How to Choose the Right Equipment for You

“You can cook a souffle in a dog dish.”

Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma

Note: Just be sure it’s oven-safe.

Okay, I overbrowned the top. But I was trying to make a point, not nessessarily a perfect souffle. The flourless, Grand Marnier souffle baked in a stainless steel dog dish I found at a pet store.

The subtext of Chuck Williams’s comment is that while the right piece of equipment can make a task much easier, don’t let not having a tool stop you. Nor does good cooking depend on having the most expensive piece of equipment.

Most of us buy one food processor and before we invest, we want to know how good it is. But how? While not foolproof, I like to go online and read consumer reviews, especially on Amazon and Cooks’ Illustrated. Make sure to read a wide selection of good and bad reviews. You might find just the detail that will shift your position. For example, I had heard about a bread-baking cookbook when I read that it did not include bakers’ percents (formulas that make it easy to calculate how to vary amounts in recipes). As an avid bread baker, that information is important to me.

You can also go to kitchenware shops and ask the salespeople who are often enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Even better is if they will let you use the tool before you buy it. For instance, when shopping for a zester, I took a lemon and an orange with me to the store. Then I could really tell which zester worked the most easily and which felt most comfortable in my hand. I’m not sure this technique would work in a large retailer. It’s best to try it in smaller, specialty shops, especially ones with a kitchen for cooking demos. They might have a collection of tools there you could play with before choosing.

Certainly, even in larger retail environments you can heft pans, push buttons, and ask to plug in a blender, for example, to see how loud it is.  Also, if you know someone who has the appliance or tool you are considering, ask how it’s holding up for them, or even ask to come over and use it.

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Thanks again for a great boost in getting our kitchen functioning. What a difference! I can actually get implements out of the drawer without a struggle. I made a carrot salad for dinner with no hassle because the Cuisinart was at hand to shred the carrots! Yay!

-Francesca Bannerman, SF

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner