31 August 2012
Top tools for your first kitchen, Part 3: Oven
We talked about the tools you'll need most for cooking prep and actually using your stove. Once you've gotten your hands on a decent knife, a cutting board, a big bowl, a couple nice pans, and a spoon or two, you're set to make the vast majority of different foods. But what if you want to go slightly more complex? What if you want to roast, or bake?
Top tools for your first kitchen
PART THREE: THE OVEN
Rimmed cookie sheet
While a cookie sheet is obviously most important if you like eating lots of cookies, it can be useful in a variety of other ways. Making bread? Shape it into a rustic loaf and bake it on the cookie sheet. Want some pizza? Cookie sheet. Do you like biscuits? Cookie sheet. How about oven fries? Cookie sheet. Roasted cauliflower? Cookie sheet. Want to make a ridiculous cake roll filled with jelly? That's why rimmed cookie sheets are also called jelly roll pans.
Make sure the cookie sheet you get will fit in your oven. Ask me how I know to check this!
Ovenproof casserole dish
The casserole dish is next on my list. It's my favorite because you can use it to bake or roast practically anything. Sheet cake, scalloped potatoes, lasagna, roast chicken, or, of course, a tuna noodle casserole--you name it.
I prefer glass casserole dishes because they're difficult to break, easy to clean, and frequently findable at the thrift store. You can scrub them with metal scrubbies and serve from them with metal utensils. They're also both durable and affordable.
If you can’t find a good candidate at your thrift store, you can usually get a set of two different sized Pyrex or Anchor Hocking casserole dishes for a very good price. I’ve seen some reports of breakage with newer Pyrex, though, so I would go for the thrift store first every time.
If you only get one casserole dish, make it a 9x13 inch. That way you can roast nearly anything up to the size of a small turkey. You can always pick up a couple of different sized casserole dishes after you spend a couple of months cooking and figure out what else you need.
Once you've cooked something, you're going to need to get it either out of your casserole dish or off your cookie sheet (or actually out of either of your stovetop pans or your mixing bowl for that matter). Enter the spatula.
You want two different spatulas: a flat serving spatula and a silicone scraper spatula. The flat spatula will let you serve up a couple of enchiladas, a piece of baked tempeh, or a sticking scone with dignity and aplomb. The silicone scraper will help you wrest food from tiny corners, or from around the edges of round pans and bowls. Do you want to get every last bit of whipped cream out of the bowl? You need a silicone scraper.
I prefer a metal server for its stability and sturdy prying ability. The scraper should be silicone because it's safer to use with food than plastic or rubber. Both metal and silicone can handle high heat, so there's no danger of melting any plastic bits into your food. Both types of spatula should also be molded in one piece if possible, so their heads can never fall off the handle. Ask me how I know that one too!
Don't get burned. Buy some decent potholders and use them. They're available at practically any price point, in every color, and at all kinds of different stores. Square potholders can double as trivets; glove potholders can go over hot pan handles to keep you from knocking into them. Get good thick ones, and get at least three or four of them. Do it.
Honorable mention: parchment paper or silicone baking mats, bread knife (if you bake lots of bread), meat thermometer (if you roast lots of roasts).
Next, on to part four: the dreaded CLEANUP.
The whole top tools for your first kitchen series:
- Part 1: Prep
- Part 2: Stovetop
- Part 3: Oven
- Part 4: Cleanup