For the beginner or experienced cook, the "right" kitchen accessories and tools can make a difference when fixing a meal. On "The Early Show" Tuesday, Annette Flores, the test kitchen manager at Williams-Sonoma, a kitchen supply company, continued the "Early Essentials" series, and shared basic cookware, cutlery, electrics and bake ware you'll need for all your cooking.
Flores said it's important to have the right equipment in the kitchen because cooking with the right equipment can be just as important as the ingredients.
"A good knife will slice through a tomato without mashing the flesh. A quality fry pan will sear your meats evenly instead of leaving burned hot spots. A great juicer will pierce through the pulp without tearing it away from the skin," she said. "A few basic pieces of cookware and equipment can be the keys to success for any cook."
Flores suggested when you buy your kitchen equipment going for quality over quantity. She suggested looking for the country of origin, as well, because craftsman in the U.S. and Europe have set the standard for quality cookware. In addition, quality stainless steel cookware, she said, is bonded or clad from bottom to top to ensure the best heat conduction and diffusion. Also, the cookware should be relatively heavy, she said, to help minimize warping. However, she added, the equipment does not have to be heavy to be good.
Flores said the marketplace is flooded with many types of cookware and gadgets, so choosing the right piece can be very difficult. However, a high price tag, she said, doesn't necessarily mean quality.
"Most of the chefs I know have a collection of equipment that comes not only from specialty cookware retailers, but also restaurant supply stores, ethnic markets, and even hardware stores," Flores said. "The first thing I do when considering a new piece of equipment is to pick it up and hold it in my hands. I ask: 'What is it made of? How is the handle? How heavy (or) light is it? Does it feel well-made?'"
Another thing to consider when planning to pay more for an item, is to consider how often the item will be used, Flores said. For items such as knives and cookware, she said, it is usually worth purchasing the best you can afford, as they are always used.
As for cutlery, Flores said, knives are usually expensive, priced anywhere from $50 to $300.
To pick out a knife, Flores suggested holding the knife in your hand to see how it fits.
"It should feel a little heavy in your hand," she said.
Flores added the blade should have a full tang -- a continuous piece of metal that runs from tip of blade to knife hand. To test the sharpness of a knife, she said, you can always cut throw a piece of paper.
Flores said you should sharpen your knives once every six months to once a year. Some high-end retailers, she said, will offer sharpening services.
Flores went beyond cookware and cutlery on "The Early Show", and shared her Top 10 kitchen Essentials:
1. 10 or 12-inch fry pan
2. Heavy-duty Dutch oven (cast iron or stainless)
3. 8 or 10-inch chefs' knife
4. 3-inch paring knife
5. Serrated bread knife
6. Set of bowls (glass or stainless)
7. Wooden spoons
8. Stand mixer or food processor
9. Thick-gauge baking sheets
10. Multi- or micro-plane grater
But what should you look for when you're buying kitchen equipment?
Flores shared these tips:
Cookware - 10" Fry pan - You should look for a non-stick pan, but be careful of utensils you use. This pan is great for eggs and pancakes. The benefit of a stainless pan is a getting a great sear.
Dutch Oven/Le Creuset enameled cast iron - This is the "work horse" of the kitchen. You can sear and great for saucier recipes. Some of the nicer ones are attractive and can easily go from stove to oven or to table top.
Also: Multi-pot -you can use it for cooking pasta or steaming vegetables. It's stainless steel. (All-Clad 12 qt Multi-pot $129 - Available in two weeks.)
Cutting Board - You need both antibacterial for keeping the board clean, and a wood that holds up to use and ages well.
Wooden Spoons/ Silicone Spatulas - Wooden spoons are great for any surface. Some have round tips, some have flat tips. Silicone is heat resistant, which is great for non-stick surfaces.
Swiss Peeler - Simple item at $15 for set of three.
Grater/Microplane grater - Good for cheese, ginger, chocolate and they come in a variety of thicknesses.
Mixing Bowls - Get a good set of mixing bowls for prep work. Look for a set with 4 or five bowls.
Food Processor - Multi-use. The Cuisinart 16-cup food processor has 3 sizes of bowls that nest together. It's a good space saver with a strong motor and blades. People may want to spend a little more money on this ($100-$300). The more functions you have on it, the better.
Mixers - The stand mixer is powerful for making dough, and other heavier mixes. The mixer does the work for you, and has multi attachments to make ice cream, pasta.
Also the KitchenAid mixer used to be just for commercial kitchens, but they can be a big help in your kitchen, as well ($100 - $300).
Bakeware - Look for great non-stick that won't scratch after multi-use
Cookie sheet - one with a nice heavy gauge, so it does not warp when it gets hot. They can be used for more than baking cookies.
Cupcake pan - Two round 8" cake pans are standard, and a 9x13" baking pan for sheet cakes.
Kitchen Extras - Every kitchen needs good absorbent dish towels and silicone or sturdy cotton oven mitt.
Free Technique Classes
Each week, Williams-Sonoma stores offer complimentary instruction in basic cooking techniques and specific cook's tools. Click here to learn more, and call your local store to sign up.
All of these products can be found on Williams-Sonoma.com.
• Calphalon Unison non-stick fry pan set of 2 $69
• All-Clad Brushed Stainless Steel Professional 3 qt Sauté Pan $220
• Calphalon Contemporary Multi Pot $99.95
• All-Clad Stainless Steel saucepans $75-$185
• Le Creuset 4 qt Oval Cocotte $150
• Wüsthof Classic Paring Knife, 3 1/2" $40
• Shun Classic Chef's Knife $109-$135
• Wüsthof Classic hollow ground chef's knife 8" $119
• Antibacterial Cutting Board - $20
• Boos Edge-Grain Maple Cutting Boards $30-$80
• Silicone spatulas and spoonulas - set of 3 $22.50
• Swiss peeler - simple $15 for set of 3 $15
• Wooden Lemon Reamer / basic, $8
• Microplane rasp grater $15
• 10-piece glass bowl set - see through and good value for set of 10 for $38
• Stainless Steel 10" wisk $12
• Melamine measuring cups & spoons $18
• Zyliss Stackable Measuring Cups, Set of 3 $20
• Straight rolling pin / classic, traditional $18
• Breville Ikon Blender $199
• Cuisinart 16-cup $299
• KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer $299
• Goldtouch nonstick 6-piece set (This collection of baking essentials includes a 12-cup muffin pan, cookie sheet, half-sheet pan, two round cake pans and a cooling rack $99
• Striped cotton dish towels set of 4 $18
• Basic oven mitt $9