When it comes down to it, I mean really comes down to it, how many ‘essential’ gadgets or pieces of kit do you have in your kitchen?
The reason I ask is because a recent piece in Economist Intelligent Life got me thinking.
It suggested that men’s love of technology stretches far beyond the garden shed or whatever hobby is the current past-time du jour and well into that domain commonly known as the kitchen.
Those of us with a ‘y’ chromosome, it suggests, can resist a new contraption (with barely one specific purpose) no more than we can resist a cold lager, staring at that specific place where a girl’s knickers ride up above their jeans or any other sweeping generalisation you would care to mention.
I’ll admit I found the piece slightly clichéd and playing up to easy stereotypes but it did crank the cogs into gear and cause some deep whirring somewhere about what items in my culinary arsenal I would regard as essential.
I’ve bought the occasional ‘dud’ – I used to work in a cookware shop for goodness’ sake, I was surrounded by extraneous kitchen paraphernalia – but have never been tempted by a mango stoner, avocado scoop or small rubber tube used to remove the skin from garlic cloves (is it honestly that difficult a job? Come on…).
But mostly what I have is very simple. And cherished. Slightly too much in some cases.
In no particular order, here are the ten most useful items any cook could hope to have in their kitchen (NB – no disclosures necessary, no payments, samples or freebies here):
1. A decent frying pan
This is a 20cm De Buyer Blue Steel (not joking) frying pan. Although it isn’t non-stick, over the last five years it has developed a glorious patina making it better than any Teflon coated pan I’ve ever had the displeasure of using. The metal handle means it can go straight into the oven – perfect for browning then roasting meats. I just need a bigger one now…
2. A good knife (or two...)
The chef’s knife is the workhorse of the kitchen, a handheld food processor. A decent hunk of German steel might just outlive you. Depending on your sword skills, they come in sizes varying from about 12cm to 24cm (and beyond). After putting it off for years and muddling on with some lightweight cheapo blades, I finally gave in a couple of months ago and invested in a Henckels. It makes me happy.
3. A steel
If your willing to spend a three figure sum on a knife, it might be a good idea to buy something to keep it sharp. Despite the numerous gadgets on the market that claim to be up to the job, nothing comes close to a traditional steel. And once a year take your knives to your friendly neighbourhood butcher, ask nicely and he’ll grind a razor sharp edge back onto them for you.
Nearly anything that needs turning can be turned with these. They are like a go-go gadget arm extension.
5. Palette knife
Ideal for flipping the four per cent of things that can’t be flipped with tongs.
From draining rice, pasta and vegetables to straining stocka and sauces and making smooth purees, the sieve is one of the best kitchen investments it is possible to make.
7. Wooden Spoon
My guess is that this is possibly the oldest utensil in existence (I mean in general, not this specific spoon). That is reason enough for me. It has numerous uses, is almost indestructible and can be replaced for mere pennies
8. Microplane grater
Renders all other graters redundant. Turns Parmesan cheese into billowing clouds of deliciousness and decimates carrots in seconds.
9. Le Creuset Casserole
It boils, it sears, it slow cooks like a dream. These guys have been around almost 100 years, they probably know what they are doing. If your knife doesn’t last longer than you, your Le Creuset certainly will.
10. iSi Cream Whipper
OK, OK, it’s a gadget, it’s virtually pointless and is liable to go wrong at nearly every opportunity. But I am a man and this is my one concession to the article that spawned this list. Not only will it whip cream but also allows you to create a whole raft of elBulli inspired foams, mousses, airs and other such frippery. Enormous fun.
Hark, I hear the faint rumblings of dissent. Are they deserving of a place on The List? Where is the sushi rolling mat? How could I possibly forget cake mould? No baking sheet? How is one to de-stone cherries or de-bone fish?
Put me right and join the debate. What would you rescue first from your kitchen?