For several years, my family has rented places in the winter to get away from the cold. The one constant among all the properties we’ve stayed in is that the kitchen equipment is usually lacking.
The first time I fried an egg in the nonstick frying pan, I burned everything because the metal was so thin. Looking at the beautiful knife rack, I felt confident the knives would be of good quality, but they had not been sharpened in years. Now I take some basic equipment with me and I am never disappointed.
For your rented cottage or house, here are my suggestions:
- A 7-inch sharp chef knife is the No. 1 item you’ll want. It makes everything much easier. Chopping, cutting, carving, it can do it all. My preference is the Wustof Santoku because you can also use it like a cleaver, bash garlic, ginger and chilies and even chop raw meat or chicken. The dull edge of the knife will scrape your board clean.
- An immersion blender, also known as a stick blender or a handheld blender. There are many on the market, but I have the most success with Bamix, which has a strong motor and three blades. Apart from blending soups or salad dressings, it whips cream quickly without it spurting across the counter, and in a pinch, you can cream butter and sugar to make a cake. It also purées baby food, fruit and vegetable combos. Your smoothie will meld together beautifully. An added bonus, it blends your cocktails.
- One excellent nonstick frying pan, which will do everything, including doubling as a roasting pan.
- A microplane cheese grater for all your grating needs, including zesting citrus.
- A decent corkscrew. No more broken corks or smashing the bottle neck. Don’t buy an expensive one with wings or gadgets; look for an excellent waiter’s corkscrew, which does it all.
- Good kitchen shears that will cut or snip herbs, string, packaging and, in a pinch, cut through chicken bones. They also divide pizza into portions and can chop baby food.
- As an extra for coffee lovers, a French press coffee maker will whip cream until thickened if you do not have a whisk or immersion blender. Just add the cream and plunge up and down. No mess either.
Here’s what you don’t need:
No rolling pin? A wine bottle makes an excellent substitute. If there is no whisk, use a fork; it takes longer but does work. Missing a knife sharpener? Slide the knife across the rim on the back of a china plate or on the edge of a ceramic mug. Works perfectly. Skip a box grater: Use a potato peeler to shred vegetables or shave chocolate. And don’t bring mesh covers for outdoor dining. Coffee filters keep the wasps away and are easily disposable.
Obviously, if you are flying, all of this equipment is too much for your suitcase. Top choices are the immersion blender, a good knife, a microplane and a good corkscrew. Pack them in checked luggage and buy the rest when you are there, if need be.
Need some advice about kitchen life and entertaining? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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