My Top 5 Must-Have Kitchen Utensils for Home Cooks

A well-equipped kitchen is very important for any home cook. There are so many gadgets and cooking tools out there to choose from, it is tempting to get a lot of them. However, some of these items are very specific and can only do one job. With limited space in the kitchen (especially in Hong Kong!!), we need to shop smart and only get the most useful and practical tools. Here is a list of my top five utensils every kitchen should have.

 

  1. Good quality Chef’s Knife

Every chef will tell you that the most important piece of equipment you can own if you want to be a good cook is a good quality chef’s knife. This is the one tool that is worth your investment. A knife is the most used utensil in the kitchen because almost every dish you make involves some cutting, chopping and slicing. A good chef’s knife should feel good in your hand, as some chefs would say, the knife should be an extension of your hand. Choose a chef’s knife that does not feel too heavy and is well-balanced in your hand. The grip should be comfortable and you should be able to rock the knife back and forth with ease. Make sure you always keep your knife sharp as cutting with a sharp knife is much safer than cutting with a dull, cheap knife because it is less likely to slip and cut you. If you are on a budget, there is no need to buy a whole set of knives. Get one good chef’s knife and you will be able to cut, dice, slice and filet with it.

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  1. Wooden Spoons and Heat Proof Spatulas

I like using wooden spoons and heat proof spatulas (usually made from silicone) when I cook as these are gentle enough tools that won’t scratch the surface of your pots and pans. They are also great for mixing batters when you want to bake cakes and cookies. And spatulas are great for lifting and flipping foods such as fish. Get a spatula with a thin front edge rather than a thicker one so that it can easily slide under the food.

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  1. Sieve

A good durable sieve is a very important tool in the kitchen. It helps you strain your cooked pasta and boiled vegetables, allows you to make smooth sauces and soups and also sifts your flour to get rid of the lumps. Sieves are made of a fine wire mesh with a long handle. I prefer the ones that are made entirely of metal, even the handle. A good sieve should have a hook on the side so that it can rest on the rim of a pot or bowl.

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  1. Good quality frying pans

For beginner cooks, nonstick skillets and frying pans are great tools to get you started cooking in the kitchen. But make sure to never use metal utensils on nonstick pans as this will scratch the nonstick surface. Stainless-steel frying pans and skillets are wonderful to have because aside from being able to cook on the stove tops, you can put these pans in the oven. Make sure the pan handle is also stainless-steel and not coated with plastic if you want to put your pans in the oven. A good size frying pan is a 30cm wide pan (12 inches). It is wide enough for a one-pan supper dish but also good for pan searing steaks or making frittata for brunch. Make sure you invest in some good quality frying pans and ones that feel good in your hands (nothing too heavy and with a good grip handle) as they can last you a very long time.

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  1. Electric Scale / Measuring Cups and Spoons

Cookbooks and online recipes are created (hopefully) so that you can cook the dishes as close to what the authors intend their dishes to taste and look like. This is where correct measurements of ingredients come in. Proper and precise measurements are extremely important if you love to bake. Therefore, it is worthwhile to keep one set of measuring cups, measuring spoons and a liquid measuring cup in your kitchen as all recipes will give you some sort of measurements and you will have to know how to get them right. Do consider investing in an electric scale as well since a lot of the cookbooks out there these days give measurements in weight (usually grams). If you are like me, who likes to create your own recipes, having the correct measurements for your recipes is extremely crucial!

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If you want to know more cooking tips and kitchen’s know-hows, don’t forget to like and follow me on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Charmainecooks.

Also check out my other blog posts (translated to Chinese) on the DayDayCook’s website!

Live Cooking Demo @ AEON STYLE

It was definitely fun times last Saturday at Kornhill AEON STYLE store doing a live cooking demo there. DayDayCook has recently launched 3 new Southeast Asian sauces and they were doing a special promotion at Aeon stores for a week.

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Maybe because I am starting to get used to talking and cooking in front of people, I really enjoyed myself this time. I was relaxed and was surprised that I was quite engaged with all the people who were there watching me cook and tasting the food.

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I hope there will be more of these events to come. Sure it is a lot of prep work before the event but I love the instant feedback I get from people. I get to know right away what they liked about the products and what they did not like and learn how I can improve next time.

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Thai Style Tom Yum Fried Rice

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Stir-fried Sambal Prawns

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Singaporean Chili Crab

Hope I’ll get to see some of you next time!

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Tips for Cooking Juicy Pork Chops

I think there is a fear in many when it comes to cooking pork chops. The dilemma comes from wanting a juicy and tender piece of pork chop without over cooking it, yet we are always told to cook the crap out of pork chops because we need to make sure that the meat is fully cooked. It is not like a piece of steak where you can have it medium rare. So if you want to make sure that a piece of pork chop is fully cooked, of course you would cook it longer and that would give you a tough and dry piece of meat at the end.

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There are a few things that you could do to ensure you get a perfectly cooked, perfectly tender piece of pork chop every time.

  • Use the oven. I find the best way to give you juicy pork chops is to first sear the chop in a very hot pan on both sides, about 1 minute per side, and then finish the cooking in a hot oven, preheated to 200C. Pork chops are a tender and quick-cooking cut of meat. Therefore it is very easy to overcook it. By finishing the cooking in the oven, you are allowing even and gentle heat to cook the pork chops, which will be easier to control and also prevents the outside of the chops from getting burnt, tough and dry out before the middle has finished cooking. If you don’t have a frying pan that is oven proofed, you can transfer the pork chops, after searing on the stovetop, to a hot baking tray and roast in the oven.

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  • Buy thicker cuts of pork chops. Because pork chops can have little fat in them they tend to dry out very easily. Try to buy cuts that are at least 1 – 1.5 inches thick (2.5cm – 4cm).
  • Check the internal temperature. For the pork chops to be cooked through and safe to eat, the internal temperature should be between 62C – 72C (145F – 160F). Check the temperature with a meat thermometer if you have one. It is worth getting a meat thermometer if you like to experiment with roast meat or barbeque meats.

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  • Let the meat rest. After cooking the pork chop, let it rest for at least 5 minutes, loosely covering it with tin foil, before cutting into the meat. This will allow the juices of the meat to settle down and not run out when you cut it.

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If you don’t have an oven or even a small toaster oven at home that will fit your pork chops, the best thing to do is to start off with a very hot frying pan to get that nice sear on both sides. Then lower the heat to medium low to slowly cook the chop for 6 – 8 minutes. At the end, you can splash a bit of water or broth in and cover the pan to steam the pork chop for an extra minute.

Click here to see my video on Pork Chops with Rosemary and Seedless Red Grapes.

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Chinese version of the blog post, translated by DayDayCook, click here.