Hail to the Chef
Knowing a few key terms and definitions can really help you register for a variety of cookware pieces that will fit the way you cook.
Pan Styles: There are dozens of pans to choose, from saucepans to fry pans to roasters. If you are just starting to create a pan collection, select the basics first. A 10-piece set is a great choice.
Handles: Handles come in four materials: phenolic (high-heat plastic), metal, wood and ceramic/glass. Many handles stay cool during stovetop use. Remember though, all handles get hot in the oven. Always reference the manufacturer's care instructions for handle heat tolerance information.
Lids: The most important function of a lid is to trap steam. Therefore, it must fit the pan's body properly. In general, the snugger the fit, the better.
Material: Most cookware is made of stainless steel, aluminum or is hard-anodized. All can have a nonstick-coated or uncoated surface. Nonstick is beneficial because it has the ability to release food for easy cleaning.
Stainless Steel - 18/10 means 10% of the pan's content is nickel. In general, the greater the nickel content, the better the quality. The number 18 stands for the chromium content, which is the same for all stainless steel. This pan type wins points for durability, because it resists dents, scratches and stains.
Aluminum - This material is an excellent conductor of heat. Thickness is the key element of quality. The thicker the pan, the better the heat dispersion, reducing the chance of "hot spots." An aluminum pan heats up quickly and evenly over the total surface, including the side walls.
Hard-Anodized - A hard-anodized surface is twice as hard as stainless steel. This pan type was originally developed for commercial use, but is produced today for consumers. If you purchase a hard-anodized pan without a nonstick coating, you should use butter or oil to keep food from sticking.
Check the scratch-resistance of the cookware you purchase. Some pieces are made to handle metal or plastic utensils; others require using plastic or nylon tools and avoiding abrasive scouring pads or steel wool.
Loosening cooked-on food becomes much easier when you fill the bottom of the pan with water and bring it to a boil on your stovetop. Let the water boil a minute or two, and the pan will scrape clean easily.
Must-have Electrics... to Make Life Easier
Let's face it. You're not marrying your kitchen. You want to
get in, get the meal prepared and get out as quickly as possible. Minimal dicing, slicing, whisking and washing - for maximum fun time with your new spouse.
Here's the secret all great cooks know: a few smart appliance choices, and you'll never slave again.
The Sharper, the Better.
If you've ever sawed away at a carrot or mangled a tomato, you know the importance of a sharp knife. Not only does it make cutting and chopping easier, it's also faster - and safer. Dull knives are a lot more likely to slip and take a chunk out of anything handy (the countertop, your finger) than a sharp knife.
Dishwashers will ruin your knives, and so will letting them bang around in your kitchen drawers. Sharp blades chip easily, so wash your knives by hand and store them in a knife block.
Also, add a reliable knife sharpener to your Gift Registry. You'll be able to keep your knives razor-sharp with minimal fuss.
Voilá! Instantly Minced.
Take our word for it: Your kitchen needs a food processor. There's a wide variety of food processors on the market today, from the deluxe to the basic, and the style you register for will depend on your cooking needs. Regardless, you'll save lots of time mincing and chopping with a food processor: drop a few cloves of garlic into the bowl, press the button and voilá! You'll have perfectly minced garlic, without the by-hand hassle. These handy little gadgets also work great for chopping onions, grinding nuts or grating softer cheeses.
You Could Do This by Hand. But Why Would You Want To?
Compare for a second. With handheld can openers, you align everything perfectly and crank away, only to have to start over every five centimeters and fish the razor-edged lid out of the can when you're done. With an electric can opener, you hook the can onto the device and press a button. A few seconds later, you've got a perfectly opened can, and the lid's a safe distance away from your fingers, ready for disposal.
Actually - is it a comparison at all?
Blend It, Baby!
You'll actually end up using your blender more than you think you will. It's great for festive, iced drinks, of course, but you'll find it handy for mixing other liquids, as well. Use it to combine ingredients for a smooth sauce, whip up some mousse, or make a puree. The incredible speed of a blender makes it a faster alternative to your mixer, and that ready-to-pour container saves you on cleanup, too.
The Unforgettable Extras
When you register, be sure to include all those extra "wish list" appliances you've been dreaming of: a coffee maker, breadmaker or grilling machine, for example. Your guests will appreciate the wide selection, and you'll enjoy all the time you save with each new appliance.
Good to Know!
To keep appliances with rotary beaters, like blenders, in tip-top shape, regularly lubricate the area where the blades sit or are inserted. Use mineral oil for this task. Vegetable oil may cause corrosion of the working parts.