You may have heard the saying; ‘you need the right tool for the right job,’ Well this saying is very true when it comes to the choice and use of cooking equipment. Cooking is an art that everyone can learn and what really has made being creative with cooking trendy with all ages, is forever increasing accessibility to recipes, and educational videos online.
We have all seen those videos that show you how to make the perfect pea pesto pasta in 30 seconds, cook this in that, blitz this in that, but why does yours look like you have just crushed a bag of petit pois by sitting on it? That's because of your kitchen tools..
Fear not, we are here to help. We know getting the right tool for the job can be a minefield, knowing what brands are good and knowing when to splash the cash and what is ok to cheap out on is hard. So we decided to sit down with our friend, talented chef and Men’s Health writer, Ian Haste to give you the low down.
Hey Ian! Let's start at the beginning, when did your passion for cooking begin? Was there a particular moment when you realised that you wanted to pursue a career in this field?
When I was 14, my mother would teach me the fundamentals to create a complete dish. This started my passion for cooking and, as I grew older, I knew that I wanted to learn more about health and pleasure elements.
How important is it to use high quality culinary tools?
High quality is paramount in my kitchen, for instance, a sharp knife will do half the work for you. Having all the right equipment will make your life easier and will make the dish come together effortlessly. A good example of this would be using items you need for accuracy e.g., scales and thermometer, to ensure you’re correctly following a recipe and will deliver the best outcome.
Like you mentioned above, a good chef’s knife is an absolute must – what do you look for when you’re shopping for a new knife? Can you share some pointers?
I look for a forged knife (usually a handmade knife where the metal runs from the tip to back of the handle) with a good weight. I prefer to use a heavy knife as it’s better for cutting harder vegetables. I then have a slightly lighter knife which I’ll use for everything else whilst I’m prepping.
How do you maintain the quality of your knife over time? Are there any tips and tricks to help them last as long as possible?
I don’t put my knives in a dishwasher – they’re too intense and the hot water breaks down any glue on wooden handles - I just wash and dry them with a paper towel. I usually use olive oil on the blades to keep them from discolouring or rusting too.
From all your experience in the kitchen, how does having the right culinary tools enhance the cooking experience?
It’s very important to have the right culinary tools, as these will assist any chef to work faster and more efficiently in the kitchen. Using tools like sous vide for control and creating softer, more tender meats and fish, mandolins for those super thin layers on potato Pavé and I love my thermomix, it's possibly the most versatile of tools for any chef, for creating soups, stocks and blends with ease.
If you had to select just one kitchen tool that is worth investing in, what would it be and why?
Although it's expensive, investing in a thermomix would give any chef the ability to truly make anything in the kitchen, it saves time, creates endless dishes and helps along the way with its genius monitoring system and guidance screen. You'll be using it for everything from ice creams to beautifully reduced red wine jus. The Thermomix can cook, boil, simmer and stew; chop and mince meat, nuts, herbs and vegetables; blend; make yogurt; mill rice, nuts and grains into flour; grind coffee, sugar and nuts; knead dough; whisk; grate; puree and crush. It can replace pretty much every kitchen gadget you own.
What are the 5 utensils you couldn’t live without having in your kitchen?
Knife sharpening set
(Sharpening a knife shaves off a bit of metal to bring back the knife's sharp edge. If you're a frequent home cook and use your knives at least once a day, you should sharpen your knives 2 to 3 times a year. Having a sharp knife is actually safer, blunt knives can cause you to slip!)
Chop those veggies with ease, definitely a must in a ZENB kitchen, saves time and reduces waste.
A good quality knife set is a must. Invest and the set will last you years. How to know they are the ‘cutting edge’...the SHARPER the better!
Find something that can weigh up to 5kg in ingredients. Something that is small, portable and gives fast and accurate readings is a must.
You can use a probe thermometer to check internal food temperatures when you cook, reheat, cool, thaw and while keeping foods hot or cold.
With the market so cluttered with products to choose from, what do you look for when choosing your kitchen utensils?
I look for well-built products that will last me a long time, such as good quality pans and utensils. Modern ‘gimmick’ type products won’t be found in my kitchen! Sous Chef, Nisbets and Procook are all great places to start your search for culinary tools.
What is your favourite kitchen item that surprisingly didn’t cost much?
I have a mandolin from amazon for around £30 so it's not expensive, it has various different cutting guides which come with it, for the standard thin slicing of potatoes, cucumbers etc and then a guide for creating long thinly sliced carrots and creating ribbons.
For those new to being creative in the kitchen, what should their kitchen tools shopping list consist of?
A decent chopping board set, I would recommend amazon or Nisbets for these, I would include a Multicolour board range for fish, meat, vegetables and everyday use. Then I'd invest in some good knives, these don’t always have to be expensive, you could have one higher priced ‘go to’ knife and then build up a selection from online or your local shops. Try and get a good fish knife, paring, chefs knife, long serrated and a carving knife, then invest in a sharpener or good steel. Look for a big set of pans, tase can easily be purchased in sets of 3 or 5 online alone with a good quality oven dish and frying pan, I use a deep frying pan which I can then use in the oven with casseroles too. Lastly, grab some digital scales and temperature probes to get you started.
Where do you normally go to shop your kitchen tools, are there any trusted sites you would recommend?
And finally, Do you have a favourite brand of kitchen utensils?
I use a brand called Stellar for my pots and pans, they’re superior quality to anything I’ve ever used before. They are online and also supply incredible spoons, spatulas and serving utensils. The great thing is, they supply the correct material utensil to go with the correct material pan or pot, giving you less chance of scratching or damaging anything.
We hope that gives you a head start, maybe a few things to add to your Christmas wish list. If you would like to learn more about Ian and his cooking journey and follow some of his own ZENB recipes check them out on our In the kitchen page.