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Monthly Archives: October 2011

The 3 must-have kitchen tools


I enjoy cooking and I’m a pretty good cook but I use very few gadgets or specialized equipment. In fact until my husband gave me a food processor a few years ago all I needed were my knives and a small electric hand mixer that Consumer Reports said would last forever. It  has – 25 years and still going strong.

The finest Chefs go through a career with nothing but a good set of knives. But with the rise of cooking shows and restaurant makeovers, cooking has turned into a type of porn, a huge marketplace of “stuff” to fulfill naughty little needs you did not even realize you had.  There are stores dedicated to equipping your home kitchen to look like the one in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, yet evidence shows fewer of us actually cook even the simplest of meals. I can turn out good meals using a few must haves.
Here’s the list:

A good set of knives
: A good knife will hold a sharp edge so it does not slip and hurt you. It will have a handle designed for good gripping and smooth movement and will come in a variety of sizes so you can fit the right knife to the job. Years ago I used a Consumer Reports article to buy my knifes. As the time Henckel knives were top rated,  but I went with the Calphalon Katana set because it gave me one extra knife under $300. Calphalon knives are widely available including at The Bay.

A Stand Mixer:  A mixer on a stand will leave your hands free to add ingredients and if it comes with a dough hook will take care of  most of your baking needs. I received my KitchenAid mixer as a gift and they certainly are beautiful with wonderful colours and attachments but they start at $350 and go up over $500. You can sometimes get them on sale for as littler at $300.  My mother had a Sunbeam Mixmaster that lasted for decades very well. Sunbeam still sells the Mixmaster; their top price is $199. Hamilton Beachalso makes a top rated mixer for under $200.

Pots and pans:   Paderno is a company with excellent pots and pans.  I love them because they are non-stick without a non-stick coating. But these are literally pots of gold. An (11) piece set cost you $880. I have a few Paderno’s and a lot of  whatever was ‘on sale’. The ‘on sale’ ones work just fine as long as they meet a few criteria. 1. Stainless steel or heavy-guage aluminum 2. Heavy, thick and flat bottoms 3. Riveted handles that stay cool and 4. In your hands they feel comfortable and easy to use. My soup pot cost $25 at the Bay in  Calgary in 1985 and looks and works like new. My Dutch oven cooker is a cast iron pot with a lid, it cost $20 in Chinatown, it makes perfect stews, it oven fries chicken, it replaces a slow-cooker and at one-tenth the price of a $250 Le Creuset oven cooker. Le Creuset by the way is just cast iron with a pretty coloured enamel coating on it.
The modern pot is basically indestructible and they work for all home cooking, no need for anything too pricey, if you buy the most expensive set Walmart carries it may cost you about $170 and they will still do the job.