Eight Cooking Essentials Everyone Needs in their Kitchen

  • Chef’s Knife

There is 90% chance that you will need a knife every time you prepare your ingredients for cooking. Invest in a good chef’s knife and take care of it by having it cleaned and sharpened regularly. There are other knives as well that can serve different purposes – like paring knives for when you are peeling or cutting vegetables or serrated knives for slicing bread.

  • Cutting Boards

You read that right – cutting boards. Not just one cutting board, but multiple of them. A lot of people underestimate the importance of having separate cutting boards for raw meat, veggies, fish, and even for baking. Reduce the risk of food contamination by making it a habit to slice, cut, chop, or whatever it is that you do when cooking on separate cutting boards.

  • Colander

It is important in cooking to thoroughly clean your ingredients by, perhaps, washing them in running water. And it is important in cooking as well to thoroughly dry your meats and vegetables before putting them in the cooking pan (unless that is what the recipe calls for). This is where the cooking essential colander comes in. A colander is best in draining out freshly washed ingredients as well as draining out boiled pasta, canned beans, etc.

  • Cast Iron Skillet

This cooking essential can stay with you for a very, very long time – long enough that you may even pass it on to your kids and grandkids as heirloom. It truly is a good investment. Seriously, cast iron skillets are tough and built to last. And they can cook just as well – if not better – than other kinds of frying pans.

  • Saucepan

Boiling pasta, veggies and even eggs, making soups and stews, simmering sauces – what do they all have in common? That’s right. They are all cooked with water. And a saucepan is the perfect cooking essential for these kinds of moments.

  • Large Bowls

Large bowls is your all-around guy. It is nothing but versatile. You will be using large bowls when preparing meals, mixing things, containing chopped ingredients, whisking eggs, making sauces, and even serving your home-cooked meals.

  • Wooden Spoons

You will be needing a tool that you can use for sauteing, stirring or mixing or cooking food and wooden spoons are perfect. It is also good for non-stick cookware as it does not cause damage unlike metal ones. It is also more durable and easier to clean than plastic or rubber cooking spoons.

  • Measuring Spoons and Cups

In cooking, there are moments when you eyeball how much seasoning to put to your dish. But often, you really do need to measure your ingredients. You should be able to get the exact measurements as what is stated in a recipe that you are cooking. And measuring spoons and cups will be able to help you with that. A typical set of measuring spoons should include: 1 tablespoon, ½ tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, ¼ teaspoon, and ⅛ teaspoon. For measuring cups, a typical set should include:1 cup, ½ cup, ¾ cup, and ¼ cup.

Tips for Cleaning Up The Mess

One thing I’ve learned being a baker for 20 plus years is that it’s important to clean everything down as soon as you’re done with it.  If that means it waits until the end of the night, that’s fine, but it must be done the same day to save yourself a huge amount of time.  The bakery has hundreds of pieces of equipment from the ovens, stovetops, vents, air ducts, hoods, and all the utensils that get dirty because they’re being used constantly throughout the day.  Even if one piece of equipment isn’t currently running, particles from other bits of food and pastries float over and land right on it.

Think about how crazy the kitchen is during the day.  Employees are running back and forth making 25 different pastries, cakes, cookies, burgers, bacon and more.  That means the oven and heating elements are running constantly.  All those fumes and vapors float up in the air and stick to everything they touch. Grease and residues begin to coat the vent hood and exhaust ducts. The importance of proper kitchen exhaust sanitizing cannot be understated because if it’s not done correctly it’s a fire hazard and an accident waiting to happen.  We certainly can’t cook any meals for our customers if we burn the diner to the ground.  So, it’s highly recommended to wash and rinse all the kitchen equipment down at the end of the day so it’s sparkling, fresh, and ready to go in the morning.

One of my favorite cleaning solutions for washing and rinsing cooking equipment is Simple Green Industrial Cleaner and Degreaser. It comes in 24 oz bottles and is perfect for removing grease and other residue that’s been baked onto the vents and ducts in your kitchen. The 5 gallon buckets are also available for purchase on websites like Amazon for around $50. That’s a small price to pay for fire prevention and healthy maintenance.

If you notice that the equipment is difficult to clean or you don’t have enough staff to help with it, call a professional in.  Most hood cleaning companies schedule quarterly maintenance calls where they stop in for a day and sanitize everything for a small fee.  Not only will this ensure a safer working environment for your staff, but it will also increase the likelihood that you pass your inspection with flying colors.  No one wants to have the inspector come in and find a messy diner; that’s a recipe for a poor grade, which negatively impacts the number of customers that stop in your door.  People see the letter grade on the window and decide whether to come in and eat based on that most times.

Five Misconceptions About Food

Many people turn to the internet to educate themselves about the healthiest foods when trying to develop a more balanced diet.

While the internet is an invaluable resource full of helpful, informed information, it is also rife with misconceptions, especially when it comes to food.

Some of these misconceptions stem from wrong information or outdated studies that have since been replaced with more up-to-date knowledge.

To help those trying to learn more about eating right and being healthy, here’s a list of five misconceptions about food.

Low-Fat Foods

This may come as a surprise for many, but having some healthy fats is good for people.

Avocados, nuts, and fish are all high-fat foods that are great in moderation. It’s proven that these foods have heart-healthy benefits and can slow the buildup of artery-clogging plaque.

Foods advertised as low-fat and no-fat may be high in sugar or other ingredients that are worse than just eating something containing healthy fats.

Carbs

It’s no secret that carbohydrates are a waistline’s worst enemy. But that doesn’t mean you need to give them up forever.

Carbs are a primary source of energy for humans, which is why we feel tired and sluggish if we stop eating them.

When deciding which carbs are okay to keep eating, opt for complex carbs. Complex carbs release sugar slowly in your bloodstream as it digests, helping you feel fuller longer.

The secret is to eat meals where carbs aren’t the central part of the dish. Instead, the best thing to do is to make them an accent. And try not to eat carb-heavy snacks.

Granola

Granola has been a favorite healthy food for a while, and it’s hard not to miss the shelves of granola at the store with labels touting its nutrition content.

However, this food is often processed with high quantities of oils and sugars, making the end product less than healthy for those wanting to implement a healthy diet.

When buying granola, be sure to check the nutrition facts on the package to see what exactly it contains.

Potatoes

Potatoes commonly are thought of as a vegetable, but because of their high starch and carb content, they are unfortunately less healthy than initially thought.

They may be high in fiber and potassium, but they’re better off as a carbohydrate replacement than a vegetable.

So, if you’re trying to consume more greens, spuds aren’t it. Focus more on colorful produce and leafy greens.

Organic and Natural Foods

Consumers have been steering away from foods known to be processed with chemicals and preservatives and opting for foods labeled as natural or organic.

But, just because food gets a sticker on the package doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice. The label doesn’t stop foods from containing high levels of sugar, salt, or unhealthy fats.

While it is good to focus on eating organic foods, it is essential to read the ingredients list to make sure that the food you’re about to buy measures up to its advertising.

The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Sugar

Everyone has heard it hundreds of times: sugar is bad for you. There are pages upon pages on the internet about the effects of sugar on the body, ways to cut sugar out of your diet, lists on lists of reasons not to eat sugar.

Well, here’s one more for the pile.

Americans, in particular, don’t realize how much sugar goes in their food. No matter how much someone may want to kick sugar to the curb, many products secretly contain high levels of the sweet stuff. Even so-called health foods can contain absurd amounts of sugar, like granola, juice, and trail mix.

Sugar consumption is closely related to heart disease. This fact was discovered in the 1950s, and soon after that, sugar companies went about forming the Sugar Research Foundation to prove scientists wrong.

One of the main reasons why Americans accept that any kind of fat is bad is a result of the sugar industry at work. In the 1960s and 70s, the SRF published numerous articles in well-known medical journals about heart disease, emphasizing fat as the primary culprit and downplaying sugar.

While excessive amounts of fat are detrimental to one’s health, it is not the menace that the public was led to believe it was. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados and fish, are beneficial when eaten in moderation.

As people turned against fats of any kind, the negative attention came off of the sugar industry. And, despite the low-fat/no-fat craze, obesity in America grew to epidemic proportions. People accepted that too much sugar had harmful effects, but the public truly failed to understand how much sugar was apart of their diet.

Sugar affects every part of the body, from the brain to mood. Eating sugar releases large amounts of dopamine in the brain that makes it crave more once levels drop. When consumption of large amounts of sugar from non-organic sources (such as soda, candy, etc.) the brain quickly learns that apples and other natural sugar sources aren’t going to give the same dopamine rush.

As for mood, sugar absorbs into the bloodstream, and a cookie can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. When the spike drops, it brings the sugar crash many people are familiar with. This crash can lead to feelings of depression, especially in adults who consume large amounts of sugar.

Sugar has numerous physical effects on the body, too. It can exasperate inflammation in joints, even leading to arthritis for some. It leads to less skin elasticity, which causes the skin to age faster. Sugar affects organ function, and too much can lead the liver to become resistant to insulin.

It is imperative that Americans educate themselves about the effects of sugar. There is a reason why there is an innumerable amount of articles warning against sugar. The sugar industry does not care about the public’s health, only profits.

Understanding what a healthy amount of sugar is and reading the labels on food can be a pain, but it is worth it to feel better and live a healthier lifestyle.