Maybe you're just setting up a new home, maybe you're moving to a smaller place or maybe your kitchen drawers have become so cluttered over the years that you have to think of throwing a few things out in order to even get them open. Whatever the reason, giving a bit of thought to what really is essential in the kitchen can really pay dividends.
The tools you choose must firstly reflect your way of life – do you live alone or have a large family, do you love cooking and throwing a party, do you like plain food or are you someone who loves experimenting. At the end of the day though everyone needs to cook at some point so consider the basics then build on these according to your lifestyle.
A small selection of good, sharp knives should probably be your starting point and top of this list would be a cook's knife which can be used for cutting, chopping and dicing everything from large lumps of meat to small fruit and vegetables and even herbs. Cook's knives come in a variety of lengths but a blade of about 20/25 cms is probably the most useful. Next you could choose a paring knife with a blade of about 10 cms to peel and slice fruit and vegetables. You will also need a couple of serrated edged knives – a bread knife and a smaller tomato or sandwich knife which is ideal for slicing anything, such as a tomato, which has a tough exterior and a soft centre. Finally, you'll need something to keep your straight edged knives sharp – a steel or a knife sharpener. With these four knives you can probably cover most of the jobs in the kitchen so after that it is up to you – grapefruit knives, oyster knives, filleting knives – the choice is yours but better to have a small number of really good, sharp knives which will last, than a drawer full of blunt instruments which all make food preparation a chore.
Next comes your collection of pans. For everyday use one good sized stainless steel pan and one smaller one are invaluable. Add a frying pan and you've probably covered the absolute essentials. With these you can boil pasta, rice, potatoes and other vegetables, create casseroles, boil milk, make sauces, tuck into a delicious English breakfast and make a stir fry. However, add a proper casserole dish, perhaps of cast iron, which can also be used for pot roasts, and a small non-stick pan for milk, sauces and scrambled egg and you really have got the basics covered. Then it's up to you to decide what else to add – a steamer insert could be a wonderful addition or perhaps a pressure cooker or large pasta pot.
Kitchen tools and utensils can be a tricky area and often the main culprits when it comes to cluttering up the kitchen drawer with things that are rarely used. Everyone needs a good can opener and some scissors, preferably a couple of wooden spoons, a grater, a colander, a sieve and a potato masher but if you don't like mangoes it's not really worth buying a mango splitter (although they can be very useful to mango lovers!). Other tools which I use practically every day are a garlic crusher and a vegetable peeler. They make my life easier but you could do the same job with a good knife.
What else do you need? A good chopping board, a roasting dish, a baking tray, a whisk, a mixing bowl, some scales, a measuring jug and a pepper mill are all items that I would consider fairly essential. Of course, you are probably reading this, because you are a keen cook so there will be many more things that could be 'essential' to you. If baking is what you love you'll probably have an array of cake, bread and tart tins – maybe even a Madeleine mould or a Battenberg tin. If Eastern cooking is your thing – you'll have a pestle and mortar for grinding spices, maybe a tagine and a wok and a beautiful set of spice containers. None of these are essentials but if they give you pleasure and you use them regularly you can legitimately consider them an 'essential'.
Finally – is a salamander essential in the kitchen and what is it? Well, it's similar to a branding iron and is used to brown or caramelize the surface of individual dishes such as crème brulee. Most people would use a cook's blow torch these days!
Article courtesy of Salamander. Salamander has been one of Britain's leading cookshops since 1993. Their philosophy is to bring you the best kitchen equipment – quality cookware, bakeware, knives, mills and other kitchen utensils and accessories – from around the world.