The Daily Norm, or is it the Normal Day?

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We hear a lot of home cooks talking (and even bragging) about all their gear. Manufacturers of kitchen equipment for the home are all too familiar with the public’s need to keep up with the Joneses, whether it be big purchase items like homes and cars, or who has the most current Immersion Circulator. First, Bluetooth, then wifi, then who knows what bell and whistle might be added.

But people that have spent their lifetimes in kitchens can do quite well without access to the fancy stuff, like bread makers, slicers, coffee grinders, etc. Given a variety of foods in most of the colors, I can usually satisfy my creative urges with just a few basic tools.

  • Knife, fork, and spoon. These three things have myriad uses to any cook, not to mention the fact that, come time to eat, nobody comes to the table without them.
  • Sharp knife. Medium size, or whatever.
  • Chef’s forks have fallen from favor and been replaced by sturdy tongs, which are admittedly easier to use to perform the same basic functions. I like to have both around. Even an extra pair of tongs, in case I misplace the one I’m using or it jumps on the floor, as they are prone to do.
  • Slotted spoon. I have one that’s just a little bit larger than your basic tablespoon, it’s good for controlling how much sauce accompanies food coming out of the pan.
  • Unslotted spoon. Exactly like the slotted spoon, without the slots. Faster to service than a regular tablespoon.
  • Towel. Sure, gotta have a towel. If you consider that it’s going to be used as a hot pad too, it qualifies as being a tool.
  • Spatula. French, American, burger, rubber, whatever, I can get by,
  • INFRARED THERMOMETER. Those who know me have heard me wax tiresome about the importance of temperature, for food safety as well as palatability. Hot food hot, cold food cold. Until recently, infrared thermometers in the kitchen were an expensive novelty, but health care professionals, and restaurant health inspectors have been using them for a long time. Infrared thermometers can do a lot of things that no other thermometer can do.
  • They can give you a precise reading on the temperature of the surface of every single thing in your refrigerator in a matter of seconds, without ever risking cross contamination as the thermometer travels from item to item. This is important because we use our refrigerators to chill food. That can have a deleterious effect on the ambient temperature of our refrigerator, and the foods that are sitting next to that hot roast you just put in there.
  • Infrared thermometers can give you an accurate reading of the temperature on the surface of your saute pan, without sprinkling a little water in there to see if it jumps back at you.
  • They can give you a precise reading on how hot your oven actually is, which stove top thermometers just aren’t cut out for.
  • In the BBQ setting, just pointing the infrared at the dome of your Weber gives you a good idea how hot it is inside without lifting the lid and getting a lungful of smoke. You can even measure the external temperature of the steak in there, try doing that with a probe. Nobody wants to stick a probe into a cooking steak, and it doesn’t work anyway.
  • They can be used to measure how hot your deep fry oil is, another task that was always difficult, if not dangerous.
  • Infrared thermometers don’t fall out of your pocket into the soup, or on to the floor, and they are much more difficult to lose than other types.
  • The screens are much easier to read.
  • It’s much easier to determine how hot your pasta water is with an Infrared, another occasion for that little probe to fall into the bath and be instantly ruined.
  • Glass thermometers can break, Infrareds are hands down the BEST for making candy.
  • Caramel becomes a snap.

There are many more reasons to have an infrared thermometer in your arsenal. My dog loves to chase the little laser around the carpet, for example.

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