes potatoes or onto french bread.(*Food Dude assumes no liability for any fool that puts wet ingredients into an electric grinder)

3--Meat Thermometer
This one should be a no brainer but I am always surprised by how many people do not have one of these in their kitchens. Have you ever eaten dry turkey? Or under cooked turkey? Not good is it? So many people cook a turkey and wreck for this simple reason: They read the label and see how much it weighs. They consult their cook book and roast the bird for the appropriate minutes per pound and it comes out terrible. The reason? The cooking times in cook books are approximates and can vary depending on your oven, size of bird and how well you may have thawed the darn thing. Or you bought one of those "pops when its done!" birds. (DON'T!) The ONLY way to accurately determine whether your bird is cooked is to have a meat thermometer inserted into the bird, thickest part of the thigh not touching bones. You insert before cooking and take out only after your meat has rested. This goes for all cuts of meat, not just turkey. Make sure you know the difference between oven safe thermometers and instant read thermometers. Instant read cannot stand the constant heat of an oven. Get one of these or I am never coming over for Thanksgiving.

Yes I know you have one of those big metal box graters in your cupboard but go and get yourself a microplane too. It is perfect for grating small things like whole nutmeg or garlic cloves. Its great for shaving Parmesan, ginger and chocolate and works far better than those zester/peeler combos for zesting citrus. The best part of it is your finger tips take far less of a beating on this thing that your box grater.

Last but not least, tongs. Mine are probably used daily and rightly so. Excellent for turning meats without the piercing tines of a fork (You never do this do you?). Great for transferring food from skillets to roasting pans as well. I especially use mine to avoid food contamination. When working with raw chicken my hands never touch it. I do all my prep work with one set of tongs and then toss in the sink. You can deal with raw meat all day and never have to wash your hands if you have enough tongs around. Get ones that suit you best, maybe a variety. Some heavy metal ones, some with plastic tips and some with silicon ends. Use them! And don't ever let me see you turn meat with a fork!

There you go kids. Another Big 5 in the books. Got your own Big 5 kitchen gadgets you can't live without? Leave me a comment below.


Park Food Dude


  1. I have to say that I have needed number 2 and 3 so many times and I never seem to remember to buy them when I am out. So the other day I did buy a meat thermometer. Its digital and cordless. now I have yet to use it - it cost about $35. Not sure how good it is. Any suggestions or recommendations on a good one.

  2. I dont have a specfic one to recommend but look for features like built in timers and warning alarms. Also make sure to test it for accuracy. Use it at the same time you use a regular oven thermometer and make sue its reading OK. I think if you paid $35 for it then it is a decent quality one.