Almost everyone has a corkscrew and a tin opener somewhere, in some drawer, in
the house, but can everyone boast a cheery stone remover, a pineapple cutter and
an apple corer? The world of cooking utensils is as vast and mysterious as you
could ever imagine but, be careful – not everything is necessary. Whilst poultry
shears help and a tin opener is vital for those who are not great at cooking,
it is probably true to say that the majority of people survive very well without
baked potato prongs.
Some utensils can replace others: a pair of kitchen scissors that are very resistant will not make you regret not buying poultry scissors, however it is always best to have the right equipment.
These are easy to use and very versatile. They can sever chicken joints, force open lids and open tin cans and jars and, of course, cut. Collapsible models are best as they are easier to wash and can be put in the dishwasher.
Not to be confused with shears or regular scissors, these have longer blades and one is serrated for cutting fish and chicken. Models with screws are easier to wash as they are collapsible.
These can sever bones, muscle and flesh. The blades are curved with points on the ends.
These can be different sized; apple corers are the smallest, whilst the longer ones are adapted to long vegetables, like courgettes. They are very easy to use: push the end into the fruit or vegetable and then pull it back out, extracting the core.
This tool is only worth buying if you are a big consumer of pineapple because it is difficult to use for any other reason. It extracts the pineapple flesh with a spiral movement and leaves the ‘shell’ completely empty so it can be reused as a vase/cup.
These allow you to scoop out small balls of melon flesh and can be used for other fruits too.
Despite the name, these can used for olives too. This is a utensil made up of various parts: an inclined tray, a spoon shaped part where the berry sits, a plunger that pierces and extracts the stone and a pot where the fruit is collected.
These are simple but indispensible tools that can be adapted to many uses: they conduct heat, they keep foods in place, they help you to check how the cooking is going, when cooking pies or roasts for example, and they can puncture surfaces to let fats come out. They can be made of wood (in this case they do not conduct heat) or steel. There are also skewers that are specifically made for cooking poultry.
Baked potato prong
These are not actually fundamental but are tools that speed up the cooking time as they transfer heat to the centre of the potato. They have 4 points, therefore they can be used for 4 potatoes at one tine.
Even if, nowadays, tins can be opened manually using the little handle on top, a good tin opener is indispensible. The best ones have butterfly shaped handles because they are easier to use.
There are many different types of models and shapes and corkscrews can be made out of various materials. What is important though, is having one, because it is not only useful for opening bottles of wine.
The universal models can open all types of bottles. What is more, this tool can be used to open vacuum packed lids and pierce cans.
This goes with a roasting fork, which keeps cuts of meat still whilst the carving knife slices the meat. The blade must be at least 20cm long and must have a very sharp point which can get in between bones and muscles.
This is a versatile tool and is used for both slicing bones as well as for finely slicing herbs. The blade, which is thick and rigid, must be around 15cm long. Do not be put off by the weight since the heavier it is, the easier it is to use. When buying a cleaver, buy the heaviest one you can handle.
Some advice for...
...cutting flat fish
Fish must be cut on a chopping board. With the right knife, cut behind the gills down to the tail and cut around the edges to create the right shape, then make a deep cut from the head to the tail along the backbone. With the next cut, you must insert the knife, keep it flat and slide it slowly along the fillet to remove the scales from the skin.
...removing bones from chicken
With the chicken on a chopping board, pull back the skin and hold onto the ends of the breast and pull so as to remove the breastbone and clavicle. The wishbone needs to be removed too by using a knife. With the end of the knife, score the flesh on the sides of the breastbone to remove it, then detach the meat from the ribs.