When it comes to cooking, it is not just the ingredients that matter if you intend to make a great-tasting dish — I am a chef, so I should know.
The second most important must-have is the correct cooking equipment. But it is not enough to have the correct appliances; you also need to use them responsibly and treat them kindly if you want to have a long-lasting relationship with them.
This week, we look at eight things you should avoid if you want to keep your kitchenware in tip-top condition and to maximise their performance.
1. Avoid using sharp tools on nonstick-coated cookware: The chemical coating on your nonstick pans and bakeware is easy to damage. Using a wire whisk, a fork, a metal spatula or worse, a knife, can scrape or chip the finish. Instead, use wooden spoons, whisks coated with silicone or plastic, and silicone or plastic spatulas.
2. Avoid using soap and scouring pads on cast iron: Whether you bought it pre-seasoned or have built up a seasoned patina over the years, the coating that gives cast-iron cookware nonstick properties can be damaged if not cared for properly.
The number-one way to strip your cookware of its seasoning is by scrubbing it with harsh detergents or scratchy scrubbers. Instead, just rinse it right after cooking with hot water and dry it with a dish towel or paper towel. To get rid of stubborn food stains, scrub with coarse sea salt or use a non-metal brush.
3. Do not store knives loose in a drawer: As with washing knives in a dishwasher, storing them improperly is not only dangerous, it also damages their blades. It is easy to accidentally cut your hand while reaching into a knife-filled drawer. Instead, invest in a magnetic knife rack or a wooden block, which will protect blades.
4. Do not soak wooden tools and boards in water: Wood will warp and swell if it is submerged in water for too long and the glue holding a cutting board together can loosen. Instead, wash them quickly and let them dry on a rack in a warm place.
5. Do not overfill a blender or a food processor: Respect those fill lines or guidelines in the instruction manual regarding the maximum amount of food you can put in the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor. If you overfill, the appliance might not be able to evenly process your ingredients. You also risk messy leaks and spills. If you have a larger amount of food than recommended, divide it and prepare in batches.
6. Do not forget to preheat the pan: When using uncoated stainless steel pans, heat them with or without a drizzle of cooking oil for a couple of minutes before adding meat or vegetables. Heating the pan will open its “pores” and allow the oil to create a smooth, stick-resistant surface that will nicely brown food without it sticking. The food should sizzle when you place it on the pan.
7. Do not put too much: When sautéing, putting too much food in the pan can cause it to steam rather than brown, so the texture will not be as crisp. Also, you might not achieve that caramelised, browned flavour. Use a large enough pan for what you are cooking or cook in batches.
8. Do not ignore the instruction manual: Follow the instructions that come with your kitchenware. Reading once might not be enough, so keep the manuals for future reference. If you lose them, many manufacturers have them on their websites.