Tuesday, June 8, 2010
If you're cooking you don't want to use your hands to reach in and try to flip things over and unless you're on top of Mount Everest you don't want to reach into a pot of boiling water. That are what the various utensils are for. You want to have at least 2 sets: one for working raw foods, particularly meats, and one for cooked. Switch when the last raw side goes down to the hot surface. And have at least one set for working over a fire or outdoor grill.
Spatulas are one of the first thing to use to manipulate foods on the stove. Spatula is an overloaded word used to describe a flat metal flipper or a soft silicone paddle. Generally speaking when talking about cooking a spatula is a one of the flat ones not the rubber ones usually used in baking, which I'll talk about later. They can be solid, perforated or slotted. The holes reduce surface friction and allow fat to drain. Slotted ones are best for turning fish as a solid spatula will shred the fish, the long open slots allow the fish to slide without catching. Metal allows for more flexibility but should not be used on non-stick surfaces which require plastic.
Rubber spatulas are often just called spatulas in the baking context. Rubber spatulas usually made from things other then rubber. High temperature silicone can be using one the stovetop without melting and are great for making omelets. Get a small one for getting into jars and frosting cakes, a large one for folding ingredients together, and a spoonula for transferring creamy, fluffy foods like puddings and whipped cream.
Spoons let you bring out samples of foods for tasting, which is very important so you can adjust the seasoning before serving. Slotted spoons allow you to drain foods that have been poached or deep fried. Metals spoons can be lighter and more aggressively shaped then wood or plastic but conduct heat which is bad for candy-making. When getting a wooden spoon get one with a thick handle so you can use it as a spurtle or a pestle.
Tongs are great for manipulating foods. Too often I need to flip something cubic over and a spatula will sometimes just flip it all the way over. Tongs give you way more control.
Whisk works best in a rounded bowl or a saucier where it can reach the corners. It is best at combining particulates and liquids. There are two basic type the round for working up the sides and the flat for scraping the bottom of the pan. Lots of tines and big round head is better.