Thursday, 16 February 2012

My Favourite Kitchen Kit

In the 3 years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve often posted recipes, but it recently occurred to me that I’ve never once mentioned any of the equipment I use whilst doing all of the cooking. Well, oversight corrected dear reader, prepare to know more than you ever wanted to know about the contents of my kitchen drawers (ooer).

Over the years, I’ve gradually accumulated bits of kitchen kit, until right now I’m at the stage that I can honestly say I have pretty much everything I need or want…. Except, of course, a KitchenAid mixer (preferably in black, in case anyone wants to send me one), or just maybe a Thermomix. But apart from that, I’m very happy with what I’ve got.

Out of all this gear, I thought it might be interesting to pick out my absolute favourite pieces of equipment and tell you why I love these particular things. So, let’s get cracking and talk about knives.

I reckon the best investment you can possibly make in terms of kitchen equipment is a decent set of knives. Yes, they’re expensive but the pleasure of using a beautifully balanced; razor sharp blade is almost indescribable. If nothing else, you’ll feel more cheffy using them, your food will look better and you’ll generally be considered more sexy by everyone you know*. True until you get the hang of using them, you’ll probably hack and slash your fingers to bloody ribbons, but this is ultimately how you learn the hard way not to chop your digits off. I bought a set of Global knives about 8 years ago, and I’ve pretty much used them everyday and it’s the best couple of hundred quid I’ve ever spent. I probably use the 20cm G2 cook’s knife most often, followed by the snub-nosed looking GS5 Vegetable Chopper and the Bread Knife.

But, after many years of exclusive Global love, I was gifted a knife which is currently my absolute favourite. It’s a Haiku H-15 20cm fluted Chef’s Knife. It’s bloody awesome, savagely sharp and ridiculously light. It’s a real pleasure to use. I absolutely love it and if I had the cash, I’d buy some more of the range.

It almost goes without saying, but it’s not worth stumping up the moolah for all those expensive knives if you let them get as blunt as assholes. So don’t forget to buy the kit to sharpen them. You’ll need a decent steel and something like a Minosharp to keep everything uber razorish.

My next favourite piece of equipment is at the other end of the price scale. A potato ricer. I am a complete mash fiend. I absolutely love it. Always have, always will. Its generally accepted wisdom that mashed potato with lumps through it is a frigging disgrace. Which is where the potato ricer comes in. If you want silky luscious Robuchon’esque mash, squeeze your potatoes through a ricer (oh, and add a artery clogging amount of butter too). Even as you keel over, clutching your chest the satisfaction you’ll get that your mash was lump free will make it all worthwhile. Expect to pay around £15 for a decent one.

Next up, A Le Creuset Grill Pan. It’s ridiculously heavy cast-iron, but as we all know, heaviness equals quality err ness. If you want to chargrill sexy black lines in your meat, you must have one of these. Don’t be tempted by cheap ass imitators, if it isn’t sack of cement heavy, it’s a heap of shit. It’s worth the price alone for the ability to char-grill bread, which is frigging awesome stuff. Priced at around £58 to you guv.

I actually won this next bit of kit in a competition, which is handy because I’d been admiring it for some time. A Thermapen is an instant read kitchen thermometer. It has no confusing settings or buttons for stupid people like me. Just stick the metal probe into whatever you want to know the temperature of and et voila! To be honest, you don’t ‘need’ a kitchen thermometer but it’s so handy to have one. You know, when you really have to ensure that you’re not going to give your dinner party guests food poisoning by serving up half cooked chicken. I’ve found it most useful for cooking things like crème anglaise. Can I just add, the first thing I ever probed with it, was my own ear. Not to be recommended, oh and apparently I’m ‘well done’. One of these will set you back £48.

I found my moulis is a charity shop for £2. I love that it looks a bit retro with its shiny red knob (errrr). It’s battered to hell but has character. Handy for soups or anything, where you want to puree but at the same time stop any seeds, pulp or skins getting into the finished product. It’s not an essential piece of kitchen equipment by any means, but is something I particularly like.

Finally, my newest and perhaps my most coveted piece of kit, I give you a Magimix. I wanted one of these for years and years. I wanted to slice and shred veg in seconds so very much that it almost ached my very soul. Last year, I finally got one. I am now complete. Yes, it’s a pain in the arse to wash up but if you’re making red onion soup for thirty six and need to slice up seventy two red onions, it comes into it’s own. It’s so useful; I don’t know how I ever managed without it. I own the white model, which isn’t quite as sexy as chrome, but obviously realising this, Magimix slyly charge a premium for the sexier metallic version. Expect to pay around £160 for a white one.

So that’s my favourite pieces of cooking equipment. I’d be interested to hear which kitchen kit you consider indispensable? What can’t you live without? Perhaps you love a particular vegetable peeler for sentimental reasons?

* Not actually true.


laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

Have to agree with you as I have the exact same set of Global knives myself. Love the sharpening stone too. I am interested in the Haiku knives, like the sound of it being lightweight & super sharp .
Am a huge Magimix & Kitchenaid fan but have never owned ricer or mouli as I am just not into my mash like you.
All I would add is silicone spatulas and a dream of owning some Bourgeat saucepans!

Lynne said...

Oh I am so very jealous of your knives. My husband bought me a Global knife years ago, and for some STUPID reason I swapped it for a Henkel... which is nowhere near as good.

I got myself a Cuisinart at about the same time as you got your Magimix, so I feel that love, and also your yearning for a Kitchenaid mixer. But a bigger kitchen is needed before that one.

Otherwise, my little zester knife, and a little julienne grater, like a peeler but cuts julienne strips instead, are fabulous little tools. My microplane graters I wouldn't want to be without. My mandoline likewise.

I have two Le Crueset grill pans, one for fish, one for meat. And a flatter Spanish plancha just for sardines.

And my pressure cooker...

I could go on and on. I love my kitchen trickery....

Shu Han said...

I don't have a fancy set of kives, but I do have a very good knife sharpener which I find, is even more important than the knife itself!

I love your moulis! I need to trawl the charity shops more.

Dan said...

Laura - The Haiku knives are bloody lovely. They have a wooden handle and really feel superb in the hand. Some awesome saucepans, yes agreed, that would be something I'd love to own.

Lynne - That's some list of kitchen equipment! I know what you mean though, so much lovely stuff big and small. I have a real softspot for a goodgrips zester. It just feels so right, absolutely perfect. I wouldn't swap it for anything.

Shu Han - Agreed, no point in have nice knives if they're blunt! I found my potato ricer in a charity shop as well, also £2. Never know what you'll find!

Michael Toa said...

Thanks for sharing Dan. I am actually shopping for knife set at the moment and I want something similar like yours.
One of my favourite kitchen kit is the microplane zester. I love it. Also the mezzaluna. What a strange and satisfying feeling, chopping using that thing.
Last but not least, digital kitchen scale. Brilliant.

Charlie Hicks said...

Yeah microplane, couldn't live without it. Very keen on my Globals too.

Charlie Hicks said...

...and my Magimix Gelato for that celery ice cream moment...

Wai Yee Hong said...

I definitely need my french peeler, zester, fave knife (knives?), bamboo chopsticks, rice cooker. Without these, i'd be completely lost.

Oh, and my zombie-fork.

Helen T said...

Agree completely on good knives & keeping them sharp. I have a Le Creuset casserole & griddle pan, both done about 25 years service so far & look all set for the next 25. And I know really love the Kenwood Chef I bought at Xmas, having realised no bugger was sending me a KitchenAid, no matter how many times I mentioned it!

louche~chef said...

We almost match:

Global knives
Griddle pan

but my favorite item(s) have to be the knives. Lovely to use, nicely balanced and sharf hence safe.

They do freak people out a bit though because they're so sharp so I prewarn now before use.

Oh and the ceramic steel that goes with them is the dogs.

gourmetgorro said...

Finally just opened my global knives I got a few years ago as a gift. My wife had given me the fear of chopping off a finger. I've still got 10 fingers and they're awesome.

Jen said...

My knives are a piece of shit, but my ceramic sharpener keeps them in working order. I love my mandolin for shredding and slicing. Good old wooden reamer. Microplane grater has revolutionised my life. Poach pods out of sheer laziness. 28cm le creuset casserole, which I was given as a gift and thought I'd never use, and now find essential for pot roasts, casseroles and no-knead bread. And probably my Krups espresso machine, which was I'm not sure counts, cause I don't exactly cook with it, but I do use it every day. It was only £100, and it's completely reliable and easy to clean.

Sharmila said...

My Le Creeuset saucepans and frying pan are essentials for me, especially as you can stick them in the oven.

Also couldn't live without my Magimix - I'm not quite sure what I did before it.

Desperate to invest in some Haiku knives but that's a saving up job. I do have a very good Japanese knife that was gifted to me, which is great for slicing meat and fish.

My cleaver is also brilliant. £15 from the Chinese shop - great for chopping up meat through bones, especially for making stock.

I'm still waiting for the magical KitchenAid but am starting to accept it won't come so I may just invest in a Kenwood Chef.

Oh, and my latest bit of kitchenalia, I love - the Presso gifted to me by my husband at Christmas. Really does make fabulous coffee.

Sharmila said...

Oh, god, how I could forget my Cuisinart mini chopper/spice grinder? Now, that is an amazing piece of kit - used it every week for the past 8 years. Great for grinding spices up finely.

Oh, and my pressure cooker. Brilliant if you cook as much Indian food as me.

Lizzie said...

Agreed, knives are the most important thing. I don't actually have any other posh knife aside from a chef's knife, but I have 3 - a Wusthof (so heavy), a Global (light and awesome) and my favourite, a Porsche Chroma type301.

Other bits of kit include my wok, lovingly seasoned for years so it now has a non-stick patina and my rice cooker, which is quite frankly essential.

German said...

Good tools!

Helen said...

I just started writing a post like this myself! I'll save my recommendations for that ;) I have to say though, the kitchenaid is in there mate. Get one if you can!

David said...

Just been given (by my loverley wife) a KitchenAid blender - in black to match the food processor from the same firm. New breadmaker getting lots of use. Cheapo Kenwood stick blender. Finally, my biggest sin - my favourite knife is from sainsbury's, sharpened with a JML (or similar) tool - just can't get on with a steel!

Dan said...

Michael Toa - Got to agree with your choice of Microplane's and digital scales.

Charlie Hicks - That's what I could really do with, a decent ice-cream maker. And celery ice-cream is truly bloody awesome.

Wai Yee Hong - A good peeler is definitely up there and how could I forget to mention the zombie fork?

Helen T - 25 years, bloody hell! that's good going, but they do feel pretty damn indestructible. I don't have a stand mixer at all, so I'm extremely jealous of your Kenwood Chef.

Louche~Chef - Pleased to hear that our favourites are similiar. I have a Global Ceramic Steel, and got to agree, it's awesome but ridiculously expensive to buy!

Gourmetgorro - Lots of Global love it seems. They really are superb knives. Pleased to hear you still have all 10 digits!

Jen - I am incredibly jealous of your Le Creuset casserole. I alway's eye them up in the shops. Reassuringly bloody heavy (Like my grill pan), I really want one, but they're so expensive.

Sharmila - Interesting list and nice to see the same brand names and pieces of kit cropping up again and again. Quality really does tell. I quite fancy getting a cleaver actually.

Lizzie - Those Porche knives are really nice, quite heavy but I reckon that's a good thing. It's really awesome when a piece of kit improves with age, that's one of the reasons I love the Le Creuset Grill Pan so much. I keep hearing people mentioning rice cookers lately. Are they that handy?

German - Cheers!

Helen - I'd bloody love a Kitchenaid, they're frigging awesome. But a bit pricey. One day!

David - Love a blender. They're awesome for soups, nothing else comes close for getting it silky smooth. It took me quite a while to get used to a steel, I blunted rather than sharpened my knives at first. I also use a Minosharp to really put an edge back on it now and again.

Gourmet Chick said...

I have global knives as well. Got some as a wedding present - best present ever. I also love my potato ricer and it is ESSENTIAL for gnocchi. Off to investigate your thermometer recommendation now.

Hungry said...

My favourite bits of kit are the ones that make me feel good about using them, rather than necessarily the ones which make life easier.

I have a knife i use for crushing garlic - slice, chop, salt, smash under the blade & repeat till mashed. It's just sharp enough, rather than supersharp but it's perfect for the satisfation of that process.

An oxo rubber handled peeler i inherited from an exhousemate - that does fall under the 'easiest peeler ever used' banner

My mortar & pestle that i've had for 15 years. something about bashing the heck out of toasted spices, that's very theraputic (and aromatic)

Bamboo steamers - 3 different sizes,purchase from chinatown. I use the small one most for steamed veggies, or all three at once for post-pub frozen dimsum feasts. I know there are probably easier ways but i rather like the steamy kitchen they produce

2 sizes of kitchen cleavers also bought from chinatown. The smaller one usually for roughly bashing garlic, onions etc, the larger one for chopping through bones.

A now very seasoned wok - gifted to me from excess stock when my local chinese restaurant closed. Never had better.

I think i'm over sentimental about my kitchen equipment!

Anonymous said...

My top kitchen essentials are:

1. My Kitchenaid. I am very very lucky to have one and it's definitely worth it. Not just for making cakes, its great for bread, pasta, pastry etc and I have since invested in the ice cream attachment also which worth it!

2. Microplane grater, for the same reasons other commentors have made.

3. Le Creuset casseroles, I have 3 in varous sizes. Yes they cost a lot but they last a lifetime,I got some from a Le Creuset outlet at around 20% cheaper than those in stores, in some fab colours not available in the UK (they ship over US stock). If I had to choose one, I think that the shallow "buffets" as they are the most versatile.

4. My huge pestle and mortar

I still have things I want to add - Global knifes like yours and a Magimix, but then once I manage to add those I'm sure there'll be something else on the list?!

Ben said...

Ah, knives, the absolute key to a happy kitchen. Cut something properly, rather than bludgeoning it into slices, and everything else will work out. Just moved into a new flat with my girlfriend and she's buying all kinds of random stuff - casserole dishes, rolling pins, measuring spoons - but won't get some amazing knives (or even a sharpener). I keep telling her, she's making a mistake...

Dan said...

Gourmet Chick - Got to love Global Knives and I definitely recommend a Thermapen thermometer.

Hungry - Those Oxo pieces of hit are very nice in the hand. I also have the vegetable peeler. Chinese cleavers seem to be a popular choice! I'm going to have to investigate those.

Stickypinny - The usual culprits! There's always something else I'm afraid.

Ben - Exactly, the ability to cut something easily and cleanly is the cornerstone of any half decent cooking. Revel in the smug knowledge that your girlfriend is making a huge mistake in her purchasing and that you know better!