Read these 16 Cooking Utensils Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Cookware tips and hundreds of other topics.
You need certain knives to prepare basic daily foods. If you invest in these knives one by one, you'll need to install a magnetic, wall-mounted strip to keep them safely out of reach from little fingers and out of drawers that can dull their blades. Here are the knives every cook needs:
• Two serrated knives: these bumpy, sharp-edged knives cut breads and bagels cleanly when it's a long straight knife. When it's shorter with a pointed tip, it is the perfect kitchen utensil for slicing vegetables and fruits that are firm on the outside, yet soft inside (like tomatoes and avocados).
• A paring knife: to peel and cut small amounts of fruits and vegetables, such as apples or peppers. Great for seeding, coring and peeling.
• A chef's knife: this is an all-purpose chopping knife with an 8” blade. For chopping and dicing onions and peppers, keep the tip on your cutting board and rock the handle up and down across the food to create a fine dice.
• A carving knife: this is a thin, more flexible knife for carving thin slices of meat. This knife will curve slightly upward toward the tip. It always comes with a carving fork to hold the meat firmly. Look for one with a safety prong to prevent the knife blade from slipping toward the carver.
And, to keep your knives in tip-top shape, you'll need to invest in a sharpening tool to keep your knives “true.” This is the method by which you keep the steel magnetized and realign the molecular structure of the carving knife blade to keep it's proper V-edge for perfect carving. Here's how to “true” a knife properly:
1. Hold the steel firmly in your left hand, thumb on top of the handle.
2. Hold the knife in your right hand, pointing upward, with hand slightly away from your body.
3. Place the heel of the blade against the far tip of the steel and draw the blade lightly down toward your left hand. Repeat this process, but this time with the blade behind the steel. Do this on each side about six times before every time you use your carving knife.
Almost every cooking utensils set will include the items you need for everyday cooking. Stainless steel utensil sets are perfect for use on stainless steel and cast-iron iron cookware, whereas you'll need a great silicone set to protect your hard-anodized aluminum or non-stick surfaces. Silicone as a utensil material stays flexible longer and will not discolor like traditional rubber styles do. They also have a hotter melting point than traditional rubber or plastic utensils. Wooden cooking utensils are also great for protecting surfaces and can even be made from all-natural olive wood. The only drawback to the wooden set is that they are not meant for the dishwasher as they will crack and split from the heat and exposure to harsh chemicals.
Here are the top five kitchen utensils every cook needs:
1. A spatula. This is used to turn over solid foods, like pancakes and hamburgers, in a pan, griddle or grill. A spatula is also used to transfer items from the pan to the plate.
2. A slotted spoon. An invaluable tool when removing food from boiling water, like poached eggs. These can be spoon-shaped or round. They can also be used for skimming off the surface of any cooked hot liquids.
3. A serving spoon: This is not a spoon for leaving in the pot as the handle will get hot. These are for serving from the pot to the plate in larger amounts than a regular tablespoon can handle.
4. A ladle: Indispensable for serving hot or cold sauces and gravies, soups and stews with ease.
5. A spaghetti fork: These toothy, large spoons are perfect for grabbing pasta noodles and transferring them from the pot/strainer/bowl to individual serving bowls.
Cast iron cooking utensils make great accents to country kitchens and complement cast iron cookware. And the same goes for antique cooking utensils including a mortar and pestle and baking pins that some cooks love to collect. For cooks who love to decorate with functional kitchen utensils, these are a fantastic gift idea!
Before all the machines, we used hand-held kitchen utensils that needed only woman-power! We shredded cheese using a cheese grater, we mashed potatoes in the hot pot with a potato masher and we minced our garlic by running it through a garlic press. Basic Italian cooking utensils included a food mill or tomato press and all French cooking utensils always included a nutmeg grater for adding that quintessential ingredient to cream sauces. Every cook had a pepper mill and salt grinder to freshly grind whole peppercorns and large chunks of salt. There wasn't lemon juice in a bottle, you had to squeeze an actual lemon using a juicer or a small sieve.
When it comes to preparing and cooking food for one or two people, these hand-held cooking utensils are the perfect tool for the job and should have a place in every cook's kitchen. Some other handy tools that should be included in your collection:
• A whisk: you need this for making a perfect gravy to go with a roasted chicken or turkey breast.
• A swivel peeler: this is the most effective way to quickly peel carrots and other fruits and veggies.
• An apple peeler/slicer/corer: this machine peels an apple, slices it and cores it in one easy turning of the handle. It's perfect for pie-making and as an added bonus, kids love to do this and then eat it all up!
Using the wrong kitchen utensils will only cause frustration and less than desirable results when cooking. Invest in the best you can afford, building your collection little by little and you'll be rewarded by great results for many years to come.
Here are some of the main categories of accessories you need in the kitchen:
• Machine processors: blenders, hand-held mixers or a standing mixer, food processors, a mini-chop and a hand-held blender. Invest in quality because cheap equipment simply won't not last. Two good brands known for their quality and longevity in the kitchen are Kitchenaid and Cuisinart.
• Hand processors: these are hand-held kitchen utensils like a cheese grater, a potato masher, a garlic press, a lemon squeezer and a pepper and salt mill for high-quality seasonings.
• Knives: buy the best quality you can afford. You can buy these one by one so you have only what you use and not a lot of useless knives taking up space in a big block on the counter.
• Gadgets: these are peelers, corkscrews, bottle openers and can-openers, as well as poultry shears and other items that help you get kitchen tasks done easier.
• Measuring and Mixing tools: a good set of measuring cups for dry ingredients and a pourable, heatable glass measuring cup for liquids are indispensable for creating successful recipes. A stainless steel set off measuring spoons is also an essential tool.
• Cooking Utensils: these are the pots, pans and kitchen tools that actually help cook the food. Invest in a good-quality, long-lasting set of stainless steel kitchen utensils including a ladle, serving spoon, spatula, slotted spoon and sieves in large and small sizes. If your cookware choice proves to be non-stick or hard-anodized aluminum, then you'll need to invest in a separate set of silicone or wooden cooking utensils to protect the finishes and keep your cookware as long-lasting and beautiful as possible.
When purchasing wooden cooking utensils it's not necessary to buy the most expensive, but it is best to avoid the cheapest. Unfortunately these items -- such as wooden spoons and spatulas -- are often made of soft woods that will splinter and deteriorate rapidly. Look for hardwood utensils. These will last for years, especially with proper care and maintenance.
Remember, high heat should not be used with nonstick cookware, other than for very short periods (when searing a steak). Regardless of manufacturers' claims of "safe to use with metal utensils," always use plastic or wooden cooking utensils for best nonstick durability.
Stains on your stainless steel? It may seem like an oxymoron, but sometimes it does happen that your stainless steel kitchen utensil develops a bit of discoloration. If you have rainbow like stains on your stainless steel, unfortunately, they are permanent so you might as well make peace with them! If you have brownish stains, soak a cloth in full strength ammonia and place of stain for at least 30 minutes. Wash normally (always use ammonia in a well ventilated area only.).
Ever notice how tomato sauce discolors your plastic utensils? That's because the plastic has tiny pores that expand when the plastic is heated. The sauce gets into the pores, staining the plastic. The easiest way to get rid of those stains is to wash the utensils with cool soapy water instead of hot water or in the dishwasher. When the plastic is cool, the stains have no place to settle and come off easily.
Need help choosing utensils? Most nonstick cookware is coated with Teflon or Silverstone. You should use utensils that are designed for use with nonstick coatings because if the coating becomes damaged, you can't restore it at home. In other words, no metal utensils with your nonstick cookware. Wood, plastic, or rubber are alternatives. While wood looks nice and does not melt, it is harder to keep clean. Plastic and rubber utensils need to be high quality so they don't melt or break in high heat. Check to see if they are heat-resistant. Well-made plastic and rubber utensils can be just as durable as wooden ones.
Want to free up some cupboard space and make your pots and pans more accessible? A pot rack might be the answer for you, and can be as simple as a handrail and several S-hooks hung on your wall or from your ceiling. Handrails are better than towel bars as they support more weight. 10" - 30" in length will do, depending on how long and big you want your pot rack to be.
How often do you use tongs when you cook? Tongs are one of the more underestimated cooking utensils. The thought of them may bring back high school cafeteria flashbacks, but tongs are actually great for a variety of uses. Use them for outdoor grilling and turning pan-fried meats and fish. Restaurant-style stainless tongs are a wonderful way to turning greens as they cook, serve long pasta with sauce, or even toss salads. Try to find tongs with self-locking devices so they will stay closed when stored.
No matter how you look at it, there is one cooking utensil that is nearly impossible to avoid having: A food processor. Sure, using a knife and cutting board is traditional, but frankly it can take hours to chop herbs and vegetables. When you need to chop just one onion, or make fresh bread crumbs from a few slices of bread, this tool is a real help for any kitchen. Its size means that it does not take up much space in the cabinet, and the clean-up is fairly simple (place removable parts in the dishwasher).
Here's a kitchen utensil you may not have considered before: A digital timer. Digital timers help keep your kitchen tasks under control. You can time the exact seconds, minutes or hours needed for a cooking process. Many come with a flip-out stand and a magnetic backing, so you always can keep them handy. Some can be clipped to your belt if you need to leave the kitchen. Others come with a string to hang around your neck. Nothing ruins a meal like over- or undercooking; don't rule out the importance of a timer!
Perhaps one of the most important of all cooking utensils is the knife. So, what should you look for when shopping for the best knife (or knife set)? Be sure the knife is made of high carbon stainless steel. The high carbon is for durability and the stainless steel resists rust. When you hold the knife in your hand, make sure it has a good grip and feels balanced. The handle should be riveted to the blade. Luckily, there are several excellent brands that come in a variety of price ranges.
High-quality gadgets make great gifts because they serve an immediate purpose in a new cook's kitchen and they will stand the test of time. Cheap versions of these products will not only clutter up counters and cabinets with useless stuff, but they won't provide useful results and may even break down sooner.You might find these items on a bride's gift registry along with the larger cooking utensils, pots and pans and crystal bowls.You'll want to be the one who gives the gift that the cook still uses 12 years later and thinks of you!
Of course, every new cook needs a high quality corkscrew she can depend on every New Year's Eve, as well as for Friday night wine at dinner. Every cook needs a pizza wheel for home-made pizzas and a hand-held can-opener (just in case the electric one breaks down). You may find all sorts of gadgets and gizmos you've never heard of on the “I want” lists that brides can create at online stores.
Look for bottle openers, apple corers, cherry pitters, pineapple slicers, digital instant meat thermometers, hands-free pot stirrers, ice cream makers, batter dispensers, turkey lifters, food mills, food savers and wrappers of all types, meat smokers and any of the myriad choices that could be a really great gift.
When there's a big job to be done, out come the machines! Need to shred enough potatoes for five to 10 people? Making pesto for a large pasta dinner? These are the perfect jobs for the food processor. A slicing and dicing job that might take you hours, the food processor can do in five minutes! Invest in quality equipment from trusted brands because they are time-savers when it comes to ingredient preparation and they will ensure successful cooking results.
The same goes for a high quality standing mixer if you love to bake. With attachments made from stainless steel, it is the perfect tool for stirring, mixing, whipping and fluffing.
Another standby is the blender, which you need in order to make frozen drinks for all your friends whether it's a pool party for 20 or dinner party for five. A high quality blender can also create easy purees and soups in a flash.
Think carefully about whether you will use any of these appliances and only invest in the best quality of the ones you'll use. This is more cost-efficient than cluttering up your counters and cabinets with a lot of cheap machines you'll never use. If a bride has one of these power tools on her registry, choose it as your gift to her. She will use it regularly and think of you!
Some other machines to make kitchen life easier:
• The mini-chop: this small chopper is great for chopping up garlic, onions and herbs and mixing them with small amounts of liquids to make simple, quick marinades or dry herb rubs for meats and fish.
• Hand-held mixer: great for mixing cake batter from a box or whipping a small amount of whipped cream or mashed potatoes.
• Hand-held blender: perfect for one-cup smoothies, making purees and homemade sauces. The immersion blenders handle, hot and cold temperatures with a stainless steel easy-to-clean blade.