Friday, September 13, 2002

Tools I Use

Note: this is one of a series of cooking articles I'd started posting before I had the blog set up. I turned them into blog entries to keep them on the site.

In my opinion, and in that of practically everyone I know, a rice cooker is an absolute necessity. I'd rather give up the microwave than lose my rice cooker! And once you have a rice cooker, you'll find that you really do want to make rice constantly. I actually use the smallish-but-awesome Zojirushi NS-KCC05 (it has fuzzy logic!!) although I admit I scored it on sale. The fuzzy logic cookers are nice because they're much more forgiving, and they're much better at holding warm rice without burning it or drying it out. But fuzzy logic isn't necessary -- there's a great line of lower-cost Aroma
rice cookers
which I have used and which work perfectly fine. One note though -- do not buy a glass-lidded rice cooker! They are really just good steamers and do not work anything like a standard rice cooker. Avoid!!

Another thing I can't live without is my cast iron skillet (although I think you're better off checking your local hardware store or Kmart unless you've got a free shipping deal!) And don't believe all that nonsense about never touching it with soap! After it cools, give it a good wash with some regular detergent and a scrubber and then dry it thouroughly. This does not harm the seasoning in any way.

I was surprised to find bamboo cooking utensils available online (I pick mine up in a Chinatown grocery) but I can't recommend them enough. They're much better than wooden spoons and spatulas.

I've finally been convinced of the good uses of citrus zests, which I'd always avoided until recently getting one of the great Microplane zesters. I'm totally a convert and I want the others in the line. I got the big flat one so I could also use it for ginger; but I want to get one I can use for cheese. (My brother got one of the handled ones, suitable for cheese, so I can see how he likes that one before I decide.) Anyway, this thing makes such perfect, light and non-bitter zest you can use it in anything and never notice it (except for the added flavor). A kitchen extra, but an important one.

And finally, anyone who cooks even half-seriously should invest in at least one really good knife -- the difference between cheap and good knives is amazing. Your one knife ought to be a chef's knife or the japanese equivalent, a santoku. I prefer the santoku, probably because I use it mainly on vegetables, which is really what it's designed for. But whichever type you pick, make getting a good knife a priority. You won't even believe the difference.

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