Category Archives: Food and Drink

How to Choose Kitchen Electrical Equipment

You can cope in the kitchen without a single electrical gadget. However, there are some kitchen appliances that are not only very useful, but will also take a lot of the time and effort out of routine and repetitive kitchen tasks. Like many electrical products, it does not often pay in the long run to buy the cheapest you can find. It may not last very long, it is usually underpowered and it is often incredibly difficult to get repaired or to find spare parts. Watch out for them in the sales and then decide to invest.

How to Choose Kitchen Electrical Equipment How to Choose Kitchen Electrical Equipment

Kettle

One of the biggest problems with kettles is that we tend to overfill them. Buy one that shows you how much water is inside, so you only ever boil what you need. It is also worth buying a cordless kettle. This makes life far easier and allows you to move the kettle to where you are working if you need freshly boiled water for your food. Rapid-boil kettles can boil two cups of water in less than 60 seconds, but this is not really essential. Although it depends on taste, stainless steel kettles are often easier to maintain and keep clean. You will get a limescale buildup, so make sure that the water filter near the spout is regularly cleaned and use neat white vinegar, which you boil in the kettle, to de-scale it.

Microwave

For many households, microwaves revolutionized cooking. The first one was built in the US in 1947 and was massive. It cost US$5,000. Microwaves are certainly useful, although it has to be said they are not essential – despite the fact that many people would say they could not manage without one! Not only can they be used for cooking and steaming, but also for defrosting. They are great for reheating a second meal if you have cooked in bulk. They are also money-saving because of the reduction in cooking time and thus the amount of energy used.

Hand Blender

These are often known as stick blenders. Some come with whisk attachments and others have extra attachments that can rule out having to buy an electric whisk or a chopper. The cheap ones have less power and tend to wear out quite quickly. Hand blenders are great for:

  • soups, smoothies and milkshakes
  • whisking egg whites and cream
  • preparing baby foods or purees
  • fine chopping

Slow Cooker

Although these are not essential, they are brilliant labour-saving devices and allow you to make pot roasts, stews and other dishes. If you are a working couple, you can prepare your one-pot dish and then leave the slow cooker to do its work while you head off for yours. They come in a variety of sizes, from a capacity of 500 ml/18 fl oz/2 cups to 7 1/12 pt/7 qt. Slow cookers can have a number of temperature settings, from high to ‘keep warm’. They are safe to leave unattended all day or right through the night.

How to Choose Cookware and Bakeware

It will always be a matter of argument as to what is necessary and what is not necessary in a kitchen. You could probably get away with not buying some of the equipment we have listed here as being essential. But these are all useful, multipurpose, labour-saving devices that do not cost a fortune.

Cookware

Cookware includes all of your saucepans and frying pans, as well as oven dishes. If you are going to spend money on cookware, then really you need to buy the best that you can afford. The heavier the better, you want smooth bases and tight-fitting lids because this will mean that food will cook more evenly and more quickly than when using the cheaper cookware. You want tough and durable handles and, ideally, all your cookware should be capable of being put into the oven. This means it is even more multipurpose.

 How to Choose Cookware and Bakeware

Saucepans

A basic saucepan set should ideally consist of a small, medium and large saucepan, plus a lidless saucepan that you can use to make gravies and soups. A medium-sized pan is great for vegetables and rice and a small pan for heating up milk and boiling eggs. Your saucepans should last you for years. Try to go for nonstick coatings. Start off with a small collection of these four pans and add over time. Stainless steel handles are ideal because they are more durable and you can put them into the oven. Also try to find yourself a large casserole for soups, cooking pasta and making stews.

Frying Pans

A great multipurpose frying pan that can be used for sauteing, stir-fries, pancakes and omelettes is a standard medium size. Opt for a frying pan that has a lid as this will enable you to stop food from bubbling or spitting over your oven top and it speeds up the cooking time too.

Bakeware

You are going to want to be able to make cakes, roast things and bake pies and biscuits. So this means you will need a range of ovenproof tins and trays. You will get an enormous amount of use out of them. Once again, try to go for the best ones you can afford because the thinner, cheaper versions will tend to warp in the heat of the oven. If you can get tins with hardened nonstick surfaces, then these will be invaluable and should last for years. They are also much easier to clean.

Tins and Trays

You will need to buy yourself a large roasting tin. If you can get one with a lid, then all the better. You will be able to use this to cook joints of meat and poultry. You could also use it to bake vegetables and to poach fish. A large baking tray is also essential if you want to make biscuits, cook fish or oven-roast chips or fries. If you are intending to make your own bread, then a large baking tray would do, but you might want to have a loaf tin. Always make sure that your roasting tin in particular is not too wide for your oven. Check, too, that you can move the shelves to accommodate it once it has meat or poultry inside.

How to Choose Fresh Fish for Cooking

Fish is rich in protein. Oily fish, such as salmon, herring and mackerel, is rich in vitamins A and D. White fish has very little fat Canned fish is often packed in oil, which adds fat The tiny bones are actually soft enough to be eaten and they contain calcium and phosphorous. Many of the basic techniques we will talk about relate to fresh sea and freshwater fish, as these are often as cheap, if not cheaper, than frozen varieties.

How to Choose Fresh Fish for Cooking How to Choose Fresh Fish for Cooking

Spotting a Good Fish

These are points to look out for when buying fresh fish:

Texture: The flesh should be firm and not flabby.

Odour: No stale or unpleasant odour should be present.

Gills: These should be bright red in most varieties.

Eyes: The fish’s eyes should be bright and not sunken-in and dull.

Skin: The skin should be slimy, but not have a yellowish slime, as this shows the fish has begun to rot.

Buying Your Fish

Do not go out intending to buy a certain kind of fish. Buy what is in season and is plentiful and cheap. The price of fish varies even greater than most other types of food. Because it is so perishable, sometimes particular fish are very scarce and at other times there is far more available than can be sold. Go for smaller, younger fish. A flatfish, for example, should be thick in proportion to its size. Always choose a thick slice from a small fish rather than a thin slice from a larger one. This will mean that more of what you buy will be edible and not bone or waste.

Fresh Fish

Ideally, you should cook your fresh fish on the same day as you buy it. It quickly loses its freshness and flavor. If you are going to put it in your fridge, then make sure you cover it, otherwise it will taint the other food. If frozen fish has thawed out never refreeze it, so check whether the ‘fresh fish’ from the fishmonger, fish stall or grocery store is fresh or whether it has previously been frozen.

How to Choose Kitchen Measuring Tools

To get the best from any recipe you will need to be able to measure out the correct quantities of ingredients needed. So you will need measuring scales, jugs, cups and spoons in order to get the best results. It also means that you can use bulk ingredients, rather than buying more expensive packets that have the ingredients ready weighed for convenience.

How to Choose Kitchen Measuring Tools How to Choose Kitchen Measuring Tools

Scales

Digital scales will give you the most accurate results. Because you might be using recipes from the internet, or a book that has been written in a different country, it would also be handy to have a set of scales that can be switched between metric and imperial. If you can find a set that can also be reset once you have put a bowl or container on them, then this would be ideal and will avoid your having to recalculate each time.

Measuring Jugs

You could weigh liquids and convert them from weight to volume on a set of digital scales. But all you really need is a measuring jug with clearly marked metric and imperial quantities. Try to buy yourself a heavy-duty glass one. These are capable of withstanding very hot liquids and will not discolor. You will also be able to use it in the microwave if you have one. Go for the 2-1/3 pt version if you are planning to cook in bulk.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

If you live in the US, you will probably measure your ingredients in cups. It is handy to have a full set of measuring cups and millilitre-size mini pans for measuring out those tricky fractions, quarter and half-cup amounts. And everyone should have a set of measuring spoons. You will have noticed that in many of the recipes in this book, there are teaspoon (tsp) or tablespoon (tbsp) measurements. Remember that a ‘tablespoon’ is bigger than a ‘dessert spoon’. Ideally, you will not rely on your table cutlery because these may not be accurate – everyone’s teaspoons can differ in size – you can buy a plastic, double-ended measuring spoon, which will be far more accurate.

How to Choose the Best Places to Shop for Groceries

It can be daunting; there are wholesalers, cash and carry, hypermarkets, superstores, outdoor and indoor markets, convenience stores, discount superstores and online stores. Expect to see the best-known brands in most of these, but between these smart displays of household names there are brands you may never have heard of and they are just as good. The more you look, the more you will find and the more options, the greater the chance to save money.

How to Choose the Best Places to Shop for Groceries How to Choose the Best Places to Shop for Groceries

Superstores

For most people, the superstore is the major place for the monthly and weekly shops. There is a bewildering range of products available. There are luxury brands, regular day-to-day brands, and discount brands, like the store’s own label products. Many of them are now offering ‘real value’ brands. Some of them can easily compete with the wholesalers and with the discounters’ prices, but shop selectively and do not get sucked in. Use the choice they offer to your advantage:

  • Top brand names: Buy brands if you have coupons or they are on special offer.
  • Other brands: Buy lesser-known brands if they offer better value.
  • Own brand: Buy unbranded or the supermarket’s own brands if they are staples.
  • ‘Basic’ lines: Do buy ‘real value’ brands as they can save you a lot – but do not buy them in bulk until you have tried them and checked out their quality.

Wholesalers

Some wholesalers do not welcome consumers. But most of them are not foolish enough to turn away a sale. You may need to buy a case of canned tomatoes or a dozen bottles of olive oil. If you are going to be using them anyway and the price is right why not buy them in bulk? Getting them home is an issue but consider that you may not have to buy any more for a year. A great way to shop and save at wholesalers is to buy a case and split it with friends or family. That way, the savings are shared and they can make the bulk purchase next time to share with you.

Discount Stores

Discount stores are full of products that you have either never heard of or are well-known brands that are overstocked. They want you to buy in bulk. They reward you for buying in bulk. The choices might not be as great as a regular store, but that is not the point. This is where to buy your staples once a month. It is also a great way to practically downshift. If you have been buying branded goods, why not downshift to a cheaper brand? We look at practical downshifting when we see how to get the best prices.

Markets

Indoor and outdoor fresh-produce markets offer an exciting but enticingly different way of shopping. Most neighbourhoods have markets, either weekday ones or at the weekend. One of the best times to hit these markets is towards the end of trading. The stallholders will not be looking forward to boxing up their displays and carrying them to their trucks and vans. They may be happy to do a deal. This is a discount paradise and a great way to buy your healthy fresh fruit and vegetables. Market stalls will also have discounted brand names and other brands you may never have heard of with canned, bottled or other items with long ‘use by’ dates. These are overstocks too, and can often be real bargains.

Convenience Stores

Your local convenience store cannot possibly compete with the discounters, either on price or on range available. But this does not mean that they will not have bargains. Do not use convenience stores for your regular weekly shops, but be prepared to step inside and see if they have special offers and promotions that even the big stores cannot match. Do not forget the other major advantage – they are not called convenience stores for nothing; getting to them may not cost you anything, so the odd penny or cent here and there may not matter.

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