Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tools of the Trade - Cook Like a Chef

Cooks Tools

So many times I overhear our students say, “wow! This is so much easier – these knives are so sharp!” Often, people avoid cooking because cooking can be a lot of work, yielding average results when you don’t have the right pieces of equipment. Worse, allowing your equipment to go into disrepair, which happens almost exclusively with the cutlery that people buy because they don’t know how to care for it.

I am often asked by students which types of knives to buy, if they should splurge on a really expensive set of pans, and why certain pieces of cooking equipment are so expensive. I’ve been answering this question for over 15 years.

One of my first jobs was as a sales clerk at a very high-end kitchenwares store. I started working there in high school and stayed in their employ until I went to culinary school. People would come in and browse the toasters, marveling at their very expensive price tag. “Why would I spend so much on a toaster/blender/food processor?”

It was then that I had the opportunity to teach people about the very important difference between price and cost. Paying more for quality, better functionality, or more efficient design often means that in the long run, you won’t have to replace your equipment as often.

My mother has had the same Kitchen Aid stand mixer since I was in high school, over 15 years ago. For my high school graduation, some very generous friends gave me a gift certificate that I used to buy a Kitchen Aid food processor, and the motor still runs like a dream. My food processor is over 12 years old. I paid $150 for it. Cost per year is about $10. For a piece of equipment that produces excellent results, time after time, and makes cooking easier, I suggest that such an expenditure is a good investment.

Wouldn’t we all like to go on a shopping spree and fill our kitchens with the little tools and gadgets that make our culinary efforts more enjoyable? I know I could easily and very happily spend about $5000 on some really nice things in no time at all! Truth be told – maybe even $10,000 if I were shopping for a grill too! But the truth is, when it comes to kitchen gadgets and equipment, there are three basic categories.

Essential: Essential kitchen items are the items that you must invest in to see the best results and, most importantly, will aide in proper cooking technique. Knives, an excellent quality food processor, etc.

Nice-to-have, but not essential: This category is for the appliances and tools that would be nice to have, but you could make do without them. An example of this would be a Vita Mix blender or a certain mixing attachment.

Unneccessary, Non-sensical and downright ridiculous: Onion goggles and their ilk. I am amazed at the idea of such ridiculous “tools”. As someone who has worked in the unruly and impolite world of professional cooking, my advice to you is that you should avoid such outrageous gadgets. If it were me, I would take this into consideration: if you were working in a professional kitchen, anything that would indicate that you are no match for some sulfurous onions or shallots would invite an embarrassing string of events to which you would want no part of, and should be avoided.

Just sayin.

My goal as an educator and writer is to discuss the basic foundations of good cooking, and selecting the proper tools and appliances are necessary to make good tasting and properly cooked food. In tandem, caring for these items is also very necessary. Don’t invest and then neglect.

If you would like to learn more about the types of tools you need to have, how to care for them, AND have a chance to use them yourself, sign up for our class “Cooks Tools” at the Mirepoix Cooking School. The class is April 3. In this hands-on class, you will have the opportunity to cook with the appliances that we deem essential and decide if they are right for you.

Also, be sure to tune in to Channel 7 WXYZ this Sunday morning between 8 & 9 am to watch my cooking segment. I will be demonstrating a tool that I really like called “The BeaterBlade”.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting such a useful, impressive and a wicked article./Wow.. looking good!
Kitchen Equipment

August 21, 2011 at 8:29 PM 

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