Cooking with Bwog: Kitchenware Essentials
Written by Bwog Staff
As much as we love our campus, there is nothing spectacular about the square footage on some of our dorm kitchens. Cooking with Bwog helps you make the most out of your cooking while still dining in style. For this week’s installment, blade master Matt Powell breaks down the chef’s tools of the trade.
There are some basics tools that any home cook should have in the kitchen:
You don’t need the top-of-the-line All-Clad ware or the latest line from Sur La Table. Instead, simplify. Look for a sturdy stockpot, 2 frying pans (one 9-12 inch pan and one 6 inch pan), and a saucepan. If you’re worried about food sticking, you can always get some non-stick cookware.
Every cook needs mixing bowls. I have 2 large mixing bowls for mixing batter, making frosting, brining, etc. You can even use them for serving large bowls of pasta. Small prep bowls are always handy as well. Just enter any restaurant kitchen in New York and you will find a multitude of bowls for garnishes and components.
Knives, forks, and spoons go without saying. In addition to these smaller items, find a good, heavy-duty whisk, a wooden spoon (I prefer bamboo), a ladle, a slotted spoon (which is a larger spoon with holes in it), and a spatula. Often, these utensils can be found in a bundle package for cheap.
Now, this depends on how serious of a baker you are, but for the average college bake sale, a cookie sheet and one cupcake tray should suffice.
As Jacques Pépin was quoted saying in the Times, “The best knife is a sharp knife.” Hence don’t need too many. For the home cook, there are three basic knives that you should have on hand: the 10-inch chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. I also love the Santoku hocho Japanese kitchen knife, which generally doubles as my kitchen knife.
Knives can be the most intimidating object in the kitchen. But confidence with knives is essential to confidence in the kitchen. You may nip yourself every once in a while, but practice makes perfect!
First, learn to position your hands properly. Your dominant hand (which, in my case, is my left) should hold the knife right where the handle meets the blade. The other hand should stabilize whatever you are cutting. The hand should be shaped as a claw with the fingertips tucked in and the thumb tucked behind the fingers, so as to reduce any bad cuts. When using a knife, the general rule is to cut in a down and forward motion. You aren’t using a guillotine! The sound of the knife should be minimal unless you are practicing to make sushi.
Now, we are ready to chop some vegetables!
- The first cut is known as “Rondelle.” This is when rounded or long food is cut at a 90 degree angle with the knife to produce small, coin-like shapes.
- Another cut is known as a Diagonal or “Cutting on the Bias.” You can cut on a very slight bias, producing cuts very close to a rondelle, or the cut can be very sharp, producing long, oval-like pieces of food. The typical cut is at 45 degrees.
- Mincing is chopping something very finely. This is often used for herbs and garlic. To mince herbs, separate from the stems and place in a heap on a cutting board. Position your smart hand in the normal place, but this time, the other hand should be positioned perpendicular on the top of the blade. Use your dominant hand to rock the knife up and down, going over the herbs. The hand on top of the blade is for weight, it should not be close to the blade.
Another method for cutting herbs that is a little more refined is the “chiffonade.” Use herbs such as basil, mint, and sage—herbs with an oval-shaped leaf. Roll the leaf lengthwise, forming a small cigarette-like shape. Then, slice the herb thinly, producing little whisker-like strands.
For mincing garlic, the process is the same as it is for herbs. To prep the garlic, cut off the root end. Placing the knife atop the clove of garlic, give it a quick smash with your hand. (This will make it easier to peel the garlic.)
- Onions are essential in many recipes and there are many ways to cut an onion, but the most common are dicing and slicing.
First, cut your onion in half. Laying the onion flat on your cutting board, slice off the stem end (not the root end). The root end holds the onion together, which will make the cutting process easier. Peel the skin off of the onion half. For a slice, simply cut at a 90 degree angle, as thick or thin as you would like.
Dicing is a bit more complicated. First, make 2-3 horizontal slices through the onion. Next, make 3-5 vertical slices through the onion. Proceed from here as you would slicing an onion.
- Seeding a tomato used to be an arduous process until a little Italian woman showed me a shortcut. Simply slice the tomato in half, horizontally. Then, holding your tomato over the sink or trashcan, work your fingers into the segments of the tomato, pressing out the seeds. After this, proceed to chop your tomato as you please.
Paper hats via Wikimedia Commons