1. Chop on Wood...or Plastic
For a long time, experts stated that plastic chopping boards were more hygienic than wooden ones. It was assumed that plastic could be cleaned more easily and more thoroughly than wood. Then, in 1994, researchers declared that wood retained fewer bacteria than plastic. Further studies followed that confused the issue, but the general consensus now is that there isn’t much difference. Bacteria can persist on both materials for a long time, so choose whichever you prefer to use and make sure all your chopping boards are washed well in hot soapy water after use.
2. Try the New, But Keep the Old
Manufacturers often label new gadgets as “breakthroughs,” claiming that they are superior replacements for the older version that’s in your kitchen. If you succumb to temptation and buy, hang on to what you already own until you’re confident that your new acquisition does a better job. The old-fashioned, four-sided box grater, for example, is still the best tool for grating many vegetables and cheeses, such as cheddar. It also does a decent job on Parmesan. The newer rasp grater may be equally good or even better with Parmesan, garlic, nutmeg and chocolate, but it’s hopeless with the softer things like cucumbers and tomatoes.
3. Strain With Coffee Filters
Many traditional recipes call for cheesecloth to strain liquids and purées through, but it can be difficult to find in stores. Here’s a modern alternative - paper coffee filters. Straining through the filters may take a little longer, but they are easier to use and produce better results. Try them for preparing a crystal clear broth and to strain pith and seeds from fresh fruit juices. If you’re using a cone-shaped filter, set it in a funnel over a container that is large enough to hold the strained liquid. If you’re using a basket-type filter, set it in a sieve over a jar or bowl.
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4. Discover the Double-Boiler
Here’s a kitchen tool that’s so old it never gets any hype, so it might as well be new and unknown. Yet chefs and experienced cooks use a double-boiler - also known as a bain-marie - all the time. It’s ideal for keeping food, especially sauces and soups, warm without overheating them, and it offers a foolproof way of melting chocolate without burning it. You can improvise a simple double-boiler by setting a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Make sure the bowl sits securely on the rim of the pan so that its base is over the water and not in it.
5. Buy What You Find Useful
A lot of producers of kitchen gadgets would like to convince you that a particular product is essential to your cooking or will transform it. But what is a crucial tool to one cook is clutter to another. Many fine cooks consistently produce wonderful meals without ever using a food processor, blender, microwave, juicer or even a coffee maker. Some find it quicker and easier to whip up eggs and cream with an old-fashioned, hand-held beater or a wire whisk. When it comes to gadgets, use what suits you - and that will simply be a question of trial and error, and time.