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HARDWARE for the KITCHEN

 
   

Baking pans are square or rectangular, straight-sided pans used for baking brownies, bar cookies, single-layer cakes and savory recipes such as lasagna and moussaka. A sturdy aluminum or dark metal pan conducts heat well.

Baking sheets are flat and resilient sheets of regular or nonstick aluminum or tinned steel, with a raised rim all around or just on one edge. Use for baking cookies and pastries; roasting chili peppers; toasting bread crumbs, nuts and coconut; shaping, transporting and baking pizza, and much more. Dark, heavy-duty metal sheets conduct heat well for faster, more even browning; the new, shiny, insulated sheets prevent thin or delicate cookies from browning too quickly.

Basting brushes are used for brushing oil, butter or glazes on meats or poultry before or during roasting or broiling; for spreading sauces or oil on pizza dough; or for basting foods as they marinate, grill or broil. Choose a sturdy, good-sized brush with well-attached, sterilized natural bristles made especially for food.

Bowls, in graduated sizes, are used for a variety of tasks from mixing salad dressing or dough to marinating meats to holding prepared ingredients. Choose sturdy, deep bowls made of earthenware, porcelain, plastic, glass or stainless steel. Lips and handles facilitate pouring. A heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water converts it to a double boiler.

Broiler pans with racks are usually supplied with home ovens by the manufacturer. The slotted rack that sits on the pan allows juices and fats to drip away from food as it broils and collect in the pan below.

Cake pans, used for baking layer and other kinds of cakes, may be round, square, rectangular, or even heart-shaped. Standard round pans are 8 and 9 inches in diameter with 1 1/2- to 2-inch sides; 10-by-3-inch pans are used for tortes and cheesecakes. Some have removable bottoms. Other common shapes and sizes: 15 1/2-by-10-by-1-inch baking sheet or jelly-roll pan; 8 or 9 inches square with 2-inch sides; 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Choose good-quality heavy metal pans. If using black steel or dark anodized aluminum, which absorbs heat faster, you may have to reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Charcoal grills are ideally deep fire pans with domed covers, with both parts vented for temperature control. Such kettle-shaped grills permit long, slow, indirect-heat cooking of larger items, as well as faster, direct-heat grilling. You'll find them in a range of sizes from small to large.

Cheesecloth is used in double thickness for straining fine particles from stocks or cooking liquids. It is also used for wrapping fish for poaching to ease lowering it into and removing it from the cooking liquid, and for forming a bouquet garni or spice sachet. A coffee filter can sometimes be used instead for straining.

Colanders are used for washing or draining all kinds of vegetables and fruits, beans or pasta or for straining solids from stock. Choose stainless steel; enameled-steel colanders are also a good choice.

Graters/shredders are sturdy, hand-held stainless-steel tools with holes for grating or shredding cheese, vegetables, ginger, chocolate or citrus zest. A box grater is four-sided: use the sharp-edged large holes to shred softer cheeses like Cheddar or mozzarella or vegetables such as carrots, potato or zucchini; the small holes with sharp teeth to grate hard cheese; the fine holes for grating zest or ginger; and the wide, sharp slots for slicing soft cheese or vegetables. With the turn of a crank, a rotary grater transforms nuts or chunks of hard cheese or chocolate into fine particles.


Knives vary depending upon use. An 8- or 10-inch all-purpose chef's knife chops, minces, dices and slices quickly and efficiently. A 10-inch slicing knife with a long, flexible blade is best for cutting thin slices with minimal friction. Specific slicing knives, called carving knives, are made for slicing roasts and have slightly less flexible blades. A long, sturdy, serrated knife is used for slicing whole loaves of bread; neatly cutting cakes in half horizontally for layering with frostings or fillings; and slicing biscotti before their final baking. A 3- to 4-inch paring knife serves general cutting needs, including peeling vegetables and cutting up small ingredients. Keep all knives sharp for best results; a dull knife tends to slip and cut you rather than the food. Table knives, often sold as part of an everyday flatware set, can be used for spreading icing or preserves, or for cutting through very soft foods.

Measuring cups are indispensable for accurate measuring of dry and liquid ingredients. In graduated sizes, metal or plastic dry-measuring cups are flat-bottomed with flat edges. For measuring liquids, choose heavy-duty heat-resistant glass marked in cups and fluid ounces. Lips and handles ensure easy pouring.

Measuring spoons usually come in linked sets with sizes ranging from 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. Metal or plastic spoons made with deep bowls and marked on the handle with the measurement provide both durability and accuracy.

Pastry bags and tips, composed of either plastic-lined cloth or all-plastic bags and stainless-steel or plastic tips, enable easy, accurate piping of meringue, whipped cream or other toppings, fillings, decorative icings, or soft cookie or pastry doughs. Choose larger bags, which are easier to fill and handle. Tips come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, each designed to achieve a different decorative effect. A plain tip and a star tip will accomplish most simple decorating jobs. If you do not have a pastry bag, a plastic storage bag with the corner snipped off can be substituted in some recipes.

Pastry blenders, are used for cutting butter or shortening into flour when making pastry dough by hand. Two knives or forks can also be used.

Saucepans may be tall and narrow or wide and shallow, in sizes ranging from 1 to 4 quarts. Use saucepans for making soups, sauces and small quantities of stock, and for cooking vegetables, grains and beans. Select a good-quality, heavy pan that absorbs and transfers heat well, such as one made of anodized aluminum, aluminum bonded to stainless steel, tin- or stainless-steel lined copper, enameled cast iron, or stainless steel with aluminum or copper bonded to the bottom.

Sauté pans are ideal for quickly browning pieces of meat or other ingredients. Select a well-made heavy metal pan. Be sure it is large enough to hold food in a single layer without crowding. Straight sides help contain splattering and accommodate pan sauces; a close-fitting lid seals in moisture when ingredients are simmered. Frying pans, with sloped sides, can be used interchangeably with sauté pans in most recipes, except where a significant amount of liquid is added to the pan.

Sieves, fine or coarse wire-mesh strainer baskets, are used for sieving sauces, straining stocks, draining boiled vegetables or beans, rinsing rice or removing solids from stock. In conjunction with a rubber spatula, a sieve can also be used to press soft foods into a purée while straining out seeds and skin.

Sifters, with a crank or pressure handle and fine-mesh screen, give a uniform consistency to flour for even blending. They may also be used for sifting together dry ingredients or for dusting desserts with confectioners' sugar. A fine-mesh sieve tapped against a hand can substitute for a sifter.

Skewers, available in stainless steel, wood or bamboo, hold together small pieces of food during grilling or broiling. Slender ones can also be used for inserting into cakes and baked goods to test doneness. Before using for cooking, soak wood and bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.

Slotted spoons with slotted bowls are good for all-purpose stirring or for simultaneously transferring and straining ingredients. Large spoons with solid bowls are ideal for mixing or transferring portions of food.

Spatulas, essentially extensions of your hand, come in several sizes, shapes and materials. For folding, mixing, scraping and smoothing batters or for blending sauces or purées, choose sturdy, pliable rubber or silicone heads. A large rubber or wood scoop is good for heavy batters or doughs. A narrow-bladed metal icing spatula neatly spreads frostings, glazes or other toppings. One with a wide metal head flips pancakes or sautés with ease. For moving and turning food on the grill, choose sturdy spatulas with long wooden handles and durable stainless-steel blades.


Stockpots, tall, deep, large-capacity pots with close-fitting lids, have many uses: making stock, poaching whole chickens, boiling or braising large cuts of beef, steaming or simmering shellfish, or cooking large quantities of stews, soups, pasta or vegetables. Choose a good-quality, heavy pot that absorbs and transfers heat well, and has at least an 8-quart capacity.

Whisks, also known as pastry whisks, with their open wire beaters made of stainless steel, are used for beating eggs or cream, blending liquids before incorporating them into batters, stirring smooth or creamy sauces and custards, or whisking salad dressings. A balloon whisk, with its widely spread wires and bulbous shape, is used for beating maximum air into egg whites.

Wooden spoons are ideal for stirring everything from cake batters and cookie doughs to sauces, soups and stews. As wood does not conduct heat, this type of spoon stays comfortably cool in a hot mixture. Wooden spoons are also useful for pressing purées through sieves. Choose good-quality spoons with sturdy handles.

 
   

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