BATTERIE DE CUISINE
Batterie De Cuisine
A sharp eye can be as useful as a sharp knife, when it comes to choosing the best cook's tool.
When choosing equipment for you kitchen it is easy to be dazzled by the range of choice on the market. Not all of it is necessary in every kitchen, though, and it is important to work out initially what you need for your kind of cooking and your lifestyle-not to mention the amount of space you have in your kitchen.
Start by selecting the most important things and add to your equipment over a period of time when you find a need for a new item. There is no point in having kitchen equipment which you do not use; it just gathers dust and wastes storage space. Later in this section is a list of equipment which performs particular tasks; select the basics from it in the sizes you need.
Know Your Knives
If you don't have a good set of kitchen knives your food preparation will take far longer than necessary. Some people find they can manage with just two or three knifes, others like to have several, each designed for a specific task. Knife blades may be stainless steel or carbon steel. Stainless steel is easy to care for and always looks bright and shiny. Carbon steel discolours and needs to be washed and dried immediately after use to prevent rusting. However, it sharpens up to a finer edge than stainless steel, although you need to sharpen it frequently-probably every time you use it.
Serrated blades are usually made of stainless steel and are useful for cutting bread, ham and other cold meats, cheese, grapefruit and tomatoes. They are more difficult to sharpen then straight blades and you need to have this done professionally.
Knife handles are usually wooden or plastic. Wooden handles are traditional but may mean the knives can't be put in a dishwasher. Plastic handles are now required by law in the catering trade (it's more hygienic), so all professional ranges of knives have them. They are often shaped with finger grips and can be put in a dishwasher. Check how a knife feels in your hand before you it and look at weight, flexibility and balance.
You will need a knife sharpener to butcher's steel is the traditional tool for this, but it requires a special technique which some people never succeed in mastering. Most people prefer to use an electric knife sharpener or a small pair of crossed steels which grip the blade at the correct angle for sharpening.
Good saucepans make the world of difference when you are cooking. The range of materials from which they are made allows you to select from a choice of non-stick linings, double handles, thick bases and so on, for different types of food. The materials have different properties as follows:
Aluminium is cheap and, in the thinner grades, of rather poor quality. Medium-to heavy-gauge aluminium is an excellent conductor of heat. Cast aluminium also conducts heat well but is heavy to lift. Enamelled aluminium can hot spot and tends to get food stuck on it.
Cast iron is a great favourite with professional cooks because of the way it retains heat and can cook slowly on a low fire. It is very heavy to lift and tends to rust unless you dry it immediately after washing. E?namelled cast iron doesn't rust but does hot spot and food tends to cling to it.
Copper looks marvelous but needs regular cleaning to maintain sheen. It is a good heat conductor but should be lined with another metal such as aluminium or tin to prevent the copper producing 'off' tastes in certain foods. The lining will need renewing from time to time.
Stainless steel on its own is not a good conductor of heat, but it looks good and is easy to care for. Choose pans which have a layer of another metal-usually copper or aluminium-sandwiched into the base to improve heat conduction and prevent hot spots.
Vitreous enamel pans come in bright colours and co-ordinating designs but do tend to hot spot. Choose pans with aluminium rather than steel base metal as this conducts heat better. Since enamel can chip, look for pans which have a metal rim round the edge.
Non-stick coatings give quick release of foods which tend to adhere: milk, sauces, fride foods. It is not essential on all pans-for example, those used for cooking vegetables-but manufacturers usually apply it to a whole range regardless. The pans that are most useful with a non-stick lining are the milk pan and the frying pan.
Bear in mind that with saucepans, price is a good indicator of quality. On the whole, the more you pay the better quality you get. However, there is no reason why you shouldn't buy cheap pans-provided you accept that they won't last a lifetime. Whether you are paying a lot or a little, these are points to consider.
The weight of a pan can make it difficult to use. Large ones and those made of cast metal are very heavy and will be heavier still when full of food. If you are going to need to use two hands every time you lift a pan, make sure it has a small supplementary handle opposite the main one to make this easier.
Pan handles should be made of heat-resistant material, comfortable to hold and long enough to prevent your fingers coming into contact with the side of the pan when hot. Good quality pans usually have a guard where the handle meets the pan to prevent burning.
Lift the pan by its handle and simulate a pouring action to check how well balanced it is. Check too, how the handle is fixed to the pan. Riveted handles will need to be tightened by the manufacturer if they work loose, while those that screw on you can do yourself.
Knobs should also be heat resistant. They should have a guard round the point where they are joined to the lids. You should also be able to lift the knobs from the lid of a hot pan without burning your knuckles.
A flat base is essential for good contact with the heat source on a cooker. This is particularly important with ranges, solid electric plates and ceramic hobs. Find a flat surface in the shop and rock the pan on it see whether it is stable.
Most pans are made with a continuous pouring lip, which means you can pour out from them at any point round the edge. Some have just a spout. If you are left handed choose pans with continuous pouring lips or those that have a spout n each side.
Pan lids should fit well but have a fraction of movement in them when on the pan so that they can be taken on and off easily, and so that steam can escape. Some pans have special steam vents that you can open and close.
No pan will last a lifetime if you do not take care of it. When you first buy a pan be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for seasoning the surface where necessary. This ensures that all the factory finish is removed and the pan is ready for cooking.
When you have finished using a pan, either soak it so that food does not stick on it or wash and dry it immediately. Never leave food in an aluminium pan or it may cause pitting. Mineral salts present in tap water will cause discoloration of the interior of aluminium pans but this can be removed by boiling up an acid solution such as apple parings or the juice of a lemon in water. Stainless steel tends to watermark, so take care when drying it. Non-stick surfaces should be treated carefully to prevent damage. Use only plastic or wooden utensils on them and watch out that nothing sharp scratches against the surface when on the draining board or in a cupboard.
Pans take up a fair amount of space in a kitchen. Think about your storage space before you buy. Some have rings at the ends of the handles or holes in the handles themselves for hanging up. Others stack on top of each other.
The market for small electric appliances has boomed in recent years. You can now buy from an enormous selection of machines which take the time and effort out of tasks which can be tedious to do by hand. These appliances do take up space in a kitchen, though, especially as to get the best out of them you really need to site them on a counter top at the ready for use.
Most people don't need the entire range of small appliances available. A judiciously chosen selection should cope with the majority of their needs. Think before you buy a new machine: how often are you likely to use it (many of them perform chopping and slicing functions that can be done just as easily with a sharp knife if the quantities aren't too large?) Where will you keep it? How easy is it to clean? Here is a rundown on the various types around.
Multi-cookers (electric fry pans)
These look like large frying pans and are extremely versatile. They work off a 13-amp socket outlet and can be used to fry, roast, bake, casserole, steam and griddle.
Sometimes called electric casseroles, these run off a 13-amp socket outlet and thus provide controlled gentle cooking at about a third of the cost of heating a large conventional oven. Models with removable pots which can be used used to serve at table are easier to clean than those with a fixed pot. Automatic models will turn themselves from the high to the low setting without needing further attention.
Infra-red grills (contact grills)
These come with a hinged pair of non-stick heated plates between which you can cook any flat food (chops, burgers, steaks) doing both sides simultaneously. Foil-wrapped vegetables and fish can also be cooked. Some are supplied with a baking tin which increases their versatility by producing a mini-oven' between the plates. You can buy a separate tin if yours isn't supplied with one. Infra-red grills run off a 13-amp socket and are cheap to run.
Sandwich toasters are also cheap to run and come in a variety of sizes, some with removable plates for easy cleaning or interchangeable plates for making waffles or grilling burgers. They are very convenient for any household which consumes a lot of toasted sandwiches, though they are confined to fairly thin combinations-cheese & ham, cheese & onion, etc.
Offer much the safest method of frying because they are thermostatically controlled, so the risk of over-heating fat and causing a fire is eliminated. Models with filters in their lids will cut down on cooking odors.
These offer similar facilities as standard woks, but they can also be used to cook at table. In addition, they can perform many of the functions of a multi-cooker, e. g: stewing, steaming, poaching and simmering. Before buying check that the electric wok heats to a high temperature, otherwise stir-frying might not be as successful as with an ordinary wok on a conventional cooker. Some designs come with several attachments and a lid.
Electric kettles reduce the time it takes to boil water, and those with automatic cut-out are safer because they will not boil dry. Jug-type kettles are worth consideration if you only need to boil a little water say one cup at a time.
Electric coffee makers both boil the water and keep made coffee hot. They come with a variety of refinements such as an insulated jug, a built-in coffee grinder, a clock/alarm and a coffee-strength regulator. Coffee percolators tend to boil the coffee which purists claim spoils the flavour.
Blenders are marvelous for making batter mayonnaise pate puree and soup as well as for preparing baby foods. Some cope with dry ingredients others require liquid before they can operate. Do not be led into buying a blander simply because it has a vast range of speeds. Results are not altered by blending at different speeds and nor foes it mean that you can prepare greater quantities or different ingredients.
Come either as free-standing or hand-held models. If you can afford the attachments and have somewhere to store them, a free-standing mixer becomes a remarkably versatile machine. They work more slowly than food processors but this can be an advantage in that it reduces the risk of over-processing ingredients. Hand-held mixers are very compact and are a good buy if you have a limited budget or a tiny kitchen. They are also sensible if you do not do enough cooking to justify the purchase of more expensive mechanical help.
Can perform all the functions of blender and mixers slice grate, chop, cream, knead and beat though not all of them whisk cream or egg whites very well. Some have special whisk attachments. When pureeing ingredients they do not always obtain the same smooth texture as when blender is used. When processing the solid ingredients first in the case of soup, the vegetables and in that of pate, the meat and/or offal's) and adding the liquid (cream, stock, brandy, etc), slowly afterwards. Apart from being extremely versatile, their chief advantage is the speed at which they can process ingredients.
Can be used as supplements to conventional cookers or instead of them. They run off a 13-amp socket outlet, can be places on any flat surface, cook in quarter to a third of the time required by conventional cooking method and save energy. Study the manufactures' brochures and before purchasing think carefully: do you wish to use your microwave cooker merely for defrosting and re-heating or do you plan to do a lot of cooking from scratch? Be prepared for some failures when you start, since the techniques and timing are radically different from those used with a conventional cooker.
Electric coffee grinders take the hard work out of grinding beans and are usually no more expensive than manual ones. They are noisy but very fast they will cope with up to 75g (3 oz) coffee beans in a matter of seconds.
If your favorite coffee shop is not close to home you can keep beans is not close to home, you can keep beans in the freezer for 4-5 months and ground coffee for 4-weeks.
Thee are so many coffee-making devices available that it is impossible to recommend just one. Bear in mind that for the best results you need fresh coffee, freshly boiled water and the coffee should not be left sew' for hours, which makes it bitter.
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