The Basics of Pastry Pans
This includes pie plates, bread pans, baking sheets, cake pans,
tube pans, muffin tins, and the like. Because they're all for special
uses, none of these is likely to be essential in your daily cooking,
but all are critical when you need them. The sole exception is probably
the baking sheet--it's great for broiling, especially if it has
a small lip. Go with aluminum; for most purposes, uncoated will
be okay here, but non-stick coating never hurts.
Let's take the others individually:
* Pie plates: Start with one, nine inches across. Ovenproof glass
is very nice here. Add an eight-inch and a ten-inch when you have
time. A ten-inch springform pan (with a removable rim) is great
for cheesecake, but not much use otherwise. Wait.
* Loaf pans: You need two, nine by five inches or thereabouts.
Non-stick aluminum is best; don't buy glass, which is less than
ideal for bread.
* Tube pans: For angel cake, sponge cake, and the like. Buy as
* Muffin tins: Cheap aluminum ones, with nonstick coating, are
fine. Antiques of cast iron are much more attractive, but chances
are your muffins will stick.
* Cake pans: For layer cakes, nine inches across. You need two
* Tart pan: May be metal (removable rims are good) or ceramic;
the latter is preferable because it will not interact with acidic
tart ingredients, as will most made of metal.
The Basics of Bowls
I can't get enough of them, but you probably need only small, medium,
and large bowls to start. Stainless steel bowls are cheap and extremely
useful. Some people (like me) use them as serving bowls as well.
If you want attractive serving bowls, buy them, but don't use them
for mixing, because you will inevitably chip them. Eventually you'll
need many, from those that are very small (for holding small bits
of spices, herbs, etc., that you're about to cook with) to one that
is very large (to fill with ice water, which you'll use to "shock"
vegetables after cooking, or to cool down a smaller bowlful of custard).
Add to your bowl collection whenever you see one that appeals to
The Basics of Cutting Boards
You do need a cutting board; whether it's of plastic or wood is
your choice. Plastic can go in the dishwasher, wood is more attractive.
You need more than one anyway, so try one of each until you determine
your preference. Extremely heavy wood cutting boards are the best,
but they also are costly.
To keep your cutting board from sliding around on the counter
(annoying, isn't it?), place a damp towel under it.
The Basics of Spoons, Spatulas, and More
Wooden spoons have a pleasant feel and do not absorb much heat;
they're best for stove-top use. Large stainless steel spoons are
best for serving and transferring wet food from one container to
another. A slotted spoon is essential, as is a ladle. Rubber spatulas
are handy--especially the spoon-shaped ones. You need two metal
spatulas: one narrow (for loosening all around the rim of cakes)
and one wide (for turning pancakes). A large metal tongs (get the
spring-loaded, rather than tension-driven, variety) is very useful.
Asian-style skimmers are fantastic--even better than slotted spoons
in some instances--for removing foods from simmering liquids or
Again, these are a matter of taste. You'll accumulate many different
utensils over the years; some will become your favorites, others
will end up at a yard sale. Keep them all in an attractive jar,
or in a used coffee can, right on your counter, next to the stove.
You will want most of them handy.
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