While it’s tempting to splash out on the latest kitchen appliance, rarely used kit can be a waste of money and precious space. Instead, chef Marcus Bean of the Brompton Cookery School recommends buying a few essential gadgets that you can use time and again
Buying high-quality essentials rather than easily discarded gadgets will prove a big help if you’re hoping to de-clutter your kitchen. Photograph: Anders Hviid/Hvidd Photography
It’s easy to fill kitchen cupboards with un-used kit, but chef Marcus Bean, owner of the Brompton Cookery School and Farmhouse B&B, Shropshire, suggests you can do away with the clutter by investing in a few essential gadgets.
“A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen,” says Bean. “I try to keep my kitchens organised and tidy, so I can multitask when I’m cooking and the pressure is on.” It’s easier to stay organised if you’ve equipped your kitchen with hard-working kit. Searching in the back of cupboards for long-lost gadgets that you use once a year is a time waster. Instead, experts purchase durable tools that will do their job and look great for years.
“I have a small but powerful list of kitchen must-haves,” says Bean. “Top of the list is a KitchenAid Artisan blender (£148.50). It’s so much more than a cake mixer. It has stainless steel blades that can mix anything – from fruit and vegetables to ice cubes – and it comes in different colours, too, so it looks impressive on the work surface, whether you’re equipping a professional kitchen or a family home.”
To chop ingredients, Bean uses Kin Knives, imported from Japan. “I found out about Kin through the BBC Good Food Show and lots of chefs use them.” They’re quite pricey, so if you want to try one out before spending a lot on the entire range, try the bread knife (£25). “The wood handles are handmade and the carbon steel blades really hold their sharpness, so they’re a worthwhile investment,” he says.
When it comes to preparing tasty lunches, it’s vital to get the flavours just right. This is where Bean turns to the Cuisinart Spice Grinder (£50). “I use this small, powerful little gadget in my cookery school and at home. It can grind even the toughest nuts and spices and it allows you to experiment with spice blends for a wide-range of recipes.” If extra seasoning is required – maybe a burst of black pepper on a humble steamed fish dish – the Cuisinart Seasoning Set (£30) works a treat. “These shakers are battery powered so they’re easy to take out for picnics.”
When the ingredients are ready for cooking, it’s a good idea to throw them into a sturdy, porcelain enamelled, cast-iron Le Crueset cooking dish (£95). “We have loads and loads of these,” he says. “Five years later, they’re still in good condition. They’re a bit more expensive than other brands, but they go in the dishwasher and they look great on the table too.”
Another multitasking piece of kit is the Netherton Foundry Kitchen Companion (£150). This will do virtually everything you need in the kitchen, from boiling and poaching to braising and even making pancakes. The pans in the rest of the Netherton range work on gas, induction and on open fires too. “You can get a stove going in the garden, throw a pan on it and cook up a late-summer feast,” he says. “They’re really good quality and although the steel and iron can rust, you can easily oil them to give them a refresh.”
Once your food is cooking, you don’t want to be clock-watching for hours, so invest in a digital timer to do the hard work for you. “Digital timers are perfect for the home cook,” he says. “Typically you’ll be doing two or three things in the kitchen at once and then the phone rings and distracts you. With a timer, you hear it beeping away and it reminds you to turn the oven off.” The Hygiplas Magnetic Countdown Timer (£8.99) takes one AA battery and is simple to use.
Finally, Bean loves a handheld food smoker, such as the battery-powered PolyScience Smoking Gun (£59.99). “This device uses batteries to power a fan; the fan blows smoke through a pipe and you get a smoked item at the end of it.
I put fish, such as trout, into a box, add smoke, close the box for five minutes, and then have smoked fish at the end of it. It’s really simple and fun to use too.”
If you buy one thing ...
If mornings are a struggle, treat yourself to an Aerolatte milk frother (£18) and wake up to a customised, frothy coffee at the start of the day. The battery-powered Aerolatte takes just 20 seconds to turn hot or cold milk into the perfect froth. Simply whisk warm milk until light and airy bubbles form, then add to some strong, stove-top coffee. Small and lightweight, this nifty stainless steel and plastic hand-held device comes with its own kitchen-counter stand so you can keep it on hand for whenever the caffeine craving kicks in. Enter the competition to win one.
Marcus Bean, The Brompton Cookery School, Shropshire.
The Guardian 29/8/14