A cut above: your guide to slicing, dicing & chopping
We'll show you which quality kitchen essentials you'll need. The magic of cooking is that there are a million different dishes to make, and a million ways to prepare them. The chances are that most rely on some form of cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing, grinding, mincing, blending or pureeing to prepare it.
In this issue of The Cooking Club, we're taking a sharp look at four utensil essentials - food choppers, immersion blenders, chopping boards and kitchen knives - to see why they make the cut.
Food choppers have been around for a long time, and with good reason - they make light work of messy jobs, since they do their chopping inside a container (super handy when chopping nuts) and they're brilliant for people with dexterity problems, people who are time poor, or cooks that aren't overly confident with their knife skills. With a safety mechanism that prevents use until the lid and base are locked in place, they're also a great way to safely recruit kids to be your little kitchen helper. Did we mention they're lots of fun to use?
The great thing about food choppers is their price. They are priced anywhere from $10 for a manual chopper all the way up to $50 for an electric version (also known as mini food processors), which makes them a brilliant pick over full-sized food processors if you're on a budget.
Top tip: Food choppers can hold anywhere from 1 to 6 cups of food, with the most common a 3-cup processor (for comparison, full-sized food processors hold between 11 and 16 cups). To find your perfect size, try working out how many people you typically cook for and how much vegetable prep you'll do. Smaller choppers are great for the little things - think garlic, ginger, herbs, and nuts - while larger choppers are ideal for chunkier ingredients, like onions, carrots, peppers, and celery.
STICK AT IT
Immersion blenders (also called hand or stick blenders) aren't as powerful as their countertop counterparts. But thanks to their hand-held portability, they can be wonderfully convenient.
From pureeing a soup or baby food, mincing herbs, whipping up pesto, homemade mayo and smoothies, or even grinding nuts and spices with the grinder attachment, immersion blenders are one of the most versatile, quality kitchen utensils you can own. Because stick blenders are designed to be used in the bowl you're using, it saves a whole heap of washing up and frees up valuable kitchen bench space, too.
Unlike a food processor, you can simply rinse under warm water, dry down and throw in a drawer when done. They're also super simple to use, with most models featuring just two buttons for two speeds.
What we really like about stick blenders is their price. Because of their simple but helpful functionality, most models are a cheaper investment than a food processor.
TAKE IT ALL ON BOARD
The humble wooden chopping board - just a simple, regular rectangle or round of timber, yet a chopping board is a kitchen necessity. So many good meals begin with one, which is what makes choosing the best chopping board for you such an important part of cooking at home.
Hard enough to withstand the sharpness of a knife blade, the weight of a rolling pin or the power of a meat cleaver, wooden chopping boards are nearly indestructible.
With their slimline profile and minimalist design, cutting boards won't clutter your cupboards, either. You may not even want to store them out of sight anyway. Showcasing two or three on a counter or resting against a wall can bring a natural warmth and visual appeal to any kitchen.
Top tip: With proper care and maintenance, wooden chopping boards can last for years, no matter what you throw at them. Thanks to their natural anti-bacterial properties, wood is super easy to clean. Simply washing by hand in warm water using liquid soap and a soft sponge is more than enough to keep your timber in tip-top shape.
LOOKING SHARP. THE JOY OF GOOD KNIVES
Whether you're a professional chef or a home cook, a well-made, well-balanced knife is a true kitchen staple. From fine slicing and fast dicing to chopping and carving, a good kitchen knife will make cutting simple and cooking pleasurable. But with so many options to choose from, selecting a good knife can feel intimidating. We're here to let you know it needn't be.
Pick the right knife for the job. Although there are brilliant knives you can use for most tasks and cutting techniques, try to think about what you'll be doing in the kitchen most. From paring knives, bread knives, carving knives, filleting knives, cleavers or a multi-purpose chef's knife in different sizes, each has a different purpose. And each one can make food prep so much easier.
Go with the feels. A good knife should be a joy to hold. Neither too heavy, nor too light, it should feel balanced when you hold it, easy to wield and it should have a good grip that moulds to the shape of your hand. The last thing you want is for a sharp edge to go flying when cutting or chopping.
Buy the best your budget can afford. Knives are made in one of two ways: stamped or forged. It takes more skill and time to create forged knives, and they tend to be more expensive. But the results are superior, and your knives will last far longer.
Try to invest the most in the knives you'll use the most and you can always add to your collection when you can afford it.
Top tip: To get the most out of your knives, it's vital they keep their edge. Blunt knives not only make cutting food difficult (and more dangerous), but they also wear out faster. Which is why it's a smart idea to also invest in one of the kitchen's most underrated utensils - a good quality knife sharpener.
However you cook, sharp-edged kitchen tools should make food prep more convenient, elevate the finished dish and enhance your love of food and cooking. And with a little care, they'll reward you with a safe, reliable performance every day, and inspiration over a lifetime.
Here at Harris Scarfe, you're sure to find brilliant kitchen equipment for your culinary needs at the best prices.