Nov 6, 20172914 views

[Ongoing] Kitchen Tools: Questions & Answers

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On Massdrop, you can find enthusiasts of all levels within any given community. There are beginners who are just starting out and experts who really know their stuff. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of enthusiasts, you should always be able to find answers to your questions within the community.
ASK KITCHEN-TOOL QUESTIONS Want to know what the best zester for oranges is? How to properly clean a grater? We have resident experts here in the office, but often times the best way to get a quick response is to ask the community itself. There are members of the Cooking Community who are experts in pretty much any area of cooking you can imagine.
Ask your question(s) by posting in the discussion below.
GIVE ANSWERS Many people in the community know a lot about the right tools for the right tasks and have great information to share. If that’s you, we encourage you to help out those that have questions!

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drakeonyou, steve, and 6 others
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Does anyone have any experience with ball jar fermenting lids? I have a huge, heavy Gartopf that's awesome for large batches of sauerkraut, but I want something a little friendlier for smaller batches. Just from online research I'm leaning towards the Ferment'n but figured I'd ask to see if anyone has used one. Thanks!
Helpful hint I saw on some cooking show a billion years ago — if you want an inexpensive meat mallet (chicken paillard, anyone?) try a rubber mallet from an automotive supply or woodworking store. They are really inexpensive, nigh on indestructible, and do the job at least as well as the pricey metal mallets they sell at kitchen stores.
santosha
Agree, and if you're concerned about the food safety of the mallet material, just use a layer of plastic wrap on the mallet. Also, the soft rubber ones are GREAT for helping you cut through things like hard squashes, or bones with a cleaver. Instead of swinging a sharp object down on the food, press the knife in slightly and give gentle whacks with the mallet to the spine of the blade. Much safer.
Scuba_Ninja
Agree. I also use mine with a cheap stamped chef‘s knife for opening young coconuts. A few whacks to open a square on top to get at the water, then the same squash method to split it for the meat.
Why'd you choose to use a Santoku Knife over a Chef's Knife (vice-versa)?
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I haven't tried a Gyuto yet and also prefer Santoku due to similar reasons you mentioned.
I think I need to try that out.
drakeonyou
I prefer a chef's knife, as the weight helps the knife do the cutting. Especially useful for tasks involving things resistant to cutting. I like my santoku, but I rarely use it anymore. My Misen chef's knife is my go to, and if I need a heavier knife, I have a Wusthof chef's knife that's several ounces heavier.
Does anyone use the Ballarini Professionale 4500 Series? I'm debating picking one up for egg dishes and I want to know how evenly it heats and releases egg dishes. The Como series works well but, I would like something that heats up the sides a bit better with lower heat settings.
https://www.ballarini.com/us/en/series/professionale/series_4500.html
I've really been getting into making Japanese and Chinese food recently and I was curious, for making dim sum should I absolutely get a steamer basket or go more of a jimmy-rigged route and save the money for something else?
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Dahms
Steamer baskets are so cheap that if you do more than a couple of dishes ever it's a waste of time to jury rig something similar. They're a couple of pounds at asian supermarkets over here anyway.
Dahms
I would definitely get the right equipment especially considering it's not the most expensive investment. For me there is nothing worse than attempting a dish with the improper ingredients or equipment and getting soured on the whole experience.
Just curious, Are there any health concern sous-vide? Been interested in it for a long time...
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@AngryAccountant, thanks for mentioning the plastics/bags/container point. I totally forgot about this when typing out my reply.
jkiemele
Between the two of us, we've totally got this. I'd never even considered the pasteurization possibilities.
Only got a pineapple corer and use that for campin. Grilled pineapple...mmmmm!
I'm interested in purchasing a spiralizer. Anyone have a favorite? I've read a lot of reviews, but most of them seem junky and you might lose a good portion of the produce. Can anyone recommend one? Thanks!
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It's a cool idea, I'm just worried that if you break a couple of decent peelers by running them into the spade bit you would have been money ahead to just buy a spiralizer in the first place. Would be worth a shot to see if you actually like the vegetable ribbons in recipes before you invest in a good spiralizer though.
BeccaBandit
I have a Paderno World Cuisine 3 blade spiralizer. I use it maybe 3 times a year... haha. But when I do manage to take it out of the box, it works very well and is simple to clean.
Has anyone used an ultrasonic knife in a home kitchen? They look cool and easy, but what are your thoughts? Is it more of a gimmicky purchase or actually something useful? Thanks!
BeccaBandit
Looks like a gimmick. A sharp, well maintained knife will do the same job with just a bit of practice and that extra cash spent on the ultrasonic thingy can instead go towards buying a higher quality blade.
Does anyone know where to find recipes for the mini instant pot?
Can anyone recommend a value for money full cookware set that doesn't cost a nuke? Unless the one at https://www.amazon.com/T-fal-Resistant-Thermo-Spot-Indicator-Dishwasher/dp/B00TQJWF1I/ is already the best, I'd prefer options from experts.
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hoodafukisalice
tefal/teflon stuff will degrade over time so it's not what you should be looking at for long term investments. Cookware lasts the average person a long time anyway but if you wanted to hedge your bets then carbon steels and cast iron will stick around to piss your great grandkids off with the maintenance. If you buy non-stick anything, expect to have to replace it after a few years.
You can buy triple plys but they are expensive and there's the possibility you leave them on the burner and get distracted when there's nothing in the pan which breaks the lamination and leaves you with a crap, expensive paperweight.
Finally, hardly anyone needs all the pans included in the usual "full cookware set" so unless you're flush with cash and can afford the eye-wateringly expensive ones get yourself a decent saucepan and frying pan for less money and that will cover you for pretty much anything you would do.
hoodafukisalice
Hello, I thought I would give you a practical opinion hoping it helps. I am not a professional chef but I do love to cook. My dream set of cookware would be without question FALK of Belgium. They are the best quality for the price. They will even let you buy one of the small saucepans at a significantly reduced price to try them out. They are copper with stainless interiors and they are pricey. But you wanted an affordable price. I next fell in love with a beautiful set of multiclad stainless Allclad but they are ridiculously overpriced! $700 for a set online. I finally found a set of Cuisanart MCP multiclad pro online. They are made in China, but they are 95% as good as Allclad. They have the same multiclad layers and cook beautifully. I bought the set for $300 two years ago and have added several open stock pieces since. They are superb pans for the price. Good Luck!
I have a very limited space for cooking/prep any good easy methods to add in a small kitchen?
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Fusrahdo
A quality immersion/stick blender can do 95% of what a traditional blender can and quite a bit that a blender just can't. I even make hummus with mine (this takes a while longer than a food processor, but I'm usually fairly pleased with the results) and cleanup is quicker.
I think corelle dishes are ugly, but I've dropped mine multiple times on my tile floors and they're oven safe, which comes in super handy.
I love silicone bakeware. You can smoosh it to fit in small cabinets and you never have to take up valuable sink/counter space to soak it because baked on food just wipes away.
Board scraper/bench knife/dough cutter is my favorite multitasker. General purpose scraping/pounding tool, blunt force churchkey, meat tenderizer/hammer (using the handle - in a pinch, or with lots of practice), ice pick, pulled meat shredder, I made mashed potatoes with one once. My real point here is to find new uses for the few tools you already have.
Do everything you can to minimize cleanup and amount of dishes that you use.
Fusrahdo
Get an Instant Pot. I don't have one but I hear great things. And talk about a space saver, pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker. Supposed to be a great appliance!
I have a google home, how easy is it to integrate the Anova WiFi Sous vide with google home? What commands can I use? Any pan recommendations for the reverse sear method or will any cast iron be good enough?
audiblesound
I cannot speak to the Google Home aspect, but for reverse searing, cast iron or carbon steel will be your best bet. Get either nice and hot, add ample fat, and don't move the meat too much. That's what I use and do and get wonderful sear each time.
I'm a photographer, and I've started digging in the food photography world, but I've basically been using what I have at hand when doing food styling, does anyone any basic kits for decorating or preparing dishes? Also, I've been looking everywhere for matte or rustic-looking plates for my photography, if anyone has suggestions I'd really appreciate them!
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I had no idea about that! Thanks!
GusMartinz
If you aren't looking for a whole set Goodwill would be a great place to grab some matte/rustic looking plates and bowls etc. On the cheap too.
What's a good affordable chef's knife for someone just starting to get serious about cooking?
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Skeletorama
The standard entry level "cheap" recommendation is the Victorinox Fibrox series. Get a chef's knife/santoku and a paring knife, and if you take care of them they'll last ages.
Skeletorama
On the knife I am just going to echo Victorinox. Fantastic for the price. Not pretty but great to learn on.
Do not get one of those awful pull through sharpeners. You are starting with an affordable knife so you can learn on it, in more ways than one. If you plan to buy a decent knife down the road you will regret developing the dependency on a pull through sharpener.
Get yourself a wet stone and learn. A cheap two sided stone is a good starting point. Or one of the Lansky kits is a great start too. If you learn to maintain a cheap blade you won't be afraid to maintain an expensive one if you do eventually get one.
Basic tools, a nice sharp chef's knife, a whisk, spatula, Spider, a pastry cutter (That one does mashed potatoes too).
What would be essential for an aspiring baker who has to make due with a smaller then I would like kitchen
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Zmbi
A cast iron skillet is a good multi-tasker -- you can cook and bake lots of different things in it. It's a heavy piece but I think quite invaluable in a small kitchen.
Zmbi
Minimal setup: flat scale, a set of at least 3 stackable bowls (stainless steel), half sheet pans (at least 2), rolling pin (no handles), balloon whisk, spatula.
Get a simple, accurate to 1g, tare-capable, metric-capable scale. You need exact measurements, and tare allows you to zero the container out. Bread and professional measurements are given as ratios (baker percentages) and it's easier to do ratio math in metric. Make sure you can see the read out if a bowl is on the scale. Flat so it stores easy (vertically even).
Recommending stainless steel bowls since it is ovensafe (e.g., timballo) and will take a beating. Why 3 minimum? Baking often requires preparing dry and wet ingredients separately, and the third is for whisking eggs and holding other miscellanea. You'll probably want even more bowls to hold individual ingredients for mise-en-place, material is less important here. Stackable so they take less space to store.
Jelly roll pans are simply smaller sheet pans but they are variable-sized. Sheet pans are standardized so you can fit cooling racks and silpats in them. They are versatile, as they can double for roasting veggies or simply supporting ramekins. You want a rolled-edge (less likely to warp) 18-gauge (lower is thicker, less likely to warp) stainless steel half sheet pan since they are literally half (18"x13") the size of a sheet pan (18"x26"). Why 2? You can bake two sheets at a time, or bake one while prepping the next one.
A cooling rack so stuff doesn't get soggy with condensation. And it'll fit in a half sheet pan for storage, since you're storing the half sheet pans anyway.
Plain wood rolling pin for rolling out dough. Handles just get in the way and take up space; yeah, you basically want a dowel (note that hardware store dowels may be treated with chemicals that aren't foodsafe). Like xylian said you can get a smaller one that suits your space.
If you have room for only one whisk then a balloon whisk will whip egg whites to peaks very quickly, and break up flour/sugar clumps well enough to not require a flour sifter (and it's debatable if a sifter is even necessary compared to whisking).
Silicone spatula to scrape stuff, fold ingredients in. It's more versatile than a bowl scraper.
What I didn't list:
A mixer. If you don't have room for a stand mixer then you simply do it by hand. You can make a NY-style cheesecake with a bowl and whisk. It will take longer and you will have sore arms, but it's possible. I do suggest an electric hand mixer for less dense things, as well as dough hooks. But again, you can do all of this by hand. You'll know if you want to dedicate the room for one quickly enough.
Silpats. They fit perfectly in a half sheet pan but honestly never use it for baking traditional things where I want the heat of the sheet to transfer. There are fun applications for a bakeable non-stick surface like Mango Chili Leather http://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/mango-chili-leather/ but consider it also for quick cleanup when working with sticky dough. Easier to bring it to the trash or sink than to clean a stationary surface. Also, very easy to store. I roll mine around my rolling pin.
Pastry/dough scraper. You may want this but it depends on what you're making.
Bread pans, springform pans, Bundt cake pans, other vessels. I don't know what you're making and these take up significant storage space. I bake breads that need a form in a Dutch oven, and I make quickbreads in standard stainless steel pans. Though I tend to gravitate toward breads that don't need a form.
How to clean a metal sieve/strainer with fine holes? I want to say its not as important since when we strain the food, its usually in hot water anyways but sometimes that water can be pasta water with oil, seasoning etc.
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eric.lim
I usually brush mine with a bristly bottle cleaner and warm soapy water after soaking.
eric.lim
High pressure water is usually really good at cleaning. You don't need a pressure washer, but if you can block a portion of the spout of your sink with your thumb or something to decrease the aperture so it sprays harder, that might help. (think putting your thumb over a hose to increase how far it shoots)
How do you store flour? In plastic, glass or aluminium containers?
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Tesshan
Ball jars.
Tesshan
Cambro food storage containers. Restaurant supply stores are your friend.
What are the best type of pots and pans for a glass cooktop?
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Would the glass being heated have any effect on it's hardness?
namhod
I significantly doubt it unless you're getting over 800 degrees on your stovetop (if its a residential unit, almost guaranteed not). You'd be rather lucky if an electric got over 500 degrees, 425-450 being commonly "High". The annealing temperature of most glass is in the range of 850–900 °F (454–482 °C). Even at the annealing temp, the glass still is too hard for significant external deformation without breaking.
What are your favorite gloves/mitts/etc for heat protection in the kitchen? Ideally I'm looking for something I can stick my hand into boiling water briefly to grab something, grab a 500 degree cast iron pan handle to move it, and pull a roast out of the oven all within a moment of each other. I'm thinking silicone is the way to go, but anyone have suggestions? Ideally they'll come between halfway up my forearm and my elbow.
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AngryAccountant
Look for the Orka silicone oven mitt. I bought a pair years ago and love them! Apparently some versions have cotton lining now, which seems weird to me - the unlined ones can be washed in the dishwasher if they get greasy. EDIT: The lining is removable and machine washable. I'd probably end up not using the lining, just to simplify.
https://www.webstaurantstore.com/3353/oven-mitts-gloves.html?vendor=Mastrad&gclid=Cj0KCQiA84rQBRDCARIsAPO8RFx4ktqx9MkYm4YSyURXjaKaDugDgiZjWWC9SRAka5muLldlyrMnaG0aAuYxEALw_wcB
AngryAccountant
I use tongs, cooking chopsticks, or a slotted spoon to get something out of hot water; it's a lot faster than putting on a glove. But if you must, obviously you need a waterproof mitt for that so silicone is the best choice.
Silicone varies in response to heat ranges. But many silicone oven mitts will top out at 450-480F. Just something to keep in mind.
Someone gifted me a pair of Ove Gloves and TBH they're great if I need the dexterity for some time. Like cloth mitts, you can't get them wet since water is an excellent heat conductor. But most often I use kitchen towels. They're faster and more accessible than mitts or potholders.
Unitasker tools: Love them? Hate them? Despise them like Alton:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgFeVlw2Ywg



I personally actually can't live without a few specific unitaskers.. the main one is cherry pitter (I hate olives, so it really is a unitasker).
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bradr
Cherry potter, and strawberry corer. Want to know what can do both, and be used for drinks?
A sturdy straw.
bradr
Hate em, but BBQ claws are not a unitasker. Useful for lifting roasts and such, as well as tossing salads.
This is a pretty common question but I'd like to ask this on behalf of young adults starting out. What are the essential kitchen tools every aspiring chef must have?
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drakeonyou
Aspiring cooks have greater flexibility. Aspiring chefs should focus on the tools commonly found in restaurant kitchens.
My advice would be to make some friends at culinary school as well as restaurants. They would be able to direct you towards tools that chefs should be familiar with.
Although very great at home, I doubt restaurants use cast-iron nor enameled cast-iron dutch ovens/skillets much. Some skillet designs also work better for flipping.
Even basic non-slip Forschner knives are hugely popular among chefs..
As an aspiring home cook, I have gone through a barrage of tools. I've gotten rid of most items and have been mixing and matching tools to fit my small apartment kitchen and cooking preferences.
Good luck.
drakeonyou
I've just come across this information while digging for myself. Hope this is helpful. https://www.baconscouts.com/2015/11/a-basic-guide-to-pots-and-pans/
What's the best torch for baking? Thinking along the lines of creme brulee, etc.
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Burkyboy
I have an Iwatani butane Torch that I would heartily recommend in the kitchen. Unlike the little creme brulee/cigar torch things, this has the same size flame nozzle as the propane torch in my garage, but it uses Butane that is made to be used on food. If you buy the torch on Amazon, they're inexpensive, and the hairspray size fuel cans last a LONG time.
Pequenininho
2nd this. And you can buy the butane canisters at any Asian market for about $2/can.
I had a small one from Tupperware and it was working just fine. :)
What's your favorite funnel?
I recently got 2 of the collapsible ones from crate&barrel and freaking love them! Don't take up any room and really convenient once you remember you have them lol
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You are an inspiration! Thank you for the detailed info. It makes me even more excited to give it a try :)
I think I have this same one. It's thick steel, all one piece with no welds? I like it because it's easy to clean, very durable and I don't think it will ever rust or get gross. I also have a canning funnel (wide opening) that is really handy for sous vide when packing plastic bags and keeping food from touching the edges.
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