Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Favourite Kitchen Toys

I'm sure every cook has things they couldn't bear to be without - and depending what you cook and how you cook these will vary. I thought I'd show you a few of the bits and pieces I use all the time - most of my key gear is pretty basic, which I think is good - I'd rather have less clutter in my teeny cupboards!

For everyday cooking, we have a cast iron pot that ends up being used for almost every meal. It was $50 from Farmers - go the no-name brand (while I would love Le Creuset I am just not committed enough to pay hundreds of dollars for one pot) - and serves us well. Only problem; it's not big enough! I often wish for a larger version, for when we're making chilli or other meals we make go a long way. And sadly apparently budget cast iron cookware is hard to find in gargantuan proportions.

As well as a few regular saucepans, which are mostly used for rice and pasta (or when we're too lazy to clean the still-dirty cast iron from the previous day!), we have a non-stick frypan, which is perfect for healthy stir fry meals, browning off anything, and pancakes and omelettes. At this point we just buy cheapies and replace them every year or so, but I am tempted by the spiel of things like stoneware as a long-term solution - have you tried stoneware, or something else that doesn't lose its non-stickness? Does it live up to the hype?

Baking wise, I have a largish stack of bowls (fortuitously, since they're mismatched, they all nest neatly) - mostly glass, in varying sizes, but one stainless steel one (good for whipping up egg whites - they do get fluffier faster in stainless steel) and a Tupperware one. It was pretty pricey (about $70, if I remember correctly) but its big draw is that it has splashguard lid - basically a lid with a hole in the middle - which is fantastic if you're trying to beat anything prone to splashing, like, say, cake batter - I clean specks of butter off the wall far less often now I have it. ;-)

I also love my handheld electric beater - while stand mixers are fantastic, in a small apartment I reckon this is better solution - and unless you keep your stand mixer on the bench all the time it's much easier for most things anyway - and gives me better control over my batter. I have thrashed mine - it's a bit over a year old but I'd say I've probably aged it about 10 years in that time. ;-)

In the appliance category I also have a Braun stick blender, which I use most often with its mini food processor - impressively grunty for a wee thing, it grinds nuts, pulverises chickpeas for felafel, and even managed to blend a cinnamon stick into powder for me once, when I was desperate!

For measuring I can't go past my scales - they are used several times a week and I'd be perfectly happy if all recipe quantities were in grams, as I often plonk the bowl on top and just tare the scales off between additions (actually, I often just do the addition in my head but that has resulted in near disaster more than once - living on the edge?). For when I need teaspoon measures I have a few options - for teaspoons and tablespoons I like my regular measuring spoons, but the big red spoon (actually measures 100ml) is pretty good for dolloping batter into cupcake papers. The shot glass measure is ideal if I need, say, a couple of tablespoons of oil or some other liquid - much easier to handle than a spoon. 

For cleaning the bowl I quite like my Tupperware spatula - again, pricey compared with most - $30 - but it is firmer and gets all the batter out of the bowl (much to Mr Cake's dismay!). It also seems to be standing the test of time better than the Briscoes silicone equivalent, though sadly being silicone doesn't get the lifetime guarantee of other Tupperware stuff.

Last, but definitely not least, and probably the only unusual thing on the list - my kitchen computer! Made from my old laptop, pulled apart and reassembled in a neat wooden slot purpose-made by my dad, it's my main recipe source these days. I do use recipe books too - but more often bake straight from online sources, either other blogs or recipes I've already written up.

What couldn't you live without in your kitchen - and do you have lots of toys and gadgets, or do you prefer to keep it simple?


  1. I have to admit that the iPad I treated myself to is mostly used in the kitchen. It's often covered in flour or splatters of cake batter. Doesn't seem to have affected it at all.

    My favourite pieces of cookware are my Scanpan saucepan set. (Treated myself to a set when Briscoes had them 60% off). Also my Scanpan knives are lovely.

    Oh, and my old Breville skillet. Handle precariously loose. Bread and butter plate sized. Bought for a bargain from The Warehouse many many moons ago. It's non-stick still works even with all the scratches. It's my old faithful and I love it.

  2. I'm glad you posted this! I've been wanting a Le Creuset for what feels like yeeears. Lately I've been wondering if a cheaper less known/no name brand would be just as good. Good to know they are! No more waiting for Le Creuset to come on sale. :-)

  3. Kitchen computer!! But yes, it would be very practical, saving on having to copy out recipes all the time...I have a couple of really good smallish silicone spatulas that are firm enough to beat cake batter together - I use them all the time in baking. I also love my Victorinox knives, they're really cheap but deadly sharp!

  4. Kaz, our camera ends up like that - encrusted with sugar, smeared with goo... I have read that the iPad works through snaplock bags, so if you want to protect it you can pop it in one and use as normal, then just remove afterwards.

    Shirleen, I reckon the budget version is a much better buy - it might not last as long but I could buy six of mine before a Le Creuset became better value!

    Laura, good spatulas are a mighty tool. And whoever decided floppy ones were useful should be shot (okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, Fridayitis is getting the better of me, but still).

  5. I have stonewear pans from Farmers,they are excellent and a fraction of the price of the TV-advertised pans.From memory they were $20 to $40-ish each and have served me well.

    My most used and favourite kitchen appliance is my bench top Kenwood mini oven which I bought for around $200 and is used way more than the stove is.It has fan bake and fan grill options and is perfect for the two of us.

    I love my Breville stand mixer that whips up perfect pavs.But most used are probably an my mandoline and good old T-peeler for preparing veges.I used to buy the $4 plastic supermarket ones but upgraded to a stainless steel one from Moore Wilson as the others kept being thrown out with the vege peelings.

    A question for you Mrs Cake,did you do anything food-wise for The Wedding?

  6. Thanks Cheryl, that's good to know about the Stonewear pans. I don't think I'd be able to cope without a real oven but I appreciate I'm on the extreme end of the baking scale. ;-)

    We did go to a friend's place to watch the wedding, but we had a manic week and it was a bit last minute (we had already arranged to have dinner with other friends the same evening, nothing like keeping busy!) so our food offering to the gathering was some humble supermarket brandy snaps. How about you?


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