Whether stocking your kitchen from scratch or paring down to the basics, here are the tools and equipment we recommend.
The chef’s knife (along with a cutting board) is the workhorse of the Cooking Light Test Kitchens. It’s ideal for chopping herbs, onions, garlic, fruits, and vegetables and for cutting boneless meats (it even cuts through small bones, such as those of chicken and fish), slicing and dicing, and general cutting tasks.
We use both metal and plastic colanders in varying sizes. A large colander works well for draining pasta and salad greens and rinsing vegetables. A small strainer is great for separating fruit juice or pulp from seeds. Mesh strainers are the most versatile because nothing can get through the holes except liquid.
We use both wood and plastic cutting boards. Whichever you choose, wash the board thoroughly to avoid food contamination. Wipe wooden boards with diluted bleach, and wash thoroughly; sanitize plastic ones in the dishwasher.
Use an instant-read thermometer to check meringues, meat, and poultry to be sure they’re cooked to the correct temperature. Don’t leave the thermometer in the oven while the food is cooking; remove it from the food after you read the temperature.
Keep kitchen shears handy to mince small amounts of herbs, chop canned tomatoes, trim fat from meat and skin from poultry, and make slits in bread dough.
Dry measuring cups, available in metal or plastic, are flat across the rim and are used for ingredients like flour, grains, and cereals. We use a 1, 1⁄2, 1⁄3, and 1⁄4 nest of cups. Liquid measuring cups, sized from 1 cup to 4 cups, are available in clear glass or plastic so that you can see the level of liquid through the cup.
Sometimes a “pinch of this” and a “dash of that” results in less-than-desired flavor. Measuring spoons ensure that your recipes come out just right.
A peeler removes the skin from both vegetables and fruits. Select one with a comfortable grip and an eyer to remove potato eyes and other blemishes on vegetables and fruits. It’s also handy for making Parmesan cheese shavings or chocolate curls.
Give your food a bit of pungent flavor with a sprinkle of cracked or freshly ground pepper from a pepper mill. A variety of pepper mills are now readily available in the spice section of supermarkets or in the kitchenwares department of discount stores.
A box-style grater gives you a choice of hole sizes. Use the smaller holes for grating hard cheese or chocolate and the largest holes for shredding foods like Cheddar cheese or carrots.
Whisks in assorted sizes are ideal for beating eggs and egg whites, blending salad dressings, and dissolving solids in liquids. We consider them essential when making creamy sauces. Whisks are available both in stainless steel and nylon; the nylon ones won’t scratch nonstick surfaces.