My mother’s dusty copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” by Julia Child, has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. The size of the book is intimidating, but now that I’ll be attending culinary school in Paris in just a few months, I finally sat down to read it.
Why French food you may ask? Well, because French food is known for its technique more than anything else and, because of this, learning how to cook French food can teach you cooking fundamentals that you can apply to other cuisines.
This week, we will be focusing on basic kitchen equipment. Listed below are the essentials. How close are you to having everything you need as a beginner chef?
1. Frying Pan/Sauté Pan
Both are for browning foods on stovetops. Pans with metal handles can also be put into ovens for further cooking. The main difference between the two is that frying pans have long handles and sloping sides that can help make it easier to toss foods.
2. Baking Dishes
Round and oval baking dishes are best for roasting whole birds or meats. They can also be used for gratin dishes, which are basically dishes with a beautiful golden brown top that are achieved with the help of bread crumbs, grated cheese, or butter.
The sharper the better. There are all kinds of knives that we can get into, all with their own purpose. If you were to own one, the one to have is a French Chef’s knife because it’s good for general use.
I love wooden spatulas because they don’t scratch your pans and are very good for mixing. Silicone spatulas are also great because of their flat surfaces, which make scraping much easier.
Whisks are used for mixing and are great for beating eggs, especially when you want some air in it. For example, when whipping egg whites for a meringue, a large metal whisk can get you those stiff peaks before your arms tire.
Ever wonder how a soup or sauce was made so smooth? A sieve or tamis was probably used to separate unprocessed chunks. A pestle may also have been used to push it through the sieve to break it down further.
7. Mortar and Pestle
This is great for grinding herbs or spices. Larger mortars can even be used for pounding or puréeing shellfish. I prefer using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor because I find that it gives me more control, plus it gives me a texture that a food processor can’t.
Stay tuned for more cooking tips next week! I’m also interning at an awesome restaurant now, so check out @fatcateats on Instagram for kitchen behind-the-scenes.