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Tools of the Trade

Pots and Pans snapshot
by John Raven, Ph.B.

The first kitchen tool was more than likely a sharp rock. The rock was used to cut or chop food into pieces small enough to handle. It was also good for hacking hoof and hide off mammals on the menu. Shortly after cooking food was invented, a sharp stick was the important tool. It kept you from burning the hair off your hands and arms while cooking.

The modern cook has a vast array of kitchen and cooking tools available to him. They range from the basic knife to things that even I don't understand. Being that I come from a long, long line of people who worked with their hands, I have a built-in appreciation for any tool that makes my job easier. I thought it would be nice to show you what I find the most useful for my cooking and kitchen chores. Let's start with the knives.

My paring knife gets the most work. It was designed to do small cuts like peeling fruits and vegetables. It will also open various packages and do jobs unrelated to cooking.

The boning knife is a great all purpose knife. Originally designed to remove bones from meat it will do medium size slicing jobs with ease.

My chef's knife is for chopping, dicing, slicing and kindred chores. You have seen how they are used by every chef on TV.

The butcher knife is for heavy-duty work. It can serve as a cleaver for chopping. It will hack frozen foods into useable sizes, and it will make neat slices on large cuts of meat.

The bread knife with its serrated blade makes it possible to slice soft breads without squashing them.

Food-handling tools
My favorite here is the tongs. They allow me to handle hot food items with ease. They are large enough to turn steaks and will also allow you to pick up a pea you dropped on the floor. The tongs come in several sizes, you just get what works best for you.

My other food-handling tool is just a plain carving fork. It's sturdy enough to pick up most anything I can afford to buy.

Cooking containers (pots and pans)
My favorite cooking container is my big, cast iron skillet. This fellow has been in my family since before I was born. Except for a couple of cleanings, it has served faithfully without protest. I can fry, sauté, pan broil, and fricassee in it. It also serves as a griddle for cooking pancakes and the like. It would be even better if I had a tight fitting lid for it, but I don't.

My all-purpose, non-stick skillet is also multi-functional. I have a tight fitting lid for it. In addition to the usual skillet chores, I use it for defrosting things that will fit in it. I make gravy in it, and a lot of eggs get processed in it.

I have several "pots". You should pretty well understand the concept of using a pot for cooking. And I have a small and a large “roasting pan”. They are for cooking things covered in the oven. Another concept easy to grasp.

Pots and Pans snapshot Electric-powered marvels
I like power tools in the kitchen. My mother cooked all her life without the benefit of power tools, except for the electric can opener late on. Someday we will talk about the human powered kitchen gadgets.

My first kitchen toy was a blender. Due to copyright laws, it was several years before I found it was a "Blendor". Blenders are great for reducing semisolids to purée or mixing various drinks.

I have had several hand mixers that I never learned to like much. My problem was mostly that I would forget to turn the beaters off before lifting the mixer above the edge of the bowl. My current mixer is a big table model that takes all the work out of making bread.

My food processor gets a lot of use. It is not an expensive item and will perform most of the advertised chores with no problem. There is a small learning curve involved. You need to understand that you can turn your chopped items into mush with just a little too much processing. You can also use the processor for making a variety of breads and pastas.

My spice grinder is a very valuable part of my kitchen toy collection. It will reduce dry items to powder very quickly. It will also grind coffee beans if you are into cappo-frappo-lattes. I buy peppercorns and grind them to fit my needs. It saves whorls of money in that line. I like to keep some fine grind black pepper in a shaker. There are some places where I just don't want the pepper mill crunchies.

Pots and Pans snapshot I have a portable blender that is old and feeble but still performs its work. It is great for puréeing things while you are cooking them, like soups. No need to transfer the food to a regular blender and then back to the pot. You just have to remember to turn it off and let the blade stop turning before you lift it out of the pot.

Mixing and stirring tools
Spoons do the mixing and stirring jobs. I have a few wooden spoons and a few metal spoons. I think the spoon concept is easily understood.

I have a set of whisks. Whisks do a super job of mixing things. I have several sizes to fit the job. Scrambling eggs is very easy with a whisk. They also work well for mixing dry ingredients such as biscuit mixings. They can take the place of the flour sifter in most applications.

Yes, I own even more kitchen equipment than what is mentioned and pictured here, but with just the items referred to I can cook about anything you can think of.

There is one note of interest; the small aluminum pot (no handle) pictured with the pots and pans was purchased by my parents when they set up housekeeping in 1926. I think the family has got its money worth from this item. It still sees regular use as a rice cooking pot.

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