Cooking Tools 101

Are most of your culinary adventures ‘cooking chaos’?

Your car mechanic or plumber or fix-it person wouldn’t work without tools, would they? Why should a cook — even a beginner, perhaps, especially a beginner — work without handy kitchen gadgets?

But which kitchen tools are a necessity?

Let’s start with inexpensive additions.

Was one of your New Years’ Resolution to STOP throwing away expendable cash on extras? Worthy, but who wants to give up those treats altogether. 1st step – limit perishable extras. Say, coffee house muffin treats. I didn’t say limit the coffee craving – don’t panic. Focus on the extras. Those high-priced, calorie-laden bakery temptations.

Ready to tackle a do-able kitchen experience?

Start small, say with a box of bakery-styled muffin mix. Reasonable, right? Absolutely. But how to get the job done without destroying the kitchen, losing your patience, or giving up on the process might remain a mystery.

Read on!

1st – Basic cookware doesn’t NEED to be expensive to get the job done.

Muffins require something to bake in. Beginners can easily start with: a traditional 6-muffin non-stick tin or something flashier like these Silicone muffin sleeves.

Note: I don’t show a Silicone baking-muffin tin. Why? Because I’ve used them and don’t find them easy . . . and I’m an experienced cook. Why? They’re Silicone and FLEXIBLE. Great – you think! I’ll just pop my muffins free. Sounds good in theory, but it’s not quite so easy. You’re dealing with an entire 12-muffin flexible mat at once. It needs to go into the oven on a metal surface, generally a cookie sheet – TRUST me on this – and then when it’s out, it’s plain hard to handle. The individual Silicone muffin sleeves will also need to rest on a cookie sheet while the muffins bake, but when your kitchen timer sounds and you remove the cookie sheet, then you can handle the muffins one-at-a-time to cool them, pop them from the sleeves, and then the best part — EAT them.

2nd – Wisdom about cooking tool purchases.

Personally, I use the non-stick muffin pans along with cupcake ‘paper’ sleeves. There’s no need to worry about the added calories of cooking sprays when using paper sleeves. The lack of cooking spray makes clean-up simpler as well. The paper sleeves come in a variety of colors so they’re just FUN. Here’s a SECRET — lift your muffins out of the tin when cooking is finished then put them on a cooling rack. Once cooled, the paper sleeves will peel easily off the baked treat.

NO LINKS are listed on these items. WHY? Because often these products are found at a local grocer, big-box store, or market super-center for a more reasonable price. Truly love to Internet shop? Then search for the underlined words (above) and you’ll find dozens of choices depending in your price range.

3rd – Here’s where to spend your cooking tool dollars!

Cooking requires bowls . . . sorry, there’s no getting around that fact. You will be more successful if you invest in a set of ‘mixing bowls’ with lids and non-slip bottoms.

My set has 8 mixing bowls with small sizes. The little bowls are great if I’m entertaining and have purchased olives, pickles, cherry tomatoes, grapes . . . small finger foods. When the party is over and clean-up is glaring, I simply snap the lids over any left-overs and put them in the fridge.

When expending cash on kitchen tools, get the most bang for your buck.

I’ve also found that I get into the middle of larger cooking productions then need to refrigerate part of the ingredients. Again, a snap of the lid and I can place the mixture in the frig or freezer (depending on the recipe) while I keep working the rest of the process. BTW: I store the bowls, lids removed, one inside of the other to save on cabinet space.

Finally, own a cookie/muffin/cupcake/ice cream scoop. A good one.

The one above has gripping handles — many do NOT. While cooking, your hands will get wet – then a cursory dry. Or the scoop will need a quick rinse. Or batter will get on the handle. I’ve found — this is loads of kitchen experience talking — that the straight metal handle scoops become slippery. As the scoop is spring-loaded, a firm grip is needed to portion out the batter. Remember, this is all about easy baking. Buy a scoop with the grips.

Many of these scoops also work as an ICE CREAM scoop. Yep, ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen cookie dough, your own mashed fruit concoctions. So let’s be real. You know you’re likely – in my case, highly likely – to have at least one of those products in the freezer. Why not have a premium scoop to make snaring those goodies easier????

4th – Calculate the cost!

You’ve run a quick calculation on the start-up cost to add these items to your kitchen and think . . . wouldn’t buying muffins from the bakery or the coffee house be cheaper?

Not in the long run. Muffins average $2.50 to $4.00 each. Add up (1) muffin per day, and let’s keep it to business days, that’s a minimum of $12.50 to $20.00 per week spent on this ONE treat. (Don’t even get me started on the overload of sugar and salt present in coffee house products. Certainly there are calories in the ones that you’ll make at home, but nothing compared to what you are purchasing pre-made.)

Remember – Once the cooking tools are in your house, cooling rack have multiple purposes. Say, cookies: the break-apart-and-bake ones from the grocery store. A package of 12 usually runs around $2.50 to $3.50, where as most bakery cookies run $1.00 each (and that’s on the slim side). Use your mixing bowls for tossing together salads: green to pasta to coleslaw to pea to potato. When ready to close up left-overs, it’s a snap of the lid and you’re done.

Cooking disasters are NOT mandatory for the novice chef. Be ‘kitchen prepared’ by purchasing the RIGHT kitchen accessories and your chaos will turn into celebration.

Any of these kitchen items, or a group in a gift basket, make a great wedding or house-warming gift. Who knows, maybe you’ll get invited for muffins once in awhile.

Here’s tipping my spatula to you and your many new cooking adventures!

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