Photo: iStockPhoto
Photo: iStockPhoto

Deciphering kitchen essentials

How to make sense of a gazillion little appliances and foodie gadgets that everyone deems indispensable?

Cooking—therapy, stress buster, life skill and, if you play it right, a health booster. But how to make sense of a gazillion little appliances and foodie gadgets that everyone deems indispensable? Simple. Ignore their advice. Go with ours. Chefs Akira Back and Ritu Dalmia pick their kitchen essentials.

Akira Back is a Korea native and former professional snowboarder who was raised in Aspen, Colorado. He owns four restaurants, including the eponymous Akira Back chain of restaurants.

Sharp knife: A knife is more than just a piece of steel in a chef’s hands; it becomes an extension of his own arms. A sharp knife is doubly important because it can glide through food and not damage it.

Water stones: These are special stones that are soaked in water and are used to put a razor’s edge on a knife. They vary from super-coarse to super-fine for fixing damage to polishing the knives’ edges.

Photo: iStockphoto

Immersion circulator: An immersion circulator is a device that heats water to a specified temperature and circulates it inside a vessel for a consistent cooking temperature. It is mainly used in sous-vide cooking. It can also be used to hold cooked food at a warmer temperature without overcooking it.

Vacuum machine: A vacuum machine is used to remove air from a specially made plastic bag containing an ingredient. It’s a versatile equipment and can be used for storage, cooking or even marinating.

Scissors: A good pair of scissors is necessary for day-to-day routine like breaking down fish and chicken bones to opening shells on lobsters and crabs. Some shears are shaped differently for other purposes, but one good multipurpose set eliminates the need for multiple styles.

Rubber spatula: Rubber spatulas have a multitude of uses from mixing ingredients to stirring sauces to scraping bowls. They should be flexible and made of high-temperature-resistant material.

Fish spatula: These spatulas are shaped by a thin piece of metal with a slight curve on the bottom part, which is excellent for getting under and plating delicate food.

Wooden spoons: Another item that has a multitude of uses in a kitchen from stirring and scraping the bottom of a pan to serving. These are great for scraping any fond (caramelized bits on the bottom) from a roasting pan to release even more flavour into a stock or sauce.

Pocket thermometer: This is a vital piece of equipment that people should have in their kitchen, period. A properly cooked roast can be judged accurately by measuring its internal temperature. Some dishes have to be brought to a particular temperature to ensure its best quality/taste. It is most importantly used to check the holding temperatures of hot and cold items for service to keep them out of the ‘‘danger zone".

Ritu Dalmia is a chef, author, anchor, restaurateur and brand ambassador for Fisher & Paykel.

Super-efficient blender/mixer: I love my Alessi blender, but any good one with a brushed steel jar is great. Buy one that comes with two jars, smaller ones for chutneys and spices, and large ones for your cold coffee.

Blowtorch: This simple tool will turn you from a home cook to a fancy chef. I use the blowtorch not just to caramelize sugar, but also to add the last-minute grill marks and colour to my grilled vegetables, to make the lamb chops look luscious, to give a beautiful baked hue to the meringue, you name it. Pizza looks a bit uncooked? Just give it a blast with the blowtorch.

A good set of knives: I have never been able to understand how anyone can cook and not give a damn about the knives? Even if you don’t buy the full set, make sure you have a very good kitchen knife and a paring knife.

Silicone spatula: They come in a variety of colours, adding life to your kitchen. And once you start using them, you will put away all your other steel karchis in a box somewhere. Highly flexible and resistant to high heat, you can scoop, stir, sauté, and flip with these cute babies.

A good coffee maker: What is a kitchen without the smell of freshly brewed coffee? Not only does it come handy during my coffee cravings, it also becomes my savior when I make a tiramisu with freshly brewed coffee, or use fresh coffee as a marinade for my meats.

The Fisher and Paykel oven: In my home, I use a Fisher & Paykel electronic oven. What I love about these ovens is that they feature a package of up to 11 cooking functions, allowing you to control the removal or retention of moisture from the baking or roasting environment to get the best cooking results.

Joseph chopping board: I love these amazing flexible chopping boards; they are light as feather, and come in lovely colours.

A good pepper mill: Freshly ground pepper from a pepper mill is a must, not only for seasoning, but also for adding the oomph factor to the plates.

A Le Creuset pan: What is a kitchen without a heavy cast-iron pan? And no one does it better than Le Creuset.

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