Before we can get cooking we need to make sure we have the tools to get the job done. How are your pots and pans? How about your knives? If I had a FAQ section here, I bet knives and pots/pans would be the top two.
A good basic knife kit will include a paring knife, chef's knife, bread knife, carving knife, fillet knife and a sharpening steel. I would never talk someone out of a good knife set, but let's face it, most of these will sit in the block or in the drawer.
If you buy whole cuts of meat or whole chicken in order to break it down to smaller pieces or legs, thighs and breast you probably won't need the whole kit. Remember you can always add new knives.
I recommend a good chef's knife and a good paring knife. Here is what to look for:
- Hold the knife in your hand. The grip should be comfortable and sit well in your hand.
- Look for steel. This is the working material of the knife. You want a single piece of steel all the way through the grip.
- Weight. This goes back to #2, but more steel the better.
- Balance. An even weight from front to back. Hold the knife where the blade and grip meet. The knife should feel equally balanced.
- Blade. For a quality chef's knife or paring knife you want a non-serrated blade. Serrated blades are good for bread knives, but not good for chopping, slicing or fine dicing.
Pots and Pans:
Just like knives, pots and pans come in all prices and qualities. Whether you are upgrading or adding to your cooking arsenal first do an inventory of what you have and more importantly want you want to keep.
Questions to consider:
- What do you usually cook?
- Consider your cook top. Induction, Gas or Smooth Top Ranges will require different types of materials and bottoms. Most cookware now comes with markings and logos to let you know which surfaces the product is recommended for.
- In line with #3 is how do you cook. Do you fry? Do you sear a piece of meat and then finish in the oven? If so you will need to pay attention to the handles and the lids.
- If you are going to use your pots and pans for both stove top and oven, make sure the product is oven safe. A word of caution here: Some products are labeled oven safe, but are only good to under 350 degrees. Most oven ready pots and pans have all metal parts.