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Food Prep 101: equipment, setup and safety
February 3, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
Did you read last week’s column? Mis en place means “Everything in its place.”
Today, we will further get ready to cook by finding a good prep area, looking at what we need and how to keep ourselves safe while working.
Find a work area in your kitchen that works best for you. I like to think in threes: a work area that is three feet wide, located in the center of your three major work stations, and fewer than three giant steps from the fridge, the sink and the stove.
I use my own steps, as I am the one working. Most of us like a bigger work area. Keep in mind that too much space can interfere with your organization and your efficiency. One chef told me he likes an area where he can swing his arm while holding his knife and not kill anyone ... Works for me.
Select a minimal amount of equipment to compete tasks without overcrowding your space or thoughts. You do not need every gadget. Ever hear the saying “you don’t need what you need until you need it?” Think about it.
Again, three rules: Buy the least, buy the best, add only when needed.
I recommend you start with the following:
= cutting boards — two or three, color-coded, keeping one for just raw foods, not wood.
= large metal spoons — one slotted, one plain. I never use wood.
= metal turner — thin, one slotted, one plain.
= metal spatula — 1 1/2 inch wide.
= vegetable peeler — one very good one.
= mixing bowls — three different sizes.
= pots — one Dutch oven, one large roaster.
= pans — three different sizes with lids.
= potato masher.
= balloon whisk — one 10 inch and one tiny one.
= box grater.
= sieve — one, medium-size.
= one medium colander.
= pastry brushes — minimum of two , one for baking, one for roasting.
= oven thermometer — a must.
= frying or saute pans — one 12 inch and one small stainless, one very good non-stick.
= mise en place cups.
= food scoops — at least one to keep food uniform.
= kitchen shears.
For baking, you should have the following:
= a full set of measuring cups including 1/3-cup.
= a liquid measuring cup.
= measuring spoons.
= two bread pans.
= two pie pans.
= a 9- by 12-inch baking dish.
= a 9- by 9-inch baking dish.
= a set of 8-inch round cake pans.
= two cooking sheets.
= two round pizza pans.
= one rolling pin.
= two cooling racks.
= one muffin pan.
= two cookie cutters (start here, they accumulate fast).
Start with no small appliances and add as needed. Of course, you need a range and an oven and a fridge. The rest should be selected only if you will use them often.
You don’t need a donut maker “just in case you might want to make donuts someday ...”
If you never bake, do you even need a mixer? Do you need a microwave? a blender? A can opener? I like my Kitchen Aide commercial stand mixer. A food processor is great. I used a cheap one until I was 45, which worked almost as well as my Cuisinart.
I like a toaster oven, and I do need a microwave to heat my second cup of coffee.
Basic knives are needed. Learning about knives takes time. I recommend one essential one — start with a good chef’s knife, also called a French or cook’s knife. The modern chef’s knife is a utility knife designed to perform well at many kitchen tasks rather than excelling at any one in particular. It can be used for mincing, slicing and chopping vegetables, slicing meat and disjointing large cuts.
To add to your collection, I would next purchase a bread knife. This is a serrated, long knife for slicing.
Next, I would recommend buying a paring knife for small-scale slicing and peeling. Next, a boning knife for curved cutting, then a filet knife for thin slicing, and last, a Santoku knife (look it up!).
Because the quality of knives varies greatly, I would start with a mid-priced knife until you learn what you like. Splurge on the chef’s knife.
Oh, busboy, it is impossible to teach safety completely in this small space, but here are some ideas to start you thinking:
= Wash hands thoroughly before starting and between each food group wipe up spills to prevent accidents.
= Tie long hair back, wear long sleeves to prevent burns.
= Remove dangling jewelry and clothes.
= Cross-contamination must be prevented by using separate knives, cutting boards, etc., to prepare raw foods and cooked.
= Cut away from body, put knives in a safe place when using.
= Don’t leave food unattended while cooking.
= Store cleaning supplies away from food items. Unplug items when finished using.
= Open covers away from you to prevent steam burns.
= Defrost food in the refrigerator, by cooking, with cold running water or microwave. Turn pan handles inward.
= Extinguish grease fires with a cover, never water.
= Keep paper, cookbooks and greasy cloths away from flame.
= Use potholders!
Task to Try: Get out all you knives and select your favorite chef’s knife. For one week, use just one; hide the others.
Quiz Question: How many tablespoons are in a half-cup? A) four B) eight C) 16 D) 32
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