Cooking Tools & Techniques

Wednesday, 3 March 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

For our series Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag, we often need to do a little research into special kitchen tools or techniques required for a specific recipe. Though we can't always test everything on our show, here's what we've learned about these various kitchen tools.

Bain-Marie (technique)

  • A French term meaning “water bath”, the bain-marie cooking technique consists of placing a pan, bowl, or soufflé dish of food in a larger, shallow pan filled with warm water.

  • Used in an oven or on the stovetop, the water surrounding the food cooks it with gentle, even heat. It also helps keep prepared items warm.

  • The bain-marie technique is best suited for cooking delicate dishes such as custards, sauces, and mousses without breaking or curdling them.

Lobster Tools

  • When purchasing seafood tools for lobster and crab, you’ll need one utensil to crack the shell (the “cracker”), and another one to help you access the meat (the “fork”).

  • Purchase lobster crackers and forks with stainless steel heads. These will be most durable, rust-proof, and easiest to clean.

  • Eating lobster from the shell can be quite messy, so look for utensils with rubber or silicone-wrapped handles for extra grip.

  • Nutcrackers, and even small hammers, can take the place of lobster crackers and will do the trick if you have more people than tools.

  • True Maritimers will tell you to pack up the good tablecloth when preparing for a lobster feast. Instead, use a plastic table covering or even newspaper to protect your table. And have lots of napkins on hand!

Mason Jars

  • If you’re using mason jars to store fruit or preserves, purchase wide-mouth jars for easier access.

  • If you plan to freeze the contents in a mason jar, remember to leave a little space to allow for expansion.

  • In addition to canning, mason jars are a reusable, cheap, stackable, and resealable way to store dried beans, rice, herbs, and many other items. Even homemade dressings, soups, and sauces.

  • To get the best price, buy mason jars in bulk at the end of the canning season.

Pastry Scraper/Cutter

  • A pastry scraper/cutter offers a wide variety of uses, but is mainly designed to scrape and split bread dough as you work with it on a board.

  • It can also be used for crushing and chopping fruits or nuts, as well as cleaning your cutting board or prep area.

  • Some pastry scrapers can even be used for measuring. Look for one with inch increments imprinted on the blade for easy division of cookie or pastry dough.

  • Most scrapers are made of stainless-steel or polypropylene which makes them dishwasher safe.

  • Look for one with a wide, comfortable nonslip rubber handle which makes it comfortable to hold and easy to grip.

Pizza Stone

  • A pizza stone is used in a regular home oven to distribute heat evenly across the base of your pizza, as well as extract moisture so that your crust is nice and crispy.

  • The best pizza stones are generally porous terracotta or ceramic – just make sure you buy one that is unglazed.

  • The porousness of the stone means that it will absorb the taste of other materials such as soap and oil, which means that you should never wash a pizza stone with soap. When the stone has cooled, simply remove bits of food with a scraper, rinse in warm water, and wipe down with a clean cloth.

  • To avoid breakage, place your pizza stone in a cold – never preheated – oven and preheat the pizza stone and oven at the same time.

Potato Ricer

  • A potato ricer is similar in appearance to a large garlic press and can be used on more than just potatoes.

  • If you’ll be using it to mash firmer vegetables or fruits like potatoes, squash, or apples (to make applesauce), look for a ricer made of stainless steel rather than tin or aluminum. Stainless steel is durable, hygienic, and rust-proof.

  • Choose a ricer that offers more than one size of mashing plate to yield different thicknesses and consistencies.

  • Look for a ricer that has padded or silicone-wrapped handles for comfortable and slip-free usage.

Propane Torch (mini, kitchen-size)

  • The best tool to caramelize the sugared top of a crème brûlée, or to blacken the skin of a red bell pepper, is a propane-fueled kitchen torch.

  • The goal of a reliable torch is to intensely heat an item of food without cooking the inside of it, so look for one that is easy to light and, more importantly, stays lit during use.

  • If possible, test the flame on any torch you’re considering buying. It should be intense, concentrated, and controllable.

  • The torch should also be easy to handle and store, and should have a childproof safety lock on it.

Sausage Stuffer

  • When purchasing a sausage stuffer, look for one that will meet your needs.

  • If you are only going to be making sausages a few times, opt for a smaller, less expensive stuffer. One that holds 2½ pounds of meat should work fine.

  • If you are planning on making larger quantities of sausages, purchase a stuffer that can hold more than 10-15 pounds of meat. This way you can have enough for your meal and freeze the rest to use when you are pressed for time.

  • Most sausage stuffers indicate the amount of meat it can accommodate: 5, 10, 15, or 20 pounds are common capacities found in home stuffers.

  • Look for a stuffer that comes apart and is easy to clean. The more parts and seams it contains, the more chance bacteria will build up in the crevices and adjoining parts.

Springform Pan

  • A standard springform pan has a round, waffle-textured base and an interlocking band about 2-3” high that forms sides that open and close with the flick of a latch.

  • A traditional springform pan is round, though you can also find square, rectangular, and specialty shapes in kitchen supply stores.

  • Like any bakeware, look for one made of anodized aluminum or heavy-gauge steel, with a non-stick coating for extra cooking ease.

  • To prevent leaks when baking, wrap the bottom and sides of your springform pan in two layers of aluminum foil, or place a cookie sheet underneath the pan (or the rack below it) to catch any drips.

  • Whether you wash your springform pan by hand or in the dishwasher, disassemble it first to ensure the crevices get clean.

  • Be sure the latch area is dry to avoid rust, then reassemble the pan before storing to help it keep its shape.

Tequila Glasses

  • Never sip tequila from a shot glass!

  • To enjoy a really good tequila, it’s important to have the right glass, just like the proper wine glass helps you truly enjoy the aromas and overtones of the grape.

  • A tequila glass made by Riedel, in the Riedel Ouverture Bar Collection, was designated the Official Tequila Glass by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila.

    • Designed to maximize the flavour and enjoyment of fine tequilas, the slender glass is 8¼” high with a capacity of 6¾ ounces.

    • A set of four is about $50 and is available at department and upscale liquor stores.



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