Learning to Cook · Miss Mary

Learning to Cook, Ready for Action Utensils

2016 LTC sauteGet the Printable List 2016 LTC Cooks Tools List

There’s prepping to cook, then there is the action-packed adventure of doing the deed.  When you invest in pots and pans you want to make sure you’re using the correct utensil that won’t scratch the surface.  If you didn’t receive the hand-me-down pots and pans from mom, and you watched any of the foodie shows this past week that encouraged you to walk in and ask for an All-Clad Copper Core Nonstick Fry Pan at your favorite cookware store (8″ is $195), cousin you better not be using a stainless steel spatula on that surface – just saying.

So let’s start with the utensils that you’ll use to cook with and map them to pots and pans.

2016 LTC utencils 4Wooden spoons can be used on anything [stainless steel, nonstick, cast iron] all shapes and sizes, doesn’t matter, they’ll work in every pot and pan.  On gas stoves  you shouldn’t leave the spoon in the pot or pan you’re working with as it could burn (you can see on the third spoon resting marks).  Actually, you shouldn’t leave any utensil in a pot or pan period.  That’s what a spoon rest is for.

The various sizes are good for the various size pans, the long one for the pasta pot, the medium in your Dutch oven, and the small one for your sauce pots.  BTW, I never use the first one you see there.  The stem of the spoon is too large for my hand, but I have it.

Now, I am NOT a fan of silicone spatulas for the act of cooking.  You can use it to help prepare, or wipe the bowl nice and clean, but I’m not a fan of using them for anything associated with heat.  I may be the last one on the planet who believes that, but there it is.

2016 LTC UtensilsFor nonstick pots and pans you should be using the nonstick spatulas (6th utensil over), nonstick slotted spoons, nonstick flippers, or anything coated with nonstick.

For stainless steel or cast iron pots ‘n pans, anything goes.

You know what does matter?  The size of the paddle.  You can see in the photo of the black nonstick spatula, it’s approximately 2″ shorter in length than the stainless steel flipper that is two utensils over.  The smaller one is used for things like eggs or sautéing veggies.  The larger one is for “larger” items such as fish – you can lift the fish all at once.

There are three items here that are really prep items – the avocado scooper, questionable essential, but from my personal observation with newer home cooks, they like a lot of avocados.  It’s probably the best little tool that I’ve found to scoop out the meat of the avocado.  The sieves are great for draining small amounts of pasta, draining beans, defrosting frozen veggies under hot water,  or rinsing canned tuna.  I can’t live without mine.  In fact I found the larger one in an antique shop.  It’s old.  The little one is used for citrus juice straining, or sprinkling confectioner sugar.

The slotted spoon is very versatile.  I use it for poached eggs, small amounts of pasta, the removal of Blanched vegetables from boiling water, and the removal of braised meats so that the juices can drip back into the sauce.

Tongs, tongs, tongs.  From each of the “tongs” links (Crate and Barrel, William Sonoma, and Target) the engineering of tongs is in transition.  I’m not liking what I’ve been finding, I prefer a spring loaded tong, and the ones I have are motion sensitive or have a lever at the bottom that will open and close the utensil.  Honestly, it’s precarious when you have to over-think a tong. Something could happen, like dropping a rib or worst yet, you can’t get it off the grill and it chars.  Bad juju dude.

The ladle, the last utensil in this photo, is used for adding broth to risotto or ladling soup out of the pot.  My favorite ladle is created by Oneida.  It can be considered a serving piece as well.  I have two.  We use them to serve sauce for pasta or to ladle soup out of the Dutch oven.

The last little guy to discuss is the pastry brush.  I use the small one for basting all sauces or marinade on what ever I’m cooking during prep time.  I use a little longer pastry brush when basting something in the oven or on the grill.  It took a long time to find a pastry brush that didn’t shed it’s bristles.  Some of the chefs that have written the instructional cookbooks recommend going to a paint store.  To me, there’s something so sacrilegious about that.  Can you imagine serving bbq chicken and a bristle is sitting right on top.  Yep, I’ve been there.

I really do encourage you to go to estate sales or resale shops to find some of these items.  To set up your kitchen could be a small fortune but it doesn’t have to be.

Next round, it’ll be pots ‘n pans with other essential pieces.

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