Miscellaneous Equipment

 

Espresso coffee machine

Obviously, this is neither essential nor part of a batterie de cuisine for cooks, except that, if you’re slaving away in the kitchen, you deserve a really good cup of coffee now and then. The machine I have offers unashamed luxury. You can choose espresso, regular black or cappuccino, and the coffee comes in neat little capsules with lots of blends to choose from. When you have made the coffee, you just throw the capsules out, which means no messy washing-up, no coffee grounds, no plungers that get stuck halfway. (In contrast, cleaning the plunger-type coffee-makers is a nightmare).

Initially, this machine did seem quite expensive, particularly as the coffee has to be delivered. But, when I remember all the cold leftover coffee we used to throw away, I’m sure there is far less waste. The machine is easy to clean and has a transparent water chamber at the back that enables you to see quite clearly when it needs topping up. Because we live in a hard-water area, ours needed to be serviced after about a year and the company efficiently sent a special container to ship it back for servicing – so full marks for after-sales service. It is expensive, but when something really serves you well and gives so much pleasure to you and all those you serve coffee to, then, over a period of time, it's cheap at the price.

Tape measure

If a recipe stipulates the base measurement of a tin or dish, I can never be sure by guessing it, so I always have a tape measure handy.

Apple corer

A simple little tool that makes very quick work of removing the entire core, pips and all.

Cooking thermometers

Sometimes described as a sugar thermometer, these will save a great deal of agonising over whether the jam has reached a set. Such information is printed alongside the appropriate temperature on good kitchen thermometers.

A meat thermometer is a gadget inserted into a joint of meat to help you determine when a joint is ready. However, they can be fallible if they happen to touch and rest against a bone. 

Melon baller

Useful, not just for melon, but for scraping the centre out of an apple.

Ice-cream scoop

Gives you a beautifully rounded blob of ice cream in half a second.

Spoons

I'm afraid I can't accept the official version of spoons exemplified by sets of (usually) plastic spoons hanging on a metal ring because, one, they vary and, two, I think they're a bit on the mean side. I much prefer to use real tablespoons, dessertspoons and teaspoons. A point to remember is that two teaspoons equates to one dessertspoon, and two dessertspoons to one tablespoon. 

 

Bean slicer

Runner beans are my absolute favourite vegetable and when they’re sliced thinly with a slicer, they can be cooked until tender in a matter of moments.

Skewers

I'm always being asked what my favourite piece of cooking equipment is, and the answer is unequivocal: a small, flat skewer (I keep a whole bunch of them hanging near where I cook). It's the only way I can tell how my meat or fish is cooking, and whether, say, a cauliflower floret, a potato or a Brussels sprout is cooked. A very small, sharp paring knife will do the same job, but a skewer is better. This is an item I don’t think I could ever cook without.

Olive pitter 

Try to buy good-quality olives, and avoid the pitted ones, which are not the best. An olive pitter will make removing the stones yourself fairly quick and easy. 

 

What I think you don’t need

Because space is at a premium in any kitchen and everyone has some item of equipment that lurks unused, taking up precious space, now might be a good time to talk about what not to put on that wedding list.

Potato ricer

Because the potatoes get cold, and anyway, an electric hand whisk makes a better job of mashed potatoes.

Asparagus steamer

Why give it house room when an ordinary steamer does the job perfectly?

Fish kettle

Cooking fish slowly in kitchen foil produces moister flesh than poaching and the flavour isn’t all going into the water.

Canelle knife

Because a good potato peeler does the same job.

Piping bags

Simply because life is too short.

Ceramic baking beans

Thankfully, I have pioneered a way to pre-bake a crisp pastry case without them.


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